There is nothing like the opening night of the Stanley Cup playoffs. While other sports usually have their best series in the Final, as far as the NHL goes, the best round is the opening round when teams are fresh and not as injured as they are two months later, if they can survive that long.
It was a wild night (and Minnesota didn't even play) as their were stars in every game, starting with Nikita Kucherov in Tampa Bay, Patric Hornqvist and Jeff Zatkoff in Pittsburgh and David Backes and Brian Elliott in St. Louis.
All three home teams won and that does not happen very often in the first round of the playoffs.
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TAMPA BAY 3 DETROIT 2
The Red Wings fought back as Mike Green and Justin Abdelkader each scored early in the second stanza before Kucherov’s second of the game tied things up heading into the third period.
Johnson had a couple of assists as the line combined for seven points including Killorn’s assist on the first Kucherov marker.
Ben Bishop was a force in the Tampa Bay net as he stopped 34 of 36 shots for the victory. The Lightning are without Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman and were considered by many to be an underdog in the series, even with the home ice advantage.
Jimmy Howard made 31 saves for the loss. He has been the Red Wings top netminder of late but Detroit could look to Petr Mrazek who was the starter for most of the season, in Game 2 despite the solid effort on Wednesday from Howard.
Brian Boyle and Abdelkader led their respective teams in hits with six and five apiece.
PITTSBURGH 5 NEW YORK RANGERS 2
Patric Hornqvist had the hat trick and an assist to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 5-2 win over the New York Rangers in Game 1.
It was a big night for Sidney Crosby as well as he chipped in with a goal and two helpers.
Jeff Zatkoff was the starter as Marc-Andre Fleury was unable to go as he still is not 100 percent after suffering a concussion a couple of weeks ago. Matt Murray had been starting for the Penguins in the absence of Fleury but he sustained a head injury on the weekend and was unable to go.
Zatkoff was terrific in his first post-season start in the NHL as he made 35 saves for the win. Derek Stepan was the only Ranger to beat him as he did it twice, both in the third period.
Ben Lovejoy was the unsung hero of the game as he broke up a pass that would have resulted in an easy Ranger goal with the score only 2-1 Pittsburgh. The Penguins then came down the ice and Tom Kuhnhackl scored his first of the playoffs on a shorthanded effort. Instead of a 2-2 tie, Kuhnhackl made it 3-1 and the Penguins went on from there.
Henrik Lundqvist started in goal for the Rangers but took an inadvertent stick from teammate Marc Staal to the eye late in the first period. He continued as there was less than a minute to go but Hornqvist opened the scoring with only 18 seconds left in the period. Lundqvist did not start the second period as Antti Raanta took over the remainder of the game.
Lundqvist stopped 10 of 11 shots while Raanta gave up three goals on 19 shots. Lundqvist is questionable for Game 2 as coach Alain Vigneault said that he was day-to-day after the game.
ST. LOUIS 1 CHICAGO 0 (Overtime)
David Backes scored the only goal of the game as he banked a shot in off Trevor van Riemsdyk at the 9:04 mark of the first overtime to give the Blues a 1-0 win and a 1-0 lead over Chicago in the best-of-seven series.
The Blackhawks outshot the Blues 35-18 but couldn’t put a pea past Brian Elliott in the St. Louis cage.
Corey Crawford stopped 17 shots and obviously could not be blamed for the goal. He returned to action for the first time on Saturday after missing almost a month with an upper body injury. He gave up five goals on 25 shots in the loss Saturday but needed that game to be sharp on Wednesday.
Duncan Keith was not in the lineup as he was serving the final game of his six-game suspension. He was sorely missed and gives the Blackhawks an added dimension offensively and on the blueline for Game 2 and beyond.
Jonathan Toews led the way with seven shots on goal while Andrew Ladd had eight hits. Ladd was slated to miss the game as he was in Chicago earlier in the day to be with his wife for the birth of their child but he got to St. Louis in time to play.