The Penguins get by the Blue Jackets, the Wild and Kings force Game Sevens. Notes on Malkin, Crosby, Johnson, Dubinsky, Parise, Kopitar, Williams, Stalock and more.
PENGUINS GET PAST BLUE JACKETS
Pittsburgh looked like they were free and clear after racing out to a 4-0 lead, led by Evgeni Malkin's hat trick, but then the Blue Jackets scored three goals in a 4:52 span in the third period to make for a heart-stopping finish. In the end, the Penguins held on to win 4-3, taking the series in six games.
Malkin, who took some criticism for his lack of production, finished the series with seven points in six games. Not bad at all. After being on the ice for 71.2% of 5-on-5 shot attempts in Game Six, Malkin finished the series with an impressive 59.2% Corsi percentage. Malkin was the driving force for Pittsburgh in the deciding game, as was D Kris Letang, who was on for 21 5-on-5 shot attempts for and seven against.
Penguins D Matt Niskanen contributed a couple of assists, giving him eight points for the series. That tied D Paul Martin for the Penguins' scoring lead.
The ever-disappointing Sidney Crosby (I kid, I kid) had six assists in six games and was on the ice for 61.3% of 5-on-5 shot attempts. If that's a Crosby worthy of criticism, rue the day that he starts playing to his typical level of excellence.
Columbus' attack was paced by a couple of defencemen. Fedor Tyutin, with a goal and an assist, and Jack Johnson, with two assists, led the charge. Johnson finished the series with a team-leading seven points, despite struggling in puck possession terms. While Johnson struggled in terms of possession, James Wisniewski fared pretty well in that regard, at least in relative terms.
Centres Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Johansen each had six points for the Blue Jackets, while rookie LW Boone Jenner had five. Dubinsky had 40 hits over the course of the series, a total that leads the NHL postseason.
That the series proved to be competitive should come as no surprise, but it should also come as no surprise that the Penguins had the high-end skill to overcome a spirited challenge from Columbus.
WILD FORCE SEVEN
Fighting for their playoff lives, the Minnesota Wild jumped out to a 2-0 lead, gave it back, then scored the winner with 6:29 left in third period, before adding a couple of empty-netters to ice a 5-2 victory in Game Six, forcing Game Seven back in Denver.
Wild LW Zach Parise had a huge game, netting the game-winner as part of a two goal, two assist performance. Parise now has 10 points in the postseason, tied with Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon for the playoff scoring lead. Ryan Suter and Mikko Koivu each had two assists and Jason Pominville had a goal and an assist.
Wild LW Nino Niederreiter had quite a game in possession terms, on for 15 shot attempts for and three against (83.3%). With Niederreiter off the ice, the Wild had 38.2% of the 5-on-5 shot attempts.
Though they came out on the losing end, Colorado did get C Matt Duchene back in the lineup and he contributed an assist in 18:52 of ice time. RW Ryan O'Reilly assisted on both Colorado goals.
That this series is going seven games is rather fortunate for the Avalanche. The Wild have the best Fenwick Close in the playoffs which, naturally, means Colorado has the worse and that 60-40 disparity in even-strength shot attempts is difficult to overcome. The Avalanche have overcome shot deficits all season, leaning heavily on G Semyon Varlamov, so that is likely what they will need if they are going to get through Game Seven.
The Avalanche can also take some comfort in the fact that the home team has won every game in this series.
KINGS PUSH SHARKS TO SEVEN
Faced with the prospect of losing their three-games-to-none lead in the series, the San Jose Sharks were forced to go into Game Six without top defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who was injured in Game Five, and then made the decision to start backup goaltender Alex Stalock in place of Antti Niemi.
The result? A 4-1 Kings win, sending the series to Game Seven back in San Jose.
Tied at one, with 8:04 remaining, Kings RW Justin Williams scored the winning goal, pushing Stalock back towards the Sharks net, jarring the puck loose and into the net. As controversial as that goal was, the Kings tacked on two more in short order, both by C Anze Kopitar, in the next 2:46 to put the game away.
Kopitar added an assist, giving him eight points in the series, to the lead the Kings, while D Drew Doughty added a couple of assists, giving him six points in six games. Williams finished with two goals and an assist to lead the Kings.
This series has been very even, with the Sharks holding a 132-128 edge in unblocked shot attempts with the score close (within a goal for the first two periods, tied in the third/overtime).
That's close enough for goaltending to make the difference and, given the uncertainty in that respect with the Sharks, Jonathan Quick is more appealing.
Even so, the Sharks do get home-ice advantage in their attempt to avoid being the fourth team in NHL history to lose a series in which they led three games to none.
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.