NHL Rink Wrap: Weekend full of Game 7s; Panthers finally advance
• Thanks to Friday’s results we now have five Game 7s this weekend, with the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers, as well as the Dallas Stars and Calgary Flames joining the fun on Sunday night.
• The Florida Panthers are advancing to the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 26 years.
• Jake Oettinger is trying to steal a series for the Dallas Stars.
Game 6: New York Rangers 5, Pittsburgh Penguins 3 (Series tied 3-3)
Igor Shesterkin may not be playing at his normal level for the New York Rangers, but he is still outplaying Louis Domingue. And that is giving the Rangers a chance to erase a 3-1 series deficit and get this thing to a Game 7 on Sunday night in New York. Domingue picked the absolute worst team to give up a brutal goal, allowing an innocent shot from the blue line with two minutes left to bounce off of him and roll into the net. The Penguins have let consecutive two-goal leads slip away with chances to close out the series and now find themselves playing in a winner-take-all Game 7 on the road. That has to sting.
Game 6: Florida Panthers 4, Washington Capitals 3 (FLA wins series 4-2)
For the first time in 26 years the Florida Panthers are advancing to the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They won a wild game in Washington on Friday night to eliminate the Capitals thanks to another great effort from Carter Verhaeghe, scoring his second overtime goal of the series. This one was a series clincher and has the Panthers awaiting the Tampa Lightning or Toronto Maple Leafs.
Game 6: Dallas Stars 4, Calgary Flames 2 (Series tied 3-3)
The Dallas Stars forced the fifth Game 7 of the weekend thanks to their 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames. This was probably the most exciting game of the series in terms of overall pace of play, and the Stars were able to take it thanks to another great performance from Jake Oettinger in goal. Dallas always seems to have a way of making the playoffs difficult for their opponents when they get in, and this season looks to be no different.
[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 First Round schedule, TV info]
Three Stars in NHL for Friday (Twelth day of playoffs)
1. Mika Zibanejad, New York Rangers
Zibanejad has had a tough series for the Rangers to this point, struggling in his head-to-head matchup with Sidney Crosby. But with Crosby out of the lineup on Friday night in Game 6 Zibanejad was finally able to break through with a huge performance to help the Rangers force a Game 7 on Sunday night. Zibanejad scored two goals (he was briefly credited with the game-winning goal for an apparent hat trick; but it was later changed to Chis Kreider) and had another shot ring off the post. They needed him to come through with their season on the line, and he did.
2. Carter Verhaeghe, Florida Panthers
The Panthers’ First Round win was not about Jonathan Huberdeau or Aleksander Barkov. It was all about Verhaeghe. He recorded 12 points (six goals, six assists) in the six games, including nine over the final three games. He also scored two-game-winning goals in overtime, including the series-clincher on Friday. He was one of the many great finds by the Panthers front office over the past couple of years that has helped them assemble the league’s best offense.
3. Jake Oettinger, Dallas Stars
Oettinger has been a difference-maker for the Stars in this series, and he was fantastic again on Friday night in stopping 36 out of 38 shots to help the Stars force a Game 7 against Calgary. In six games in this series he has a .954 save percentage (tops in the league among all playoff goalies) and is giving his team a chance every single night. The Stars entered the season with four NHL goalies on their roster, and it has been Oettinger to emerge from the pack to solidify the position. He is a major reason they are still playing and have a chance to advance on Sunday night.
SATURDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
Game 7: Boston Bruins vs. Carolina Hurricanes (Series tied 3-3), 4:30 p.m. ET -- ESPN
Game 7: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (Series tied 3-3), 7 p.m. ET -- TNT
Game 7: Los Angeles Kings vs. Edmonton Oilers (Series tied 3-3), 10 p.m. ET -- ESPN
• NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info
• First Round, Stanley Cup predictions
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• Why your team will (and will not) win the Stanley Cup