NHL Playoffs 2012: 3 Stars from Yesterday's Games
With three-quarters of the NHL conference semifinals underway, have we seen a glimpse of things to come or a just a snapshot from a single game?
Yesterday's games were matchups featuring the highest seeds versus the lowest seeds from each conference. Defense ruled the day as the higher seeds split their matchups.
The top-seeded New York Rangers took down the Washington Capitals 3-1 in a game that looked every bit like two teams that had just gone seven games the previous round. The game featured only 32 shots on goal combined.
The Rangers, responsible for only 14 of those, made them count. With last year's first-round exit on their mind, the Rangers took the lead midway through the second period via Artem Anisimov, with Madison Square Garden roaring in approval.
A late-period equalizer from Jason Chimera brought the Capitals back into the game and gave them momentum heading into the third. Two Rangers goals 1:30 apart halfway through the third put Washington in a two-goal hole for the first time this postseason.
The Caps would threaten Henrik Lundqvist's goal a couple more times but mustered only five shots in the final frame. The Rangers have to feel good after Game 1, as their defense smothered a potent Caps attack.
The second of two marquee goalie matchups out West had Brian Elliott of the St. Louis Blues hosting Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings. The two teams had more down time than the Caps and Rangers, and it showed, as they combined for 24 shots in the first period alone.
The Blues opened the scoring courtesy of David Backes halfway through the period, before Slava Voynov equalized seven minutes later with his first goal of the playoffs.
Matt Greene scored a short-handed rebound goal after an amazing individual effort from Dustin Brown, and the Kings led by a goal going into the third. An empty-net goal by Dustin Penner iced it for the Kings as they continue to surprise the top seeds in the playoffs this year.
With home ice in their favor, the Kings will be a confident team heading into Monday night.
Both games featured opportunistic plays by each team to secure victories, and each left a storyline heading into Game 2. Here are the three stars from Saturday's games.
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This picture featuring McDonagh best displays the value and significance of his efforts Saturday.
Assigned to be a perpetual thorn in Washington sniper Alexander Ovechkin's side, Round 1 clearly went to the Rangers duo of Daniel Girardi and McDonagh.
With only one shot on goal and no points, Ovechkin was frustrated all afternoon. Chipping in with a secondary assist of his own, McDonagh got a helper on Anisimov's opening goal.
Look for Game 1 to be a blueprint of how the Capitals captain gets treated throughout the series.
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After shutting out the Blues twice in the regular season, Quick continued to master St. Louis, stopping 28 of 29 shots with several acrobatic stops.
Quick has been lights-out in the playoffs this year, and he stole the show against St. Louis.
With home ice now in Los Angeles' favor, the Kings will try to put St. Louis in an 0-2 hole.
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Chris Kreider is the first player in 12 years to win an NCAA title and then make his NHL debut in the playoffs.
With a goal and an assist, Kreider got his second game-winning goal of the playoffs.
With his 21st birthday falling on Monday for Game 2, Kreider has been a spark-plug for the Rangers with his timely goal scoring.
His career may only be six games old, but Kreider is fast becoming a fan favorite. His other game-winner was in Ottawa, which kept the Rangers' playoff dreams alive.