Triple-OT Magic From Blackhawks Ties The Conference Finals

The Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning have each evened up their NHL conference finals series, both winning road Game 2s. And it’s tough to imagine Chicago’s 3-2 triple-overtime win over Anaheim being much more dramatic.

The simple fact the game went three extra sessions—and deep into the third OT no less, with less than four minutes remaining when Marcus Kruger scored the game-winner—can suffice as explanation enough for why it was memorable. But consider the following…

*In regulation play, Chicago with more offensive firepower than any team in the NHL, had Anaheim in a 5-on-3 power play. They not only failed to score, they failed to generate any really good looks. If the Blackhawks would have lost the hockey game, this is the sequence that would have most stood out to me.

*Anaheim has their own set of regrets, although it’s mostly about bad luck—they had shots hit the pipe three different times in overtime play.

*And the game’s most memorable play wasn’t even a goal. Blackhawk center Jonathan Toews head-butted a puck into the net for a presume game-winner. But it didn’t stand up on review—Toews obviously did it deliberately and if you score with anything other than the stick, it has to be incidental contact.

All of that set the stage for Chicago to finally win. In the bigger picture, Anaheim can feel good about the fact that they seemed mostly in control of the game after the Blackhawks came out blazing and scored on two first-period power plays. But the Ducks held Chicago to less than 30 shots in regulation, and again less than 30 in what amounted to almost a complete game through the overtime.

If I’m Anaheim, I need more activity from Corey Perry going forward. I can’t have my best offensive player only taking four shots in the equivalent of almost two full games worth of hockey. If Chicago succeeds in keeping Perry off the puck, they’ll win the series.

Tampa Bay 6 NY Rangers 2: Tampa’s Tyler Johnson has been the best offensive player in the entire postseason and his biggest game yet came on Monday night in Madison Square Garden. Johnson scored on a short-handed goal in the first period, picking up a loose puck after Martin St. Louis fell and then beating Henrik Lundqvist in open ice.

Johnson scored again before the first period was out and completed the hat trick in the third period—against one of the top goalies in the sport. Tampa also got contributions from Steven Stamkos, whom this space panned after Game 1 for his weak showing. Stamkos had a goal and an assist.

This game as good for two periods, and Lundqvist, uncharacteristically awful, just came apart on a tough night. Tampa scored three times in the final period to put the game away. The player we need to pan here today is New York’s Rick Nash, who took only two shots, flopped on the ice and just looks out of it. If Nash and Stamkos both get rolling, this series can be both competitive and entertaining. If they don’t, it will simply be competitive.

Game 3s go over the next two nights. Tonight, the East resumes in Tampa and then action continues on Chicago on Thursday. Both games start at 8 PM ET on NBC Sports Network.