Stanley Cup Playoffs: What You Need to Know, April 17
Catch up on everything you need to know from all four of Thursday night's games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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.
San Jose Sharks: The power may have gone out in the SAP Center before the game, but it certainly did not go out on the Sharks. From the drop of the puck in the first, the Sharks were the better team. They put up three goals in the first, including a pair in the last minute and added two more goals in the second period to chase Jonathan Quick. A slight let down in the third might be a good teaching moment for the coaching staff, but in general, San Jose can be happy with how they played.
Los Angeles Kings: The first goal has been very important in this series, like in when whoever scored first ended up winning the game when these two teams met in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Kings got caught flat-footed out of the gates and by the time they recovered it was too late. The good news is that they didn’t quit despite the score line and actually made the Sharks sweat with three goals in the third period.
Play of the Game: Patrick Marleau and Matt Nieto made the most of an odd-man break in the dying seconds of the first period, with the two exchanging passes before Marleau buried it with just under four seconds to play in the opening frame. It's usually better to shoot if you're in Nieto's position, but the pass paid off big time and the Sharks took a vice grip on the game.
Player of the Game: In his first career playoff game and just his third game since returning from a severe knee injury, Tomas Hertl looked no different than before. Despite playing relatively light minutes, Hertl seemed to make the most of his shifts at both ends of the ice. He ended the game with two points, including the Sharks’ second goal that seemed to really knock the wind out of the Kings’ sails for a while there.
Turning Point: Tomas Hertl's goal with 52 seconds remaining in the first period staggered the Kings, opening the door for Marleau to deliver the next staggering blow seconds later. Things were starting to even out in the first period when Hertl nabbed his first career postseason goal.
Best GIF: This is cheating, because it isn’t a GIF, but is there any better image to describe how the first period went for the Kings than this photo of Darryl Sutter? I’d argue no.
Colorado Avalanche: All season long the Avs have been able to defy the odds so why would that stop in Game 1 against Minnesota? The Avs were outplayed by the Wild in the second period, unraveling a bit at one point to go down two goals entering the third against a Wild defense that is usually stingy. But the Avs didn't stop and got more aggressive as the game ticked down to the final seconds. It was a game that nearly got away from them but the Avs once again found a way to win. What an emotional lift that could end up being in this series.
Minnesota Wild: That one is going to sting the Wild. A lot. They were playing a pretty strong game and built what probably felt like a safe 4-2 after two periods with a flurry to finish the middle stanza. But the game wasn't played to the Wild style, it was much more open, leaving them vulnerable to the Avalanche's speed and play-making abilities. It led to more goals for them too but the defense was opened more than usual and Ilya Bryzgalov was not able to keep the Avs off the board. They were so close and had good games from Ryan Suter, Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle but fell short in heart-breaking fashion.
Play of the Game: We saw Paul Stastny tie the game in regulation with 13 seconds left and that was a pretty nice play, and so was Erik Johnson's terrific save of a puck bound for the empty net but it was an overtime playoff game, of course it's the game-winner from Stastny.
Player of the Game: Well this one is probably obvious, huh? Stastny scored the game-tying goal and then the game-winner in overtime. That's a pretty nice little night for the centerman and probably earned him a few more dollars on his new contract this summer. But we should give an honorable mention to defenseman Tyson Barrie for the Avs, he was fantastic in the game and made the play that resulted in the game-winner for Stastny.
Turning Point: Because the play of the game went to the Stastny winner, we have to give some love to Johnson's game-saver with 1:30 left to play. Patrick Roy elected to pull Varlamov with three minutes left and it nearly caught up to them with a puck trickling toward an empty net. It looked like it was on its way in if not for Johnson, who got on his rocket skates and barely beat the puck to the net to knock it safely aside. It was inches from being the nail in the Avs' coffin, instead they came back to win. Huge play.
