Islanders, Capitals and Stars advance to the next round, Lecavalier to retire & more in today’s collection of notable NHL morning headlines.
NHL Playoff Recaps.
NEWSDAY/MIAMI HERALD: New York Islanders captain John Tavares scored the game-tying and double-overtime game winner to lift his club to a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers, ending their series in six games. It’s the first time the Islanders have won a playoff series since 1993. Tavares potted the game-tying goal with just 53 seconds remaining in regulation. Jonathan Huberdeau scored the only goal for the Panthers, who received a 49-save performance from goalie Roberto Luongo.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was a heartbreaking loss for the Panthers, but it’s also part of the growing process for their largely young roster. They have a bright future and should be even better next season. For the Islanders, this was a cathartic victory, as over two decades of playoff frustration and disappointment was finally lifted from their shoulders. For Tavares, his performance in this series serves as proof of what a truly phenomenal player and leader he is, stepping up when his team needed him the most.
THE WASHINGTON POST/PHILLY.COM: NIcklas Backstrom scored the only goal and Braden Holtby made 26 saves as the Washington Capitals used their strong defense to shut out the Philadelphia Flyers 1-0 and end their opening-round series in six games. Flyers netminder MIchal Neuvirth, the main reason the series stretched as far as it did, made 28 saves in a losing cause.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals also buried the specter of playoff self doubt that rose up among their fans after they dropped their previous two games in this series. Quite frankly, there shouldn’t have been any doubt they would prevail. The Caps dominated the Flyers in those two losses and it was inevitable that their depth, poise and talent would see them through. Neuvirth was outstanding in this series, but he needed more help from his teammates to pull off the series upset. Losing second-line center Sean Couturier to injury earlier in the series also didn’t help the Flyers cause.
The second-round matchups in the Eastern Conference are set. The Islanders will face the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Capitals meet the Pittsburgh Penguins, setting the stage for the first playoff meeting between Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby since their memorable series in 2009.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS/TWINCITIES.COM: The Dallas Stars are marching on to the second round of the 2016 playoffs, edging the Minnesota Wild 5-4 to win their series in six games. It’s also the first series the Stars have won since 2008. Trailing 4-0 entering the third period, the Wild rallied to make it 4-3. After falling behind 5-3, they tallied a late goal and came within centimeters of forcing overtime, only to be denied by a Kari Lehtonen pad save. With the Wild’s roller coaster season now over, interim head coach John Torchetti faces an uncertain future.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars await the winner of the Chicago Blackhawks-St. Louis Blues series, which will be decided in Game 7 tonight in St. Louis. As for the Wild, some roster moves and perhaps another coaching change could be coming in the offseason.
NHL Playoff Headlines.
STLTODAY/CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: As the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks prepare for their series-deciding game tonight, questions persist over the limited ice time of Blues star Vladimir Tarasenko. Meanwhile, the line of Andrew Ladd, Marcus Kruger and Marian Hossa has been golden against the Blues in this series.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some attribute Tarasenko’s ice time to the fact he doesn’t play on the penalty kill. However, the piece also notes he ranks sixth on the Blues in this series in even-strength ice time, and that’s what’s raising eyebrows. Hitchcock downplayed the issue and Tarasenko wasn’t available for comment. If the Blues lose this series, however, Tarasenko’s ice time will become a red-hot issue, one that could lead to Hitchcock’s dismissal.
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER/NHL.COM: The Anaheim Ducks hope to overcome the mental hurdle of Game Six that has plagued them in recent years, while the Nashville Predators hope to stave off elimination and force a seventh game.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Preds don’t get their offense going and do a better job of shutting down the Ducks, this series will end tonight.
THE MERCURY NEWS: The playoff performance of San Jose Sharks rookie Joonas Donskoi is raising his profile around the league.
NBC SPORTS: Los Angeles Kings forward Vincent Lecavalier confirms his intention to retire, bringing his 17-year NHL career to an end. Lecavalier netted 949 points in 1,212 games. His best seasons were the 14 he spent with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He helped the Bolts win a Stanley Cup, and in 2007 he won the Maurice Richard Trophy as the league’s leading goalscorer. Injuries began to take a toll, however, as his production went into steady decline starting in 2010-11.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In his prime from 2002-03 to 2009-10, Lecavalier ranked among the league’s top stars. If not for the injuries, including wrist and shoulder surgeries and a twice-broken right hand, he would’ve easily cleared the 1,000 point mark.