Cross Checks: 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs

CHICAGO -- Here's a quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks' 4-3 double-overtime win over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals at the United Center on Saturday.

How it happened: Patrick Kane scored the game-winning goal with 8:20 left in the second overtime to put the finishing touches on a hat trick and a dramatic Game 5. The Hawks took a 2-0 lead in the game's first six minutes with goals by Duncan Keith and Kane, but they allowed the Kings to tie it with a short-handed goal in the second period and a power-play goal in the third period. The Blackhawks regained the lead when Bryan Bickell knocked over Kings forward Justin Williams behind the net, gathered the puck and found Kane for a goal at 16:08. But the Kings weren't done. After an icing call with 15 seconds remaining in the third period, the Kings won the faceoff, got the puck to Anze Kopitar, who shot it and Mike Richards redirected the puck into the net with 9.4 seconds left to tie the game and force the first overtime. Kopitar and Dwight King also scored goals for the Kings. It was the longest game in the Kings' franchise history. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford made 33 saves, and Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick made 31 saves.

Player of the game: Kane hadn't scored in the series prior to Game 4, and he said he needed to do more. Well, he did more; a lot more. He scored once in Game 4 and three more times in Game 5. He has six goals in the playoffs.

What it means: The Blackhawks eliminated the Kings in five games and are heading to the Stanley Cup finals for the 12th time in their franchise history. They've won four Stanley Cups, with their last one coming in 2010.

What's next: The Blackhawks will host the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday. It will mark the first time Original Six teams have met in the Stanley Cup final since 1979 when the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens faced other. Such matchups have happened six times since the 1967-68 expansion, but all came between 1971-79.


BOSTON -- There is nowhere quite like the dressing room of a team that has gone down 3-0 in a best-of-seven playoff series.

There is especially nothing like the dressing room of a team that has lost an epic double-overtime battle like the one the Pittsburgh Penguins lost by a 2-1 count in the early-morning hours of Thursday to fall behind the Boston Bruins 3-0 in their Eastern Conference finals.

A dressing room like this is a gloomy place, balanced somewhere between the dead and living.

With any realistic chance of getting back in this series hanging in the balance, the Penguins rebounded after two home losses, the last a 6-1 shellacking in Game 2, to produce a dramatically different effort in Game 3.

Even when they gave up a goal on the first shot of the game when David Krejci’s shot caromed off Pittsburgh defenseman Matt Niskanen’s stick and past netminder Tomas Vokoun, the Penguins did as they promised.

They stayed patient.

They forechecked with a purpose.

They created chances from a strong defensive position.

And as time went on and the Bruins could not crack the Penguins as they had in the first two games, something special began to unfold.

Starting in the second period, the kind of series most had imagined when these two deep, experience, talented teams faced off in Game 1 emerged.

It’s easy to toss out terms such as "classic" or "titanic," but as this game moved through Wednesday evening and into Thursday, it was hard not to think of it anything but those terms.

It was part the relentless to-and-fro nature of the action and part what was at stake, the reality of what the outcome meant to both teams.

The Bruins did not nurse the lead but forced Vokoun, named the starter after being yanked after allowing three first-period goals in Game 2, into making key saves to keep his team in the game.

But the Penguins began to carry the balance of the play. They earned three second-period power plays and finally tied it midway through the period on an even-strength Chris Kunitz goal.

That it came off a face-off, another element the Penguins had been miserable at in the first two games, was further illustration that the Penguins had brought something different to the table.

Back and forth this game went, each missed chance for the Penguins a missed chance at a new lease on their playoff lives.

Each missed Bruin chance was a missed chance at pushing the Penguins to the edge of the abyss.

Each post rattled was a mournful lament at what might have been.

Crosby hit one on a blind backhand as Tuukka Rask scrambled across the crease in the third.

Nathan Horton hit one in the first overtime.

The Penguins were given a power play in the first overtime when Chris Kelly was whistled for tripping and then the Bruins got a chance when Brooks Orpik high-sticked Brad Marchand.

Late in the first overtime, Evgeni Malkin flipped the puck over the glass for a delay-of-game penalty and still the Bruins could not finish it. Early in the second overtime, the Penguins got a second chance when the Bruins were called for too many men for the second time in the game.

In all, the teams combined to go a shocking 0-for-11 with the man advantage and each time those opportunities ticked away on the giant score clock hanging over center ice, it was greeted with equal parts sigh of relief from one side and rueful grimace on the other.

Rask would not yield, in the end stopping 53 of 54 shots.

Vokoun matched him virtually stop for stop, allowing just the first-shot deflection and then, in the end, the final shot of the night, the Bruins’ 40th.

It came with 4:41 left in the second overtime. After Deryk Engelland could not clear the puck through the neutral zone and Evgeni Malkin was knocked off the puck by a rejuvenated Jaromir Jagr, the Bruins’ resident hero Patrice Bergeron redirected a Marchand pass past Vokoun and abruptly, as all overtime games end, it was over.

It was Bergeron who tied Game 7 of the Bruins’ opening-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the final minute after the Bruins had been down 4-1 and then went on to score the overtime winner.

The Bruins have been so steady, so near perfect since then in going 7-1 in in beating the New York Rangers in five and now three straight against the Penguins, that it’s hard to recall they were that close to being one round and done.

Now they are one win from sweeping the Eastern Conference’s best regular-season team and a team built to succeed in the postseason.

"I think it's a little bit of everything," a weary Bergeron said after reinforcing his status as one of the game’s clutch players. "It's also mental. You've got to stay sharp and find a way, but I think it's all in your head. As long as you don't feel tired in your head, your legs are fine. But you're right, your body is cramping up and you've just got to find a way, just keep battling, because I think everyone is in the same situation."

Well, everyone was in the same position until that final moment, the denouement.

From the moment Bergeron’s shot found the corner of the net, it was as though a great chasm opened between the two teams that had battled in such close quarters throughout the evening.

In the Boston dressing room, relief and cautious talk about not looking too far ahead, taking nothing for granted.

"That’s a game that could go either way," Boston defenseman Andrew Ference said. "It’s overtime. Double overtime. There’s posts, there’s big saves. That’s the type of game you clash and you bang heads.

"Win or lose, you come out and you say, 'You know what? We gave it our hardest.' So, like I said, we’re obviously happy to come out on the right side of it but I don’t think anybody is kidding themselves. You know that it can go either way in a game like that."

But it didn’t go either way. It went their way. And, oh, isn’t that a world away from what might have been for the Penguins?

In that room, hushed and humid, the familiar predictable words of hope and defiance were emitted but history and, perhaps more important, reality serves to crush the words like dry leaves the moment they are spoken.

"It was obviously a large improvement from the first two games," Orpik said.

Then he paused, and you wondered if it was from the tremendous hit he took from Milan Lucic that left him stunned during the second overtime or just the reality of the situation.

"We’re here for results, so there’s no real moral victories at this point in the season," Orpik said.

