Capitals and Hurricanes Advance to Second Round
The first round of the NHL playoffs came to an official close on Tuesday evening. The Washington Capitals and the Carolina Hurricanes won their respective game 7's. Here's a recap of their games, and a look ahead to semifinal action.
The Washington Capitals squeaked by the New York Rangers, finishing off their come from behind series win. The series looked lost as they headed back to Washington for game 5 down 3-1. But since that time their stars picked up their performance, and rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov excelled. The first two periods were dominated by the Rangers. They jumped to a 1-0 lead on a Nik Antropov goal five minutes into the first. Alexander Semin tied the score 10 minutes later for his 5 th goal of the series.
The score remained tied at 1-1 despite the effective pressure of the Rangers. By the third period the team looked low on energy, and finally Sergei Fedorov sent a blazing shot over the shoulder of goalie Henrik Lundqvist. The final score was 2-1, and the Alex Ovechkin moves past the opening round of the NHL playoffs for the first time in his career.
The Carolina Hurricanes upset the New Jersey Devils to win game 7 of their series. Previously, all six games had been won by the team on home ice. It looked like that would remain true for game 7 as well, as the Devils held a lead entering the second and third periods. Both teams got on the board within 2:30 of the opening period to tie the score at 1. Jay Pandolfo scored on a backhand 10 minutes later to give the Devils a 2-1 edge. The Hurricanes answered on a Ray Whitney snap shot from Eric Staal four minutes into the second period. New Jersey came right back five minutes later as Brian Rolston scored on the power play.
The lead was 3-2 for New Jersey entering the third, and the Devils looked to be on their way to winning the series. Then Jussi Jokinen scored with just 1:20 left to tie the game. Then miraculously Staal scored with just 32 seconds left on the clock, pushing the Hurricanes past the Devils with a 4-3 win. The second final-minute loss for the Devils in this series has to be a crushing blow that's going to last with them all summer long.
With the conclusion of these two series, the Eastern Conference semifinals are set. Here's a preview of the two Eastern round 2 playoff series.
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Boston Bruins vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Does anybody remember how good the Bruins are? They have been resting for what seems like weeks, while the Hurricanes will only have two days off heading into the series. Still, Carolina has to be riding high off of their game 7 win in New Jersey and figures to be the hotter team when the series begins. Both teams have a goaltender capable of winning games single handedly, and both teams have dynamic scorers capable of providing an edge. The one area that Carolina can't match Boston in is defense, and specifically the presence of Zdeno Chara. If Chara can lock down Staal and Jokinen, expect the Bruins to win in six, possibly after losing the opening game.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals
The hockey world will get what it so desperately craves, an Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby duel in the NHL playoffs. The series would be better served as a conference finals match-up, but we'll take it any way that we can get it. Pittsburgh handled Philadelphia relatively easily, but the Capitals just managed to get by the Rangers.
Considering how hot Marc Andre Fleury was for the Penguins in the opening round, the Capitals may be facing another tough challenge. Alexander Semin has been scorching hot for Washington, but he's not the complete package that Evgeni Malkin is. Both teams have a ton of talent, but I think Pittsburgh is playing better at the right time. Fleury outduels youngster Varlamov, and despite a great series by Ovechkin, the Penguins return to the Eastern Conference finals. Penguins in 7.
By Jake Emen
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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