The Biggest Takeaways from Saturday's NHL Playoff Action

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistMay 5, 2013

The Biggest Takeaways from Saturday's NHL Playoff Action

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    It was all about response on Saturday. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings had it, but the New York Rangers did not.

    Responding to a lackluster performance in Game 1 against the Boston Bruins, the Toronto Maple Leafs skated hard for a full 60 minutes and refused to be bullied as they squared the series.

    The Ducks had lost home-ice advantage in Game 2 of the series, but they put the Detroit Red Wings down hard as the series moved to Motown.

    The defending champion Kings were not about to go down without a fight, either, and they responded on home ice with a shutout of the St. Louis Blues

    Henrik Lundqvist blanked the Washington Capitals for more than 60 minutes, but his team's popgun attack kept the Rangers from squaring the series.

    Here's a look at the key takeaways from Saturday's Stanley Cup playoff action.

Holtby's a Hero for Red-Hot Caps

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    The Washington Caps learned that they had a big-time goalie last year in Braden Holtby.

    Holtby was forced to confront Tim Thomas in his first career playoff series, and he was the primary reason the Capitals were able to upset the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in the first round.

    In the next round, Holtby continued his exceptional play, as the Caps forced the top-seeded New York Rangers to a seventh game before they were finally sent home.

    But this year, the Caps are not an underdog team. They were the hottest team in the Eastern Conference (besides the Pittsburgh Penguins) by the end of the season and they have home-ice advantage over the Rangers in this year's playoff meeting.

    The Caps extended their lead in the series to 2-0 when they defeated the Rangers 1-0 in overtime on a power play goal by sharpshooting defenseman Mike Green.

    Holtby was the Capitals' backbone. He stopped 24 New York Rangers shots and recorded the first postseason shutout of his career.

    Holtby made huge saves on Derek Stepan in the first period and Ryan Callahan (twice) in the third period to key the shutout.

    It's always a memorable achievement to record a playoff shutout, but when your opposing netminder is Henrik Lundqvist and the game is scoreless into overtime, it's a superb accomplishment.

    The Caps are well on their way to getting revenge on the Rangers as the series shifts to Madison Square Garden.

Phil Kessel Hits Bruins Where It Hurts

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    Phil Kessel has enjoyed nothing but success since being traded by the Boston Bruins to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2009except against his old team.

    Kessel has not been a factor when facing the Bruins. Going into the playoff series between the two teams, Kessel had scored three goals in four years of regular season games against Boston.

    He also looked lost in the Maple Leafs 4-1 loss in Game 1 of this series, and Bruins fans serenaded him with their chant of "Thank you, Kessel."

    But in the Maple Leafs 4-2 victory in Game 2, Kessel scored a huge goal in the third period. With the Leafs leading 2-1, Kessel took a breakout pass from teammate Nazem Kadri. Kessel then went in alone on Boston goalie Tuukka Rask and beat him between the legs.

    The goal gave the Leafs a two-goal edge and the relief on Kessel's face was palpable. When the Bruins scored later in the third period, the Leafs still had an edge.

    They kept their poise and won the game, in large part thanks to Kessel's momentum-building goal.

Ducks Put on a Special Special-Teams Performance

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    The Anaheim Ducks were not about to let a home-ice defeat derail their playoff aspirations.

    After dropping a 5-4 overtime decision at home to the Detroit Red Wings in Game 2, the Ducks were special in the series' first game in Detroit.

    They scored three special-teams goals to key a 4-0 victory over the disappointed Red Wings.

    Ryan Getzlaf assisted on Nick Bonnino's power play goal in the second period and then scored a shorthanded goal in the third that gave the Ducks a 2-0 advantage.

    The Ducks would put the game away with two more goals, including a power play goal by Matt Beleskey with less than seven minutes to play.

    The Red Wings are going to have to put more of an emphasis on special teams in Game 4 if they are going to tie the series on Monday.

How Much Does Jagr Have Left?

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    The Boston Bruins had no guarantee that Jaromir Jagr had much left in the tank when they acquired him from the Dallas Stars at the trade deadline.

    Jagr, 40, scored a goal in his first Bruins game and had two goals and seven assists in 11 games with Boston this season.

    While that indicated that he had something left, he was miserable against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second game of the team's opening round series. Jagr was on the ice for 14:22 of action, and he did little to show that he was ready to contribute.

    Jagr was minus-2 for the night and his turnover late in the third period led to the final Maple Leafs goal of the night.

    It occurred when Jagr had the puck along the boards and lazily passed it towards the middle of the ice in the offensive zone. A streaking Mikhail Grabovski carried the puck up the ice and made a superb pass to James van Riemsdyk. Van Riemsdyk then tucked it into the net, and that essentially clinched the game for the Maple Leafs.

    Does Jagr have anything left in the tank, or has the NHL seen the last of his special perfrormances?

Rangers Slowed by Season-Long Shortcoming

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    Head coach John Tortorella believes that trades the team made prior to the deadline this season—when the Rangers brought in Ryane Clowe from San Jose and Derick Brassard and John Moore from Columbusgave his team the spark it needed to make the playoffs.

    The Rangers won seven of their final 10 games and rose to sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

    However, they traded talented offensive star Marian Gaborik to Columbus. While the Rangers had more energy after the trade, they did not seem to have enough goal scoring.

    That was certainly the case in Game 2 of their playoff series with the Caps. Not only did the Rangers lose that game 1-0 in overtime to go down 2-0 in the series, but they simply did not threaten the Washington goal often enough.

    The Rangers had just five shots on goal in the third period and did not have any in the extra session.

    The Rangers lack firepower, and that was obvious in Game 2 against the Caps.

Defending Champs Won't Go Down Without a Fight

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    What kind of team are the Los Angeles Kings in 2013?

    Are they satisfied to make the playoffs this year and watch their one-year reign as champions come to a close, or will they fight for more?

    In the first two games of their series against the St. Louis Blues, it seemed that all the breaks that went they way a year ago were going against them this year.

    They lost the first game in overtime, and then they lost second game in the final minute of regulation.

    However, when the series resumed in Los Angeles on Saturday night, there was an indomitable quality about the Kings. They knew the Blues would come at them hard, but they gave away nothing and recorded a 1-0 victory.

    Slava Voynov recorded the only goal of the game early in the second period, but it was the Conn Smythe-winning goalie Jonathan Quick who assured the Kings that they would go home with a victory.

    He stopped all 30 of the St. Louis shots he faced, and the Kings came away with a triumph that gave them their first win of the series.