Caps, Sens take step forward while Wild stay alive and Ducks eliminate the Flames
Caps' series with Maple Leafs now at 2-2, while Ottawa goes up 3-1 on Boston
If theof the Washington Capitals-Toronto Maple Leafs series were any indication, Wednesday's Game 4 was bound to hit overtime.
And a late score by Auston Matthews, the headliner of Toronto's not-to-be-overlooked offense, had the Maple Leafs threatening to make that happen. It was Washington's night, however, as the league's No. 1 team evened up its first-round series with a much needed -- albeit close -- 5-4 victory.
It was also, in a bigger sense, the Anaheim Ducks' night. Fending off their Pacific Division rival Calgary Flames for the second night in a row and capturing a fourth straight win, the Ducks became the first team in the 2016-17 playoffs to secure a trip to the second round.
Here are some things to know after the Capitals' much needed rebound, the Ducks' four-game sweep of Calgary, a suddenly sizable edge by the Ottawa Senators over the Boston Bruins and the rest of the NHL's midweek playoff action:
The Caps' confidence (and takeaways) came back at the right time
One of the keys to Toronto's back-to-back overtime victories, outside of Matthews and the offense capitalizing on opportunities near the net, was confidence. Cliche as it might sound, the Maple Leafs would not have executed as well as they had in Games 2 and 3 without believing in themselves on the ice, and the Capitals recaptured some of that same magic by starting strong on Wednesday and, even if just barely, holding on until the very end. Forcing turnovers, tightening up defensively and taking an early advantage thanks to Alex Ovechkin highlighted a solid victory for the Caps at just the right time.
Onto the next one for the Ducks, who need to turn up the heat in round two
Our first sweep and elimination arrived at the same time when Anaheim logged its fourth straight win over an overmatched underdog team in the Flames. It's a testament both to the Ducks' promise as a true contender out of the Pacific and the fact that Calgary's unprecedented win streak during the regular season never -- and understandably so -- made them a lock to do serious damage in the playoffs.
Anaheim needs to make sure it brings its Grade-A material in its next series, though. The Flames were never a real threat to pull off an upset, but they sure made things a heck of a lot closer than they should have been in the final two games. One goal in Game 4, of course, isn't scary material, but Calgary's goaltending was impressive. And after the San Jose Sharks' seven spot on the Edmonton Oilers this week, who knows what's coming Anaheim's way.
The Wild will hang on by a thread for a little longer
Props to the Minnesota Wild for ensuring that only the Flames finished Wednesday night with a guaranteed playoff exit. Props to Martin Hanzal for getting some buzz with an important insurance goal and putting the closest thing to a dent in St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen.
And props to, uh, the Wild for just generally being aware of the puck -- OK, being quick to the puck -- on this right-place-at-the-right-time goal to kick off Minnesota's first postseason victory:
So it might be time to stop ignoring the Senators
Disclaimer: This applies only to Ottawa's first-round matchup. Granted, Boston was not locked in as any kind of favorite out of the Eastern Conference, but especially after their Game 1 victory and some promising play into the follow-up contest, the Bruins surely could not have seen themselves falling into a 3-1 series hole. Craig Anderson stopped all 22 Boston shots Wednesday, securing the Senators' shutout. And the biggest reason for Boston to worry, not only because two of a possible final three games will be in Ottawa, is the fact that the Sens have now shown they can beat Bruce Cassidy's club in either a blow-for-blow shootout or defensive battle.
Here's Erik Karlsson with a beauty of a deep pass to Bobby Ryan, whose third-period goal gave Ottawa its lone score of the night and aided Anderson's fourth career shutout:
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