And on Sunday, you will sit on the edge of your seats while watching the Stanley Cup playoffs. Three games were played and each provided thrills that will be remembered for a very long time to come.
Florida Panthers vs New York Islanders
New York began the evening leading this Eastern Conference First Round Series 3-2. The Islanders would need a last-second regulation goal from John Tavares and a second goal from Tavares in the game’s second overtime to defeat Florida 2-1 and win the series 4-2.
The loss eliminated the heavily favored Panthers from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
This is the first Stanley Cup playoff series win for the Islanders since they defeated Pittsburgh in the 1993 Division Final.
The teams played a scoreless first period. The Islanders sent seven shots at Panthers’ goaltender Roberto Luongo. New York’s Thomas Greiss stopped all five of Florida’s shots.
In the second period, Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau scored with 1:02 remaining in the period. It was the first goal of the series for Huberdeau. Vincent Trocheck and Jussi Jokinen assisted on the goal.
The third period consisted of up and down action supplemented by outstanding goaltending. As the clock wound down and the with Panthers protecting the lead, it appeared the clubs would be heading to Florida for Game 7 but that changed when Tavares was left unguarded at the side of Luongo’s crease and he found a loose puck lying at his feet. With 53.2 seconds remaining in the third period, the Islanders captain put the puck into the open side of the net and the game was tied at 1-1 and heading for overtime.
The teams skated through a scoreless first overtime period. One that saw New York with the better of the scoring chances but Luongo answered the call in stopping all 15 Islanders shots. His teammates managed eight shots at Greiss.
When the second overtime began, the Islanders maintained the pressure it had mounted in the first overtime and it paid off 10:41 into the frame when Tavares swooped in on a rebound of a Kyle Okposo shot, skated the puck behind the Panthers net and, from his knees, wrapped the puck into the net while Luongo made a desperate attempt to stop it by diving across the crease. Game over. Series over.
Per Elias Sports Bureau, John Tavares is the first player in New York Islanders playoff history to score a game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation and the overtime game-winner.
“You can’t even really process it,” Tavares said after the game. “I’m glad it went in because my leg started cramping in that pile. I’m glad I didn’t have to skate back down. It was obviously just amazing to look around and just see all the orange and blue. Just incredible.”
Greiss stopped 41 shots to backstop his team’s win. His counterpart, Luongo, made 49 saves.
Islanders coach Jack Capuano was impressed by his squad.
“I can’t be more proud of our group, led by our captain (Tavares),” Capuano said. “It is fitting he gets the tying goal, and just a great individual play off the rebound in the double overtime.”
New York will move on to face Florida’s other NHL team, the Tampa Bay Lightning for the second all-time playoff meeting between the teams. The first was in the 2004 Conference Quarterfinals. The Lightning won that series 4-1.
Washington Capitals vs Philadelphia Flyers
The teams entered Game 6 of their Eastern Conference First Round Series with Washington leading 3-2. The Capitals jumped out to take a 3-0 lead in the series but had lost Games 4 and 5 to the Flyers.
On a two-game win streak, it appeared the Flyers had all the momentum but the Capitals needed just one shot on goal by Nicklas Backstrom coupled with a 26-save effort from goaltender Braden Holtby to defeat Philadelphia 1-0.
The win was Holtby’s 20th playoff victory tying him with Olaf Kolzig for most in Capital’s history.
Backstrom’s goal was a one-timer from the left of Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth, assisted by Marcus Johansson and Alex Ovechkin.
“I was just closing my eyes and shot it,” Backstrom joked about his game-winner. “I wanted to get it (puck) up high but I wasn’t going to go that high but it worked.”
The loss eliminates Philadelphia from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Washington will face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Second Round of the postseason.
After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz complimented the Flyers.
“I want to congratulate the Philadelphia Flyers on a very good season and a great series,” Trotz said. “There’s a lot of character in that (Flyers) room. They’re very well coached. It was a battle. They’ve got a great future. They’ve got some young stars, some quality veterans. They’ve had a helluva season and they’ve done a great job and I just want to salute them for a real great season.”
For Washington, it was their third win in five playoff meetings with Philadelphia.
The upcoming Second Round Series will be the second postseason meeting between the Capitals and the Penguins. The first meeting took place in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinal. Pittsburgh won that series in seven games.
If you are curious (no doubt you are), in that 2009 series, Alex Ovechkin scored eight goals and six assists. Sidney Crosby registered eight goals and five assists. Both players registered their first playoff hat tricks in Game 2 of that series.
Dallas Stars vs Minnesota Wild
For the first two periods of Sunday’s Game 6, Dallas was in full control and on their way to the Western Conference Second Round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Stars held a 4-0 lead over the Wild. Game, set, match, right? Well, not exactly. The Wild struck for four goals of their own in the third period but much to their chagrin, the Stars added one in the final frame giving Dallas a 5-4 win and a 4-2 series victory.
Minnesota was eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Dallas will face off against the winner of the St. Louis vs Chicago series.
“We won the game and we’re happy about it,” Stars forward Patrick Sharp said following the contest. “Lot of respect for what Minnesota can do on their side. It was a tough series, but we’re excited we’re moving on.”
John Klingberg, Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp and Jamie Benn staked Dallas to its 4-0 lead.
Minnesota scored the next three goals with Jared Spurgeon (2 goals) and Jonas Brodin getting the puck past Dallas netminder Kari Lehtonen.
After each goal, in a tribute to the recently deceased Minnesota native Prince, his song, “Let’s Go Crazy” was played at a thunderous noise level which only increased the excitement level in Minnesota’s Xcel Energy Center.
Dallas’ Alex Goligoski put his club in front 5-3 with 9:32 remaining in the third period but the Wild would not give up and Jason Pominville closed the gap to 5-4 with 4:47 to play.
Video review played an instrumental part in the final period when it looked like Minnesota had scored a fifth goal but the replay camera in the net’s crossbar showed the puck had not entirely crossed the goal line and was stopped by Lehtonen’s pad just before it completely crossed the goal line.
Benn is the fifth player in Dallas Stars/Minnesota North Stars history with points in six-plus consecutive games to start a postseason.
Spezza recorded four points (1 goal, 3 assists) in the game.
The series win is the Stars first such win since the 2008 Conference Semifinal versus San Jose.
Stat of the Night:
The Islanders are the first team in NHL history to win consecutive games in multiple overtimes in a playoff series since Edmonton versus Los Angeles in the 1991 Division Final (Game 2 and 3).
Follow ESPN New Hampshire NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.