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The good news for the Tampa Bay Lightning is they’re up 2-0 on New Jersey in the first round of the NHL playoffs and still haven’t played their best. Alex Killorn scored twice during a four-goal second period, helping the top seed in the Eastern Conference beat the Devils 5-3 in Game 2 of the best-of-seven series.
Ryan Hartman’s empty-net goal wound up the game-winner as the Nashville Predators held off the Colorado Avalanche 5-4 for a 2-0 lead in their first-round Western Conference series. The Presidents’ Trophy winners started slowly, giving up a goal on Colorado’s first shot for a second straight game. Yet the Predators rallied again to take their first 2-0 lead when starting a best-of-seven series in their own building. Nashville now has won 12 straight against Colorado overall.
Erik Haula’s goal in double overtime gave the Vegas Golden Knights a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings for a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series. With 4:37 left on the clock in the second overtime, Haula skated in on his own to beat goalie Jonathan Quick and send a towel-waving crowd of 18,588 into a frenzy.
Paul Stastny, Andrew Copp and Patrik Laine scored in the third period and the Winnipeg Jets beat the Minnesota Wild 4-1 to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference first-round series. Game 3 is Sunday at Minnesota.
Sean Couturier had a goal and two assists, Brian Elliott stopped 34 shots and the Philadelphia Flyers cooled off the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1 to even the first-round series at a game apiece. Shane Gostisbehere, Travis Konecny, Andrew McDonald and Nolan Patrick also scored for the Flyers. They bounced back from an embarrassing 7-0 loss in the opener to beat the Penguins for the first time this season.
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri was suspended for three games for boarding Boston forward Tommy Wingels during Game 1 of the first-round playoff series. Kadri was assessed a major penalty for charging and a game misconduct midway through the third period in the Maple Leafs’ 5-1 loss Thursday night.
Evander Kane scored two goals in his first career playoff game and Martin Jones made 25 saves as the San Jose Sharks beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-0 in their first-round series opener. Brent Burns also scored and captain Joe Pavelski had two assists during a three-goal second period to help the Sharks easily take early control in the series between California rivals.
Filip Forsberg scored twice in the third period, and the Nashville Predators rallied to beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2 to take a 1-0 lead in their first-round Western Conference series. The Predators came in ready for a big party having won their first Presidents’ Trophy and looking for the Stanley Cup they lost to Pittsburgh last June. The Avalanche simply wanted a big win on a stage their franchise hadn’t been on since 2014, and the youngest team this postseason outplayed Nashville early.
Artemi Panarin scored 6:02 into overtime to give the Columbus Blue Jackets a 4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series. Panarin made an incredible individual move to drive by fellow Russian Dmitry Orlov and went backhand-to-forehand to beat Philipp Grubauer top shelf.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are off to a strong start in the NHL playoffs. The top seed in the Eastern Conference got early goals from four different players – none of them named Nikita Kucherov or Steven Stamkos – before holding the New Jersey Devils for a 5-2 victory in Game 1 of their first-round series.
Brad Marchand, David Backes and David Krejci each scored a power-play goal, and Tuukka Rask stopped 26 shots to lead the Boston Bruins to a 5-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1 of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.
Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty was suspended for one game for an illegal check to the head of Vegas Golden Knights forward William Carrier during Game 1 of the first-round playoff series. Doughty will miss Game 2 on Friday night in Las Vegas.
The Pittsburgh Penguins aren’t just scoring highlight-reel goals. The two-time defending Stanley Cup champions can play pretty good defense too. The Penguins blocked 24 Philadelphia shots during a 7-0 romp in Game 1 of their first-round series against the Flyers. Head coach Mike Sullivan praised his team’s attention to detail at the defensive end, adding the Penguins will need to be sharper in Game 2. Elsewhere, both Vegas and Winnipeg look to take 2-0 leads in their own first-round series.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves for his 11th career playoff shutout, Shea Theodore scored in the first period and the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Los Angeles Kings 1-0 to win the franchise’s first playoff game. The expansion franchise will try to take a 2-0 lead in its first-round playoff series Friday night. Fleury got his first playoff shutout since last May, when his Penguins beat the Ottawa Senators 1-0 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Defenseman Joe Morrow broke a tie with 6:13 left and the Winnipeg Jets beat the Minnesota Wild 3-2 in Game 1 for the first playoff victory in franchise history. In its only other playoff appearances since joining the NHL in 1999 in Atlanta, the franchise was swept in 2007 by the New York Rangers and 2015 by Anaheim.
Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins sent a message in their playoff opener. The Penguins captain got his third career postseason hat trick, Evgeni Malkin added a highlight-reel goal and the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions rolled over the Philadelphia Flyers 7-0 to take quick control of their first-round series. Crosby batted a shot out of midair and past Philadelphia goalie Brian Elliott in the second period for his first goal.
The New Jersey Devils are heading into the playoffs for the first time since 2012 and not surprisingly half the roster has never competed in a NHL postseason game. The newbies in the Cup chase include leading scorer Taylor Hall, No. 1 overall pick Nico Hischier, No. 1 goaltender Keith Kinkaid and probably nine of the 20 players expected to be in the starting lineup on Thursday night against the Lightning in the opening game of the first-round series.
Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog has galvanized a youthful squad. They’ve bought in and followed Landeskog’s lead straight into the postseason. The Avalanche will take on Nashville in the first round.
NHL playoff rivalries don’t include as much fighting these days but are arguably more intense than ever. What a rivalry looks like in hockey now has way more to do with the toll of teams facing off in long series and the high stakes than dropping the gloves for immediate retribution.
There are lots of relevant numbers to be crunched heading into the playoffs, which begin Wednesday night.