San Jose brings out the brooms, Ottawa's comeback win puts them in a good spot, the Islanders aren't going away and Chicago cruises to an easy win. Scott Cullen has stats and notes from Tuesday's NHL action.
SHARKS ELIMINATE CANUCKS
With the Vancouver Canucks' season on the line, they decided to go with Cory Schneider in goal and he stopped 43 of 47 Sharks shots, but it wasn't enough, as Patrick Marleau's OT winner gave San Jose a 4-3 win and a series sweep.
San Jose's attack was spread out, but there were enough multi-point nights to go around. Marleau finished with a goal and an assist. Joe Pavelski scored a pair of goals, including the tying goal on the power play with 4:27 left in the third period, and launched a game-high eight shots on goal. Joe Thornton had three assists and Logan Couture added a pair of helpers.
Canucks D Kevin Bieksa played a game-high 33:33 in the loss.
For the series, Pavelski and Couture led the Sharks with eight points apiece, followed by Thornton (six) and Marleau (five). G Antti Niemi was strong, stopping 118 of 126 shots against (.937 SV%).
Coming back from a late season injury, Schneider recorded an .880 save percentage in his two games against the Sharks, stopping 66 of 75 shots, while Roberto Luongo stopped 65 of 71 shots he faced, for a .915 save percentage. Burrows and the Sedins each had three points to lead the Canucks, but the supporting cast was lacking. Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen didn't record a point and Derek Roy had one assist. If the Canucks' top players were going to be outscored by San Jose's top players, then the Canucks could ill afford to have secondary sources of offence kept off the board completely.
While the great Elliotte Friedman addressed the Canucks' willingness to win ugly, left unsaid was the fact that teams don't voluntarily choose to have a worse goal differential. This year, the Canucks were ranked 13th at plus-6. In the previous four seasons, their goal differential has been third (2011-2012), first (2010-2011), third (2009-2010) and tied for seventh (2008-2009), so falling into the teens wasn't a result of some overarching strategic plan, rather it was a sign of a team that wasn't as dominant as it has been in recent seasons.
This could be a summer for major changes in Vancouver. Of course the goaltending situation needs to be resolved, but the Sedins will be 33 by the time next season rolls around, Bieksa and Burrows will be 32, Hamhuis and Higgins will be 30. Even Schneider, their goaltender of the future, is 27, so if the window isn't closed on the core of this Canucks team, it's certainly closing and that could precipitate changes.
For the Sharks, they made short work of Vancouver and get to cheer on a lower seed like the Red Wings, so that San Jose might avoid Chicago in the next round.
SENATORS RALLY, TAKE COMMANDING LEAD
As the third period wound down in Game Four of the Montreal-Ottawa series Tuesday, Canadiens G Carey Price appeared to suffer a leg injury and when overtime began, backup Peter Budaj was in net. He didn't last long, just 2:32, before a Kyle Turris deflected off Montreal D Raphael Diaz and into the net, giving Ottawa a 3-2 win and 3-1 series lead.
Turris finished the game with a goal and an assist, giving him four points in the series. After Turris had one hit, total, in the first three games of the series, he was credited with six hits in Game Four.
The loss could be devastating for Montreal. For one, they probably weren't thrilled that Mika Zibanejad's goal, off his skate to get Ottawa on the board, was allowed. Then, they surrendered the game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation to Cory Conacher and then Price got hurt. A game that was going in Montreal's direction for about 50 minutes unraveled and now leaves the Habs on the brink of elimination.
Canadiens rookie C Alex Galchenyuk scored Montreal's second goal and led the team with four shots on goal, while playing 10:30, more than only Colby Armstrong and Gabriel Dumont. Dumont, playing with captain Brian Gionta injured, did bring some energy to his fourth-line role, delivering five hits in his 7:30 of ice time.
Ottawa RW Chris Neil was credited with 10 hits while playing 16:18, the most he has played in a playoff game since April, 2010 vs. Pittsburgh.
