Biggest Takeaways from Thursday's NHL Playoff Action
There were two second-round playoff matchups on the NHL schedule Thursday night and both of them provided hockey fans with thrilling late-game action.
The Boston Bruins defeated the New York Rangers 3-2 in overtime on home ice to take a 1-0 series lead. Bruins forward Brad Marchand scored almost 16 minutes into the extra period to help Boston improve to 3-0 in overtime during the postseason
In the late-night game on the West Coast, the Los Angeles Kings took a 2-0 series lead over the rival San Jose Sharks thanks to an amazing third-period comeback with two goals in the final two minutes for a 4-3 victory. The defending Stanley Cup champions have now won six games in a row, which is the best winning streak of the playoffs thus far.
Let's look at the biggest takeaways from Thursday's playoff action.
Rangers Power Play Must Improve
This series is not going to have a lot of scoring, which means that the special teams battle could be a huge factor in the outcome.
New York has the worst power play of any team remaining in the playoffs with two goals in 31 opportunities, including an 0-of-16 mark on the road (0-of-3 in Game 1).
"I don’t want to say frustrating but it needs to be better," said Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi when asked about the team's struggling power play.
"We need to get good chances and create momentum. We got to get a goal on the power play, it’s a difference maker and we don’t get one and we lose the game. We definitely have to figure out something with that."
Not only is New York failing to capitalize on these opportunities with the man advantage, it also isn't generating many high-quality scoring chances.
The Rangers are having trouble just entering the attacking zone, and once they found themselves with the puck at the point, they were unable to get pucks on Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask because the Boston's penalty killers did a great job of getting in the shooting lanes to block shots.
Boston's penalty kill was the fourth-best unit in the league during the regular season, and Bruins head coach Claude Julien has plenty of defensive defensemen to put on the ice in this type of situation. The Bruins are one of the most aggressive teams on the penalty kill, which forces teams to move the puck quickly, and New York failed to do that in Game 1.
If the Rangers don't fix their power-play issues soon, they will have a tough time winning this series because at even strength the Bruins are a better team due to of their depth with four quality lines.
Brad Marchand and Boston's 2nd Line Finally Wake Up
The Bruins needed their second line to greatly improve in the second round to score enough goals to beat an elite goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist.
The trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin didn't score a goal until the last two minutes in Game 7 of the team's first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Boston head coach Claude Julien decided to put young star and struggling forward Tyler Seguin on the third line and promote veteran winger Jaromir Jagr to the second line with Marchand and Bergeron in Game 1 against the Rangers, and the move proved to be the right one.
This line was involved in both the tying goal in the third period from rookie defenseman Torey Krug as well as the overtime winner from Marchand, which was his first goal of the 2013 NHL playoffs and the second in his last 15 postseason games. Marchand finished Game 1 with a goal and an assist for his first multi-point game of the playoffs.
"[Marchand, Jagr and Bergeron] together have been actually pretty good," said Julien after Game 1.
"We put them together; we weren’t quite sure how it would turn out, but the first game, which was Game 7, as the game went on, they got a little bit better, but I thought tonight, again, they took another step in the right direction."
"They did a great job of cycling the puck down low in the offensive zone, and hanging on to it. That was a good line for us, and we’re going to need that because we don’t want to just rely on the [David] Krejci line to produce, but we want a little bit more out of our other lines."
Late-Game Collapse by Sharks Could Result in Quick Exit from Second Round
The San Jose Sharks appeared to be on their way to earning a much-needed split in Los Angeles with a 3-2 lead late in the third period of Thursday's Game 2 against the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings.
But with a 3-2 lead and less than two minutes remaining in the game, the Kings scored two goals, one from captain Dustin Brown and another from center Trevor Lewis just 22 seconds apart to take a 4-3 lead and earn a huge victory for a 2-0 series lead.
This is a loss that will be on the minds of the Sharks for a long time because to beat an opponent as experienced and talented as the Kings in the playoffs, teams cannot be losing leads with less than two minutes left in regulation on the road.
If San Jose doesn't show the mental toughness and character needed to bounce back from this loss and win Game 3, this series will be over quickly. The Kings are one of the league's best road teams and they will not blow a 3-0 series lead, especially since starting goaltender Jonathan Quick has been almost unbeatable in the playoffs with a 1.56 GAA and a .947 save percentage.
It's always difficult to think positively after a devastating playoff loss, but the good news for San Jose is that it has the best home record in the NHL this season at 19-2-5 (including the playoffs). The Sharks are the only team with fewer than three regulation losses on home ice this year, and they were 2-0 in their two regular-season meetings at HP Pavilion versus the Kings.
Clutch Third-Period Scoring Playing a Key Part in Kings' Success
The Kings earned an exciting comeback victory in Game 2 with clutch scoring in the third period (two goals in the final two minutes of regulation), which has been a common theme of their current playoff run.
Seven of Los Angeles' 18 goals scored in its eight postseason games thus far have come in the third period or in overtime. In three of their last five games, the Kings have scored in the third period or overtime to earn a victory.
This team raises its game to another level when the pressure mounts late in regulation by outworking the opponent to win puck battles in all three zones and capitalize on quality scoring chances. The Kings don't panic when trailing in the final 10 minutes of regulation, and a lot of this poise and confidence comes from their Stanley Cup-winning experience gained from last year.
Los Angeles is 5-2 in games decided by a single goal in the postseason, which helps prove how comfortable they are in close games where one mistake could be the difference between a win and a loss.
This is why the Kings are going to be one of the toughest teams to eliminate from the 2013 playoffs. If the Sharks are unable to finish games and show a better amount of poise and composure late in third periods, this series will not return to the Staples Center for a Game 5.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL lead writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. Nick was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs, and he is also a credentialed writer at the 2013 NHL playoffs in Boston. All quotes obtained firsthand.