As expected, the first two days of the Stanley Cup playoffs did not disappoint. Five of the seven games to open the playoffs were decided by one goal. Here are summaries of the three most exciting games from the first couple of days and how they will affect the rest of the series.
Penguins vs. Blue Jackets
After being up 3-1 in the second period, the Jackets fell apart late in the period to allow Pittsburgh to tie the game and eventually score the go-ahead goal in the first period, giving the Penguins the 4-3 victory. Penguins’ goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was the anchor of the Pittsburgh comeback as he racked up 31 saves for the game despite giving up two goals in the first period.
Brandon Sutter was the hero for the Penguins in the third period when his wrist shot found the back of the net at the 8:18 mark off of Beau Bennett and Paul Martin assists. Goals by Bennett and Matt Niskanen brought the game to a tie before Sutter performed his heroics.
Jack Johnson of the Blue Jackets served as Columbus’ source of scoring in the first period, but disappeared thereafter. Johnson recorded one goals and one assists in the first frame.
For the Blue Jackets, their post-season woes continue. Although the held their first ever lead in a playoff series in what was their fifth ever post-season game, they still have yet to win any of those games. Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who is making his eighth Stanley Cup playoff appearance, also has yet to win in the playoffs.
It would be hard to imagine the Blue Jackets rebounding after a crushing loss such as the one they suffered on Wednesday, especially since Game 2 will be played in Pittsburgh again.
Wild vs. Avalanche
It will be hard for any game for the rest of the playoffs to live up to Game 1 of the Wild vs. Avalanche series. Paul Stastny scored two goals and added in an assist in the game to lead the Avalanche to a 5-4 overtime win over the Wild.
The two teams alternated the scoring through their first two goals until Minnesota open up the flood gates late in the second period. With the game tied at two apiece, the Wild scored two goals just over two minutes apart to take a commanding 4-2 lead heading into the final frame.
After narrowing the gap to 4-3, the Avalanche were still trailing with less than two minutes left and the goalie pulled. A lose puck trickling down the ice toward Colorado’s empty net was chased down just in time by defenseman Erik Johnson to keep the Avalanche’s hopes alive. Stastny capitalized on Johnson’s heroics by finding the back of the net with only 14 seconds left in regulation.
Stastny was not done there. Just over seven minutes into the overtime period, Statsny found daylight again and completed the come-from-behind win.
The Avalanche pulled off the impossible despite going 0-4 on the power play. Standout goalie Semyon Varlamov held down the fort down the stretch as he finished with 29 saves.
Much like the Blue Jackets, it will be hard for the Wild to bounce back after a heartbreaking loss such as this, especially on the road.
Blackhawks vs. Blues
The defending champions were outplayed by the Blues down the stretch at St. Louis grinded out a Game 1 victory over the Blackhawks.
A rapid amount of scoring took place during the first period, as a combined five goals were scored in the opening frame. Adam Cracknell opened up St. Louis’ scoring just over four minutes into the contest with a goal. Then, about seven minutes of play later, Chicago responded with two goals just over three minutes apart to take a 2-1 lead. The Blues quickly responded with another goal, but couldn’t stop the Blackhawks from finding the back of the net one more time before the period was over and found themselves down 3-2 after the first 20 minutes.
Not a single goal was scored in the second period and the same could be said for most of the third period, until Jaden Schwartz scored for the Blues with less than two minutes remaining to force overtime. It would take over 40 minutes of free hockey to decide a victor, but it was ultimately the Blues who pulled out the win less than 30 seconds into the third overtime by virtue of an Alexander Steen goal.
Corey Crawford recorded an astounding 48 saves in the losing effort while Blues goalie Ryan Miller stopped 39 Blackhawk shots.
The Blackhawks are defending champions for a reason and can rebound from just about anything thrown at them. The motivation of the loss should be able to propel them past the inexperienced Blues.