The two greatest words in sports: Game 7.
The 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs have provided an intense amount of drama and entertainment and it is only fitting that we wrap up three of the best series of the first round in such fashion.
The Minnesota Wild forced a Game 7 against the Colorado Avalanche after a win in front of their home crowd on Monday night. The Kings did so as well with a victory over the San Jose Sharks in Los Angeles to stay alive. The Flyers also did their home crowd justice, as they beat the Rangers on Tuesday night to force a seventh game. Here’s a look at how each of these home teams won their respective Game 6s and a look ahead into Game 7:
Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche
The home team won each of the first five games in the Wild vs. Avalanche series and that theme would hold true in Game 6 as the Wild rode a third period explosion to take the Game 6 victory over the Avalanche.
Minnesota got on the board first with a power play goal in the first minute of play. The Wild tacked on another goal later in the period but gave up a short-handed goal to Paul Statsny late in the period to hold a 2-1 lead.
The Avalanche tied the game with a power play goal to mark the lone goal in the second period. With the game tied at two goals apiece with 6:30 remaining in the third period, Zach Parise scored on a miracle deflection off of a shot from the point. Parise’s second goal of the game put the Wild up for good on their way to a 5-2 victory.
As previously mentioned, the road team has not won a single game this series. What does the Wild have to do the break this trend? Shut down the scoring. The Avalanche have scored an average of 4.3 goals per game at home this series. Colorado also has the best goalie in the league in Semyon Varlamov, so the Wild cannot afford to give up four goals and hope to have a chance of outscoring them.
L.A. Kings vs. San Jose Sharks
The Kings have a tall task in front of them, as they seek to become just the fourth team in NHL history to win a best-of-seven playoff series after trailing 3-0. However, simply forcing a Game 7 after facing such a deficit is quite an accomplishment in itself. The Kings are riding a huge momentum swing and the Sharks are beginning to doubt themselves.
San Jose gave up six goals in Game 4, got shut out in Game 5 and gave up three goals in the third period of Game 6 to keep the door open for the Kings.
Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams both had two goals and an assist in Game 6 to propel the Kings past the Sharks. Los Angeles scored three games in a span of 2:46 in the third period to break the 1-1 tie and force the decisive Game 7.
For the Kings to pull off this monumental comeback, they will need to score early and often. A road playoff game in San Jose, especially a Game 7, will be extremely hostile territory for the Kings to play in. The crowd can potentially play a huge role in the outcome of the game and for the Kings to neutralize that advantage, they will have to keep control of the puck, stay out of the penalty box and win the first period. If they do all of these things, we can see history on Wednesday night.
Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers
Wayne Simmonds carried the Flyers to a 5-2 victory over the Rangers with a hat trick in Game 6. Simmonds only scored one goal in the series before netting his hat trick on Tuesday and it could not have come at a better time.
Simmonds scored the lone goal of the first period with a power play goal at the 7:08 mark. Simmonds added two more goals in the second period, his third goal coming at the 15:19 mark of the period on a power play, which proved to be the eventual game-winner.
To say that this match-up is a rivalry would be an understatement. The Flyers and Rangers simply do not like each other. To advance to the next round, the Flyers need to be more physical along the boards and finish their checks while also controlling the puck in the neutral zone. If they do this, the Flyers can find themselves playing the Penguins in the next round.
In the first round, we have seen 13 overtimes and three Games 7s. The next two days should as good as any for the rest of the playoffs. Be sure to glue yourself to your couch and do not leave your television for the next 48 hours.