Returning to the Ottawa lineup, after serving his two-game suspension, Senators D Eric Gryba had seven hits, but played a modest 14:34
Montreal returns home in a tough spot, dealing with several injuries and needing three straight wins if they are going to come back to take this series. They need more from C David Desharnais, who has one assist and one shot on goal through four games, and some production from LW Max Pacioretty, who may be playing hurt, but hasn't recorded a point in the three games he has played in this series.
The Senators already held a goaltending edge in this series, with Craig Anderson continuing where he left off in the regular season (.945 SV% through first four games), but if Price isn't available to the Canadiens going forward, that would really put the Senators in the driver's seat, as if a 3-1 series lead wasn't enough to do that.
ISLES EVEN SERIES
The New York Islanders scored six goals on 24 shots against Pittsburgh Penguins G Marc-Andre Fleury on the way to a 6-4 win, evening their series at two wins apiece.
Three Islanders recorded three points in the win. D Mark Streit had two goals and an assist, C Casey Cizikas had a goal and two assists and RW Brad Boyes recorded three assists. Cizikas was also a plus-4. In his previous 63 NHL games, including this year's playoffs, Cizikas had never been better than plus-2 in a game, a rating he had achieved twice.
In a losing effort, RW Jarome Iginla had a couple of assists for the Penguins and C Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist. However, Malkin had several costly turnovers and was clearly rattled by game's end, getting into an altercation with Islanders D Travis Hamonic. Hamonic has been playing a physical game, as usual and, at times, it has frustrated both Malkin and Sidney Crosby.
Another thing that might have frustrated Crosby is that he was 4-for-18 (22.2%) on faceoffs in Game Four. He had been 27-for-46 (58.7%) in the previous two games he played in this series.
As much as there is a story to tell about the Islanders playing the Penguins to a standoff through the first four games -- they'e outplayed the top-seeded Penguins for significant chunks of the series -- but Fleury's struggles in goal stand out as the possible difference in the series. Through four games, Fleury has a 3.40 goals against average and .891 save percentage.
Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009, Fleury has an .881 save percentage. That's the kind of stuff that, more often than not, gets a team bounced in the first round and it's why the Penguins have to give Tomas Vokoun a shot in Game Five.
When Fleury melted down against Philadelphia in the first round of last year's playoffs, Pittsburgh wouldn't turn to backup G Brent Johnson, but after acquiring Vokoun, there is a viable alternative just waiting for an opportunity. Vokoun does have a .922 save percentage in his playoff career, but hasn't seen playoff action since 2007, when he was with Nashville.
BLACKHAWKS IN CONTROL
Blackhawks G Corey Crawford made 25 saves and LW Patrick Sharp scored a pair of goals to give the Blackhawks a 3-0 win, lifting Chicago to a three-games-to-one lead in the series.
Minnesota G Josh Harding suffered what appeared to be a lower body injury late in the first period. Since Harding was only thrust into action when Niklas Backstrom was injured before Game One, that left Minnesota to go with Darcy Kuemper, their third-string goaltender.
Kuemper, who turned 23 a couple of days ago, played six games (2.8 GAA, .916 SV%) for the Wild during the regular season and was outstanding for Houston in the AHL (1.88 GAA, .934 SV% in 21 GP). Though Kuemper stopped 16 of 18 shots sent his way, the two goals he let in -- one to Sharp, one to Bryan Bickell -- were both stoppable.
New daddy Duncan Keith, whose wife gave birth to their first child earlier in the day, played 23:57 to lead the Blackhawks. Dominating in the faceoff circle, C Jonathan Toews won 16 of 21 draws (76.2%). For the series, Toews has won 64.4% of his faceoffs, which puts him right near the top among all in the postseason. Boston's Rich Peverley has won 87.0% of 23 draws and, while there are others in the 20-30 face-off range, Sharks C Logan Couture (68.2%) is the only one other than Toews to have won at least 64.0% of his draws while taking at least 60.
After going 0-for-6 on the power play in Game Four, the Wild are now 0-for-15 in the series. It's never easy for an eighth seed to upset a No. 1 seed, but it's even less likely to happen without any contribution from the power play.