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Caps draw even with Leafs; Senators take control; Flames toast; Wild cling to life

April 20, 2017 10:04 AM
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The latest news and results from the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs

The Toronto Maple Leafs tried their best to once again come back against the Washington Capitals in Game 4 of their series, but unlike in Game 3, fell short this time, losing 5-4 at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday as the Capitals evened the series at two games apiece.

In Boston, the Ottawa Senators eked out a 1-0 win on a goal by a resurgent Bobby Ryan, who has rediscovered his scoring touch in the playoffs, to take control of their series and push the Bruins to the brink of elimination. Ottawa now leads the series three games to one.

The Calgary Flames have the dubious honour of being the first team eliminated from the 2017 postseason after going down to the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 in Calgary. The Flames’ power play was clicking all series long, but not much else went right for the squad, as they were swept in four consecutive games.

In St. Louis, the Wild clung to life, winning for the first time this postseason, 2-0 against the Blues. St. Louis still has a stranglehold on the series, leading Minnesota three games to one.

It was like the Washington Capitals rewound Game 3. Only this time, instead of slowly falling apart from the second period on, they kept pounding the Toronto Maple Leafs. The chief assailant was Capitals forward Tom Wilson, a Toronto native.

Wilson had 2 1/2 minutes for the ages – two goals – in the first period, which sparked a 5-4 Washington win that tied the first-round NHL playoff series 2-2. The best-of-seven series is headed back to Washington with all those Capitals doubters much quieter, not to mention the Maple Leafs, who were reminded that the Capitals were the best team in the NHL regular season.

Mitchell Marner and his Leafs teammates mix it up with Washington Capitals Wednesday night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

Also getting on the board was Alexander Ovechkin, who heard lots of questions about his play in the first three games. He was more of a presence around the Leafs net on Wednesday night, and scored a power-play goal in the first period.

The Leafs did not stop skating after falling behind, however, and threw yet another scare into the Capitals. They managed to keep the Caps in sight in the second period, blew a five-on-three power play early in the third and then made it close at 12:19 when Auston Matthews scored his second goal of the playoffs.

But T.J. Oshie settled things 40 seconds later with his second goal of the night that gave the Caps some breathing room. That came a few minutes after the Caps had a goal waved off because of goaltender interference.

Tyler Bozak made the score 5-4 with 26 seconds left when the Leafs had an extra attacker on the ice.

The win quieted a lot of the talk that the Capitals were feeling the weight of being the overwhelming favourite going into the series. “I think the whole favourite thing and expectations are certainly put on ourselves more than anyone else,” Caps winger Justin Williams said.

The Ottawa Senators delivered their best overall performance of the postseason to earn a tight-checking 1-0 victory at TD Garden against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night. With the Senators’ win, the Bruins are on the brink of extinction from the Stanley Cup playoffs.

And it was Bobby Ryan who continued his postseason renaissance for the Senators, potting the winner at the 5-minute, 49-second mark of the third period.

Ottawa Senators forward Bobby Ryan scores on Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask during Game 4 in Boston on Wednesday.

Erik Karlsson sent a slap-pass toward the Boston net and Ryan had two whacks at the puck before he was able to shovel it in behind Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask for the game’s first and only goal.

For Ryan, who toiled through a dreadful, injury plagued regular season, it was his third goal of the postseason. And for Karlsson, the superb Ottawa defenceman, he has now assisted on five of the 10 postseason goals the Senators have scored in the series.

Craig Anderson earned the shutout in the Ottawa net where he was not tested all that often but came up big when called on.

For two periods the two teams traded punches, but no knockout blows. The play for the most part was cautious and good scoring chances were at a premium as the game remained goalless heading into the third.

With the win, the Senators have taken a 3-1 stranglehold over Boston in the best-of-seven NHL Eastern Conference quarter-final. The series now heads back to Ottawa where the Senators can wrap it up with a win in Game 5 on Friday night.

The Calgary Flames lost another close one, 3-1, to the Anaheim Ducks and thus became the first team eliminated from the 2017 NHL playoffs.

The Flames’ starting goaltender, Brian Elliott, didn’t last six minutes – he was given the hook by coach Glen Gulutzan after surrendering a weak goal to Patrick Eaves – and the Ducks scored two early goals in a span of 68 seconds. Those goals stood up for the win and a 4-0 series sweep in the best-of-seven Pacific Division playoff. Ryan Getzlaf clinched the victory for Anaheim with an empty-net goal with 6.7 seconds remaining.

