Every night during the playoffs, we will wrap up all the exciting action and tell you what you need to know about the 2013-14 Stanley Cup playoffs. Welcome to What You Need To Know.
Anaheim Ducks: Even though the Ducks won the Pacific Division and are the West's top seed, they have had plenty of doubters. As if 82 games weren't enough of a statement they made another one in Game 1 against Dallas, or at least in the first period. They were able to get a lot of offensive zone time thanks in part to strong neutral-zone play and showed what makes them so explosive offensively; excellent passing and speed. It certainly got dicey late but you can't say they took their foot off the gas as they outshot Dallas 13-8 in the third.
Dallas Stars: Their first trip back to the postseason in years could have gone a bit better. They got blitzed in the opening period and really had troubles getting out of their own zone at times. However they never packed it in for the night and made this one a game when it looked bleak. The much-discussed duo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin was effective as needed, contributing two of the three goals for Dallas and igniting their near comeback. It didn't look great for a while but they can leave this game feeling pretty good, that only a bad start felled them.
Play of the Game: Palmieri's goal in the opening two minutes not only set the Ducks off to a flying start (just look at that speed up ice) but let's take a minute to admire this saucer pass from Nick Bonino. Beautiful.
Player of the Game: Ryan Getzlaf showed why he's going to be a Hart Trophy finalist. He drew the tough assignments and saw a lot of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn but held his own playing in all situations, blocking four shots, taking four shots of his own. Oh, and he scored a goal to go with an assist. He Seguin was a force out there for the Stars but so was Getzlaf for the Ducks.
Turning Point: In Game 1 the turning point might have been the opening faceoff itself. The Ducks came out of the gate and Kyle Palmieri scored less than two minutes into the game. Their strong play continued throughout the first period and a half as they ran out to a big lead that they need all of. The game turned late in the second to Dallas' favor but the damage was done.
Three Lessons Learned
• The Ducks might not have a goaltending crisis. They didn't know who the starter would be until Tuesday but that didn't equal a problem. Frederik Andersen was good enough.
• The Stars defense has to be better in their own zone. The Ducks didn't overwhelm them with shots -- though 35 shots isn't underwhelming either -- but the Stars had a tough time getting out of their own zone, Anaheim just hemming them in at times.
• The Ducks have better depth than many realize or give them credit for. Matt Belesky had two points, Pat Maroon was effective in front of the net and Mathieu Perreault had a strong game that included the third goal of the night. They're more than Corey Perry and Getzlaf.
Best GIF: The save of the game might have come from Alex Goligoski after he and Kari Lehtonen had a bit of a miscommunication behind the net. Near disaster for a team that was crawling back in the game (via @PeteBlackburn).
Pittsburgh Penguins: This had the potential to go south in a hurry on the Penguins after they gave up an early goal and then a second in the first period before a short-hander early in the second. Given Marc-Andre Fleury's playoff history, it had a deja vu feel. Thanks to their power play, Fleury actually playing well for the final 39 minutes and Brandon Sutter's game-winning third-period goal, they got through a tough Game 1 with a win.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Jackets didn't exactly look like playoff rookies so that was a big plus. They went into Pittsburgh and put a lot of early pressure and actually took the first playoff lead in franchise history. They fell a bit short in the end but proved without a doubt that they can be the Penguins' equal in this series. For a team that is now 0-6 vs. Pittsburgh this season, Game 1 gave them something to build on.
Play of the Game: Even though it came in a loss, the Jack Johnson goal to open the scoring was a thing of beauty. Sure, his finish around Fleury was nice but the play made by Brandon Dubinsky? Terrific. He abused Paul Martin then made a great back-hand pass to Johnson's tape.
Player of the Game: Evgeni Malkin. How happy are the Penguins that Malkin is back? He led the Penguins in shots on goal with four and set up two more goals that included a fabulous feed to a cutting Jussi Jokinen.
Turning Point: The Penguins' power play is lethal so giving them two chances with an early lead on the road isn't a good idea. Even though the Blue Jackets scored a short-hander on Blake Comeau's penalty in the closing seconds of the first, the Penguins got it right back. Then Jack Johnson went to the box seconds later and just like that, the Penguins tied it up and the Fleury worries died some.
Three Lessons Learned
• The Blue Jackets are an underdog in name only. They can and will compete with the Penguins, all they need is Sergei Bobrovsky to be Sergei Bobrovsky.
• Kris Letang still has some rust to shake off. Or at least that's what the Penguins have to be hoping because their star defenseman had a really rough night.
• A Gold Out is an awfully interesting look in the crowd, kind of like that house down the street that hasn't been updated since the 70s.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The building was jumping for the Lightning's first home playoff game in a few years but the Lightning weren't. They started well enough but they had a hard time generating much offense all game long, though they did take advantage of each chance they created to get the game to overtime. The defense in their own zone was frightening at times even if Anders Lindback played pretty well despite five goals against. The hope has to be there was some Game 1 jitters because they will need to be much better than they were Wednesday night.
Montreal Canadiens: The Canadiens did a lot of things right in this game. Truth be told, they dominated play in ways we're not used to seeing from this team. The final shot count favored the Habs 44-25 and this is a team that was near the bottom of the NHL in shot attempts for/against this season. They didn't give up many shots at all but the problem was the ones they did give up led to golden opportunities. Carey Price was not great but neither was his defense in front of him with their breakdowns.
Play of the Game: What else would be it besides the OT winner from Dale Weise? The Lightning might think about covering a guy wide open in front of the net next time, even if it is Weise.
Player of the Game: An honorable mention goes to Steven Stamkos as he was most of the Lightning's offense including two goals but we'll give the nod to Thomas Vanek from Montreal. He was the difference-maker he was promised to be at the trade deadline with a goal, seven shots and a heck of a backcheck to prevent a sure-fire Stamkos score.
Stat of the Game: The four goals that Price allowed in three periods were more than he allowed in five games in Sochi as the goalie for Team Canada. Bet he misses playing behind Drew Doughty, Shea Weber and crew tonight, huh?
Turning Point: It might sound weird but Nikita Kucherov's goal in the first period for the Lightning might have been it. The Lightning were riding the early energy and perhaps got too high as Tomas Plekanec tied it up 19 seconds later and the Habs pretty much controlled the rest of the period ... and game.
Three Lessons Learned
• Montreal's power play is not good. At all. They generated nothing on the man advantage against a below-average Tampa Bay PK and have now gone 25 straight power plays without a goal.
• The Habs are going to have serious problems with Stamkos. It might get better in Montreal when Michel Therrien has better control over the line matching but when Stamkos was out there against less than the best, he was having a field day.
• The Lightning have a pretty spectacular introduction.
Best GIF: This actually happened. A Lightning fan near the glass had a scrum break out right in front of him and his immediate reaction was to take a selfie. He was very proud of it too. We want to see that photo (via SB Nation):