• We will have three Game 7s on Saturday night thanks to wins by Boston, Tampa Bay, and Edmonton on Thursday night.
• The Toronto Maple Leafs miss another chance to advance in a way that only they can.
• The St. Louis Blues are advancing to the Second Round for a rematch with the Colorado Avalanche.
Given the way the regular season series between these two teams went, and the way this playoff series started, it is hard to believe these two teams would be going to a Game 7. But they are thanks to Boston’s convincing win on Thursday night that was highlighted by a balanced Bruins offensive attack, a stellar defensive effort that limited Carolina to just 25 shots on goal, and 23 saves from starting goalie Jeremy Swayman. After losing five consecutive games to Carolina, Boston has now won three of the past four and is just one game away from advancing.
The Toronto Maple Leafs were 10 minutes away from winning their first playoff series in 18 years. Just 10 minutes. But a pair of high-sticking penalties, a Nikita Kucherov 5-on-3 goal, and an unfortunate sequence of events in overtime allowed the Lightning to even the series and send this series to a massive Game 7 on Saturday night in Toronto. The Maple Leafs are the ones facing all of the pressure, needing to re-write the narrative of postseason failure that has followed them around for the past five years.
We now know if at least one Second Round matchup that is set. The St. Louis Blues are moving on to face the Colorado Avalanche thanks to a convincing 5-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday. The Blues wrapped up this series by winning three consecutive games, scoring five goals in each contest. Their offense is one of the best in the NHL and it was on display in this series. Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko both scored five goals in the series, while the goalie switch in Game 4 to go from Ville Husso to Jordan Binnington helped swing the series in St. Louis’ favor.
The Edmonton Oilers fought off elimination by defeating the Los Angeles Kings by a 4-2 margin on Thursday, sending the series to a decisive seventh game on Saturday. The Oilers allowed a two-goal lead to slip away and it seemed as if they might be headed for another disappointing first-round exit. But Tyson Barrie scored the game-winning goal with just under six minutes to play in regulation, the Oilers killed off a late penalty, and Evander Kane added an empty net goal (his second goal of the game) to secure the win.
McDavid was sensational on Thursday, almost single-handedly willing the Oilers to victory. He played more than 24 minutes, scored an absolutely beautiful goal to open the scoring in the first period, and then added two assists, including the helper on Barrie’s game-winning goal late in the third period to cap off an incredible shift. He now has 12 points in the first six games of the series. If they do not win, it will not be his fault.
Vasilevskiy’s numbers are not what they typically are, especially what we are used to seeing from him in the playoffs, but he played a sensational game on Thursday to help the Lightning push their series to a decisive seventh game. He was at his best in the third period and overtime when Toronto was really pushing the play, giving his teammates an opportunity to get the game-winning goal. He made several stops on prime scoring chances in overtime.
He has been the Bruins’ best player this postseason and he was great again on Thursday. He opened the scoring just 46 seconds into the second period and added an assist on Charlie Coyle’s power play goal later in the period to continue his great playoff run. With his two points on Thursday he now has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his first six games this postseason while also playing his usual great defensive game. He is simply one of the best players in the league, and he is playing like it right now. Without him this series might already be over in Carolina’s favor.
FRIDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
Game 6: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers (PIT leads series 3-2), 7 p.m. ET -- TNT Game 6: Washington Capitals vs. Florida Panthers (FLA leads series 3-2), 7:30 p.m. ET -- TBS Game 6: Calgary Flames vs. Dallas Stars (CGY leads series 3-2), 9:30 p.m. ET -- TNT
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