Going into Sunday night’s Game 6 between the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks, 10 Stanley Cup playoff series had already finished. San Jose's season-saving 2-1 triumph means there are still six teams standing in contention for the Cup in 2013.
Out of the 10 finished first- and second-round bouts, three of the victorious teams have scored a goal within the final minute of the first, second or third period of the clinching game. Three of the eight conference quarterfinal series ended with an overtime strike.
Those moments never fail to compel and are often directly decisive, but there are also developments in the middle of a game and series that warrant equal credit for altering the course of a series and/or a team’s outlook.
Critical postseason plays bear a bonus when they come in a visually pleasurable fashion, but that aspect takes a backseat to the immediate and long-term implications of a goal or other momentous accomplishment.
Whether they officially or unofficially marked the completion of a series victory or have set a team on a more promising path than it originally appeared, here are the defining plays (so far) for each NHL team left in the hunt for the Cup.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics and other game information for this report were found via NHL.com and are through games of Sunday, May 26.