The Calgary Flames salute their fans at the Saddledome in Calgary after being eliminated by the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.

Six days after their postseason started, the Flames were done – eliminated by iffy goaltending and an inability to compete with the Ducks at even strength.

Calgary’s power play was exceptional. Entering the game, the Flames were humming along at a 38.5-per-cent success rate with the man advantage and it clicked again versus the Ducks. Sean Monahan scored a second-period goal, his fourth of the playoffs, with Ryan Kesler in the penalty box for hooking. But their six goals with the man advantage meant the Flames only managed to score three at even strength in four games, not enough to defeat the more experienced Ducks.

“This was tough for everyone, but there are good young pieces here. Hopefully, it’s a learning experience for all these guys going forward,” said Flames’ forward Kris Versteeg.

Prior to the game, the Flames had talked about getting a better goaltending performance. But when Eaves’s shot from the left faceoff circle trickled in under Elliott’s pad, his night was over. Chad Johnson came on in relief and surrendered a second goal – to Anaheim’s Nate Thompson – only 68 seconds later. “As a goalie, you take pride on giving yourself and your team a chance to win every night,” said Elliott. “That one, right off the bat, I still can’t explain how it goes under my pad there.”

The Ducks will meet the winner of the series between the Edmonton Oilers and the San Jose Sharks in the next round.

Devan Dubnyk made 28 saves, Charlie Coyle scored in the first period and the Minnesota Wild avoided elimination with a 2-0 win over the St. Louis Blues in Game 4 of the first-round playoff series on Wednesday night.

Dubnyk’s second playoff shutout came almost two years to the day of his first, also against the Blues on April 20, 2015. Martin Hanzal also scored for Minnesota in the second.

Blues goalie Jake Allen made 26 saves. He entered having stopping 114 of the Wild’s first 117 shots in the series. St. Louis still leads the best-of-seven series 3-1 heading into Game 5 at Minnesota on Saturday.

A costly mistake by Allen set up Minnesota’s first goal. He tried to play the puck behind the net and passed it right to Coyle, who buried the open look at 16:50. Coyle’s second of the playoffs gave Minnesota its first lead of the series after 214 minutes, 38 seconds.

Hanzal beat Allen cleanly on the glove side to make it 2-0 with 3:19 left in the second period.

Dubnyk made several big saves as the Blues stepped up their offensive push, outshooting the Wild 12-10 in the second frame after putting just four shots on goal in the first.

When sophisticated equipment falters the first step is to run a diagnostic check, so let’s delve into the data for the Montreal Canadiens’ finely tuned goal-scoring machine, Max Pacioretty.

First off, the 35-goal man has 19 shots in four first-round playoff games against his boyhood favourites, the New York Rangers, which led the league going into Wednesday’s games. He is also tops among Habs forwards in generating scoring chances at even strength, according to Corsica Hockey, so the argument his shots are strictly low-percentage hope plays doesn’t seem to hold true.

The system appears to be working pretty well as designed, so how come he’s got zero goals and only one point?

There are external factors to consider, such as the opponents trying to smother him. It’s not that Pacioretty is playing terribly, but when you’re captain of the Canadiens, the pressure is constant.

From last fall to early spring, Connor McDavid hit the score sheet pretty much whenever he stepped on the ice for the Edmonton Oilers. More often, when he wasn’t scoring goals himself, he was helping teammates score. He never failed to do one of those things more than two games in a row. Until now.

Through 131 NHL games, the Oilers’ captain has never gone more than two without a point. That could happen for the first time when the Oilers and San Jose Sharks meet Thursday night at Edmonton’s Rogers Place in Game 5 of their playoff series.

It is not because Edmonton’s young captain is playing so poorly. It is mainly because the Sharks, especially in the past two games, have swarmed around him like a man on a life raft. Even when he is not around a rink, McDavid must be peering over his shoulder to see if Marc-Édouard Vlasic and Justin Braun are following him.

The San Jose defencemen are sticking to him like fly paper. On occasion, Brent Burns, the Sharks’ mountainous Norris Trophy candidate, has chipped in. When the opportunity has been presented, Joe Pavelski has not hesitated to give McDavid a nudge or a sharp jab with his stick.

Also read: Capitals trade Brooks Orpik, Philipp Grubauer to Avalanche


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