Crosby echoed those sentiments, saying this game looked so much better because the Penguins were so much better than in Game 2. But that, in the end, meant nothing.

"Did a lot better job tonight but that doesn’t guarantee anything," Crosby said. "So, we do a lot of these same things and I think we all trust and believe we can get this back to Pittsburgh."

Crosby was one of many Penguins who had a terrific bounce-back effort in Game 3 after two miserable outings in Pittsburgh. He went 21-17 on draws and won the one that led to the Pens’ only goal.

Evgeni Malkin was a beast and led all players with 10 shots.

James Neal had seven shots and was a different player. His pass to Craig Adams in the second overtime nearly sent the game and the series onto a different path.

But it didn’t.

They could not, with all their star power and determination, find that second goal that would have changed everything.

"It’s obviously frustrating but at the same time it’s a positive, too," Neal offered, still sitting in his stall with most of his gear on. "We did a lot of good things and stuck with it throughout the whole game.

"We think we deserved a little better tonight but that’s what playoffs are. One bounce can go either way. They got that there. So, obviously, tough to come back from three (games down), you know. We’re going to start with one period and one game because there’s no give-up in this room."

PITTSBURGH -- Everything we thought we knew about these Eastern Conference finals and how they might play out has now been blown to smithereens.

Kaboom.

What we imagined as a potentially classic battle between two deep, experienced, talented, well-coached teams has been nothing like that at all.

Instead the Boston Bruins have humbled the powerful Pittsburgh Penguins, riding a dramatic four-goal first period to a 6-1 victory in Game 2 on Monday night, to take a 2-0 advantage home with them for Games 3 and 4 on Wednesday and Friday.

While it would have been unthinkable to hint at a sweep before the series began, the Penguins’ shocking collapse means a 4-0 finish is definitely possible.

Through two games, what most imagined would be a closely contested, see-saw affair has been a colossal mismatch with the Bruins outscoring the Penguins 9-1.

“Tonight was terrible. There’s no other way to describe it,” said Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby, who was held without a point for the second straight game, the first time that has happened all season. He committed a ghastly turnover that led to Boston’s first goal just 28 seconds into the game.

“We weren’t good, really, in any area. A loss is a loss, it’s frustrating, but you really don’t like giving them one like that. We didn’t do a lot of things to give ourselves a chance to win. This one we have to forget pretty quickly and find a way to dig ourselves out of this hole going to Boston.”

Through the first two games, this series has been a been a mismatch on every level, starting with the goaltending and extending to virtually every facet of the game, including that elusive-yet-critical element of "compete level."

Netminder Tomas Vokoun allowed three goals on 12 shots and was gone just 14:31 into the first period, replaced by Marc-Andre Fleury, who promptly allowed a goal on the first shot he faced just 25 seconds after Brandon Sutter had scored the Penguins’ first goal of the series.

“That first goal kind of got them a little momentum back after we got that goal by Suttsy,” said Fleury, who was making his first appearance since May 7, which was Game 4 of the first round.

Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesBe it Marc-Andre Fleury or Tomas Vokoun, the Penguins are not getting sufficient goaltending.
Fleury would allow two more goals, and unless either netminder can make more quality saves in the coming days, this series is going to be over in a hurry.

And while the goaltending wasn’t up to snuff in Game 2, that is hardly the Penguins’ only flaw.

The Penguins’ defensive zone coverage has been lax. And not to beat a dead horse, but through the first two games it has mirrored the kind of scatterbrained own-zone play that marked Pittsburgh's first-round exit at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers last year. The difference between that series and this one is that at least the Penguins managed to find the back of the Flyers' net with enough regularity to stretch the series to six games.

This one? Not so much.

Indeed, it is staggering how great the disparity has been between the Bruins’ top-end players and the Penguins’ star-studded cast. Nathan Horton and David Krejci both scored in the four-goal first and have 15 postseason goals between them. Patrice Bergeron’s line chipped in three goals on the night.

Defensively, the Bruins allowed just 27 Penguins shots, 13 through the first two periods, and killed off both Pittsburgh power plays, giving them six straight kills against a team whose power play was the NHL’s most deadly at the start of the series.

Although he was excellent in Game 1, netminder Tuukka Rask was rarely tested.

As for the Penguins, it’s hard to imagine Crosby has had two worse playoff games in succession than Games 1 and 2 in these conference finals.

Along with the giveaway that resulted directly in the first goal, there were errant passes throughout the night. Juxtaposed against what we’ve seen from Crosby earlier in the postseason and the expectations for him to lead this team, his performance thus far against the Bruins qualifies as shocking.

Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesSidney Crosby, left, has not been his usual self.
"We don’t sit here and accept that," Crosby said. "We know we’re looked upon to score and produce. I’m not going to sit here and make any excuses. We have to be better. That’s the bottom line."

He’s not alone, of course.

Kris Letang is a finalist for the Norris Trophy. But given his play in the first two games, it’s a given that if voters had to cast their ballots again, there would be a lot of other names written down before they got to Letang.

With the Penguins trailing 1-0, it was Letang’s blind clearing pass from behind his net at the end of a Boston power play that set up the Horton goal.

James Neal finished the Penguins’ second-round series against Ottawa with a flourish, scoring five times and adding two assists in the final two games. But he has been a non-factor against Boston.

That's the individual scorecard, and it's not pretty -- but it's the collective collapse that is most mystifying.

The Penguins were built to prevent just this kind of thing from happening.

Wasn’t that the point of bringing in Jarome Iginla, Jussi Jokinen, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray -- to provide the kind of ballast when the playoff seas got rough?

Never mind Iginla rethinking his decision to eschew a trade to the Bruins in favor of becoming a Penguin. Given Iginla’s pedestrian play in this series, it’s the Bruins who might secretly be breathing a sigh of relief that things turned out the way they did.

“I don’t think anybody in our room is happy with the first two games, the way we’ve played all the way through it as individuals and as a team,” the veteran winger said. “We all know we have to be better. I had a tough couple of games, and I’m going to throw that out and find a way to be effective and be better going forward, and I think that’s everybody in our room’s mentality."

What is perhaps most perplexing about the Penguins’ plight is the sudden discussion about having to change their mindset, their approach. How does a team advance to the conference finals and suddenly lose its way so dramatically?

“Our approach just has to change," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "I go back to when we won 7-6 in Montreal this year, and I don’t think anyone in the room felt good about ourselves leaving the rink even though it was a win. Kind of felt like we never had control of the game. Right now, it just kind of feels like our approach is to score goals rather than keep it out of the net, and against a team like this -- that’s this patient and this responsible -- they’ll make you pay for it."

He acknowledged it’s a bit surprising to be thinking about fundamental issues like this at such a critical juncture.

“Maybe a little bit," Orpik said. "If we were a younger team, more inexperienced, I’d probably say no, but with the team and group of guys we have here maybe I am a little surprised. There’s nothing we can do about these two games. We have to change our approach pretty quickly to be successful."

