If the NHL Playoffs are going to continue on like they started, hockey fans around the globe are going to be in for quite the treat. On Wednesday night’s opener, three games were played, all of which were only separated by one goal. In two games, the top-seeded team utilized their home ice advantage to get wins, while Tampa Bay was upset in their opening game against Montreal. Here’s a look at the first nights action in each game.
The Canadians and Lightning opened things up down in Tampa to start the 2014 NHL Playoffs. This game was continually back and forth, as each team answered with a goal whenever the other scored. To start things off, Tampa Bay got on the board first with a goal from Nikkita Kucherov. However, just 21 seconds later, Thomas Pieknec evened things up for Montreal. The Bolts would then score again first in the second off a goal from the captain, Steven Stamkos, and this time it would take the Canadians just over three minutes before they evened things up on a Brian Gionta shorthanded goal. Both teams scored on two separate occasions in the third period, starting with Montreal and then shifting back to Tampa, back to Montreal and then Tampa once again. Then, with just under two minutes left in overtime, Dale Weise was able to score to put Montreal up, without any time left on the clock for Tampa Bay to get it back. For a team that lost three out of four on the season series, stealing game one on the road is just what Montreal needed in this round-one matchup. Game two is on Friday, as Tampa will look to try and get at least one game on their home ice.
In the second game of the night, the Penguins were able to knock off the Blue Jackets, though it was a much closer effort than many would’ve assumed. The Penguins have won every regular season game between these two teams this year, but that didn’t stop Columbus from coming out and scoring two goals in the first period, which would require the Penguins to come back in the second. Pittsburgh had 10 total giveaways on the evening, while the Blue Jackets had just 2. However, the Blue Jackets had 21 more hits than Pittsburgh, as they came out ready to play physical, which obviously appeared to work against Pittsburgh’s more finesse style of play. Despite the close score, Pittsburgh will take the win on their home ice. But they’ll certainly like to have less of a scare when they play again on Saturday night.
In another #4 vs. #1, the Anaheim Ducks were dangerously close to losing their first home game as well. The Ducks came out swinging as they scored three goals in the first period and another in the second, going up 4-0 just under half way through the period. However, the Stars would finally get on the board and score twice in the final four minutes of the second. Tyler Seguin also scored in the third period, but that was the only goal to be had in the final 20-minutes. The end result is a too-close-for-comfort effort by the Ducks, who certainly did not want to allow the lowest seed in the West to steal one in Anaheim. If Kari Lehtonen can play like he did on Wednesday in the final period in a half, we could be looking at a much more interesting series when the puck drops on Friday night.
Three more games will start on Thursday, while the last first-round series will begin between Detroit and Boston on Friday. Be sure to keep up with sportspicks.com handicappers throughout the playoffs, especially to see the odds that change as things these series get more entertaining in the coming days.