Stanley Cup Recap: Special Night for Special Teams

Shayne Gostisbehere's power play goal helped Philadelphia defeat Washington in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference First Round Playoff Series. (Photo: flyers.nhl.com)

Wednesday night, Washington, Dallas, and San Jose took advantage of the man-advantage to move one step closer to advancing to the next round of the postseason while Florida tied things up with the Islanders.

Washington Capitals vs Philadelphia Flyers

Washington took the ice in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center holding a 3-0 series lead over the Flyers. A fourth win would eliminate Philadelphia from the playoffs.

Philadelphia inserted backup goaltender Michal Neuvirth into the lineup for his first start of the playoffs. The 28-year-old native of the Czech Republic made 31 saves and the Flyers received goals from rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and Colin MacDonald to give Philadelphia a 2-1 victory and its first win of the postseason.

“I felt a little rusty early during the game,” Neuvirth said after the contest. “The guys did such a good job in front of me. I was just finding my rhythm. I think from the second period I was feeling really good. Just really happy with the effort tonight.”

Gostisbehere’s goal came on the power play at 5:51 of the first period. Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds assisted on the lamplighter. It was the first playoff goal of Gostisbehere’s NHL career and also came on his 23rd birthday. Not only that, but he became just the second player born in Florida to ever score a goal in a Stanley Cup playoff game.

MacDonald gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead 3:51 into the second period with Simmonds and Brayden Schenn assisting on the play.

Washington’s TJ Oshie put his team on the board 2:38 into the third period. Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzner assisted on the goal.

Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby did all he could in turning aside 23 shots but the night belonged to the Flyers.

After combining for 67 penalty minutes in Game 3, more of the same was expected in Game 4, but with each club understanding the importance of this game, they combined for eight minutes despite totaling 81 hits.

Perhaps the most important contributing factor in the Flyers win was their ability to block 29 Capitals shot attempts.

After the game, the Flyers announced that forward Scott Laughton, who fell violently into the end boards with 3:49 remaining in the first period, was transported to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and will remain there overnight for precautionary purposes. All tests have come back negative.

The clubs will travel back to Washington’s Verizon Center for Game 5 to be played on Friday, April 22nd at 7:00 pm ET (NBCSN; CBC; TVA Sports; CSN-DC, CSN-PH).

Florida Panthers vs New York Islanders

Coming off a 4-3 overtime win in Game 3, the New York Islanders were looking to increase their lead over Florida by two games but thanks to defenceman Alex Petrovic’s first goal of the playoffs with 10:35 remaining in the third period assisted by Derek MacKenzie and Garrett Wilson, the Panthers left New York with a 2-1 win and the series tied 2-2.

“I just threw it on net and it went in. It feels good,” Petrovic said about his game-winning goal. “I’m not used to scoring those kinds of goals or scoring a lot of goals. It just feels good that everyone’s working hard. It could have been anyone in here, but it feels great that we got the ‘W’ and that’s all that matters right now. I think throughout the whole game, everybody played hard. I think that’s a good response from a tough game last game. It’s just nice to go home with the series tied.”

Teddy Purcell opened the scoring with a power play goal 15:18 into the second period giving the Islanders a 1-0 lead. The goal was assisted by Aaron Ekblad and Jaromir Jagr.

John Tavares tied the score with a power play goal for New York at the 19:44 mark of the second period. Ryan Pulock and Brock Nelson garnered the assists.

Goaltender Roberto Luongo stopped 26 shots in his team’s win.

Jagr’s assist was the 122nd of his illustrious playoff career moving him past Glenn Anderson and Al MacInnis for ninth all-time. It was also his 200th career NHL playoff point, placing him fifth in League history.   

The series returns to Sunrise, Fla., for Game 5 on Friday at 8:00 p.m. ET (CNBC, SN, TVA Sports, MSG+, SUN).