Then, after a moment’s consideration, he continued: "Yeah, it’s a little surprising at this point in the season."

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma admitted he, too, has been surprised at what his team has shown in these past two games.

"Yes, how we played for the last five periods, yes," Bylsma said. "We've gotten away from our game. We've gotten off our game plan. We've deviated.

“And that group of guys, that team in there, they'll reset and refocus, and we'll come back with how we need to play in Game 3."

Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarCan the Penguins get off the mat at 2-0 down?
Now, we know enough to understand that two games do not a series make.

So do the Penguins. And the Bruins sure know it, too.

"We know that they're going to try to bounce back, and we need to make sure we're ready," said Bergeron, who had a goal and an assist Monday night. "They're a really good team, we respect them, and we know it's not over."

We recall returning to Boston from Vancouver after the first two games of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, convinced the Bruins wouldn’t win a game. They didn’t just win a game but won four to win a Cup.

Chicago looked cooked against Detroit in the last round, going down 3-1 before roaring back to win three in a row.

Likewise, in 2009, the Penguins twice overcame 2-0 series deficits -- against Washington and Detroit -- to win a Cup.

"We've won -- this team has won a lot of hockey games," Bylsma said. "It's a good team. We've won 15 in a row. And we won seven in a row and five in a row.

"Certainly didn't play anywhere near where we're capable of. And that's got to be our focus, to get our first win in Game 3 in Boston."

All those things are true, the winning and the talent that resides in that room. Those things are undeniable. But right now it just feels like it’s not nearly enough.

And who could have seen that coming?
Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red WingsJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJimmy Howard and the Red Wings couldn't cash in on their 3-1 series lead against the Blackhawks.

CHICAGO -- Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard slowly packed the last of his goalie equipment into his bag following the Chicago Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime win over Detroit in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals. He let out a long exhale, then got a pat on the back from Paul Boyer, the Red Wings' longtime head equipment manager.

Howard nodded toward his gear and turned to Boyer.

“Just drop them into Lake Michigan,” Howard said.

It was settling in to Howard that he wouldn’t need these pads for a while, that the rival Blackhawks are the team that gets to keep playing while the Red Wings head back to Detroit haunted by knowing just how close they came to upsetting the NHL’s best team of the regular season. Close, but not good enough.

“I thought we did a lot of great things out there. I thought we did a great job. I’m really proud of the way this team carried itself this year,” said Howard, who made 33 saves in another outstanding effort. “Especially when a lot of people counted us out. A lot of people didn’t even expect this series to get past four games. … It sort of stinks it’s all over with.”

It’s harder because somewhere along the line these Red Wings started to believe they might be part of something special. They knocked out a powerful Anaheim Ducks team in the first round that saw the fast-forwarded maturation of young players Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith.

They jumped out to a 3-1 series lead against the favored Blackhawks, and even entered the third period of Game 6 with a one-goal lead that they couldn’t hold. Advancement was so tantalizingly close.

“Listen, it’s a good team we played. Guys should be proud and disappointed,” Red Wings forward Daniel Cleary said. “We had a chance, three chances to close it out and we just didn’t get it done.”

The Red Wings won four consecutive regular-season games just to make the playoffs. Then as the No. 7 seed, they rallied from a 3-2 series deficit to eliminate the Ducks. And even though the Blackhawks came storming back into a series, the Red Wings couldn’t close, when Niklas Hjalmarsson’s apparent game-winning goal was waved off in Game 7, it looked like it might be one of those breaks a successful playoff team needs along the way to make a long run in the spring.

Instead, it was just a speed bump on Chicago’s path to the next round.

That the young Red Wings gave the Blackhawks all they could handle on the way to a fantastic Western Conference finals showdown against the reigning champion Los Angeles Kings didn’t make the finality feel any better.

“It’s kind of a shock right now that it’s all over,” Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey said. “You’re so emotionally invested in that. One shot, and it all comes to a screeching halt.”

Especially the way it happened. In trying to keep the game-winning shot from getting to Howard, Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall deflected it enough to change the trajectory of the puck on its way past the goalie.

It’s how these games often end. A deflection. A bounce. Or a shot nobody sees go in except the guy who shot it. Chicago has a long history of these moments, and Brent Seabrook now has a goal that joins it. It’s also the goal that ends this chapter of the rivalry between the Red Wings and Blackhawks, with Detroit’s move east next season.

An overtime winner in Game 7 was a fitting finish; it’s almost the way this game had to end. It’s just not the ending Kronwall and the Red Wings envisioned. At some point, the strides made by the Red Wings in these playoffs will feel good, and they’ll realize that a young group gained experience that will be drawn upon in playoff runs down the road.

It just doesn’t feel great now. Losing never does, not to competitors such as these.

“It’s something you never can get used to. You don’t want to get used to. You want to have a chance [at] raising the Cup,” Kronwall said. “It’s just empty right now."
[+] EnlargeJonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks
Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsLike the rest of the Hawks, Jonathan Toews was not happy with Stephen Walkom's call.
CHICAGO -- "Chelsea Dagger" stopped playing. When the Chicago Blackhawks' goal song was cut short, that was the first sign to many of the 22,103 fans at the United Center that Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson’s potential game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals wasn’t going to count.

With 1:48 remaining in the third period of a tied game, Hjalmarsson took a pass from Andrew Shaw and beat Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard in a sequence that would have been long remembered in Blackhawks lore if it were the game-winner. Now it will be remembered as part of the one of the most controversial calls of these playoffs.

The goal was waved off when referee Stephen Walkom called coincidental minors on Kyle Quincey and Brandon Saad near the Detroit bench. Quincey had shoved Saad into the Detroit bench, Saad retaliated with a swing at Quincey and the whistle was blown moments before Hjalmarsson’s shot hit the back of the net.

When the crowd realized it, the ice was showered with red Blackhawks rally towels to a loud chorus of boos.

“[I] went blank from there. I got so mad. I didn’t see the situation [that] happened there, but it doesn’t matter now,” Hjalmarsson said after the Blackhawks recovered to win 2-1 on a Brent Seabrook overtime goal. “We got the win, and Seabs scored a huge goal for us. If we would’ve lost, it would’ve been a tough one. But since we won, it doesn’t really matter much.”

Said Saad: “I don’t know what the call was, why he made it, but that was his decision. I’m just fortunate we got the goal in overtime. Obviously, I wasn’t happy. But it’s refocus in between periods, go into overtime and get the win.”

Quincey didn’t see the goal scored by Hjalmarsson, but he did hear the whistle before the goal horn sounded. He knew it was coming back. He might have been the first.

“[Saad]’s my guy, I went to finish him. I decided to try and throw him into the bench to eliminate any possibility of him getting it. I thought the puck was still at my feet,” Quincey told ESPN.com. “All of a sudden the horn goes. The whistle definitely went before. It could have gone either way. A penalty, coincidentals or no call at all. I think we got a break there.”


