The Stanley Cup playoffs continue in full swing. On Monday, April 21, there were four more games played. Three teams, Chicago, Minnesota, and Dallas, were in danger of falling into a 3 games to none deficit. Pittsburgh and Columbus were playing Game 3 of a series which was tied 1-1.
Colorado Avalanche @ Minnesota Wild - The Avs were looking to put a 3-0 stranglehold on the series, while the home team was looking to keep hope alive. Minnesota came out on fire. In the first period alone, the Wild put 22 shots on goalie Semyon Varlamov, but to no avail. Varlamov was absolutely stellar. For the Wild, Darcy Kuemper started in place of Ilya Bryzgalov, and judging by the way he played, the starting goaltender job is now his. Amazingly, these teams battled to a scoreless tie after regulation time. Minnesota had put 44 shots on Varlamov, while Colorado fired 20 at Kuemper (two shots less than the 22 which Minnesota had in the first period alone). Had Minnesota lost this game, it would have been a heartbreaker. Such was not to be. Shortly into the OT, Wild forward Mikael Granlund made a terrific individual move from the right wing boards in the Colorado zone. The 22-year old Finn carried the puck laterally through the faceoff circle, across the crease, through traffic, and tucked the puck in behind Varlamov on the far post at 5:08, much to the delight of a delirious home crowd. Of course, Granlund was named #1 star of the game. Pivotal Game 4 will be on Thursday night in Minnesota. Colorado leads the best-of-seven series 2 games to 1.
Pittsburgh Penguins @ Columbus Blue Jackets - This odd series continued along the same path. In each of these first two games, the team with the early two-goal lead, had gone on to lose the contest. That trend continued tonight. The Blue Jackets and their fans were basking in the afterglow of having won their first ever playoff game this past Saturday night in Pittsburgh. The Jackets built a 2-0 lead in the first period, and maintained the lead as time ran down in the second period. Brooks Orpik scored for the visiting team with 2 seconds left in the period. With the score narrowed to 2-1, Columbus scored on their first shot on goal at 1:04 of the third period. The 2 goal lead had been restored, but the ice was tilting in favor of the Pens. In fact, Pittsburgh was outshooting them 8-1 in the third, and it finally paid off big time. Over a span of 2:13, the Pens scored on their 9th, 10th, and 11th shots on goal to take a 4-3 lead, which wound up being the final score. All goals were scored at even strength. Brandon Sutter, Lee Stempniak, and Jussi Jokinen provided the heroics for Steeltown. It will be interesting to see how Columbus rebounds from this heartbreaker. Pens defenseman Olli Maata was named #1 star of the game. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, and Chris Kunitz have yet to score in this series. Game 4 will be played in Columbus on Wednesday night. Pittsburgh leads the series 2 games to 1.
St Louis Blues @ Chicago Blackhawks - In the wake of the much-publicized events of Game 2, both teams were down key players. Blues' captain David Backes was out due to injury; Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook was out (3 game suspension) for having inflicted said injury. The stage was set. The Blackhawks were down two games to none, having lost the lead late in both of the first 2 games, and ultimately, the games, in OT. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews has a knack for performing well in big moments. This game will add to his legacy. Toews scored just 4:10 into the first period, and then played strong all night long. Much like the first two games, Chicago led by a single goal as regulation time wound down. This time, in front of their home crowd, it was the defending Stanley Cup champs who scored the timely goal. With Blues goalie Ryan Miller pulled in favor of an extra skater, Marcus Kruger put the puck into the empty net at 19:40 to seal the 2-0 victory. Chicago goalie Corey Crawford stopped all 34 Blues' shots, and was named #1 star of the game. Game 4 will be played Wednesday night in Chicago. St. Louis leads the series 2 games to 1.
Anaheim Ducks @ Dallas Stars - This has been an interesting series. In Game 1, Anaheim built a 4-0 lead, and had to hang on to win 4-3. Anaheim won Game 2 by a score of 3-2. The Stars surely felt they could have won either of the first two games, and were determined to get out of the gate fast in Game 3. The energy was there, and this was definitely a tough game, but the overall talent of the Ducks is undeniable. Fortunately, the Stars had an X-factor in goal, named Kari Lehtonen. Anaheim outshot Dallas 13-9 in the first period, and 17-6 in the second period, but only had a 2-0 deficit to show for it. Perhaps finally worn down a bit, shots on goal were even at 7-7 in the third period. Despite having thrown everything they could, at the Dallas goal, a flawless Lehtonen befuddled them all night. In the end, Lehtonen rewarded his team with a 3-0 shutout win. Lehtonen was named #1 star of the Game. *In the second period, Anaheim defenseman Stephane Robidas left the game with a right leg fracture. Game 4 will be played Wednesday night in Dallas. Anaheim leads the series 2 games to 1.