Scott Cullen checks in with notes on the Habs' sweep, the Bruins' defensive dominance, Rangers vets leading the way and the Sharks putting the Kings in a hole.
Max Pacioretty tucked in the winning goal, on a last minute power play, giving the Montreal Canadiens a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, ending the series in a four-game sweep.
While he didn't register a point, Game Four was yet another big game for Canadiens LW Rene Bourque, who led the Canadiens with seven shots on goal and a plus-14 Corsi (68.4%), during a game in which the possession battle was virtually even (60-59 in shot attempts, favouring Montreal, at 5-on-5).
Even so, it was also a dominant game for Lighting D Victor Hedman, who was on for 72.5% (29 for, 11 against) of the shot attempts at 5-on-5, while the Lightning were just under 38% (30 for, 49 against) when Hedman was off the ice.
Lightning rookie LW Ondrej Palat had a goal and an assist in the Game Four loss, giving him three points (in three games) in the series, tying Hedman for second on the Lightning. Steven Stamkos was their top scorer in Round One, with four points in four games.
RW Ryan Callahan, who played more than 20 minutes per game, was held off the scoresheet in the series, registering five shots on goal.
After Hedman, who was plus-15 in shot attempts for the series, RW J.T. Brown (+13), D Andrej Sustr (+10) and C Cedric Paquette (+8) were the next-best possession players for the Lightning. On the other hand, D Matt Carle (-23), C Tyler Johnson (-23) and D Radko Gudas (-16) -- who missed Game Four with an injury -- were on the low end of the possession scale for Tampa Bay.
Surprisingly, the Canadiens won the possession game -- a facet of the game at which the Lightning were better throughout the season. Canadiens D Josh Gorges was a net plus-22 Corsi through four games, best on the team, ahead of Thomas Vanek (+19), Brendan Gallagher (+19) and P.K. Subban (+17).
Montreal's leading scorers in the series were C Lars Eller (2 G, 3 A), RW Brendan Gallagher (3 G, 2 A) and P.K. Subban (5 A). To get a series sweep, and production outside their potent No. 1 line, has to be encouraging for the Canadiens.
Coming into the series, it looked like a tough spot for the Lightning, turning to backup G Anders Lindback with Ben Bishop hurt late in the regular season, and while Lindback was hardly the only reason the Lightning lost, he wasn't nearly as strong as Carey Price, who finished with a pedestrian .904 save percentage; though that was better than Lindback's .881 mark, which isn't good enough to win.
The result might have happened a little easier than expected, but this series matched the forecast.
BRUINS GAIN ADVANTAGE
Tuukka Rask stopped 23 shots and Patrice Bergeron had an empty-net goal and an assist to give the Boston Bruins a 3-0 win in Game Three at Detroit, giving the Bruins a 2-1 series lead over the Red Wings.
The Bruins controlled play early, outshooting the Red Wings 11-4 in the first period, taking a 2-0 lead on goals by Dougie Hamilton and Jordan Caron. Even with the Red Wings trying to mount a rally in the final two periods, the Bruins still ended up with a slight edge in puck possession.
Even with that being the case, the best individual Corsi for the game belonged to Red Wings RW Gustav Nyquist, who was one for 18 shots for, seven against (+11, 72.0%). Without Nyquist on the ice, the Red Wings had 36.1% (17 for, 30 against) of the 5-on-5 shot attempts.
With one goal total in the past two games, the Red Wings are finding it difficult to get on track against the Bruins and Nyquist, who leads the team with 10 shots on goal, still has yet to record a point. Detroit might be holding its own in the possession game for this series, but they're not going to get very far if they don't find a way to finish against Rask and the Bruins.
RANGERS OVER FLYERS
Martin St. Louis, Rick Nash and Dan Girardi each recorded two points as the New York Rangers downed the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 in Game Three, taking a 2-1 series lead.
The Flyers may well have deserved a better fate in this game, outshooting the Rangers 32-23 and getting 80 total shot attempts to the Rangers' 49; that indicates a rather decisive territorial edge.
Every Flyer had a positive Corsi, led by RW Wayne Simmonds, who was on for 76.2% (16 for, 5 against) of the shot attempts at 5-on-5. The mirror image, for the Rangers, was RW Mats Zuccarello, who was on the ice for 20.8% (5 for, 19 against) of 5-on-5 shot attempts. Put into the lineup against his former team, Rangers LW Dan Carcillo scored the Blueshirts' fourth goal to ice the game; a nice contribution from a player that had one goal in his final 20 regular season games.
Overall, though, the Flyers are having a hard time generating shots on goal. D Luke Schenn led the way with five shots on goal in Game Three and he's now tied with call-up RW Jason Akeson for the team lead, with eight. At the very least, Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell should all be getting more pucks on net.
But, in Game Three, the bigger issue was in goal, where Ray Emery surrendered four goals on 20 shots and while he wasn't terrible, Emery was yanked in favour of Steve Mason with under eight minutes remaining. That could be an indication that Mason will be ready to start Game Four.
Flyers captain Claude Giroux is confident that Philadelphia will take Game Four, and go back to New York with the series even, but Giroux is going to be front and centre in that effort. If Philly wants to even up the series, they need their top guns firing.
KINGS ON THE BRINK
A series that was supposed to be a first-round classic is in danger of going to a sweep after the San Jose Sharks' 4-3 overtime win in Game Three against the Los Angeles Kings.
Patrick Marleau had a goal and an assist and Brent Burns scored the game's first goal and contributed seven shots on goal in the winning effort. The nature of Burns' first goal of the game and Marleau's last goals of the game shows just how important it is to get shots at the net. Burns flubbed a one-timer and the puck floated, virtually in slow-motion, past Quick. Marleau's goal was a weak backhand that deflected off Kings D Slava Voynov and past Quick.
Add in a rebound goal for Tomas Hertl, for the game-tying third goal, and a deflection by Sharks RW Matt Nieto past a fallen Quick, who had been knocked over by D Robyn Regehr, and the quality of San Jose's goals wasn't nearly as high as it had been in Game Two, when clean shots were beating Quick at every turn.
After complaining about his Game Two ice time, Kings D Drew Doughty had a couple of assists and played a game-high 28:31, even though he missed some time while dealing with a shoulder injury. As if a 3-0 series lead isn't daunting enough to overcome for the Kings, but trying to do it with their No. 1 defenceman playing through injury is a virtually impossible task.
The possession game for each team was won by Kings C Mike Richards (22 shot attempts for, 11 against) and Sharks LW Tomas Hertl (20 for, 13 against). At the wrong end of the scale, Sharks D Brad Start was on for 26.5% (nine for, 25 against) of the 5-on-5 shots against, though that meant the Sharks captured 53.7% of the shot attempts when Stuart was off the ice.
For fans of high level hockey, it's disappointing to see the Kings down 3-0, because a goal by Los Angeles in overtime (where they outshot San Jose 5-1) would have improved the odds of a long series. As it is now, there's little reason to imagine that the Kings can overcome this deficit against a Sharks team that is playing as well as any in the postseason.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.