Three teams -- the Florida Panthers, Edmonton Oilers and Minnesota Wild -- faced elimination on Monday. Two survived. Edmonton nearly lived another day, but Winnipeg knocked the Oilers out in triple-overtime, sealing a series sweep. The loss sets up another long offseason for Connor McDavid & Co.
Tuesday night brings a lighter slate, with just two games. But that includes a key Game 5 matchup between the Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators, while the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens don't have much time to think about Monday's game, as they'll face off again tonight.
Check out the ESPN NHL Playoffs Daily to catch up every day of the postseason until the Stanley Cup is handed out in July.
The Maple Leafs haven't won a playoff series since 2004 but have a golden opportunity to take control of this series tonight, the second half of a back-to-back. If you think that means Montreal may give the net to someone other than Carey Price -- who is in Playoff Carey Price mode -- think again. Habs coach Dominique Ducharme already said the 33-year-old will get the nod again Tuesday. (The Leafs have said they'll make a decision on their netminder Tuesday morning.) There's extra motivation for Montreal to win this one: It would guarantee a Game 6 in Montreal on Saturday. The Quebec government is allowing 2,500 fans into the Bell Centre for that one, which would represent the first crowd for a Canadian NHL game since the beginning of the pandemic.
Just like the regular season, we all counted the Predators out. Once again, this resilient group has roared back to make things interesting. Juuse Saros faced more shots (181) than any goaltender through four games so far, and stopped 171 of them. Saros and the Preds have been extremely effective on the penalty kill, limiting Carolina to 2-of-14 (14.3%). The Canes have been the speedier team and are more talented, but they've now dropped two straight. Though Carolina is typically lauded for its blue-line depth, the Canes seem to be struggling to fill the shoes of Jaccob Slavin, who hasn't played since Game 1. "We know what's going on. He's just got to feel good. He's got to feel like he can play," coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "He just doesn't feel like that yet."
About last night
For most of this game, the Penguins were the team with more urgency. If not for Ilya Sorokin -- who seems to have taken full control over the Islanders' net -- this could have been ugly. The Pens were even riding the good mojo of an Evgeni Malkin goal, his first in the playoffs in more than two years. But the Isles stuck with it, despite being peppered by 50 shots, through double-overtime. Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry had bounced back after a shaky Game 1, but he'll want this one back. The overtime winner was the result of a careless giveaway by the Pens goalie, after which Josh Bailey beat him on his glove side. On Thursday, the Islanders have the chance to clinch the series in front of what should be a wild crowd at Nassau Coliseum. Full recap.
The Canadiens finally dressed rookie Cole Caufield, and he was so good -- three shots on goal and one off the crossbar -- you wonder why he didn't slot in sooner. But the Canadiens remained stifled offensively, with Jack Campbell posting a .951 save percentage through three contests. Meanwhile, Toronto is enjoying a red-hot William Nylander, who scored his third goal in as many games. Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe is quite happy about Nylander's game, especially in the absence of two key forwards, John Tavares (out at least two weeks) and Nick Foligno (day to day). "I think I was most impressed with, in the third period, he battled his a-- off along the wall," Keefe said of Nylander. "He's playing a real nice, complete game for us. He's given us real hard shifts." Full recap.
The Lightning scored 19 goals over the first four games in this series. It's one of the reasons Florida coach Joel Quenneville turned to his third goalie, rookie Spencer Knight, in the pivotal Game 5. The defending champs scored a goal on Knight on the first shot he faced. Then the 20-year-old stopped the next 36 shots he faced to seal the win with a blistering .973 save percentage. Mason Marchment scored his second goal of the series, matching his total from 33 regular-season games, and his team stayed disciplined, allowing the high-powered Lightning power play only two opportunities in this game. Jonathan Huberdeau now has eight assists in the series. His 10 points lead all players in these playoffs so far. Full recap.
The Oilers took a lead into the third period once again. It wasn't as epic of a collapse as we saw Sunday, but losing a game like this, in triple-overtime, is just as devastating, especially when it seals a disappointing first-round sweep. Connor McDavid finally scored in this series, but it wasn't enough for his team, which will face plenty of offseason questions. (Especially: Why didn't GM Ken Holland think it was appropriate to go all-in this season?) By playing 62:07 minutes, Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse put up the third-highest workload in a Stanley Cup playoff game, trailing only Seth Jones (65:06 last summer) and Sergei Zubov (63:51 in 2003). And Nurse did it a day after playing 31:18 in Game 3. Mark Scheifele (two goals) was terrific for Winnipeg, but it was Kyle Connor who played hero in the end with the game-winning goal. Full recap.
The Golden Knights were looking to close a playoff series out at home for the first time in franchise history. However, Marc-Andre Fleury, making his fifth consecutive start, uncharacteristically allowed three first-period goals, which put Vegas in a hole. "I think if we come with the same effort we'll get a different result, but we can't be down 3-1 after the first period," Golden Knights captain Mark Stone said. "It finally cost us. We've been down in a couple games and been able to claw our way back, but today we just couldn't get it done." That was basically the story of the Golden Knights, who outshot the Wild 40-14. Kirill Kaprizov scored his first career playoff goal, but perhaps more interestingly, Minnesota also got a goal from Zach Parise -- the $8 million-per-year veteran who was a healthy scratch when the playoffs began. Full recap.
Three stars of the night
He became the first player to appear in an NCAA and Stanley Cup playoffs elimination game in the same season. The Boston College product, who is 20 years, 35 days old, also became the youngest goalie to win a playoff game since Tom Barrasso for the Sabres in 1985.
Tonight's elimination game was Spencer Knight's seventh elimination game he's played in *this season*. World Juniors, Hockey East, NCAA, Stanley Cup Playoffs. He's gone 5-2 with a .927 save percentage in those games which included a shutout in the WJC gold medal game.— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) May 25, 2021
It was the first triple-overtime game in Jets/Thrashers franchise history, and Connor scored the game winner. In a series with some spectacular Connors (McDavid, Hellebuyck) the Jets' underrated top-line winger emerged the hero.
Before the game, coach Barry Trotz said he wanted more out of his top line. He got it, with Bailey scoring his second career playoff overtime winner against Pittsburgh (the other came in the first round in 2019). Bailey also assisted on Anthony Beauvillier's first-period goal. His wife's reaction says it all.
Highlight of the day
Carey Price didn't have the best regular season, posting a .901 save percentage through 25 starts. But Playoff Price is all that matters. He's in peak form right now, even though it still wasn't good enough to steal the win for his team Monday night. (It would help if they scored more than four goals through their first three games.)
Quote of the day
"It's still hockey, right?"
-- Knight, after an epic performance to win his first playoff start.