The Nashville Predators team rose from the dead, the Tampa Bay Lightning rallied again and again and the St. Louis Blues sent a strong message to the Dallas Stars in Tuesday’s NHL playoff action.
When the night ended, every second-round playoff series held the same 2-1 series score and the series outcomes were anything but clear.
Here are Tuesday’s bests and worsts.
1. David Backes, F, St. Louis: Two goals, nine hits, won 76 percent of faceoffs in win over Dallas
2. Victor Hedman, D, Tampa Bay: Goal, two assists in overtime win over New York, tying a franchise record for points in a playoff game by a defenseman
3. Pekka Rinne, G, Nashville: Stopped 26 of 27 shots in win over San Jose
Best game: Tampa Bay 5, New York Islanders 4 (OT)
New York had leads of 1-0, 3-2 and 4-3 in this game — the latter with under a minute to play in regulation. Tampa was unfazed.
Every time it looked like the Islanders had taken control, the Bolts bounced back, getting goals from five different players to take a 2-1 series lead and regain the home-ice advantage.
Nikita Kucherov slid into an open space and roofed a gorgeous shot from the slot off an equally gorgeous feed from Jonathan Drouin to tie the game with 39 seconds remaining. It was Kucherov’s postseason-leading seventh goal.
Brian Boyle got the ultimate revenge (see below) with the game-winner at 2:48 of overtime.
Best individual performance: David Backes, St. Louis
You won’t find a more pleasant or accommodating guy than the Blues captain, but the knock on Backes is that he hadn’t been a prime-time player in all of those St. Louis playoff failures of the past.
That argument is dying on the vine this postseason. Backes was a force all over the ice on Tuesday. He had two goals to bring his postseason total to six — one off the playoff lead. He also dished out nine hits, he won three-quarters of his faceoffs and he played his usual brand of strong defense as the Blues took control of their series with Dallas.
Best stat: Major man advantage
St. Louis had two power play goals in six chances Tuesday to improve to nine for 31 (29 percent) with the man advantage in 10 postseason games. The nine goals are the most in the postseason; the percentage is second to Chicago’s 31.6 percent.
Best visual: The goal that wasn’t a goal
With 1:19 left in the second period, Dallas defenseman Jason Demers thought he had tied the game at 2-2 and the Stars celebrated. A video review clearly showed the puck hitting the crossbar, however.
The missed opportunity was more glaring when St. Louis scored two goals early in the second period to open a 4-1 lead.
Best look: Brent Burns, San Jose
Worst defense: Shea Weber, Roman Josi and Pekka Rinne, Nashville
Credit San Jose forward Patrick Marleau for a great burst of speed on this goal that gave the Sharks 1-0 lead, but it’s impossible to ignore the comedy of errors by the Predators’ top defensive pairing and franchise goalie.
Best hit: Thomas Hickey on Jonathan Drouin
The Islanders defenseman caught the Tampa forward with this huge hit in the second period. Was Drouin’s head down, leading to his culpability on the play? Did Hickey target the head? We don’t think so, and neither did Drouin after the game.
Worst day: Dallas D
Dallas defensemen committed three brutal mistakes that led to three of the Blues’ four goals. John Klingberg turned the puck over in his own end to St. Louis’ Troy Brouwer early in the first period, and Brouwer set up Alex Steen’s game-tying goal.
Brouwer turned Kris Russell like he was standing still inside the Stars’ blue line to score the Blues’ third goal.
Alex Goligoski didn’t want to be left out of the action so after Klingberg turned the puck over at his own blue line early in the second period, Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko banked a shot off Goligoski’s skate to give St. Louis a commanding 4-1 lead.
Best last laugh: Brian Boyle, Tampa Bay Lightning
Before Game 3 ever started between the Islanders and Lightning, New York defenseman Travis Hamonic threw a shoulder into the much bigger Brian Boyle as the two passed each other at center ice during warm-ups. Not much came of it, which may have been fortunate for Hamonic.
Boyle chose the best payback options available.
First he got away with this in overtime, a blatant interference penalty that went unpenalized.
Worse yet, it immediately preceded his game-winning goal in overtime.
Best gesture: Tampa coach Jon Cooper.
The Tampa Times completed a purchase of the Tampa Tribune on Tuesday and immediately set in motion one of the more classless takeovers you will ever see as it ceased the paper’s operations within hours.
Among the victims was Lightning beat writer Erik Erlendsson, who lost his job.
Here’s how Cooper responded.
Best quote: Nashville coach Peter Laviolette to his team after a Game 3 win
“You guys were warriors tonight. I love you.”
Best thing to look forward to Tuesday: Caps-Penguins, Game 4
Once again, it’s the only game of the day so we’ll go out on a limb. The Penguins have a 2-1 series lead but they are without arguably their most important player. Defenseman Kris Letang was suspended one game for a hit on Capitals forward Marcus Johansson.
Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray has matched Vezina Trophy candidate Braden Holtby in this series. If he can steal this one, the Pens will be in command and the Caps will hear those familiar whispers of playoffs past.
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