St. Louis Blues (1) – Minnesota Wild (WC1)
The Wild won game 3 of the series in convincing fashion. Two goals from Jason Pominville and Zach Parise within 2:05 got them going with less than five minutes to go in the second and Minnesota never looked back. Nino Niederreiter scored his first of the playoffs into an empty Blues net at 57:58 to seal a 3-0 shutout victory. The Swiss forward was a plus-1 on the night with two shots on goal in 14:16 TOI.
St. Louis came out strong two days later and took an early 3-0 lead on goals from Ryan Reaves, Vladimir Tarasenko and captain David Backes. Nino Niederreiter had the first assist on Jared Spurgeon's 1-3 goal, but the Blues quickly answered with another goal from Paul Stastny before Tarasenko scored his already fifth goal of the playoffs on an unbelievable breakaway. Patrik Berglund topped off the 6-1 victory when he converted on a bad turnover. Niederreiter’s assist pushed his points total to two for the 2015 post-season. He had an even rating, two penalty minutes and two shots on goal in 16:26 worth of time on ice.
After a poor game four, goaltender Devan Dubnyk got a chance for redemption and managed to make up for the bad effort. He delivered a 37-save performance and allowed just one goal. The Wild took game five with a 4-1 win despite getting outshot 37-19. Once again, the Wild couldn’t contain Vladimir Tarasenko, who tallied another PP goal 8:04 in. The Wild tied the game on a blunder by Blues netminder Jake Allen who let a Scandella-slapshot tickle over his glove and into the net. Niederreiter put his Wild up 2-1 late in the second period after a nice give-and-go with Chris Stewart and an accurate shot past Allen. Mikko Koivu (deflected pass) and Charlie Coyle (wrister from the right circle) scored insurance markers to regain home ice advantage and a chance to close out the series on home ice. Niederreiter was a plus-1 on the night with two penalty minutes and one shot on goal in 15:43.
The Wild were looking to close out the series at home to avoid another game at Scottstrade Center. The 4-1 win on home ice now gives them a post-season rematch with the Chicago Blackhawks instead. Two goaltending errors by rookie Jake Allen allowed Minnesota to take a 2-0 lead (SHG by Parise from a weird angle, Fontaine five-hole shot) before TJ Oshie brought back hope with four seconds in the second period. The Wild hung on and iced the series with another Parise-goal and another empty-netter by Nino Niederreiter, who now has points in four straight games. Niederreiter had one goal, a plus-1 rating, two penalty minutes and two shots on goal in 16:47 TOI.
Minnesota's next matchup will be the Chicago Blackhawks.
MIN wins the series 4-2. (4-2 MIN, 1-4 STL, 3-0 MIN, 1-6 STL, 4-1 MIN, 4-1 MIN)
Nashville Predators (2) – Chicago Blackhawks (3)
The first game at United Center in Chicago was a crazy outing. Chicago’s 1-0 lead (Desjardins tip-in) was answered by Mike Ribeiro just 31 seconds later. Jonathan Toews put his team up 2-1 just 36 seconds into the middle frame, but Nashville came back and tied the game just 22 seconds later, this time on a goal from Mattias Ekholm. Chicago took another lead when Brandon Saad scored on a quick rush and this time, the Predators were unable to answer to what proved to be the game-winner. Brent Seabrook scored his first of the post-season to push the score to 4-2 and give the Hawks a 2-1 series lead. Roman Josi was a minus-3 on the night with four shots on net in 28:32 TOI.
After a crazy 2OT game in the first outing, no one thought this could be topped. Game four in Chicago then proved everyone wrong. In a game that spanned two days, had 100 combined shots on goal and 101:00 of playing time, the Blackhawks defeated the Predators 3-2 in triple overtime. Colin Wilson’s opening goal was answered by a lucky whack at the puck from Chicago’s Antoine Vermette just 1:27 later. The Preds took the lead again on a lucky bounce of their own, but got forced into overtime again after Brandon Saad’s perfect wrist shot from the slot tied the game at two. After two overtime periods without a goal, Brent Seabrook’s shot through traffic beat Pekka Rinne just one minute into the third additional frame. Roman Josi set a new franchise record for TOI with 45:06 (minus-1 rating, seven shots on goal), while Kevin Fiala made his post season debut and had a minus-1 rating and two shots on goal in 11:05.
Filip Forsberg’s first post-season hattrick helped the Preds avoid relegation in game five. After the Hawks took the lead, Forsberg’s quick snipe surprised Scott Darling and tied the game at 1. Three goals within 2:27 by James Neal, Colin Wilson and Forsberg gave Nashville a comfortable 4-1 lead before Kris Versteeg brought the Hawks back within two on a beautiful spin-o-rama-feed by Patrick Kane. The Hawks pulled their goaltender but couldn’t find the back of the net again and instead allowed Filip Forsberg to score his third of the evening for a final score of 5-2. Josi saw 24:47 minutes of ice time, Kevin Fiala was a healthy scratch.
