Stanley Cup Playoffs Daily: Columbus stuns, Vegas gets even
The Columbus Blue Jackets followed up their Game 1 surprise with an emphatic win over the heavily favored Tampa Bay Lightning, one of three series that moved to 2-0 on Friday night. The one that’s tied up was delightfully contentious.
Here’s what happened last night, and what to watch for today, in today’s edition of ESPN Stanley Cup Playoffs Daily. And don’t forget, you can watch a replay of any 2019 Stanley Cup playoff game on ESPN+.
About last night…
Game 2: Columbus Blue Jackets 5, Tampa Bay Lightning 1 (Jackets lead, 2-0). Coach Jon Cooper didn’t sugarcoat it after the Lightning, one of the best regular-season teams in NHL history, lost the first two games of their series against the Blue Jackets. “This is a five-alarm fire,” he said.
It was also an embarrassing result on home ice. The Jackets built a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Cam Atkinson and Zach Werenski, both assisted by trade deadline coup Matt Duchene, who made it 3-0 Columbus with a second period goal. The Lightning cut the lead five minutes into the third period, but Riley Nash’s goal at 9:06 all but iced it. Sergei Bobrovsky, maligned playoff goalie? He’s allowed one goal in his last five periods. Andrei Vasilevskiy, potential Vezina Trophy winner this season? He’s given up nine goals and has a .830 save percentage. Tampa is in trouble. The only silver lining? Columbus went up 2-0 in Washington last year on the road. But those games weren’t nearly as lopsided.
Game 2: New York Islanders 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 1 (Islanders lead series, 2-0). In Game 1, the Islanders outgunned the Penguins. In Game 2, they won the way they had so many other teams during this stunningly successful season under coach Barry Trotz: With fantastic goaltending and timely offense. Robin Lehner made 32 saves, including 15 in the third period. Also in the third period: Jordan Eberle and Josh Bailey scoring less than four minutes apart to break the 1-1 tie. It was a brutal, physical game, but the Islanders won the war of attrition for the 2-0 series lead. They also shut down Sidney Crosby again, leaving the Penguins star scoreless in the series.
Game 2: St. Louis Blues 4, Winnipeg Jets 3 (Blues lead, 2-0). Rookie sensation goalie Jordan Binnington let Ryan O’Reilly’s third-period goal stand and closed the deal with 15 saves in the final frame. Oskar Sundqvist had two goals for St. Louis, helping to counter a goal and an assist for both Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele, as well as another Patrik Laine goal for Winnipeg. The Blues are 11-2 in series when leading 2-0 in the postseason, but have lost two of the last three in which they’ve been in that position. “You’ve got to win four games to win a series,” Wheeler said. “I’ve never met any team that won two to win a series. So, we’re alright.”
Game 2: Vegas Golden Knights 5, San Jose Sharks 3 (Series tied 1-1). This was a wild one, and not without controversy. The Knights scored three goals in the first 6:11 of the first period, chasing goalie Martin Jones. The Sharks roared back with three goals in 2 minutes and 9 seconds to tie the game 3-3 by the first intermission. Then, to start the second, it appeared Brent Burns scored the go-ahead goal for the Sharks … but it was disallowed because the officials felt that San Jose’s Logan Couture interfered with Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, bumping into him near the top of the crease as the puck flew into the net. They went one step further, and gave Couture a two-minute minor for interference, which eliminated any chance for the Sharks to use a coach’s challenge on the play. Mark Stone scored his third of the playoffs on the ensuing power play to give Vegas the lead, and they rode that momentum shift to victory.
“That one call is a two-goal swing in the game, and it’s devastating for our group. It’s a shame,” said coach Pete DeBoer. (Also devastating: San Jose going 1-for-8 on the power play and giving up two short-handed goals.)
1. Matt Duchene, C, Columbus Blue Jackets. The 28-year-old center has played 727 regular-season games since coming into the NHL as a 19-year-old in 2009. Yet Game 2 against the Lightning was just the 10th playoff game of his career. He hadn’t scored a goal in the playoffs until his second-period tally to give the Jackets a 3-0 lead. He finished with a goal and three assists. Considering the pressure he’s under — the playoffs, the all-in investment in him at the trade deadline, free-agency looming this summer — it was an exhilarating performance.
