NHL Playoffs 2018 schedule, updates, news, highlights: Maple Leafs survive; Lightning advance
Toronto keeps its season alive on the road on Saturday night despite 40-plus shots from Bruins
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A day after the Minnesota Wild were , and both the Colorado Avalanche and Philadelphia Flyers clung to life with upsets over the Presidents' Trophy winners and defending Stanley Cup champions, another team fell victim to its do-or-die situation. The Devils came up short in their Game 5 matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Two games removed from dropping five goals on the Lightning, the Devils cut Tampa's lead in half in the final three minutes of Saturday's showdown, but couldn't do much more than that, falling 3-1 and out of the postseason.
The Washington Capitals, meanwhile, went to overtime (yes, again) after entering deadlocked in a 2-2 series with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Washington pulled out another close victory, this one thanks to a clutch score from Nicklas Backstrom.
And the Toronto Maple Leafs, looking to stave off elimination on the road against their rival Boston Bruins, saw a three-goal lead evaporate in the final period of Saturday's Game 5, but held on to stay alive in the series thanks to incredible goaltending from Frederik Andersen.
Here, we've got you covered with everything you need to know from Saturday's action:
Saturday's full schedule
Updated playoff bracket
Maple Leafs surge with early onslaught, hold on for gritty victory
Toronto didn't waste any time quieting the Boston crowd in the face of potential elimination on Saturday night, keeping the puck out of its zone to start Game 5 and then pouring the pressure on Tuukka Rask en route to a nail-biting win that guarantees a Game 6. Just under three minutes into the matchup, Connor Brown played some baseball next to the post, batting an Auston Matthews wraparound out of the air and past Rask for a 1-0 Maple Leafs lead.
Not long afterward, it was Andreas Johnsson who lit the lamp for Toronto, giving the Maple Leafs two goals on their first five shots thanks to a crafty pass from Nazek Kadri -- the same 30-goal scorer who missed Toronto's last three games as a result of his Game 1 hit on Tommy Wingels.
With a little over 10 minutes left in the second period, the Bruins finally cut their rivals' lead in half on an opportunistic shot by David Backes, who found a wide-open hole after the puck bounced off the boards during Boston's second power play of the night. But even that momentum didn't last long, with Tyler Bozak responding almost immediately after the extra-man advantage, catching a Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara pairing off guard for a quick strike that rekindled the Leafs' two-goal lead.
And the Maple Leafs weren't done there. On their very next shot, an upward swoosh of a power-play strike from James van Riemsdyk, they went up 4-1 and prompted the Bruins to pull Rask for Anton Khudobin -- a playoff rookie -- with 8:05 left in the second. That marked van Riemsdyk's third power-play goal of the series.
Boston didn't completely bow down as the second break approached, though. Despite their esteemed power-play unit failing to threaten a stout Frederik Anderson on a 5-on-3 try, they once again narrowed the Maple Leafs' lead thanks to a beautiful backhanded Matt Grzelcyk pass that set up a Sean Kuraly score with about two minutes left in the period. Then, they used another power-play opportunity to keep Andersen on edge and carry an advantage into the third, when they drew within one on a score from the fourth line's Noel Acciari.
If it weren't for some dazzling effort from Andersen, who was absolutely peppered with shots from a relentless Bruins front in the third, the Leafs may have allowed Boston to climb all the way back, too. With just under six minutes to play, the home team had already racked up almost 40 shots on goal as opposed to, at the time, Toronto's 18 -- and it outdid the Leafs in third-period scoring chances 13 to one with four minutes to go. But Andersen stood his ground in front of 45-plus shots, defending Toronto's way to a Game 6.
Lightning hold off late Devils rally, eliminate New Jersey with 3-1 win
One more team is moving on, and one more team is out of the playoffs as the Lightning took care of the Devils, eliminating the up-and-coming Metropolitan youngsters with a two-goal decision fueled by steady play from their big names.
Three days after holding the Devils to just one goal, Tampa Bay did the same thing on Saturday, with Vezina Trophy finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy halting all but one of the 27 shots sent his way. Nikita Kucherov, meanwhile, padded the Lightning's 1-0 lead on a third-period score set up by some superb work from deadline acquisition J.T. Miller right in front of New Jersey's Cory Schneider.
The Devils weren't completely without life at the tail end of Saturday's game, finally getting the puck past Vasilevskiy once they pulled Schneider with three minutes left. But an empty-netter from Ryan Callahan sealed the deal and secured the series win for Tampa Bay, which scored at least three goals in four of the team's five first-round games.
The Lightning now wait to see who they'll play in the second round -- either the Bruins or the Maple Leafs, who are one loss away from their own elimination.
Their momentum on Saturday got started on Mikhail Sergachev's goal. The 19-year-old defenseman -- a top prospect of the Montreal Canadiens before landing in Tampa Bay as part of the Jonathan Drouin trade before the season -- laced a bullet past Schneider for his first-ever career playoff goal with just under 12 minutes left in the opening period.
Capitals get another overtime victory on clutch Backstrom goal
Washington headed to a fourth period for the fourth time in its series with Columbus despite taking a late 3-2 lead in the third period. Oliver Bjorkstrand, who had yet to score his first playoff goal, knotted Saturday's Game 5 at three goals apiece on this beautiful redirect, which capped a third period that saw Columbus outshoot the Caps 16-1:
Sergei Bobrovsky then put on a show early in OT, robbing Alex Ovechkin and the Caps of several scoring opportunities:
Backstrom then finished things off with his second of the game on a tip off Dmitry Orlov's shot, burying the Blue Jackets in overtime for the second straight matchup of the series.
Calvert whiffs on breakaway, but still scores to tie it up in Washington
The Capitals-Blue Jackets game was going exactly as you'd expect early on, too. In other words, it was an absolute circus. A period after an Ovechkin turnover led to a Matt Calvert score and preceded an immediate response from Washington, the Caps went up 2-1 in the second. But Washington's defense couldn't hold up on a breakaway by Calvert -- a breakaway during which Calvert completely whiffed on his shot and yet found a way to stick with the puck, spin around and tie the game on a poke past Braden Holtby.
It's safe to say Bobrovsky was on his game early, though, especially after he robbed Ovechkin of this wide-open shot:
And all indications early in Saturday's clash were not good for the Caps when that Ovechkin turnover, forced by Seth Jones, set up a short-handed goal by Matt Calvert.
But the Capitals, unlike themselves at a number of points during their first-round series with Columbus, wasted no time responding. With a little help from the puck, which bounced up and off Bobrovsky's stick and into the net, Backstrom reset the game, knotting the score at 1-1, with a little over 6:30 left in the first.
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