Top contenders have tough night as Caps sneak by Toronto, Blackhawks shut out

Unlike the top dogs from Wednesday night, when the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers rode veteran goalie performances to first-round wins, Thursday's favored contenders didn't exactly cruise out of the playoff gate.

The Washington Capitals, everyone's favorite Presidents' Trophy winners (and suspect postseason players), came away victorious, 3-2, against the Toronto Maple Leafs. But the win did not come without some scratching and clawing, as Toronto held a 2-1 advantage after one period and helped send the contest to overtime.

Granted, a win is a win, especially in the playoffs. And the Caps, dominant on paper and talented enough to overcome a Maple Leafs edge in faceoff percentage among other numbers, got exactly that thanks to an unassisted Tom Wilson goal in OT.

The Chicago Blackhawks, however, left their first day of playoff action without a win. In fact, they left without a single goal.

The Nashville Predators have a history of playing tough against Patrick Kane and Co., but shutting out Chicago for a 1-0 upset at the United Center was historic in its own right. That's a rare feat, especially considering the Blackhawks' postseason track record, and much of the credit goes to Pekka Rinne, who stopped all 29 Chicago shots after Filip Forsberg set up the go-ahead Predators goal from Viktor Arvidsson in the first period.

It shouldn't exactly scare Chicago or its fans, because anyone who assumes Kane, Corey Crawford and the bunch are somehow discouraged by a one-game deficit should look no further than the team's recent championship runs. But if you're Nashville, you have to be thankful for an anticlimactic, albeit promising, start to the playoffs.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Anaheim Ducks took advantage of the penalty-happy Calgary Flames late Thursday, coming away with a 3-2 win and handing Calgary its 28th straight loss in Anaheim -- a statistic that will have to be overturned rather quickly for the underdogs to retake the series.

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