2. Ryan O’Reilly, C, St. Louis Blues. Ryan O’Reilly might not have the renown to be a Hart Trophy finalist this year, which is a shame, as Game 2 of this series reminded us. O’Reilly’s goal at 3:46 of the third period gave the Blues a lead they would not relinquish.
3. Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Vegas Golden Knights. The last time Fleury surrendered four or more goals in four straight games was February 2007. He entered Game 2 having given up a four-spot in all three games since returning from injury, and it appeared he might do it again when the Sharks answered the Knights’ 3-0 first-period lead with three goals of their own before the first intermission. But Fleury made 25 saves in the final two periods and 34 for the game, settling the Knights down.
Play of the Night
Like a thunderous, highlight reel dunk at the end of a blowout basketball game. The Lightning stopped playing, so the Blue Jackets put on a passing clinic that ended with Duchene feeding Artemi Panarin for the goal.
Dud of the Night
Kucherov will have a hearing for this hit. pic.twitter.com/gaEUDaxe5o – hockeyfights (@hockeyfights) April 13, 2019
Nikita Kucherov. The NHL’s leading scorer in the regular season, Kucherov has zero points in the Lightning’s two losses to Columbus. They’ve been waiting for him to make an impact … but probably not like this. Kucherov has a heading on Saturday with the NHL Department of Player Safety after this hit with Blue Jackets defenseman Markus Nutivaara in a prone position. Kucherov received a game misconduct in the third period. Is a suspension for Game 3 next?
On the schedule today
Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals, Game 2, 3 p.m. ET. Capitals lead 1-0.
The Capitals hold the lead on the “Bunch of Jerks” after holding off a furious third-period rally in Game 1. Was that rally, and the Hurricanes’ significant edge in shot attempts, enough to give Carolina the confidence it needs to beat the Capitals for the first time this season? “We’re here. We can play with them,” defenseman Jaccob Slavin said
Dallas Stars at Nashville Predators, Game 2, 6 p.m. ET. Stars lead 1-0.
The Stars used an outstanding performance from rookie defenseman Miro Heiskanen and solid goaltending from Ben Bishop to take Game 1. But mostly, the Predators were just misfiring. “I think you guys know when we’re on the attack and on our toes, we’re playing good hockey. We just lost a little bit of focus through the course of the game. That’s all,” said coach Peter Laviolette. “So it’s not like we have to reinvent the wheel here.”
Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins, Game 2, 8 p.m. ET. Leafs lead 1-0.
The Leafs had a couple of advantages heading into this series: Their forward depth and speed, most notably. It was in display in their Game 1 win, and Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy thinks the best way to counteract that is to not let them have the puck. “I think that’s where we weren’t hard enough to be honest with you. I give them credit, they won a lot of pucks, got out of their end in a hurry,” he said. “They win it from us and bang, they’re gone. That’s where they were better than us in areas and converted.” Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk is questionable for the game; if he can’t go, veteran David Backes draws in.
Colorado Avalanche at Calgary Flames, Game 2, 10:30 p.m. ET. Flames lead 1-0.
The most talked about goalie entering this series was Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer, whose play down the stretch got them into the postseason. The most talked about goalie after Game 1? Mike Smith, the 37-year-old netminder for the Flames who was spectacular in their series-opening win and turned the critics in the crowd into fans chanting “Smitty!” in his honor. “I haven’t quite heard anything like that before in my career,” Smith said. “It gives you some confidence when you hear your name getting chanted.”
Social post of the day
Hey, when you’re down 0-2 to a huge underdog, you hold on to whatever you can for hope. Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman decided to hold on to the fact that the Blue Jackets blew a 2-0 series lead to Washington last season.
“I thought I lost my testicle.” — San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture, after blocking a shot by Vegas forward Cody Eakin with the most sensitive of sensitive areas.
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