Week 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs did not disappoint, as there were plenty of thrilling finishes that saw several teams punch their ticket to the second round.
Four matchups kicked the week off on April 15.
The Toronto Maple Leafs looked to bounce back at home against the Boston Bruins in Game 3. Both teams scored twice midway through the game, but the Leafs eventually took control when Auston Matthews broke the tie late in the second period. Patrick Marleau added an insurance goal in the third, Frederik Andersen made 40 saves and the Leafs won 4-2 to get back into the series.
The New Jersey Devils also looked to set a tone at home in Game 3 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. At one point down 2-1 in the third period, the Devils then exploded with four unanswered goals. Behind Taylor Hall’s three-point night and Cory Schneider’s 34 saves, the Devils got back into the series with a 5-2 victory.
The Colorado Avalanche, also down 2-0, needed a win at home to get back in their series against the Nashville Predators. A strong first period, two goals from Nathan MacKinnon and three points from Gabriel Landeskog helped Colorado secure a 5-3 win in a crucial Game 3.
The Anaheim Ducks could not match the three victors that night, as they laid an egg in a huge Game 3 against the San Jose Sharks. Eight different Sharks scored, Martin Jones made 45 saves and the Sharks put the Ducks on the brink of elimination with a dominant 8-1 victory.
April 16 saw much of the same.
The Washington Capitals needed to steal a game in Columbus against the Blue Jackets to stay in the series. Tied 2-2 after regulation, the two teams had to play overtime. This time, the Capitals finally broke through. Lars Eller scored the game-winner in double overtime to give Washington a 3-2 win in an enormous Game 3.
The Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild squared off in a huge Game 4 for both teams. The Jets emerged victorious in this one, as Mark Scheifele scored twice and Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves. Winnipeg’s 2-0 win put them one game away from advancing to the next round.
The Vegas Golden Knights looked to continue their historic run with a chance to sweep the Los Angeles Kings. To no one’s surprise, they did just that. Brayden McNabb broke the ice late in the second period and Marc-André Fleury made 31 saves.
That would be more than enough, as Vegas won 1-0 to sweep Los Angeles and advance to the second round. It was not easy, as all four games were low-scoring and decided by one goal.
On April 18, fans saw another sweep and three teams get one step closer to advancing.
The Pittsburgh Penguins looked to take a stranglehold in Game 4 against the Philadelphia Flyers. The game ended in yet another blowout and the Penguins dominated once again. Four Penguins players had multi-point games, including the big three of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. A 5-0 victory put Pittsburgh a win closer to moving on.
The Lightning also regained momentum against the Devils, with a strong 3-1 win in Game 4. Down 1-0 in the first period, the Lightning quickly regrouped. Nikita Kucherov scored twice and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 27 saves. Tampa is now one step closer to the second round.
The Predators looked to bounce back and take control against the Avalanche in a huge Game 4. Nashville jumped out a 3-0 lead midway through the game and that proved to be enough. Despite a strong push by the Avs, Pekka Rinne shut the door and the Predators hung on for a crucial 3-2 victory, moving them a step closer to the conference semis.
The Ducks had no choice but to climb all the way back from a 3-0 series deficit, something that has only been done four times in NHL history. The Sharks, who were on the wrong end of such a feat in 2014, ended any hopes of that with a 2-1 victory in Game 4 to sweep Anaheim. They will now play the Golden Knights in the second round.
Just two games were played on April 19, but both were crucial turning points in their respective series.
Game 4 between the Bruins and Maple Leafs was huge for both sides, but Boston got the better end of this one. Strong defense, three different goal scorers and 31 saves from Tuukka Rask highlighted Boston’s 3-1 victory, which gave them a 3-1 series lead headed back home.
In Columbus, the Capitals looked to steal another road win to even their series with the Blue Jackets. Strong goaltending from a rejuvenated Braden Holtby, four points from Evgeny Kuznetsov and tight defense gave Washington a huge 4-1 victory to tie the series at two games apiece. This was the first game in the series not decided in overtime.
April 20 saw two teams stay alive and one team advancing.
The Flyers were in a must-win situation against the Penguins in Game 5. Down 2-1 in the second period, Valtteri Filppula tied the game two a piece late in the frame with a shorthanded goal. With less than 90 seconds remaining in regulation, Sean Couturier gave Philadelphia a 3-2 lead. Matt Read iced the game with an empty-netter with 18 seconds to go. The Flyers stayed alive with a huge 4-2 victory to set up a Game 6 back in
The Jets were not messing around in Game 5 against the Wild. They dominated from the very beginning, scoring four times in the first period, yanking Minnesota goaltender Devan Dubnyk out of the game. Another strong 30-save performance from Hellebuyck in net, along with Scheifele scoring in the third period, helped secure a 5-0 Jets victory and a 4-1 series win over Minnesota.
The Predators looked to close the deal against the Avalanche at home in Game 5. Everything was going according to plan, with Nashville leading 1-0 late in the third period. However, Colorado had other ideas. Landeskog and Sven Andrighetto scored with less than five minutes remaining, Andrew Hammond made 44 saves in net and the Avs stole Game 5 by a score of 2-1 to stay alive.
April 21 featured three games with teams looking to gain momentum.
The Lightning looked to close out the Devils back home in Game 5. They got off to a quick start, and took a 2-0 lead late into the third period, with goals from Mikhail Sergachev and Kucherov. Patrick Maroon scored for New Jersey to cut the lead to 2-1 with three minutes remaining. However, Tampa thwarted any plans for a comeback with an empty net goal from Ryan Callahan. The Lightning took Game 5 by a score of 3-1 and took the series 4-1.
The Capitals were home against the Blue Jackets in a crucial Game 5. The first four games were won by the road team, but that would suddenly change in this game. Both teams went back and forth, with each side scoring three times. For the fourth time in this series the game went past 60 minutes. In the ensuing overtime, Nicklas Bäckström scored his second goal of the game, to give Washington a 4-3 win and a 3-2 series lead.
The Maple Leafs looked to stay alive against the Bruins in Game 5 in Boston. Led by James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak, Toronto jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the second period, forcing Bruins netminder Rask to be pulled in that frame. Anton Khudobin replaced Rask in goal and kept his team in the game.
The Bruins’ Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari scored to cut the lead to 4-3 in the third period, but Andersen held his ground in net for Toronto and stole the show. He made 42 saves to help the Leafs stay alive in the series. Toronto won the game 4-3 and could make things interesting back home in a Game 6.
April 22 featured two crucial Game 6 matchups.
Game 6 between the Penguins and Flyers did not disappoint. Philadelphia was in a must-win situation and played that way in the first half of the game. They led 4-2 with less than eight minutes to go in the second period, but suddenly a switch was flipped.
After Pittsburgh scored twice late in the second to tie the game at 4, they exploded for four goals in the third period. Jake Guentzel scored three times in the frame and finished the game with four goals. Four other Penguins recorded multi-point games, including Crosby and Kessel. Couturier finished with five points, including a hat trick, for the Flyers. Pittsburgh, however, closed out the series with a dominant 8-5 victory, their ninth straight playoff series win.
The Predators looked to close out their series against the Avalanche in Game 6 after a late collapse in Game 5.
They did not mess around, as they were all over Colorado from the opening puck drop. Five different players scored, Rinne made 22 saves and the Predators shut down the Avs 5-0. They will face off against the Jets in the second round.
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