Stanley Cup Playoff Recap: Comebacks Ruled the Day in the NHL

Thomas Hickey's overtime goal gave the New York Islanders a 2-1 series lead over the Florida Panthers. (Photo: Islanders.NHL.com)

Sunday night, three teams battled back from deficits to emerge as victors in their Stanley Cup playoff contests.

St. Louis Blues vs Chicago Blackhawks

With this series tied 1-1 after two games in St. Louis, the clubs traveled to Chicago where the Blackhawks went 26-11-4 during the regular season while the Blues had a 25-11-5 record on the road.

Once the playoffs roll around, it is believed that you can throw the records out the window but in Game 3, the Blues proved why they were one of the League’s top road teams, however, it would take a third period comeback by St. Louis to overcome a 2-1 deficit to emerge with a 3-2 win over their Central Division rivals.

“We’ve come back so many times,” St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said in his postgame press conference. “It just doesn’t seem to be a big deal with this group. We’ve got a lot of resiliency in us.”

For Chicago, it was their first regulation loss when leading after two periods in almost two calendar years (May 21, 2014, vs Los Angeles). In that span of time, the Blackhawks were 71-0-5 when leading after two periods.

Special teams played a key role in the Blues win. They scored on two of three power plays with the game-winner coming off the stick of Jaden Schwartz at the 13:22 mark of the third period with Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane serving a double minor penalty for high-sticking.

Goaltender Brian Elliott was stellar for St. Louis. He stopped 44 shots to backstop his team’s victory. After three games, he has a .963 save percentage and a 1.28 goals against average.

Rookie Rob Fabbri led the Blues offensively with two points. He assisted on his club’s first two goals.

Teammate Vladimir Tarasenko reeled off seven shots on 13 attempts.

St. Louis will try to take a 3-1 lead in Game 4 at Chicago Tuesday, April 19th at 9:30 pm ET (NBCSN, CSN-CH, FS-MS).

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Detroit Red Wings

After losing Games 1 and 2 in Tampa, Detroit coach Jeff Blashill decided to install backup goaltender Petr Mrazek in place of Jimmy Howard, who played in both losses.

Mrazek rewarded his coach with a 16-save effort in leading the Wings to a 2-0 shutout over the Lightning. It was Mrazek’s third career playoff shutout. All of those shutouts have come against the Lightning.

The Red Wings put 30 shots on Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop.

The win gives Detroit some life. They trail the Lightning 2-1 in the series.

“I thought we played pretty good,” said Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg, who scored his team’s second goal of the night. “We minimized our mistakes. We did a good job tonight and we have to move on to Game 4.”

Zetterberg’s goal went to review to see if he kicked the puck into the net but it was ruled that he did not and it was a good goal.

Andreas Athanasiou scored Detroit’s first goal 12:42 into the second period.

If a rivalry did not exist between these teams, it is safe to say that one exists now. For the second consecutive night, the game was highlighted by some end of game fisticuffs that may carry over to Game 4.

The teams will return to Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena for Game 4 on Tuesday, April 19th at 7:00 pm ET (NBCSN, FS-D, FS-S)

Florida Panthers vs New York Islanders

In the first ever Stanley Cup playoff game played at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, fans of the Islanders experienced a tale of two teams.

The Panthers opened a 3-1 lead over the Islanders 27:23 into the game and appeared to be on their way to taking a 2-1 lead in the series and then New York took over.

Shane Prince scored for the Islanders to cut the Panthers lead to 3-2 at the 11:48 mark of the second period.

With New York on the power play, Frans Nielsen found the back of the net to tie the contest 3-3 with just 3:05 remaining in the third game.

Thomas Hickey completed the Islanders comeback when he netted the game winner giving New York a 4-3 win 12:31 into the overtime session. The goal also gave the Islanders a 2-1 series lead.

Hickey’s OT goal was his second consecutive overtime winner for New York. His, and the team’s, last overtime lamplighter came on April 5th at Washington. That goal clinched this year’s playoff spot for the Islanders.

“I just wanted to shoot the puck in overtime,” Hickey said after scoring the game-winner. “There’s never a bad shot. Hopefully, I have bigger goals to come.”

Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock scored a goal and an assist. Teammates John Tavares and Kyle Okposo contributed two assists each.

New York goaltender Thomas Greiss stopped 36 Florida shots to earn the victory.

Florida’s Reilly Smith led his club with one goal and two assists for three points. He also contributed five hits.

The teams combined for 88 hits on the evening.

Game 4 will be in Brooklyn on Wednesday, April 20th at 8:00 pm ET (USA, SN, TVA Sports 2, SUN, MSG+).   

Nashville Predators vs Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks were looking to even the series with a win at home and appeared to be on their way after taking a 1-0 lead on Andrew Cogliano’s unassisted goal 14:20 into the game but the Predators Mattias Ekholm sent the teams into their dressing rooms deadlocked at 1-1 after putting the puck past Ducks goaltender John Gibson with just 56 seconds remaining in the first period.

Nashville would add two more lamplighters in the second period off the sticks of Craig Smith and Shea Weber giving their squad a 3-1 lead heading into the third period.

The Predators applied a stingy, shut down defense in the final period, allowing one goal to Anaheim’s Nate Thompson 17:18 into the period.

After Thompson’s goal, Nashville resumed its strong defensive play and emerged with a 3-2 victory and a 2-0 lead in the series.

Predators Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi contributed two assists each in the win. Smith registered a goal and an assist and Colin Wilson notched an assist.

Pekka Rinne recorded 27 saves in the Nashville crease in preserving the win.

Predators coach Peter Laviolette was satisfied with the two games to none series lead but knows the series is not over.

“Winning games isn’t easy,” Laviolette said. “At home (or) on the road. It’s playoff hockey. Anaheim is a really good team. They played well tonight. I thought our guys played hard as well and we were able to walk away with a couple of wins. We have to put it behind us and move forward, see if there’s things we can get better at out here. We know there’s a lot of work to do. It doesn’t mean anything if you don’t finish it and follow it up. We have to keep working, keep an eye on what we’re doing here and just keep moving forward.”  

The teams will travel to Music City for Games 3 and 4.

Game 3 will be played Tuesday, April 19th at 9:30 pm ET (USA, SN360, TVA Sports 2, PRIME, FS-TN).

Stat of the Night:

Per Elias Sports Bureau, teams that take a 2-0 series lead on the road in a best-of-seven series hold an all-time series record of 65-18 (78.3%).

Follow ESPN New Hampshire NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.

 

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