Best GIF: In the third period with the Avs down one, matching minors were called on the ice. Patrick Roy did not approve and let the refs know a bit more subtly than Joel Quenneville. Who knew Roy would be the tame one? (Via @cjzero.)
Chicago Blackhawks: The defending champs had a really good response in the dizzying first period, coming out with a 3-2 lead. They settled down rather well in the second and had the ice tilt the wrong way on them in the third. Chicago responded well in a physical game and had a few opportunities to end it in each of the first two overtime periods, including multiple power plays thanks to delay of game penalties against St. Louis. They weren't able to capitalize and that could have been the difference.
St. Louis Blues: With all the talk about St. Louis losing depth due to injuries, particularly to T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund, they sure didn't look it. They were particularly good in the third period, with their backs against the wall, but then had to weather quite a storm in the first overtime. They survived on good goaltending and some luck perhaps (Right, Maxim Lapierre?). It was a deserved win, however as the Blues were right with the Blackhawks the entire night.
Play of the Game: Well this is an easy one. What better way to end a thrilling Game 1 than with a dramatic triple-overtime game-winner? Corey Crawford struggled with the rebound before David Backes collected it, slipped the puck to Steve Ott, who dropped it to Alex Steen. Game over. It was a terrific play by the trio of Blues forwards finished off by St. Louis' leading goal scorer just 26 seconds into the third extra frame.
Player of the Game: With such an outstanding game, there are many players that are deserving of this. Both goaltenders made many huge saves, but from start to finish, Jaden Schwartz was one of the most impactful players. He did everything from blocking shots, to making things happen on the forecheck and scoring the game-winning goal. His work allowed Vladimir Tarasenko to create offensively and they worked extremely well together. No Blues forward played as much as Schwartz, who spent 33:15 on the ice.
Turning Point: Jaden Schwartz scored with 1:45 remaining in regulation to tie the game. He got rewarded for playing a heck of a game, too. It forced the overtime period the Blues had so richly earned with their superior play in the third period.
Best GIF: Maxim Lapierre's somewhat accidental shot block that ended up saving a goal was a huge play in the first overtime. Had he not happened to get angled into the net by Brandon Saad like he did, it could have been game over. This GIF from @PeteBlackburn shows how close the Blues were to losing this game.
New York Rangers: The Rangers controlled play for a lot of the game, out-shooting the Flyers by a significant 36-15 margin. New York didn't quite take over the game on the scoreboard however until the third period when its power play was given a golden opportunity with a double minor. The Rangers made it count with a pair of goals on the lengthy advantage and kept their foot on the gas the rest of the way.
Philadelphia Flyers: Despite being vastly out-played for much of the game, the Flyers hung in there mainly thanks to the play of Ray Emery in net. Getting out-shot 13-1 in the third period, however, is unacceptable, whether they were killing a double-minor or not. The Flyers have two days off to think about that third period and try to get it corrected.
Play of the Game: With the Flyers killing Jason Akeson's double-minor in the middle of the third period, the Rangers let their passing do the work. Martin St. Louis to Brad Richards to Derek Stepan, who didn't have much of a problem finishing off this play.
Player of the Game: Brad Richards, much maligned in the playoffs last year and eventually healthy scratched by John Tortorella, had a huge return to the postseason. The star winger posted three points including the go-ahead goal in the third period on a perfectly-placed shot on the power play. He was second on the team with six shots and played more than 19 minutes. That's a long way from the press box.
Turning Point: Jason Akeson high-sticked Carl Hagelin with 12:25 to play in regulation, drawing blood and giving the Rangers a four-minute double-minor. Brad Richards scored to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead on the first half of the double minor before Derek Stepan scored on the back half to put the Flyers in a two-goal hole. Just look at the passing on the Stepan goal in the play of the game.
Best GIF: The play of the game for the Flyers came when Scott Hartnell took out Ryan McDonagh with a clean hit, grabbed the puck and slid it to Andrew MacDonald for the goal. The dyed black beard getting the job done there. GIF via @myregularface:
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