Wednesday night was a wild one with the New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights all having a chance to wrap up the first round and move to the next. Unfortunately for the Golden Knights, they were the only team to fall short of that goal as the Lightning and Islanders both took care of business and will be heading to round two.
New York Islanders 5, Pittsburgh Penguins 3 - New York wins 4-2
The Islanders took down Sidney Crosby and the Penguins for the fourth and final time last night. Facing elimination, this was a Penguins team hungry for the win as evidenced by Jeff Carter’s opening goal just a minute and a half after the puck first dropped. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the Islanders’ red hot Anthony Beauvillier came to play last night. Scoring the first goal of the game for New York and adding two third period assists, Beauvillier put the Islanders on his back. A familiar playoff performer in JG Pageau certainly had his pregame chicken parm as well as he tallied a pair of assists on the night. The Islanders officially move on in six games.
Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Florida Panthers 0 - Tampa Bay wins 4-2
Although the Panthers showed signs of life in their game five win, Tampa Bay came to play last night with a decisive 4-0 win to take the series. For the Panthers, it was always going to be a question of whether they could best Andrei Vasilevsky enough times through a seven game series to take home four wins before the Lightning could get there. Unfortunately for Florida, Vasilevsky was once again dialled in, turning away all 29 shots he faced while blanking the Panthers on two power play opportunities. Steven Stamkos (1-1), Erik Cernak (0-2) and Nikita Kucherov (0-2) all had multi-point efforts in Tampa Bay’s final win of round one. The Lightning officially move on in six games.
Minnesota Wild 3, Vegas Golden Knights 0 - Series Tied 3-3
The Golden Knights dropped the ball where both Tampa Bay and New York were successful on Wednesday night as the Minnesota Wild managed to shut out one of the NHL’s top teams in game six. This is a series where many predictions had Vegas walking away relatively handily and so, as is life in the NHL playoffs, of course it’s the first series of round one (so far) to head to game seven. A particularly boring start to the game saw both teams knotted at 0 heading into the third period. It wasn’t until four minutes into the final frame that Ryan Hartman finally put a puck behind a goaltender. Just five minutes later, Kevin Fiala gave the Wild a 2-0 lead and Minnesota didn’t look back. Cam Talbot, like his Tampa Bay counterpart, turned away every shot he faced, providing the Wild with the opportunity to force game seven.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Montreal Canadiens, Leafs lead 3-1
The Montreal Canadiens are playing a do-or-die game tonight against the Maple Leafs at 7pm. The tale of the tape between these two teams has mostly focused on Montreal’s inability to score enough goals to keep themselves in this series. In game four, the Leafs managed to shut them out while putting four pucks past Carey Price. So far, the Habs only have five goals on their side of the scoresheet through four games. Not showing a ton of life in game four, the Canadiens will have to come out firing on all cylinders if they’re hoping to extend this series beyond this evening.
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Nashville Predators, Hurricanes lead 3-2
The Hurricanes and Predators head to game six tonight, with Carolina holding a slight edge in the series so far. For Carolina, it will be all about keeping up their excellent special teams and goaltending that has brought them three wins so far this series. On the powerplay, Carolina has an 18.8% success rate compared to 9.1% for Nashville. On the penalty kill, the Canes have managed to kill of 90.9% of Nashville’s opportunities. Obviously, the opposite will be true for Nashville. They’ll need to work to capitalize on their powerplays while holding off Carolina’s potent special teams play if they want to move this series to game seven.
At the end of the night, we very well may be seeing Toronto and Carolina moving on to the next round.