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Pittsburgh Penguins @ Philadelphia Flyers
The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers face off in Philadelphia for Game 4 of their first round series. After winning Game 1, 7-0, and Game 5, 5-1, the Penguins hold a 2-1 series lead.
The Penguins would add to that lead with a strong defensive performance. Goaltender Matt Murray made 26 saves of the Flyers. Murray recorded the shutout of Philadelphia, his second shutout of the series.
Matt Murray has played a strong series. Despite giving up four goals in Game 2, Murray has only surrendered five goals total in this series, with a .948 save percentage.
The Penguins also generated a significant amount of offense. Evegni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Sidney Crosby scored and recorded an assist as Pittsburgh put up five goals on Brian Elliot and the Flyers.
Sidney Crosby leads the NHL playoffs in goals with five, and his nine points are tied for the league lead. His second period goal stretched the Penguin lead to 4-0. He picked up a loose puck behind the net and quickly brings it in front and stuffs it home before backup goaltender Michal Neuvirth recognizes the play.
The different in this game was Matt Murray. The Penguins were the fast, more aggressive team for lots of this game, but when they game up several breakaway or dangerous scoring chances, Matt Murray cam up with the big save to keep the Flyers scoreless.
The Penguins, with the win, now have a commanding 3-1 lead in this series as it shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 5 on Friday night.
Tampa Bay Lightning @ New Jersey Devils
If you recall, the story of the night on Monday was that teams that lost both games on the road to start the postseason came home and won on home ice in Game 3. The New Jersey Devils were one such team, winning 5-2 in Game 3 over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Devils got out to a good start in this game when Kyle Palmieri scored his first of this series on the powerplay. The goal, at 8:23 of the first period, came off a big slap shot by Palmieri with the Lightning down to just three skaters thanks to two separate penalties.
Unfortunately for the Devils, that would be all they could muster in this game. The Tampa Bay Lightning scored at 11:30 of the first period. J.T. Miller picked up the goal when he roofs the puck over the shoulder of goaltender Cory Schneider as the Lightning broke into the zone.
The Lightning would pick up two more in this game. Nikita Kucherov would get his third of the playoffs in the first period when he flicks home a rolling puck while he fights off a Devils defender.
Kucherov would add an empty netter in the third to push the score to 3-1. Ironically, the Lightning improve to 3 games to 1 in this series with the victory in New Jersey.
The Devils had a remarkable season after finishing so poorly last season. New Jersey finished 8th in the Eastern Conference this season after finishing 16th last year. It seems like this run will come to an end soon, however, as the Lightning possess a much deeper team. I expect the Lightning to close out this series in Tampa on Saturday afternoon with a dominating performance.
Nashville Predators @ Colorado Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche were another team that benefited from returning to home ice in Game 3 of their series with the Nashville Predators. The Avalanche scored five goals on Monday to take a 5-3 win in that contest.
Nashville, however, looked like the better team tonight. The Predators built a 3-0 lead by the 11:49 mark of the second period. They held on for the 3-2 win after Gabriel Landeskog and Alex Kerfoot were able to find the back of the net in the third period.
It was a little bit of redemption for Pekka Rinne, who was pulled in Game 3 after allowing four goals in less than 25 minutes. Rinne stopped 31 shots in this one to pick up his third win of the series.
The Predators will return home with a 3-1 lead for Game 5 on Friday evening. I would again expect the Predators to close out their series in Game 5, but I think that the Avalanche have a better chance of lengthening this series than the Devils do against Tampa Bay.
Anaheim Ducks @ San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks were able to win the first two games of this series in Anaheim. The Sharks won 3-0 in Game 1 and 3-2 in Game 2. San Jose then exploded for an 8-1 win in Game 3 on home ice.
After the Vegas Golden won on Tuesday to capture their first ever series win, the Golden Knights await the winner of this series.
The series returned to its early form of low-scoring, tight hockey games like the first two games of this series.
The Sharks jumped out to the 1-0 lead when depth player Marcus Sorensen scored his third of the playoffs. Sorensen, who has five career regular season goals in 32 games, grabbed the 1-0 lead when he finds himself alone in front of goaltender John Gibson after Gibson made a save off of a shot from the point. Sorensen had enough time to attempt a shot, re-collect his balance, and roof the puck over Gibson on his second shot of the sequence.
After the Ducks lost two goals, it was Andrew Cogliano who scored to tie the game. Ryan Getzlaf scored, but it was determined that the puck wasn't in the net until after the first period and concluded. The Ducks also beat goaltender Martin Jones to open the second period, but that was overturned do to an offsides.
Cogliano did score at 7:53 of the third period. His redirection of a Ryan Kesler pass was just the fourth goal on Martin Jones this series.
Sharks forward Tomas Hertl would get his second of the series just 1:16 later to up the score to 2-1 in favor of San Jose. Hertl deflected a point shot over the Ducks' Gibson for the lead halfway through the final period.
Much like Vegas, the Sharks success in this series was because of great goaltending. Martin Jones stopped 128 of 132 shots in this series for a .970 save percentage. He would not allow another goal in this game, as the Sharks win Game 4 2-1, and the series 4-0. San Jose will meet Vegas in the next round.
The big difference in this series was depth. Logan Couture led the way with 5 points in these four games, but Tomas Hertl, Evander Kane, and fourth-liner Marcus Sorensen each had three goals in the four games. 15 different Sharks picked up a point during the series, compared to just seven Ducks skaters.