The New York Rangers and Phoenix Coyotes both escaped with wins Monday night and the Coyotes' victory allows them to reach the Western Conference Final for the first time.
Scott Cullen looks at two competitive games in the NHL playoffs Monday.
FROM THE JAWS OF DEFEAT
The Washington Capitals played a bend-don't-break defence for 59:53, but the New York Rangers scored a late power play goal and another in overtime to escape with the Game Five win, taking a 3-2 lead in the series.
Although the Rangers outshot the Capitals 38-18, they were trailing late, until Capitals RW Joel Ward took a high-sticking double-minor with 22 seconds left in regulation time.
Under many circumstances, Ward's double minor coming so late in the game wouldn't have a material effect on the outcome -- a won faceoff with a successful clear down the ice would have pretty much ended things -- but Rangers C Brad Richards scored the tying goal with 6.6 seconds left and then Marc Staal scored the winner 1:35 into overtime.
Capitals RW Troy Brouwer, who hadn't registered a point in six games, assisted on both Washington goals.
Capitals LW Alexander Ovechkin played 19:08, so ice time wasn't an issue on this night, but he failed to register a shot on goal, something that hadn't happened all season. Credit goes to the Rangers' defence pairing of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, for locking down Ovechkin.
While the Rangers did get the tying goal from Richards, their other two goals came from defencemen. Anton Stralman and Marc Staal combined for four goals in 99 regular season games. They now have five goals in a combined 24 playoff games.
Rangers RW Marian Gaborik didn't record any points, but registered a game-high seven shots on goal.
Going back to Washington for Game Six, the Capitals should fare better when it comes to matchups. The Capitals outshot the Rangers 72-69 in Games Three and Four in Washington, so there isn't quite the tilted ice effect that was happening in Game Five.
COYOTES TO THE CONFERENCE FINAL
The Phoenix Coyotes held on for a 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators, taking their series in five close games. Phoenix scored a total of three goals in the last three games of the series, yet won two of those games.
The backbone for the Coyotes' efforts this season overall, but especially in the postseason, remains G Mike Smith, who had a shutout streak of 162:36 before Predators LW Colin Wilson scored a third period goal to give Nashville some hope.
Nashville outshot Phoenix 33-17, led by D Shea Weber, who had seven shots on goal. C Mike Fisher was credited with a game-high seven hits, one ahead of teammates D Francis Bouillon and C David Legwand as well as Coyotes C Martin Hanzal.
The story of the series, even if it's way overblown, is going to be the Predators' decision to suspend wingers Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn for both Game Three and Four for curfew violations (technically, they may have only been suspended by the team for Game Three, but they sat out both). Kostitsyn was the only Predator with more than one goal in the series.
In Game Five, Kostitsyn and Radulov combined for three shots on goal (though Radulov was involved in several dangerous chances in the third period as the Predators were forcing the issue in an attempt to tie the game).
The reason the suspension of those two wingers remains noteworthy is that it reveals just how closely matched teams are in the NHL. Nashville is not so much better than another playoff team -- particularly one with a goaltender that is every bit as good as their own -- that they can afford to be without their best talent.
The Coyotes' balanced attack will have to be at its best in the next round, where Phoenix will face a goaltender, the Kings' Jonathan Quick, that may be one of the few capable of outplaying Smith right now.
No matter how the rest of the playoffs shake out, though, this has been a very successful season for the Coyotes, reaching the third round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.