LOS ANGELES -- A titanic Californian fortnight is over, ending the way it began, with a Jonathan Quick gem.

What else is new, right?

A series that was incredibly close had to end, the reigning Stanley Cup champions raising their game one more time as if on cue to win the day.

Justin "Just Call Me Game 7" Williams provided a pair of second-period goals, and the Los Angeles Kings outlasted the San Jose Sharks 2-1 Tuesday night to cap a series that was decided by a hair.

“They’re as good as us,” Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said afterward, adding that the only difference was scoring the extra goal they needed.

“The series could have gone either way,” said a dejected Marc-Edouard Vlasic in a somber Sharks dressing room. “Tonight could have gone either way. We fought back all year, and it sucks to get that close now and fall short.”

Take a bow Californian puck fans, you took center stage in the second round with the best hockey the NHL had to offer.

I honestly cannot remember the last time I covered a series that featured two teams so closely matched.

“They were very close games, and they gave us pretty much everything we could handle,” veteran Kings blue-liner Rob Scuderi said. “I’m just glad we could pull it out.”

But in the end, two eye-popping trends owned the day: The home team went 7-0 in the series. And the team scoring the first goal was also a perfect 7-0.

Which is why the Sharks, to a man, spoke Tuesday morning about how badly they wanted to score first.

They played a real solid opening period, limited the Kings to only three shots on goal.

Then Sharks star Logan Couture was stoned by a beauty of a Quick glove save early in the second period, a golden chance for the Sharks to get that opening goal they so dearly craved.

But the game -- and their season, in many ways -- came unglued 2:46 into the second period when Brent Burns took an interference penalty 200 feet away from their own end, the kind coaches cringe at. On the ensuing power play, Williams poked in a rebound to make it 1-0.

Maybe knowing just how badly they wanted that opening goal themselves, the Sharks were totally unhinged after that, running around their own zone like their hair was on fire, while the Kings smelled blood and, like the champs they are, applied the pressure in waves as they sensed a chance to pile it on.

A TV timeout did nothing to calm the Sharks down.

Anze Kopitar came flying into the zone when play resumed and found Williams with a zinger of a cross-ice pass that the veteran, a two-time Cup winner, one-timed past Antti Niemi for a 2-0 lead at 7:08.

Bedlam at Staples Center, with two goals in 2:57. In reality, it was pretty much game over when you consider Quick had given up three goals just twice in the entire playoffs and only once to San Jose.

Dan Boyle sure made it interesting 5:26 into the third period when his point shot beat Quick, the Sharks then pressing for the equalizer for much of the period.

But there was that Quick guy again, extending his arm and snagging what looked like the sure tying goal from Joe Pavelski with just more than five minutes to go.

“I think the Pavelski one near the end,” Scuderi said when asked to pinpoint the save that stood out to him. “He got over and made that huge save before I could get there. I can’t tell you how that speaks volumes for the confidence in the locker room, knowing that you have a guy that can make that save when you need it.”

Niemi was very good in this series, but Quick -- last season’s Conn Smythe Trophy winner -- was great. That was just enough of an edge for L.A.

“Their goalie, we didn’t want him to be the story,” Boyle said. “[But] I think he was the difference in this series, in my opinion.”

The offensive star on this night, meanwhile, is no stranger to Game 7 heroics. Williams entered the game a perfect 3-0 in his career in Game 7s, tallying seven points (three goals, four assists) in those games.

Make it 4-0 in Game 7s for Mr. Clutch, with nine points. There’s a reason the guy has two Cup rings, right?

“Right place, right time,” smiled Williams. “I enjoy pressure situations. I know everyone in this dressing room does. You want to be out there first minute, final minute. You want the puck.”

The Kings now await the winner of the Detroit Red Wings-Chicago Blackhawks series to continue their title defense.

It has been far from easy, the Kings falling behind 2-0 in the opening round to the St. Louis Blues and seeing the Sharks go toe-to-toe with them in the second round, but the champ is still standing.

What remains to be seen is whether having to play 13 games in two rounds, compared to only nine games halfway through their title run a season ago, will have any impact on their ability to continue their advancement.

“We’re going to need some rest here over the next few days because we need it,” Williams said.

But whatever concern there is in terms of what the Kings have left in the tank, that’s a question for another day. On this night, the Kings remained the kings.

The allure of repeating as champs for the first time since the 1997-98 Red Wings fuels this team.

“I didn’t know this until June 12 last year,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. “But you don’t know what you’re really playing for until you win. You don’t know the feeling; you don’t know what it’s like until you win it.

“In previous years, when we got knocked out by Vancouver and San Jose, I didn’t truly understand what I just lost out on. Now, it’s a different perspective after you’ve won. It’s a huge motivating factor for the guys in here.”


SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The hooting and hollering was unmistakable in the hallway outside the San Jose Sharks’ dressing room before Game 6 Sunday night.

The laughter could be heard a mile away. A bunch of goofs kicking around a soccer ball and sounding like college freshmen up to no good.

"Yeah, a bunch of idiots," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said while laughing after his team extended its season with a clutch 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings.

"That may have been the loudest soccer game of the season," Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said. "They were loose and ready to play."

It’s just further proof that this edition of the Sharks is different than previous incarnations. In the past, you couldn’t escape the suffocating tension that seemed to take hold of this team around a big playoff game.

But these guys? They’re as loose as any Sharks team I’ve seen before.

"When we’ve been loose this year, it seems that’s when we play our best hockey," Thornton, who opened the scoring Sunday, said. "We try to have a lot of fun. Everyone enjoys each other’s company. It feels like a team."

With their season on the line Sunday, the Sharks were cracking one-liners in the dressing room before game time.

"As the season has gone on, we’ve kind of figured out that this group isn’t good when it’s tight or nervous or when nobody’s talking," winger Adam Burish, who returned from injury, said. "The silence in this room can kill us, so guys tonight before the game were cracking jokes, talking about the game. Just the chatter loosens everyone up. It was loose, but it was confident."

Most telling of Sunday’s victory was the way the Sharks closed it out. Instead of hanging on for dear life like they did in their Game 4 victory when the Kings were all over them right to the final buzzer, this time San Jose played a poised and intelligent game in the third period and really didn’t allow the Kings to get much at all.

"We came in after the second period and we were happy with the way we were playing," Sharks winger T.J. Galiardi, whose second-period goal stood as the winner, said. "The one thing we wanted to do is keep our D active. They were the main reason we had so much zone time tonight. They came down and had great pinches. It’s hard to handle when D do that."

You expected the Kings to push hard in the final period, but the Sharks kept them pinned in their zone for long stretches instead.

"I thought we played a solid third period, took some of their strengths away from them," McLellan said. "But it’s still a pretty even game. No matter how high we elevate our game, they are right there. I don’t see it changing for Game 7."

The reality is that this series has been oh-so-close, as evenly played as a series can possibly be. There’s almost nothing separating these two teams. It’s going down to the wire, as it probably should be.

