With a combined 31 minutes of overtime last night, both games were high drama and high stakes.
Yet, nothing was officially decided, and all four teams will go again.
Leafs 1 – 2 Capitals (WSH leads 3 – 2)
Playoff experience is a hugely overrated asset. Unless it wins you a game.
Justin Williams’ third goal of this series – his 36th career playoff goal and 90th career playoff point – at 1:04 of overtime put the Caps up by one with two to play.
The first was a tight, edgy affair until Alex Ovechkin was taken down at the knee by a very controversial hit by Nazim Kadri – was it kneeing? Was it a clip? Was it a hip check gone wrong? Either way, Ovi missed the rest of the first after struggling to get to his feet after it.
On the ensuing power play – only deemed a minor by the officials – TJ Oshie collected the puck after a Nicklas Backstrom shot hit the bar and tucked it past a stranded Freddie Anderson, and the Caps went into intermission ahead.
As per with this Leafs side though, they didn’t have any quit in them. William Nylander threw the puck towards the net, and in the ensuing scrum Auston Matthews put the puck away at 26:00.
It would remain level throughout the rest of regulation, but overtime was swift. A lovely breakout move saw Ryan Johansen feed the puck behind the net to Kuznetsov, whose pass into the slot was buried by Williams, and the Caps head to Toronto with a chance to advance.
Bruins 3 – 2 Senators (OTT leads 3 – 2)
Another lead lost. Another overtime game. Another missed opportunity for the losers.
The Senators were up 2-0. Goals from Mark Stone (11:19) and JG Pageau (20:30) had them in control, but as seems to be the case in this match-up, there is no point in having a lead.
Second period goals from David Pastrnak and Sean Kuraly brought the Bruins back level, and it would stay that way until the 91st minute, when Kuraly backhanded a rebound beyond Craig Anderson to keep the Bruins in the show.
Tuukka Rask made 41 saves, and Anderson 36, so it’s not like either side were lacking in opportunities.
The Sens get a second opportunity to close out on Sunday, in a matinee game in Boston.
Three games tonight – a game five, and two game sixes, all of which can end their respective series.
Blues @ Wild (STL lead 3 – 1)
TV: NBC, Sportsnet, TVAS, Premier Sports
The Wild finally managed to make their dominant possession game count in game four, avoiding the sweep and bringing the series back to St Paul for game five. Not that the Blues will have any fear of a road game – they won both games here to start.
Paul Stastny is back for the Blues, expected to play alongside Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz. Jori Lehtera is also expected to play, in place of Ivan Barbashev.
No news on changes from the Wild end, but they won, so they’ll likely stay the same.
What the Blues need to do: Hope the injection of Stastny and Lehtera brings instant results
What the Wild need to do: Keep doing what they did in game four
Reason to watch: Elimination potential, and it’s an early game for those of us on the east of the Atlantic.
Canadiens @ Rangers (NYR leads 3 – 2)
TV: NBC, CBC, TVAS, Premier
One lapse of concentration in their own end cost the Habs game five, and now they have to win two on the bounce for the second time to advance. The Rangers, on the other hand, need to win just once, and they get the first throw of the dice on home ice.
Both teams are likely to remain unchanged – Pavel Buchnevich’s addition to the Rangers reaped instant rewards, so he’ll likely remain.
What the Habs need to do: Win at all costs
What the Rangers need to do: Keep the Habs quiet
Reason to watch: The Habs going out in round one? Shame.
Oilers @ Sharks
TV: NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVAS, NBCS-CA, Premier
We are potentially 60 minutes from the worst match-up I can possibly fathom in my head. Should the Oilers win, they get a second-round meeting with the Anaheim Ducks, and oh boy do I not want that.
Fortunately for the Sharks (and my own mental wellbeing) game six takes place in the SAP, and the last time they played at home they won 7-0. You don’t need that many lads, just a few would do.
No lineup changes are expected, and this could be fun if the Sharks have to play Desperation Playoff Hockey(TM).
What the Oilers need to do: Not spear people would be a start.
What the Sharks need to do: Same as the Habs, win at all costs and take it to seven.
Reason to watch: An elimination game usually contains some good hockey drama.