The Philadelphia Flyers and Vancouver Canucks are moving on to the conference semifinals. Two more teams will do the same tonight.
In Philadelphia — The Flyers scored first, and never looked back. They beat the Buffalo Sabres, 5-2. After starting three different goalies in seven games, Philadelphia had no such trouble on this night. Brian Boucher made 25 saves. On the other side, it was Buffalo who had goaltending issues. Ryan Miller was yanked in the third period after the Flyers had built a 4-0 lead and essentially put the game out of reach. The Flyers don’t know who their next opponent will be; it depends on the outcomes of Wednesday’s games.
There was plenty of drama In Vancouver. The Canucks were on the brink of an epic collapse against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, having blown a 3-0 lead in the series. The decisive game went into overtime. But Alex Burrows stole the puck in the Chicago end, and slapped one past Corey Crawford to give the Canucks a 2-1 victory. Chicago was trying to become the fourth team in NHL history to win a series after dropping the first three games. The Canucks will face the Nashville Predators in the second round. The Preds eliminated the Anaheim Ducks for their first ever series win.
The winner-take-all action continues Wednesday evening. The Bruins host the Canadiens at TD Garden, while the Penguins host the Lightning at CONSOL Energy Center.
They are two of the most magical words in sports. There is nothing like it: the winner moves on, the loser heads home for the summer. In the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there are three, juicy winner-take-all games to look forward to.
(7) Buffalo Sabres at (2) Philadelphia Flyers (Tuesday 7:30 p.m.):
This has been one heck of a series. Five of the six games have been decided by one goal. The last two have gone to overtime, with each team winning on the other’s home ice. Speaking of road warriors, the visiting team has won four times, with the Sabres taking two of three in Philadelphia. The bad blood between these two teams got turned up a notch in Game Six, when Philly’s captain Mike Richards shoved Buffalo’s Tim Connolly head first into the boards. Richards was called for a penalty, but Buffalo wanted more: a suspension for the decisive game. The NHL said no.
Will there be revenge on Buffalo’s mind on Tuesday night? Probably not – there is just too much at stake – but it does bear watching. Richards will play. Connolly will not.
(8) Chicago Blackhawks at (1) Vancouver Canucks (10 p.m. Tuesday):
How much pressure is on the Presidents’ trophy winners for this one? The Canucks looked to be well on their way to the conference semifinals a little more than a week ago. Then the defending Stanley Cup champions woke up and won three straight: two blowout victories followed by an overtime winner Sunday night in Game Six.
Roberto Luongo was benched in that last game, but entered in the third period after Cory Schneider suffered an injury and gave up the game-winning goal in OT.
Head coach Alain Vigneault says Luongo will get the nod in Game Seven. The ‘Hawks are trying to become the fourth team in NHL history to come back from a 0-3 deficit to win a playoff series.
(5) Tampa Bay Lightning at (4) Pittsburgh Penguins (Wednesday TBA):
Like the Canucks, the Penguins probably felt they had this series in the bag after winning Game Four in double-overtime in Tampa Bay. But the Lightning came back with an eight-goal outburst in Game Five, followed by a victory on home ice Monday night to even the series.
This quarterfinal matchup hasn’t gotten the attention that some of the other series have, but that does not diminish the fact that one of these teams will be all done come Wednesday night.
San Jose beats Los Angles:
Just before 1 a.m. on Tuesday, the L.A. Kings had a chance to send a fourth series to a seventh game. But Joe Thornton (remember him?) made sure that wouldn’t happen. His overtime goal gave the Sharks a 4-3 win, and a 4-2 victory in the series.
Three Game Sevens, two nights, plus, throw in Game Six (and possibly seven) between the Bruins and Canadiens, and you’ve got a hockey fan’s paradise.
It was an incredibly exciting weekend in the NHL, as three very intriguing first round series finished their games in overtime and while these endings may make your heart race a tad bit faster than usual, all in all, it is safe to say that this is indeed playoff hockey!
Boston 2 – Montreal 1: After watching a complete goaltenders duel for nearly four periods, Nathan Horton found a way to beat Carey Price for the game winner in double overtime on Saturday. Boston and Montreal will play their sixth game of the series on Tuesday and one has to wonder, can the Bruins, who have won three games in a row, win one more at the Belle Centre on Tuesday?
Philadelphia 5 – Buffalo 4: With the chance to officially end Philadelphia’s chances of advancing further in the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, Buffalo could not contain Ville Leino, who pushed the puck passed Ryan Miller to force one more game in Pennsylvania on Tuesday. The series currently is tied, 3-3, so the winner will advance, while the loser will head home for the summer.
Chicago 4 – Vancouver 3: The Canucks led the series, 3-0, but the last three games were completely different. Chicago may have stolen the momentum away from Vancouver on Sunday, as Ben Smith scored in overtime to force a game seven on Tuesday in Canada. If the Blackhawks win this particular series, they’ll become the fourth NHL team to come back and win a series after trailing, 3-0.