Here's what happened in the NHL last night (check out replays of every playoff game on ESPN+), and what to watch for today, in the latest edition of ESPN Stanley Cup Playoffs Daily:
About last night ...
Game 6: St. Louis Blues 3, Winnipeg Jets 2 (Blues win series 4-2) Jaden Schwartz built on his game-winning goal from Game 5 to score a natural hat trick in Game 6, accounting for all the goals as the Blues eliminated the Jets in their first-round series. In the process, St. Louis became the first home team to win a game in that series. The Blues built a 3-0 lead that started with Schwartz's goal just 23 seconds into the game, the fastest by a Blues player in the postseason since 1995. Rookie goalie Jordan Binnington had to make only 18 stops in the game in back of a stout Blues defense that once again managed to keep the Jets' offense in check. Winnipeg scored two or fewer goals in four of six games in the series.
Game 5: Washington Capitals 6, Carolina Hurricanes 0 (Capitals lead series 3-2) The Capitals rolled the overmatched Hurricanes in Game 5 after dropping two straight in Raleigh. They had lost forward T.J. Oshie to a broken collarbone on what they felt was a cheap hit from Warren Foegele. So this was a cathartic win. Nicklas Backstrom had two goals and two assists and Braden Holtby pitched a 30-save shutout. But it was the Capitals' special teams that did the trick here: three power-play goals and a penalty kill that thwarted all five Carolina power plays.
Game 5: Dallas Stars 5, Nashville Predators 3 (Stars lead series 3-2) There are so many red flags here for the Predators. Their defense and goaltending have allowed 10 goals in two games against the third-worst offense in the NHL during the regular season (2.55 goals per game). The Stars are getting depth scoring from the Jason Dickinson/Roope Hintz line. And Pekka Rinne, who used to bounce back like a super happy fun ball from starts in which he was pulled ... well, he gave up five goals on 26 shots behind a leaky defense. Can the Predators stave off elimination in Dallas on Monday?
1. Jaden Schwartz, LW, St. Louis Blues. He was just the third player in NHL history to score all three of his team's goals in a series-clinching game, and the fourth player in franchise history to record a hat trick in a series-clinching win in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He scored 23 seconds into the game, then 12:36 into the second on the power play and completed the trick at 3:55 of the third. A redemptive moment for a player who had one of his worst regular seasons as a pro.
2. Nicklas Backstrom, C, Washington Capitals. The Capitals won the Stanley Cup last season on the strength of their star players rising to the occasion whenever adversity hit. Well, it hit hard in Carolina, and Backstrom's two goals and two assists set things right (for the moment) for the Capitals back at home.
3. Jamie Benn, LW, Dallas Stars. The Stars abused the Predators' defense in Game 5, and that was never more evident than on this Jamie Benn power move, bumping Ryan Ellis off the puck and sending a perfect pass to Alexander Radulov. Benn had three assists in the win and matched the NHL playoff record for most assists in a single period with three in the second.
Jamie Benn just going to work pic.twitter.com/VraxJxMju0 - Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 20, 2019
Play of the night
Nic Dowd with a sweet move on a penalty shot for Washington, scoring the first postseason penalty shot goal in franchise history, just in case you were wondering if everything went right for the Capitals in this game.
Dud of the night
Another night, another absolutely baffling goalie interference call in the Stanley Cup playoffs, although since this was the infamous Tim Peel crew, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. The Capitals have to kill off a Carolina power play despite the fact that Jordan Staal sent John Carlson into goalie Petr Mrazek. Maybe one day we'll all agree what interference is. Hopefully before the sun is extinguished.
On the schedule
The Leafs are going for their first playoff series victory since 2004, trying to defeat their primary postseason tormentors and avoid the Game 7 back in Boston that we all felt was an inevitability since these two teams were seeded to meet. "We know the formula for us to win tomorrow, we know that. Now we've got to do it. It's great to know the answers, but now you've got to do it every day, and that's the hardest part, and sometimes at home you get a little carried away. Let's just play," said coach Mike Babcock.
There were two developments in Game 5 that should give the Sharks some hope. The first is that Martin Jones played his best game since Game 1, a product of better support around his crease and the Sharks (finally) scoring the first goal of the game. The second was the return of defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who helped cool down the Knights' torrid Mark Stone line. Vegas coach Gerard Gallant told ESPN that he won't be looking to get Stone, Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny away from Vlasic and Brent Burns, claiming that Vegas is deep enough not to line match. Can San Jose send this thing back home for a Game 7, or are the expensive veteran Sharks one-and-done?
Social post of the day
In which Game 5 anthem singer Gavin DeGraw learns the harsh lesson that ice is slippery.
"I would have probably ate it." -- Ryan Reaves, Vegas Golden Knights forward, on what he would have done if a San Jose Sharks fan had thrown a muffin on the ice in Game 5. Sharks forward Evander Kane said fighting Reaves was like fighting "The Muffin Man" earlier in the series.