It feels like only yesterday that the play-offs got underway, but already we have three series now with teams on three wins. Let’s re-visit yesterday’s bevvy of play-off hockey:
The three first games in the inaugural Battle of Florida produced some of the most inspired hockey of the play-offs, but in Game 4 the Lightning flexed their championship pedigree with a decisive 6-2 victory. Though the victory did put Tampa Bay in the driver’s seat to move into the next round, it wasn’t without a cost as Nikita Kucherov and Mikhail Sergachev both exited the game with injuries. For Florida, Sergei Bobrovsky was pulled after allowing five goals on fourteen shots. If the Panthers do end up falling to the Bolts, there are a lot of encouraging signs that they could be a force in the years to come; next year’s re-formed Atlantic Division is shaping up to be a bloodbath.
The Isles needed this one in order to avoid being pushed to the brink of elimination, and they delivered thanks to some opportunistic goal-scoring and a stellar performance from goalie Ilya Sorokin. Sidney Crosby’s had a lot of play-off success in his storied career, but with just one goal the first four games of this series he’s managed just five points in his last twelve playoff games; all first round defeats for the Pens. So far Pittsburgh has managed without their talisman’s production but you can bet that they’ll need him to win two of the last three.
Toronto Maple Leafs 5, Montreal Canadiens 1, Series Tied 1-1
After the horrifying scene on Thursday night involving John Tavares, several Leafs players were quoted as saying that they wanted to win enough games to get their captain back for an extended play-off run. On Saturday night, they delivered the kind of performance that would have you believe they intend on doing just that. The Leafs steamrolled the Habs to the tune of a 5-1 victory, reeling off five straight goals after Jesper Kotkaniemi opened the scoring in the first. There’s not much to say about this one, Toronto dominated in the way most were expecting they would and if they play like this they’ll cruise through the North Division bracket; now the question is which version of the Leafs will show up on Monday.
Vegas Golden Knights 4, Minnesota Wild 1, VGK Leads Series 3-1
Nicolas Roy scored twice, Mark Stone added a short-handed goal and Marc-Andre Fleury made 35 saves as the Golden Knights took a stranglehold on the series heading back to Vegas for Game 5. Minnesota’s had something of a charmed season, outperforming virtually every pre-season projection but this Vegas crew is one of the best in the league. It’s looking quite likely that we are heading for the Vegas-Colorado second round matchup we’ve all been dreaming about.