"It’s a fine line," Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said.

The edge most people view is Jonathan Quick over Antti Niemi in goal, but the latter has held his own so far in this series.

"Both goaltenders in this series have been tremendous," McLellan said. "I thought Nemo was very solid tonight; he was a calming influence for us."

Two trends loom large entering Game 7. The home team is 6-0 in this series, which is also the record of the team scoring first in this series. The Kings have won 13 straight at home, and that’s going to be a focal point heading into Tuesday. The Sharks will point to the second trend, scoring first, as their best shot at finally winning at Staples Center.

The way they started Sunday is what they want to duplicate come Tuesday.

"From start to finish, the game was hard, but we played the right way," Burish said. "We played exactly how we said we wanted to play. We had a great start. When they scored, we just settled down and stayed with it. It felt like it might have been our best game of the series. Hopefully, that’s something we can gain some confidence from going into a big Game 7."

The Kings played a good road game but early penalties led to a 5-on-3 power play that allowed San Jose to open the scoring on Thornton’s goal.

What will be the key to Game 7 for the Kings?

"For us, it would be to stay away from those penalties early," Sutter said. "Other than that, we played pretty well tonight."

Galiardi’s goal was his first of the playoffs, the Sharks desperately hoping to see somebody other than their usual suspects get on the board.

"An unusual suspect would be T.J.," McLellan said.

Galiardi didn’t hide his relief to have finally gotten on the board.

"Oh, man, it’s huge," he said. "Jumbo [Thornton] always chirps me and says I’ll score only when the boys need me the most, so I guess he was right."

If the "idiots" yuk it up again before Game 7 outside the visitors’ dressing room at Staples Center, you know the Sharks have a shot.

"We really don’t have anything to lose," McLellan said. "We’re going to play Game 7 against the Stanley Cup champs in their building. We look forward to that challenge."


CHICAGO -- It started with a clean win of the draw. Jonathan Toews not only beat Pavel Datsyuk on the faceoff, he ripped the puck back to Duncan Keith at the point of the Blackhawks power play.

And it was on. The most important power play of the Blackhawks' season was off and running, and when it was finished, Game 5 of this Western Conference semifinal would be transformed.

Chicago beat Detroit 4-1 to keep its season alive -- and cut the Red Wings' series lead to 3-2 -- and the Blackhawks wouldn't have done it without the resuscitation of a power play that, until Saturday night, was providing more momentum for the opposition than for the Blackhawks.

Like in the first period, when they ended a strong opening period with a lifeless power play.

"I don’t think we had a shot," Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook said. "We were [ticked] off after the first one."

The frustration seeped into the Blackhawks dressing room during the first intermission. They had an early one-goal lead on the Red Wings, but it didn’t feel like it. When the Red Wings killed that late holding penalty on Carlo Colaiacovo, a few boos emerged from the rafters of the United Center. It looked like more of the same for a power play that had suddenly become the NHL’s worst in the postseason with the elimination of the New York Rangers earlier in the day. At least for the moment.

While losing three consecutive games to the Red Wings, the Blackhawks power play had gone zero for nine, and the struggles went back further than that. A bit lost in Chicago’s incredible regular-season run was that a power play that can roll out high-powered offensive weapons Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Keith was pedestrian too often. They finished the regular season at 16.7 percent, good for 19th in the league.

"It’s something we’ve talked about. We’ve moved different units around," Keith told ESPN The Magazine. "It’s not rocket science, power plays. Sometimes, we’ve made it like that over the past season. It’s taking what they give you. Getting shots when you can take it."

That’s exactly how they handled that critical power play that started with 11:39 remaining in the second period. Toews drew a hooking penalty on Drew Miller, important not only because it gave the Blackhawks a man advantage but also because it sent one of Detroit’s best penalty killers into the penalty box.

Detroit coach Mike Babcock sent out a PK unit of Datsyuk, Cory Emmerton, Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall.

Toews won that first faceoff clean, a key moment.

"Toewser had a big draw. You start with the puck. He’s so huge," Seabrook said. "I don’t think we even had a breakout when we scored. When you start in your own zone and go back and set up, that’s when things start spinning."

And it started spinning. Jimmy Howard made a save on a Seabroook shot, kicking the puck out near Datsyuk, when the Blackhawks got their first break. In a rare misstep by the Red Wings star, Datsyuk whiffed on a backhanded clearing attempt.

The second break was quite literally a break. Datsyuk broke his stick, leaving the Red Wings with essentially 3½ players trying to kill the penalty. For a split moment, Emmerton thought about giving Datsyuk his own stick but opted not to.

"At that point, I was running around a little bit," Emmerton said. "Just trying to play smart and hope for a good bounce. Or get a whistle."

The Red Wings penalty kill has been so effective against Chicago because of its aggressive play. But a missed clearing attempted and a broken stick wiped out that advantage. The aggressiveness was gone.

Now, the Blackhawks focused on working the puck on the side of the ice where Datsyuk tried to defend without a stick. Seabrook was set up for shots by Keith. He had a slap shot from 54 feet and another from 42.

"He’s at a disadvantage. You can pass through him," Seabrook said of the stickless Datsyuk. "Datsyuk has such a great stick and is such a great player defensively. It’s hard to pass around him. He’s one of those guys who does a great job of taking away lanes."

But not when he’s missing a stick. The Blackhawks attacked with desperation, winning battles for puck retrieval, and, at one point with 45 seconds left on the power play, Hossa made a great play at the blue line to keep in a clearing attempt from Ericsson.

By the time Andrew Shaw deflected a shot from Keith past Howard for what turned out to be the game-winning goal, the Wings PK was gassed and the Blackhawks power play struggles were over.

There’s no such thing as momentum from one NHL playoff game to the next, but the confidence gained in that power play and Toews getting another power-play goal on his surgical shot later in the second, can be carried over. It has to be if the Blackhawks are going to continue their climb past Detroit.

"Tonight was the way we know we can play and the way we can skate," Keith said. "It was nice to see the power play get going. That was a big boost to our team tonight."

And with the success, the Blackhawks pulled out of the basement. Their power play improved to 17.9 percent in the postseason, no longer the worst of any team still playing. At 15.9 percent, that honor now belongs to Detroit.

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- To a man, players on the San Jose Sharks heading into Game 4 felt they had outplayed the Los Angeles Kings despite being down in the series.

That’s fine and dandy, Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said the other day, but unless it shows up on the scoreboard, it means nothing.

Now it has. Now it does.

Brent Burns and Logan Couture scored the goals, Joe Thornton was a one-man wrecking crew, and the Sharks served notice Tuesday night with a second straight win in a 2-1 decision: If the defending Stanley Cup champions are going to have a shot at repeating, they’re going to have to raise their game to another level.

Because, right now, the Kings are fortunate it’s only a 2-2 series and not worse.

