It's hard to believe that we had a total of just eight overtime games during the Stanley Cup playoffs last season. We have had four games out of six so far during the conference semifinals which required at least one extra session, and a double-overtime game on Saturday. Overall in the postseason we have had a total of 12 games which could not be settled during regulation, and we're not even halfway to the pursuit for Lord Stanley's Cup. Yes, all four division winners are out. But it's a wide-open tournament now, and the margin of error is razor thin. That's making for compelling games and tremendous excitement for hockey fans everywhere. Let's get started!
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Dallas Stars 4, St. Louis Blues 2
It's a rarity in these playoffs when a game doesn't go to overtime, but that's what happens in Saturday's Western Conference Semifinal battle between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues. The Stars can thank Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop for helping to square this series 1-1, as he made 32 saves on 34 shots, continuing his outstanding play from the regular season.Bishop cannot do it alone, though, and he obviously needs offensive support. And we're seeing a star in the making in Roope Hintz. He posted two goals with an assist and a plus-2 rating with three shots on net, a blocked shot and a minor penalty across 15:01 of ice time across 28 shifts. The Finnish left wing managed just nine goals and 22 points across 58 regular-season games, but he had just one two-goal game during the regular season back on March 12 in Buffalo. However, he has managed four goals and seven points with a plus-4 rating over his past five playoff games, including a pair of multi-goal performances.
Jason Dickinson and Mats Zuccarello also joined Hintz in the multi-point club, posting a pair of assists apiece. That's what the Stars were looking for from Zuccarello when he was acquired from the New York Rangers, but he started off a bit slow in the Metroplex after suffering a broken arm in his very first game in green and white. He is back and getting comfortable with his teammates, posting three goals and six points through eight postseason games so far, and he has been even or positive in the plus/minus category in each of his nine appearances in Dallas since coming over from the Blueshirts.
Miro Heiskanen had been blanked since Game 1 of the opening round against the Nashville Predators, but he got on the board with an even-strength marker while posting a plus-3 rating and four shots. Mattias Janmark scored his first goal of the postseason, and it stood up as the game-winning tally. He looks good in two games back from a lower-body injury. The marker was his first since Feb. 28 in Los Angeles, and the game-winning tally was Jan. 20, 2018 in Buffalo.
Rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington coughed up three goals on 34 shots in a losing effort, but he was anything but shaky. Still, he needs to be better than Bishop, and there aren't many equal to that task right now.
Columbus Blue Jackets 3, Boston Bruins 2 (2OT)
The B's dumped the Jackets in overtime in Game 1, but the team which swept the No. 1 overall seed in the NHL wasn't going to go quietly into the night. The Jackets were able to return the favor in Game 2 and even the score in the third double-overtime game in the past five days.
It didn't start out so hot for the Jackets, as Josh Anderson took an interference penalty at 6:29 of the first period. Just 81 seconds it was Matt Grzelcyk striking on the power play on assists from Charlie McAvoy and David Krejci. That sent the home crowd into a frenzy, and that's how the game stood until the second period. Artemi Panarin responded just 1:03 into the second with a power-play goal of his own, taking advantage of a cross-checking penalty on Brad Marchand to wrap up the first period.
David Pastrnak answered right back, just 62 seconds after Panarin, making it 2-1 in the seesaw affair. Josh Anderson was whistled for a high-stick double-minor midway through the second, but the Jackets were able to kill it off. The penalty kill appeared to give the Jackets a huge injection of energy, as it was Panarin striking shortly after for his second of the night, and fourth of the postseason. He ended up with the two goals, an assist, four shots on net and a pair of hits in 32:10 of ice time across a team-high 41 shifts among the forwards. Sean Jones led all Columbus skaters with 38:01 of ice time and 48 shifts, as head coach John Tortorella leaned upon him heavily and the All-Star rearguard delivered. Jones finished with two assists and a plus-1 rating with three blocked shots and five hits. Anderson might have racked up six PIM, but he also has six hits, one of eight Jackets with four or more hits in the game.
Chris Wagner didn't etch his name onto the scoresheet, but he had a team-best seven hits. Zdeno Chara had six hits and a plus-1 rating, while Charlie Coyle, Sean Kuraly and Joakim Nordstrom were able to register four hits apiece in the hard-hitting game. Noel Acciari also didn't get onto the scoresheet, but he contributed in other way. He led the team with five blocked shots while adding two hits.
The third period had plenty of defense, as did the first overtime period. There were plenty of great scoring chances, especially by the Jackets, but Tuukka Rask continually shut the door to keep the game square at 2-2. He ended up with 38 saves on the night, but he was the victim of a power-play goal at 3:42 of overtime, thanks to a tripping call on Patrice Bergeron at 2:59 of OT. Matt Duchene picked up the game-winning tally on assists from Panarin and Cam Atkinson. The 38 saves tied a season high, as he also had 38 saves in Game 4 against the Maple Leafs. It's a mark he also hit twice during the regular season. Bergeron's penalty might have made him the goat, and not the G.O.A.T. in a good way, but he was a very impressive 20-for-26 (76.9 percent) inside the faceoff circle. Kuraly was also 11-for-15 (73.3 percent) in the losing effort.