The first 20 minutes were ugly, but after that the
kicked it into gear and looked like the heavy favorites they're supposed to be by rolling to a win on Thursday to take a 3-2 lead as the series heads back to New York on Saturday.
had a big game while
entered the starting lineup in net and was rock solid, keeping the Penguins in the game when they were getting outplayed in the first period.
They played great for 20 minutes but a couple of defensive breakdowns and a bad play by
's second-period goal shifted momentum to the Penguins and the
New York Islanders
were never able to catch up.
Tomas Vokoun was big for the Penguins, especially early, and helped to solidify -- for one night anyway -- what's been a position of weakness in the playoffs for Pittsburgh.
Goaltending was quite simply the difference in this game and this series. Ottawa received very good goaltending and Montreal did not. I thought there were a lot of times in this series that the
were outplayed on some nights but got by on the strength of their goaltending. Story of their season, actually.
didn't play poorly in this game, and it's not going to make them feel any better now that their season is over, but they weren't as bad as their five-game exit in this series might indicate (well, there was that one meltdown in Ottawa that was pretty bad). With better goaltending (or worse goaltending from Ottawa) this series might be going six or seven games instead of being over.
This went the way it was expected to go. The Wild played them tight in a couple of games, but
just had too much firepower. Perhaps the biggest surprise out of this series was how well
played in goal after such a disappointing performance in last year's playoffs. It will be interesting to see if he's able to maintain that level of play in the second round against what will surely be a more potent offense (either San Jose or Detroit) than the one Minnesota provided.
It was nice step forward for a franchise that had fallen short of the playoffs for so many years, but there is still quite a ways to go before the
become serious contenders. The biggest positive for Minnesota wasn't necessarily a playoff spot (though, that was nice) but the development of young guys like
were big additions over the summer, but this franchise needed more than just two big-name free agents to become a factor in the Western Conference. The development of young players like the aforementioned trio is a nice starting point.
also gets high marks for coming off the bench and playing the way he did after everything he has gone through off the ice.
Adam Gretz has been writing about the NHL and taking an analytical approach to the game since the start of the 2008 season. A member of the PHWA since 2015, he has spent more than three years covering...