They were outshot 15-3 in the opening period Tuesday night, thanks to Jonathan Quick only being outscored 1-0, but the reigning Cup champions looked completely overmatched early on in what helped set the tempo for a Sharks win.

“That first period was as good as we’ve played possibly all year,” Boyle said.

On the flip side, the Kings have rarely looked so disorganized.

“You've got [to] prepare, get ready for the drop of the puck,” Kings center Mike Richards said. “It was 1-0 before we even knew what was going on out there.”

Burns opened the scoring 6:09 into the game, taking a beautiful feed from Thornton as their line, with T.J. Galiardi, skated circles around the Kings' zone.

“I thought they were very good early, established a relentless forecheck and used their size to their advantage,” Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said of the Thornton line. “Obviously, they got us the first goal. And the momentum they created ran throughout the rest of the lines, and everyone jumped on board.”

Wave after wave of Sharks pinned the Kings into their zone before an energized and raucous sellout crowd of 17,562 at HP Pavilion.

Thornton was an absolute beast, flicking off Kings defenders like they were flies.

“It’s the best I’ve seen him play,” his linemate, Galiardi, said. “I don’t know what he had for pregame meal today, but I hope he has it again in a couple of days. He was flying. And it’s so contagious; when Jumbo’s going, everybody is going. It’s pretty to watch.”

The Sharks kept the Kings hemmed into their zone nearly the entire first period.

“The Kings are spending way more time defending in their own zone than they were a year ago,” a veteran NHL scout said between periods.

Some of that is because the Kings’ back end hasn’t been set the entire season -- with no Willie Mitchell available, Alec Martinez (scratched on this night) struggling to find the form he had last season and Matt Greene having been out most of the season until finally being re-inserted into the lineup Tuesday night.

Whatever the case, the Kings’ blue line, especially the third pairing, just hasn’t had the symmetry and balance it had a season ago.

The Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesThe Kings have found this playoff run a little trickier than last season's.
But credit the Sharks here, as well. They are right on top of the Kings with a speedy forecheck that has bottled up Los Angeles.

It’s incredible how much faster this Sharks team plays compared to a season ago when it went out meekly to the St. Louis Blues in the first round.

“We were more passive last year,” Thornton said. “This year, we’re aggressive. We just play well when we’re aggressive, and that’s probably been the key.”

While the Kings took a while to find their game on this night, it doesn’t help when you’re not getting the calls, either. A quick whistle in the second period robbed the Kings of a goal when it was obvious Antti Niemi did not have it. That should have been a goal for Los Angeles, and it would have cut the lead to 2-1. That would have been a big moment for the Kings.

“It was a quick whistle,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. “That stuff tends to even itself out over the course of a year. Sometimes, you get a quick whistle your way. Sometimes, you don't.”

It was a tough call, and these are the type of things that didn’t seem to happen to this Kings team last season. Whether they’re calls from refs or plain breaks, everything seemed to go their way, in large part because they manufactured a lot of that good fortune with their play.

They rolled out to four consecutive 3-0 leads and barely faced any adversity en route to a well-deserved championship.

If they win the Cup again this season, it will be with a much different script.

The Kings head home now, where they’ve won 12 straight and are a perfect 5-0 in these playoffs. That’s a good place to turn this around.

“We're comfortable at home, so I think that's going to be a good thing, and we obviously have confidence there, too,” Richards said. “It's just a matter of playing our game. When we do that, we have success.”

The Kings began to recapture their game in the third period Tuesday night, finding the back of the net on Richards’ power-play goal at 9:46 and outshooting the Sharks 14-2.

“They’re the Stanley Cup champions for a reason,” Thornton said. “They’re going to hang around. In the third period, they played really, really well.”

But in the same fashion, the Kings chalked up being outshot 16-4 in the third period in Game 1 to the Sharks desperately trying to get back in the game, there was a similar feeling Tuesday night to the Kings’ third-period dominance.

“We have to [do] that from the start,” Brown said. “That's the difference in the game. They dominated the play, especially in the first 30 minutes.”

A dandy of a series is now a best of three, with the underdogs believing more than ever they have a chance at dethroning the champs.

“We’re in a good place right now, and it’s only going to get harder,” Boyle said.

A few nights ago in L.A., after the Sharks suffered what seemed like a crushing, Game 2 loss, McLellan confidently told reporters that his team would bounce back. He felt these Sharks were different than in seasons past.

He was right.

“The character in our locker room … you could feel it when we left L.A. on the plane after Game 2,” the Sharks coach said. “We were ready to get back to work.

“We’re going to swing the bat when we’re up there.”

Playoff Talk! Chat with our NHL crew

May, 15, 2013
5/15/13
12:09
PM ET


OTTAWA -- The spotlight on this night should have been squarely on Jean-Gabriel Pageau, an unheralded product from just across the river, whose hat trick propelled the Ottawa Senators to a full-value cream job of the Montreal Canadiens.

Instead, a line brawl, 236 combined penalty minutes and stupidity in the third period dominated the discussion after the Senators took a 2-1 series lead over the Habs. The bad blood between the two rivals escalated yet again, especially between the two head coaches.

"We got beat by a good team tonight; they played very well," Montreal head coach Michel Therrien began in his postgame address. "I always believe you let the players dictate the game. Calling a timeout at 17 seconds in the game -- I never saw that before.

"You never want to humiliate another team as a coach, and this is exactly what happened tonight. As far as I’m concerned, it was classless."

Senators head coach Paul MacLean did indeed call a timeout late in the game with his team up 6-1, but he offered up an explanation for it. Just not sure the Habs will buy it.

"I didn’t know what was going to happen next," MacLean said. "I feel bad for the referees, but they wouldn’t let me bring my players back to the bench so I can tell them what I wanted them to do. So my only recourse was to take the timeout because I didn’t want anyone to get hurt. It was already getting dumb enough as it was.

"So in order to protect my players under circumstances that were instigated by the Montreal Canadiens, I was forced to protect my players. And I will do that every time."

As far as Therrien’s assertion that Maclean was trying to humiliate the Canadiens: "I thought they were doing a real good job of that themselves. They didn’t need my help at all," MacLean fired back.

Did someone turn back the clock and drop this series into 1984, featuring the Nordiques and Canadiens?

Mercy.

All of this, of course, was a byproduct of the controversial hit that Eric Gryba laid on Lars Eller in Game 1, which netted the Senators defenseman a two-game suspension but also ignited a verbal barrage from each side.

"Michel talks about discipline and his team that really turned it around this year," Senators GM Bryan Murray told ESPN.com after the game Sunday night. "He took a shot at Paul, who was sticking up for his player recognizing that [Raphael] Diaz did make the pass that got Eller hurt. We don’t like seeing players get hurt. We sure didn’t want Eller [to] get hit the way he did, but that’s the game. Gryba stood up. I told Brendan Shanahan it was the wrong decision on his part. I’ve watched it 100 times. I’ve talked to hockey people around the league, and most of them, like 90 percent, agree it was shoulder to shoulder and then it slid across. So we didn’t think it was the right thing. And we heard all the commentary from [Brandon] Prust and from Michel. Prust had a chance with [Chris] Neil and [Matt] Kassian on the ice and didn’t do anything about it. When they left the ice, he stepped in and took a couple of cheap penalties. People shot pucks at people. I really object at that."

Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges shot a puck toward Ottawa’s Kyle Turris at the buzzer, which the Sens didn’t like.

But on this night, there was plenty not to like from each side.

Neil celebrating like a wrestler in WWE after beating up Travis Moen in the line brawl wasn’t terribly impressive, nor was Ryan White's two-handed slash at Zack Smith, which ignited the line brawl.

"[White] takes a two-handed chop at the back of the player’s leg -- haven’t seen that in a long time in the National Hockey League," MacLean said. "But that’s hockey. Stuff happens. I thought we handled ourselves well under the circumstances in the duress we were put under. We defended ourselves."

It added salt to the wounds of the Canadiens, that’s for sure. On a night when the Habs were beaten to loose pucks, beaten in the bodychecking department and beaten on the scoreboard, they were also beaten up by the Senators in that line brawl.

"It is what it is. Emotions are flying high out there," Neil said. "We stood our ground.

"We came out tonight, we came hard, we had some hits, everyone finishing checks and that’s what it takes to win," Neil added.

Montreal winger Max Pacioretty says the third-period ugliness reflects the emotions of a playoff series both teams desperately want to win.

"We’re not going to back down from anyone," he said. "We got a lot of guys that will stick up for their teammates, and it showed. But we have to find a way to compete to get more on the scoreboard in the next game. That’s when guys like me have to look in the mirror."

And that’s just it. Forget for a second the craziness of the third period and think about why the Senators have a series lead. That Canadiens forecheck of Game 2 was nonexistent Sunday night. Their ability in Game 2 to make Craig Anderson's life more difficult by crashing the goalie’s crease never really happened, either.

The Senators dominated at both ends of the ice and the Habs are left to ponder just how their game disappeared from Friday night.

"We know we have a much better team in here than we showed," Pacioretty said. "We’re hoping to show up in Game 4."

They have no choice if they want to have any chance to win this series.

MONTREAL -- A rivalry that existed only in name for 20 years now has a pulse. And plenty of hate.

Two opening playoff games in back-to-back nights between the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens produced enough hits, controversy and verbal jousting to fill a reporter's notebook for a month.

Oh, and the hockey’s been pretty darn entertaining, too.

"It’s pretty neat," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who played in all those Battle of Ontario playoff series, said.

"It’s physical, there’s a lot at stake, it’s two cities that are close to each other," he added after Friday night’s 3-1 loss. "There’s been a few big hits already, and that’s what creates rivalries -- battling all over. You’ve got two teams who really want this, and you can tell."

Heck, even the two goalies have lost teeth in this series. Anything else this series could have possibly shoved into an opening 27 hours?

"It’s crazy. It’s the playoffs, and in Canada, hockey is part of our culture," Habs star blue-liner P.K. Subban, said. "It would have been special to be part of a Toronto-Montreal [series], being that I’m from Toronto, but being part of this one is just as great. And I don’t think it’s let anyone down so far."

Ryan White, Brendan Gallagher and Michael Ryder scored second-period goals Friday night as the Habs tied their first-round series 1-1 with a much-needed victory before the best-of-seven set shifts to Ottawa.

Game 2 was almost a secondary event to the drama unfolding off the ice in the morning.

The Habs took offense to comments from Senators coach Paul MacLean the night before in the wake of the devastating hit by Ottawa’s Eric Gryba that crushed Montreal center Lars Eller. MacLean mentioned that Canadiens defenseman Raphael Diaz made a risky pass that put Eller in a vulnerable position.

Which, by the way, was a position shared by others around the hockey industry as well.

Regardless, it didn’t sit well with the Habs, who were understandably shaken by the loss of a teammate in such a gruesome way.

"We don't really care about what that bug-eyed fat walrus has to say," Montreal winger Brandon Prust said of the Senators coach.

OK, then.

Habs head coach Michel Therrien also showed his anger Friday morning, saying MacLean’s comment was "inappropriate" and that it showed a lack of respect for Eller. After the game Friday night, Therrien didn’t back down.

"It was not about the hit, the NHL dealt with that; it was about the comment, the lack of respect," the Canadiens coach said. "That was the reason I was upset. And not only me -- everyone involved with our team was upset about that."

MacLean stood firm when asked again Friday morning about his opinion on the hit, but the NHL obviously didn’t agree, slapping Gryba with a two-game suspension in the afternoon.

I can tell you that Thursday night in St. Louis, the hockey people I also spoke with in the press box felt it was a legal hit with an unfortunate result.

But the league’s player safety group, in handing out a two-game suspension, felt the principal point of contact was the head, and thus a Rule 48 infraction.

To be fair, regardless of which side you’re on with the hit, it was not clear-cut.

What is clear-cut, though, is that the Sens and Habs are en route to what’s shaping up to be a dandy of a series.

"This is how it’s going to go: It’s going to be a tough series," Senators star blue-liner Erik Karlsson, who was held in check this night, said.

So far, the goalies have swapped first stars, and that’s a storyline that will continue to have a major bearing on the series.

Craig Anderson stopped 48 shots in Game 1, and you wondered if he would quickly get into the heads of the Canadiens, but the Habs made him look a little more human Friday night. Montreal could ill afford to allow Anderson to steal two games in a row before heading into Ottawa, all the while squeezing their sticks.

"He’s a very good goalie," Gallagher, who has tallied twice on him in two games, said. "He makes the saves he’s supposed to make. But that said, there’s always ways to score, always ways to get in front of him, create traffic and make it tough on him. It’s just a matter of doing that more and more as the series goes on."

The Canadiens got to him Friday night with a three-goal second period, while Montreal netminder Carey Price responded with a terrific effort in stopping 29 of 30 shots after getting beaten four times in Game 1.

"Carey Price was really good tonight," Therrien said in French after the game. "He made key saves at the right time, which allowed us to gain momentum."

As if losing Eller wasn’t enough, the Canadiens also played Game 2 without winger Max Pacioretty and captain Brian Gionta, both out with upper-body injuries. In came Colby Armstrong, Jeff Halpern and Gabriel Dumont, and the Habs didn’t bat an eye.

"It’s character," Therrien said. "We showed that tonight, and we’ve showed it all season long."

The Habs hounded the Senators for most of the game Friday night with a forecheck that produced turnovers, banging bodies with a purpose, led by the likes of White.

"I think they were all over us from the start," Karlsson, whose ill-advised backhand pass in front of his own net handed White the opening goal, said.

"When they got up 3-1 late in the second, it put us [in] a big hole, and it seemed like we didn’t have the push we had yesterday," Alfredsson added.

