After sixteen long months in Tampa Bay, the Lightning have found their way to within a game of exorcising those demons of 2019 and vanquishing the Blue Jackets. Out west, midnight might come a little too soon for the Cinderella Coyotes who got slammed by the Avalanche. The Hurricanes had a period to forget while the Bruins staged a comeback symbolic of their turnaround from the play-in to the real playoffs. Back out west, it was the duel of the Jakes with Allen and Markstrom backstopping the Blues and Canucks, respectively.
Lightning 2, Blue Jackets 1, TBL leads 3-1
In the first period of this one, it appeared as though someone had fired the Jackets out of a cannon (pun intended), especially Zach Werenski who made some beautiful plays including one that would have led to an Oliver Bjorkstrand goal had the play not gone off-side. Joonas Korpisalo made some clutch saves and did all he could as the two pucks that got by him were really no fault of his own. This was as tight of a game as we’ve seen so far and Andrei Vasilevskiy certainly atoned for his poor numbers in last spring’s meeting with Columbus.
Avalanche 7, Coyotes 1, COL leads 3-1
If the matinee was one of the closest games of the post-season then this was its antithesis. I would contend that at least five of those Avalanche goals were no fault of Darcy Kuemper or Antti Raanta as the Coyotes defence was as abysmal as I’ve seen (and I’m a Senators fan!) On the one or two goals that weren’t defensive gong-shows, you really have to give full credit to Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar who are absolute nightmares for the opposition. The Coyotes have simply run out of answers for the star power of the Avalanche and no amount of goaltending can save them when conceding shot volume at a two-to-one rate and shot quality at an even more desperate differential. It was fun while it lasted.
Bruins 4, Hurricanes 3, BOS leads 3-1
The first fifty minutes of this one looked like the Tampa Bay-Columbus game while the latter ten minutes looked closer to the Colorado-Arizona game. Carolina built and nursed a healthy two-goal lead only to watch the sky come falling conceding four goals in a ten-minute span. Carolina showed some signs of life scoring a late goal to get back within one but by then it would take a miracle the Hurricanes didn’t have in them. James Reimer and Jaroslav Halak both had rather shaky outings although at least Halak has the opportunity to advance his squad to the second round in game-five.
Blues 3, Canucks 1, series tied 2-2
After digging an 0-2 hole in the series, the defending Stanley Cup champions have clawed their way back into what has become one of the most entertaining series in the first round. Jake Allen had to hold it down for most of the first as the St. Louis penalty kill had its hands full for stretches. Reigning post-season MVP Ryan O’Reilly played the hero again for the Blues as he contributed on all three St. Louis goals. The young stars on the Canucks will keep this series interesting and now that they’ve awoken those sleeping giants, and with strong goaltending at both ends, this series could go the distance.