Dallas Stars vs Minnesota Wild

The Dallas Stars began the season with question marks in goal and on defense and many questioned the commitment to team defense by the forwards. They were called a ‘run and gun’ team, one that played at a fast pace offensively but had appeared to have little commitment to playing team defense but as the season progress, as the song says, all they did was win, and they are continuing their winning ways in the postseason.

The Stars pushed the Wild to the brink of elimination with a 3-2 win in Game 4 of their Western Conference First Round Series. Dallas leads the series 3-1.

“We’ve been working really hard on defending well and to close it (series) out, I really feel we’re going to have to win a game that’ll be 2-1, 3-2, again.” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff after his squad’s victory.

Goaltender Antti Niemi got the nod for the Stars over Kari Lehtonen, who played in the first three games of the series, and stopped 28 shots to record the win.

All five of the game’s goals were scored in a span of 13:50 of the second period with the game-winner coming off the stick, or skate, of Jason Spezza with 1:09 remaining in the period. On the play that led to the deciding tally, Spezza drove to the net as Jason Demers carried the puck into the Minnesota zone, Demers sent a pass towards Spezza which deflected off the forward’s leg and behind Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk. There was no kicking motion on the play. Spezza also added an assist giving him a two point evening.

The teams traded goals after Jason Pominville opened the scoring for Minnesota at 5:01 of the second period. Stars winger Ales Hemsky tied the game at 1-1 at 9:11. Wild winger Charlie Coyle put his club back on top 2-1 at 10:14 only to be followed by a goal by Dallas’ Patrick Eaves at 13:24 before Spezza put the game away for the Stars.

Also recording points for Dallas were Kris Russell (2 assists), Demers (2 assists), and Jamie Benn (1 assist). Benn’s assist gave him at least one point (6 goals, 5 assists, 11 points) in nine of his first ten career playoff games. He is the first player in Dallas Stars/Minnesota North Stars history to do so.

Hemsky’s goal was his first playoff goal since 2006.

The Stars can close out the series in Game 5 which will be played at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Friday, April 22nd at 9:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports, FS-N, FS-WI, FS-SW).

Los Angeles Kings vs San Jose Sharks

The Sharks have done what many did not expect them to do and that is put the Kings on the edge of elimination with a 3-2 win in Game 4 of their Western Conference First Round Series.

All of San Jose’s goals came on the power play igniting them to a 3-0 lead over Los Angeles.

Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, and Patrick Marleau lit the lamp for the Sharks but the Kings have the experience of winning past Stanley Cups and you can never count out the heart of a champion. LA’s Trevor Lewis closed the deficit to 3-1 at 6:44 of the third period and after Luke Schenn connected to make it a 3-2 game, it looked like the Kings were mounting a comeback but the Sharks strong defensive units and the solid play of goaltender Martin Jones (26 saves) ensured the victory for San Jose.

“I think they (San Jose’s power play) came out tonight to make sure that if we got opportunities, they were going to put them in, and they did that,” San Jose coach Pete DeBoer said. “That’s the kind of group we have. They come to work the day after a loss, they look at what we can fix, and they get it fixed. I think that was the difference tonight.”

“On LA’s part, there’s a reason they won two out of the last four (Stanley) Cups. They’re not going away. No lead’s safe, and this series isn’t over until we find another way to win another game.”

Adding points to their stats for San Jose were Joe Thornton (1 assist), Logan Couture (1 assist), Joel Ward (1 assist) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (1 assist). Burns and Marleau added one assist each resulting in their enjoying two points each.

Marleau’s game-winner was the 16th of his playoff career tying him with Jaromir Jagr for most among active players.

San Jose can wrap up the series in Game 5 on Friday at 10:30 pm ET (CNBC, CBC, TVA Sports, CSN-CA, PRIME) but they will need to do it on enemy territory at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Stat of the Night:

In the past two days, four backup goaltenders (Niemi, Neuvirth, Andersen, Murray) have won their first 2016 Stanley Cup playoff starts.

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