Anaheim went into the United Center in Chicago and got a win, while Tampa Bay held serve at home. Both teams took 2-1 series leads. Here’s a look at how they did it…
Anaheim 2 Chicago 1: I thought the Ducks were very fortunate to get out of this one with a win. It’s not that they were drastically outplayed—shots on goal were close to a wash, at 28-27 for Chicago—and Anaheim’s Corey Perry started getting more aggressive, taking four cracks at the net. Perry didn’t score, but his inability to get shots was noted in this space after the Game 2 triple-overtime loss.
But the reason I thought Anaheim was fortunate is that watching the game unfold, it seemed like quality of Chicago’s looks was much higher. There were too many times when a Blackhawk player got ready to shoot and it seemed like there was a lot of open net to look at. One of those times came with three seconds left and Patrick Kane just missed a game-tying shot to the right.
In the end though, open looks don’t mean anything if professional scorers don’t cash in, and the comments above aren’t intended to take anything away from Anaheim goalie Frederik Andersen, whom I thought was just terrific. Chicago had five power play chances and Andersen turned them all back. Anaheim only got one chance on the power play and cashed it in.
Tampa Bay 6 NY Rangers 5 (OT): It’s not enough you watch two truly outstanding goalies, Ben Bishop and Henrik Lundqvist, look so awful in a really big game. It reminded me a baseball playoff game last October, when the Cardinals and Dodgers played in Game 1. First, Adam Wainwright was hit all over the yard. Then we watched Clayton Kershaw completely melt down and give away the game.
In this analogy, Lundqvist is Kershaw. He’s the more accomplished player, and therefore his meltdown is more stunning. More important, his team lost the game.
To be fair to Lundqvist, the defense in front of him was uncharacteristically bad, allowing 38 shots in regulation. That’s a lot of exposure to some awfully talented offensive players. Ranger center Derek Stepan allowed after the game that his team could not “play run-and-gun” and emphasized sticking to structure going forward.
One of those Lightning players who opened up was Steven Stamkos. After New York scored the game’s first two goals, Stamkos made a great defensive player, stealing the puck at the top and creating an odd-man rush where he eventually scored on a rebound.
In this space we’ve gotten on both Stamkos and New York’s Rick Nash earlier in the series, wondering where they were. Stamkos has stepped it up, while Nash hasn’t. The commentators on NBC Sports Network said Ranger coach Alain Vigneault was considering removing Nash from the penalty kill team in order to save his legs.
My question is what’s Vigneault waiting for? Nash is paid to produce points and scoring chances. Get him focused on that.
The sequence of Game 4s start tonight in Tampa Bay and continue Saturday night in Chicago. Both games start at 8 PM ET on NBC Sports Network.