It’s a win the Canadiens needed more, but Therrien said he didn’t ask his players for a bounceback performance. Given his team's 50-31 shot advantage Thursday night in Game 1, the Habs coach had a simple message Friday before the game.

"I really like the way we played both games. I told our team before the game and this morning when I addressed them, 'I’m not going to ask you to bounce back,'" Therrien said. "'Play the same way. Keep playing the same way.' As a coach, it’s the only thing we could ask."

Game 1 winners' chances are better

May, 1, 2013
5/01/13
10:14
PM ET
In best-of-seven series, the Game 1 winner has gone on to win the series 68.4% (405-187) of the time in NHL history. Here is a breakdown of how Game
1 winners have fared over the past five years.

2012: 11-4
2011: 10-5
2010: 7-8
2009: 9-6
2008: 12-3

Complete first-round playoff schedule

April, 28, 2013
4/28/13
11:31
PM ET
From the league's official release:

NHL ANNOUNCES 2013 STANLEY CUP CONFERENCE QUARTERFINAL SCHEDULE


NEW YORK (April 28, 2013) – The National Hockey League today announced the dates, times and national broadcast information for the 2013 Stanley Cup Conference Quarterfinal round, which begins Tuesday, April 30th. Information on the U.S. broadcast networks for games later in the round will be released as it is determined.

All times listed are ET and subject to change.

2013 EASTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS


SERIES A TIME (ET) #1 Pittsburgh vs. #8 NY Islanders Networks
Wednesday, May 1 7:30 p.m. NY Islanders at Pittsburgh NBC Sports Network, TSN
Friday, May 3 7 p.m. NY Islanders at Pittsburgh NBC Sports Network, TSN
Sunday, May 5 Noon Pittsburgh at NY Islanders NBC, TSN
Tuesday, May 7 7 p.m. Pittsburgh at NY Islanders NBC Sports Network, TSN
*Thursday, May 9 7 p.m. NY Islanders at Pittsburgh TSN
*Saturday, May 11 TBD Pittsburgh at NY Islanders TSN
*Sunday, May 12 TBD NY Islanders at Pittsburgh TSN

SERIES B TIME (ET) #2 Montreal vs. #7 Ottawa Networks
Thursday, May 2 7 p.m. Ottawa at Montreal CBC, RDS, CNBC
Friday, May 3 7 p.m. Ottawa at Montreal CBC, RDS, CNBC
Sunday, May 5 7 p.m. Montreal at Ottawa CBC, RDS, NBC Sports Network
Tuesday, May 7 7 p.m. Montreal at Ottawa CBC, RDS, CNBC
*Thursday, May 9 7 p.m. Ottawa at Montreal CBC, RDS
*Saturday, May 11 TBD Montreal at Ottawa CBC, RDS
*Sunday, May 12 TBD Ottawa at Montreal CBC, RDS

SERIES C TIME (ET) #3 Washington vs. #6 NY Rangers Networks
Thursday, May 2 7:30 p.m. NY Rangers at Washington NBC Sports Network, TSN
Saturday, May 4 12:30 p.m. NY Rangers at Washington NBC, TSN
Monday, May 6 7:30 p.m. Washington at NY Rangers NBC Sports Network, TSN
Wednesday, May 8 7:30 p.m. Washington at NY Rangers NBC Sports Network, TSN
*Friday, May 10 7:30 p.m. NY Rangers at Washington TSN
*Sunday, May 12 TBD Washington at NY Rangers TSN
*Monday, May 13 TBD NY Rangers at Washington TSN

SERIES D TIME (ET) #4 Boston vs. #5 Toronto Networks
Wednesday, May 1 7 p.m. Toronto at Boston CNBC, CBC, RDS
Saturday, May 4 7 p.m. Toronto at Boston CNBC, CBC, RDS
Monday, May 6 7 p.m. Boston at Toronto CBC, RDS, NHL Network U.S.
Wednesday, May 8 7 p.m. Boston at Toronto CBC, RDS, NHL Network U.S.
*Friday, May 10 7 p.m. Toronto at Boston CBC, RDS
*Sunday, May 12 TBD Boston at Toronto CBC, RDS
*Monday, May 13 TBD Toronto at Boston CBC, RDS
2013 WESTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS


SERIES E TIME (ET) #1 Chicago vs. #8 Minnesota Networks
Tuesday, April 30 8 p.m. Minnesota at Chicago NBC Sports Network, CBC
Friday, May 3 9:30 p.m. Minnesota at Chicago NBC Sports Network, CBC
Sunday, May 5 3 p.m. Chicago at Minnesota NBC, CBC
Tuesday, May 7 9:30 p.m. Chicago at Minnesota NBC Sports Network, CBC
*Thursday, May 9 TBD Minnesota at Chicago CBC
*Saturday, May 11 TBD Chicago at Minnesota CBC
*Sunday, May 12 TBD Minnesota at Chicago CBC

SERIES F TIME (ET) #2 Anaheim vs. #7 Detroit Networks
Tuesday, April 30 10:30 p.m. Detroit at Anaheim NBC Sports Network, TSN
Thursday, May 2 10 p.m. Detroit at Anaheim NBC Sports Network, TSN
Saturday, May 4 7:30 p.m. Anaheim at Detroit NBC Sports Network, TSN
Monday, May 6 8 p.m. Anaheim at Detroit CNBC, TSN
*Wednesday, May 8 10 p.m. Detroit at Anaheim TSN
*Friday, May 10 TBD Anaheim at Detroit TSN
*Sunday, May 12 TBD Detroit at Anaheim TSN


SERIES G TIME (ET) #3 Vancouver vs. #6 San Jose Networks
Wednesday, May 1 10:30 p.m. San Jose at Vancouver TSN, NBC Sports Network
Friday, May 3 10 p.m. San Jose at Vancouver TSN, CNBC
Sunday, May 5 10 p.m. Vancouver at San Jose NBC Sports Network, TSN
Tuesday, May 7 10 p.m. Vancouver at San Jose CNBC, TSN
*Thursday, May 9 10 p.m. San Jose at Vancouver TSN
*Saturday, May 11 TBD Vancouver at San Jose TSN
*Monday, May 13 TBD San Jose at Vancouver TSN

SERIES H TIME (ET) #4 St. Louis vs. #5 Los Angeles Networks
Tuesday, April 30 8 p.m. Los Angeles at St. Louis CNBC, CBC
Thursday, May 2 9:30 p.m. Los Angeles at St. Louis CNBC, CBC
Saturday, May 4 10 p.m. St. Louis at Los Angeles NBC Sports Network, CBC
Monday, May 6 10 p.m. St. Louis at Los Angeles NBC Sports Network, CBC
*Wednesday, May 8 TBD Los Angeles at St. Louis CBC
*Friday, May 10 TBD St. Louis at Los Angeles CBC
*Monday, May 13 TBD Los Angeles at St. Louis CBC

* if necessary
TBD – To Be Determined

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