So much for the idea that goals are hard to come by in the playoffs. If opening night of the Stanley Cup chase is any indication of what’s to come, the NHL is poised for another wildly unpredictable playoff series.
Granted, Game 1 is a small sample size. But the losing teams were outscored 18-4 on Monday night, with three teams losing by four or more goals and the Kings and Oilers combining to score seven times in the opener decided by a single goal.
Even defending Conn Smythe Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy posted ugly numbers – allowing five goals on 33 shots in Toronto – after going 16-7 with a 1.90 goals-against average and save percentage. .937 saves in helping Tampa Bay win the second straight game. Stanley Cup titles a year ago.
Toronto handed the Lightning their worst playoff loss under coach Jon Cooper in a 5-0 loss on the road.
“It’s the classic, you have to move on,” Cooper said, adding he’s confident Vasilevskiy and the two-time defending champions will bounce back with a solid performance in Game 2 on Wednesday night.
The St. Louis Blues shut out the Minnesota Wild 4-0, with Marc-André Fleury allowing four goals on 31 shots.
Carolina, meanwhile, scored four times on 24 shots against Boston’s Linus Ullmark en route to a 5-1 win over the Bruins.
In the only game not decided by multiple goals, Phillip Danault scored late as the Kings took advantage of Edmonton goaltender Mike Smith who failed to clear the puck behind his net to beat the Oilers 4-3.
The opening night goal barrage came after a regular season in which the teams combined to average 6.29 goals per game, down from 5.87 the previous year.
Monday night was also a busy night for the officials, who gave Blues-Wild 48 penalty minutes. A total of 24 penalties were called in the Lightning-Maple Leafs, resulting in 113 penalty minutes.
Carolina leads 1-0. Game 2, 7 p.m. EDT (ESPN)
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy tinkers with his pairs of defensemen for Wednesday’s second game.
But he stays with the same goalkeeper.
Cassidy said Tuesday that Ullmark would start again. Ullmark made 20 saves in his first career playoff appearance while allowing four goals: two while facing traffic in front of the crease, one on a perfectly executed 2-on-1 run and one that saw Vincent Trocheck hit the puck to the left side of Ullmark’s helmet and into the net on a sharp angle run.
“He had a great run here heading into the playoffs and we’re not going to judge him on just one game,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy also shuffled his top four defensemen from Monday’s roster, pairing Hampus Lindholm with Brandon Carlo instead of Charlie McAvoy. McAvoy is now ready to play with Matt Grzelcyk.
Carolina has beaten Boston 21-2 in four games this season, although Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour ignored any idea his team had Boston’s number.
“The players know better than anyone how the game went,” Brind’Amour said. “They judge their shifts. They know if they were doing what they were supposed to do. Again, the score doesn’t tell the story.
LIGHTNING AT MAPLE LEAFS
Toronto leads 1-0. Thu 2, 7:30 p.m. EDT (ESPN2)
The Lightning, shut out in the playoffs for the first time in a Game 7 loss to Washington in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals, haven’t lost a consecutive playoff game since the 2019 first round .
“Last night was ugly, don’t worry about it. But it’s not the first time we’ve lost Game 1 and won the series,” Cooper said after practice Tuesday. “It’s not ideal, but it’s not like it’s uncharted water either.”
The Maple Leafs will be without forward Kyle Clifford for Game 2 after the NHL suspended him one game for boarding Tampa Bay’s Ross Colton during the first period of Game 1.
BLUES TO WILD
St. Louis leads 1-0. Game 2, 9:30 p.m. EDT (ESPN)
The Blues already have the Wild hot on their heels, thanks to their stellar special teams.
The Wild were pretty happy after Game 1 with their 5-on-5 play, one of their season-long strengths, but their season-long power play and shorthanded issues came back to bite them.
The Blues’ penalty kill went 6-for-6. David Perron, who finished with the 14th playoff hat trick in franchise history, gave St. Louis goals on its first two power plays.
“We have a bunch of different ways to score. If they want to take something away from us, we have another option and we’re just ready for that. We’re definitely very confident right now,” said defender Torey Krug, who had three assists in Game 1.
The Blues not only ranked second in the NHL in the regular season with a 27% power play success rate, they set a franchise record for that efficiency.
The Wild let their frustration of facing a multi-goal deficit in the final 44:04 of the game get the better of them, taking too many penalties and letting their confidence in their own game erode over time.
They’re planning tweaks to their special teams programs — and doubling down on their commitment to keep the game playing in as many 5-on-5s as possible.
They don’t look to rely on their power play and previous whistles that are necessary, nor do they want to kill as many penalties as they did in Game 1.
THE KINGS AT OILERS
Los Angeles leads 1-0. Game 2, 10 p.m. EDT (ESPN2)
Edmonton coach Jay Woodcroft said he knows who will start at goaltending Wednesday night, but won’t say if it’s Smith or Mikko Koskinen.
With Game 1 tied 3-3, Smith attempted to clear the puck from behind his net, but instead put it on the stick of a Los Angeles player in front. He made a diving save but couldn’t recover the puck and Danault delivered his game-winning game seconds later.
“I think it was a puck handling error. He made a big save on that mistake,” Woodcroft said. “I think as a team there are things we can do to help him in this situation, the first being to communicate (better).”
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