East Weekend Recap
PENS TWO UP, ALL OTHERS ARE CLOSE
Alexander Ovechkin’s playoff debut and three overtime finishes made for great hockey in the Eastern Conference this past weekend. Two teams got back into their series with monster wins, and one series sees home ice as a disadvantage. Here is the breakdown.
Game 2 - Montreal Canadiens 3 - Boston Bruins 2 - OT
Game 3 - Boston Bruins 2 - Montreal Canadiens 1 - OT
After dominating Boston in every aspect in game one, the Canadiens slowed down and looked beatable in game two. The Bruins started getting to the puck first and used their size to hit bodies if they got there second. Also, their penalty kill was going a great job until overtime of Game #2.
Montreal did pull out a 2-0 lead going into the 3rd period of Game #2 but Boston was relentless and tied the game up late. The entire game was a back and forth game with an extreme pace to it. Also, Tim Thomas woke up and finally played like a legitimate goalie.
The controversy began at the 1:31 mark of overtime when Jeremy Reich took a tripping penalty. This was a very fortunate call for the Habs since it looked like a very weak call that benefited the home side. As I have said before, the Bruins' penalty kill was great until this pivotal moment. Alexei Kovalev ripped his first career overtime playoff winner with a slap shot that ended the drama, and gave Montreal a two zip lead in the series.
Game #3 was played at TD Banknorth Garden Arena in Boston and was a game no one should have missed. These original six teams battled it out for a full sixty minutes that ended in a 1-1 tie. This series went to overtime for the second straight game.
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This time, no controversy. Just incredible performances from two unproven playoff goalies looking like veterans. Carey Price and Tim Thomas kept everyone on the edge of their seat with their clutch saves and unwillingness to lose.
Montreal ultimately made the first mistake in overtime and paid the “price” (no pun intended). The Canadiens got caught on a terrible line change, which led to a delayed penalty, on which Marc Savard hammered a one-timer into the net. Bananas would be the word that describes the reaction of Savard and the fans in the arena after that goal. No sweep here after all. Boston is still alive in this series, thanks in large part to body-checking and a hot goalie.
In the last ten meetings, the winning team has scored first. Wink, wink.
Montreal Canadiens lead series 2-1.
Game 2 - New York Rangers 2 – New Jersey Devils 1
Game 3 – New Jersey Devils 4 – New York Rangers 3 (OT)
Game #2 proved again that the New Jersey Devils are the least-exciting team in the playoffs. Yah, yah, I understand that there are fans that like defensive hockey and the Devils have more Stanley Cups than I do. But, the entire first period had maybe three minutes of fun.
The second period had fourteen penalties with no goals and as I said in my playoff previews, penalties in this series are a waste of time, boy was I right. The actual penalties were entertaining at times, this was an overall snooze-fest period, again.
Thank goodness for Jaromir Jagr and Sean Avery who brought two goals to the game, twenty-four seconds apart. The last two minutes of this game were actually suspenseful. New Jersey was irate after the referees "missed" a penalty call that the Devils got penalized for, just a minute before. John Madden scored a late goal to make it interesting, but the Rangers win again, stealing both games in Jersey.
The Devils were outscored 6-2 in two home games and need more production to have a chance in this. Martin Brodeur cannot do it all.
This series headed to New York for game three, but the Rangers may have come into the game overconfident. The Devils took a quick lead, catching the hosts flat footed. No worries as Sean Avery came to the rescue.
I'm not sure what the Rangers would do without Avery, a player who can change a game not with his odd goal, but his pesty side. His hits can get the crowd back in the game and so can his annoyance. On a Ranger power-play, he spent one whole minute right in front of Brodeur with his back to the puck waving his stick, almost taunting the goalie. Crowds and players thrive on his edge and this helped bring this game to a 3-3 final.
John Madden scored in the first overtime to give the Devils some valuable life in this series. Halleluiah! New Jersey scored more than one goal in a single game. They did a great job attacking the Ranger net which led to success. Strange things happen when you shoot…like goals.
Series Fact: three games, three home team losses.
New York Rangers lead series 2-1.
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Game 2 – Pittsburgh Penguins 5 - Ottawa Senators 3
This game showed the world how valuable Daniel Alfredsson is to Ottawa. The Pens led this game 3-0 at one point and conquered the Sens in almost every aspect. Ottawa looked slow, tired and undesired to win this game until the offense woke up. A surge of two goals to end the second period and one in the third period tied the game up and put a little fear into Pittsburgh.
The final five minutes of the game showed that both teams wanted to win. The refs did a great job letting the intensity continue and also letting some penalties slide, only wanting to call the extremely obvious ones. This brings us to the brain-fart that Senators forward Martin Lapointe had with a little over a minute left in the game. We can all agree that sticking a player in the face is easy to call as well, and a must-call.
Needless to say, Ryan Malone scored on the power-play and added an open net goal to send the Sens home down 2-0 in the series. Martin Gerber is not to blame and is the reason this game was close. He faced 53 shots in this sixty minute game. You do the math. Completely unacceptable for Ottawa to allow this. If this does not change, they have no hope.
Pittsburgh Penguins lead series 2-0.
Game 1 – Washington Capitals 5 - Philadelphia Flyers 4
Game 2 – - Philadelphia Flyers 2 - Washington Capitals 0
The Ovechkin show began without a missed step or lack of excitement. For the first time since 2003, the Washington Capitals hosted a playoff game. They lead early, then fell apart for thirty minutes and finished strong.
Three minutes into the game, the Capitals took the lead from a beautiful goal scored by Donald Brashear? True story. It was his only shot of the game and he made it count, making him a 100% shooter. This was an amazing start to an amazing team story, but things got sour quick.
Daniel Briere and Vaclav Prospal each scored a pair of goals with one assist to help give the Flyers a 4-2 lead going into the third period. At this point, Philly was doing a great job keeping Ovechkin out of the game and limiting his opportunities. Well, this also helped two other Caps score quickly and the at the blink of an eye, the game was tied. Then, the comeback was completed by a familiar face.
With less than five minutes left in the game, the regular season's leading goal scorer put his first NHL career playoff goal in the books. It was a beauty. Ovechkin chased down the Philly defense, lifted the stick of Lasse Kukkonen and wristed the puck past Martin Biron. A finish that the Washington fans had not seen in awhile.
Alexander the Great showed up when it mattered.
Philadelphia came into Game #2 with a different result. Mike Richards was shadowing Ovechkin all game and kept him off the score sheet. No feel-good story in this game. The Flyers again got a two goal lead, but this time, managed to hold it until the end.
The Caps must get more shots on Biron and allow less shots on Cristobal Huet, who made 41 saves on Sunday. Washington looks to be a little faster than Philly, but the Flyers play much smarter. Philadelphia is showing that their slight playoff experience advantage, which may get them through this series.
Ovechkin has eight shots so far this series with one goal. Brashear has one shot and goal. Give the goon more ice time!
Series tied at 1-1.
By Kevin Chaves
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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