The Preds’ aspirations of forcing an all-deciding game 7 back home in Nashville were underlined by James Neal’s third and fourth goals of the playoff. Nonetheless, a flurry of goals in the last ten minutes of the first period led to a first period with six goals, three goals apiece. The Blackhawks’ experienced core group rose to the occasion and stepped up with 3:48 to go, when Duncan Keith marked his second goal of the 2015 playoffs to give him three points on the night, along with Jonathan Toews’ three-point night and both Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane’s two-point games. Josi couldn’t help his team avoid elimination with a minus-1 rating and one shot on goal in 27:27, while Kevin Fiala once again followed the game from the press box.
CHI eliminates NSH 4-2. (4-3 CHI, 2-6 NSH, 4-2 CHI, 3-2 CHI, 2-5 NSH, 4-3 CHI, 4-3 CHI)
Vancouver Canucks (2) – Calgary Flames (3)
The Flames, supported by a sea of red (all the fans dressed red), took a 2-1 series lead in a convincing fashion. Backed by Jonas Hiller’s 23 saves, the Flames stormed to a 4-2 win on goals from Brandon Bollig, TJ Brodie, 2014 4th overall pick Sam Bennett and Sean Monahan. The Canucks didn’t play at their best and only managed to beat Hiller twice. Matthias tied the game at one a bit more than nine minutes in, Jannik Hansen beat Hiller with a glove-side snipe with less than three minutes to play. Ronalds Kenins picked up an assist on Hansen’s goal and was a plus-1 on the night in 9:40 TOI. On the Canucks’ blueline, Luca Sbisa saw 17:49 worth of ice time (even rating, five penalty minutes, one shot on goal), while Yannick Weber received 20:06 TOI (minus-2, two penalty minutes, three shots on goal).
The Flames came within one win of advancing to the next round with another win at the Saddledome in game four. Calder-nominee Johnny Gaudreau opened the score 3:23 in on the powerplay on a beautiful passing play, before Henrik Sedin opened his post-season scoring account with a PP goal of his own. Another two first period goals from Jiri Hudler (deflection on the PP) and Sam Bennett (perfect shot from a sharp angle) gave the Flames a 3-1 lead going into the first intermission. Jonas Hiller kept out all of Vancouver’s 18 shots in the remaining 40 minutes to secure a 3-1 win despite getting outshot 29-22, earning him second-star honors. Ronalds Kenins played 10:41 but couldn’t find a way onto the score sheet (2 penalty minutes), while Luca Sbisa had a minus-1 rating in 16:43 and Yannick Weber generated two shots on net in 20:16.
The Canucks delivered a near-perfect effort in game five to send the series back to Calgary at 2-3. Unimpressed by an early goal from Calgary’s David Jones after a defensive fluke, the Canucks generated 43 shots, beating Hiller twice (Nick Bonino, Daniel Sedin), while being defensively solid. Ronalds Kenins saw 9:43 of ice time (two penalty minutes, one shot on goal), while newly called-up Sven Bärtschi was a plus-1 in 8:57 of ice time. Luca Sbisa played 19:32 (three shots on net), while fellow D Yannick Weber had two attempts on goal in 19:57.
Unable to replicate the solid defensive effort from game six, the Vancouver Canucks saw their season come to an end on Saturday night. The Canucks could not hold on to a 3-0 lead and allowed seven goals in a 4-7 loss. Only 09:42 into the first period, goals from Brandon McMillan, Jannik Hansen and Radim Vrbata had the Canucks up 3-0. Calgary lived up to their name as one of the best comeback-teams in the whole National Hockey League and went on to score seven of the next eight goals. Led by Jiri Hudler, who had a four point night, the Flames four third-period goals from Hudler (2), Ferland and Stajan turned a 3-4 into a 7-4 win. Jonas Hiller got the hook after allowing two goals on three shots just 7:32 into the game, while backup Karri Ramo allowed Luca Sbisa to score his first playoff goal in a Vancouver sweater. Sbisa played 16:44 and had one goal, an even rating and two shots on goal. Yannick Weber had a minus-2 rating in 17:45, while Sven Bärtschi played 10:22 and was a minus-1 on the night. Ronalds Kenins shared Raphael Diaz’s fate and was scratched.
Calgary will now face Jonas Hiller's former team, the Anaheim Ducks.
CGY advances with a 4-2 series win. (2-1 CGY, 1-4 VAN, 4-2 CGY, 3-1 CGY, 1-2 VAN, 7-4 CGY)
Anaheim Ducks (1) – Winnipeg Jets (WC2): ANA sweeps WPG 4-0. (2-4 ANA, 1-2 ANA, 4-5 ANA, 2-5 ANA)
Montreal Canadiens (1) – Ottawa Senators (WC1): MTL wins the series 4-2. (3-4 MTL, 2-3 MTL, 1-2 MTL, 1-0 OTT, 5-1 OTT, 0-2 MTL)
Tampa Bay Lightning (2) – Detroit Red Wings (3): DET leads 3-2. (3-2 DET, 1-5 TBL, 3-0 DET, 2-3 TBL, 4-0 DET)
New York Rangers (1) – Pittsburgh Penguins (WC2): NYR clinch series 4-1. (1-2 NYR, 4-3 PIT, 1-2 NYR, 1-2 NYR, 1-2 NYR)
Washington Capitals (2) – New York Islanders (3): Series tied at 3. (4-1 NYI, 3-4 WSH, 2-1 NYI, 1-2 WSH, 1-5 WSH, 3-1 NYI)