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Day 10 of the Stanley Cup Playoff featured three games where each of the series could have ended in Game 5 on Friday night. Check out the entire playoff picture here.
Philadelphia Flyers @ Pittsburgh Penguins
Facing elimination, the Philadelphia Flyers headed into Pittsburgh with a goalie controversy against the Penguins. Michal Neuvirth would make his first start of the series after Brian Elliot could not get the job done in the first four game of this series.
Neuvirth has dealt with injury issues throughout his career, and wasn't even able to back up Elliot in the first few games.
But Neuvirth's return to the net tonight gave the Flyers the boast they needed to pick up the Game 5 win, which forces a Game 6 in Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon.
Flyers captain Claude Giroux scored in the first period to give the road team the 1-0 lead. Giroux's first of the playoffs was the result of the Penguins not playing to their full potential in this game. They were sloppy and didn't seem very interested in this game.
That was until midway through the second period, when the Penguins flipped the switch and dominated the play for much of the middle frame. Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel scored for Pittsburgh in that second period. The Penguins threw 14 shots on Neuvirth in the period.
Neuvirth did hold the Penguins' powerplay off the score sheet in this one. He did not allow a goal in five PP opportunities, including four powerplays in the second period.
While you never want to take penalties, this time it paid off. Valtteri Filppula score a late shorthanded goal that really turned the momentum in favor of the Flyers going into the second intermission.
The Penguins came out in the third period with the same attitude they had to start the game. They had trouble connecting on passes, and didn't really seem engaged in a game that could have eliminated the rival Flyers from the playoffs.
They did pick up their play later in the period, but the difference in the game was the Flyers' Sean Couturier, who grabbed a puck at the blueline of the Penguins zone and banked in a goal off of a Penguins' defender.
That goal made the score 3-2 in favor of the Flyers. Matt Read would pick up an empty net goal to reach our final score of 4-2 in this game. With the win, the Flyers force a Game 6 at home. Pittsburgh now lead 3-2 in the series.
Minnesota Wild @ Winnipeg Jets
Much could have been said about the Winnipeg Jets had they lost this game at home to the Minnesota Wild. Without three of their regular defensemen, as well as impact forwards Nikolaj Ehlers and Mathieu Perreault, everyone probably would have given the Jets a pass for losing this game, especially when they held a 3-1 series lead entering the tilt.
But from the drop of the puck, you could tell the Jets didn't want to play in a Game 6. The Jets dominated the first period with their speed and physicality. The Wild, on the other hand, looked like they had just woken up from their pregame naps.
If you missed the first period, you really didn't need to tune into this game at all. Along with their hard-hitting play, the Jets racked up four goals on start Devan Dubnyk in the first 12 minutes of the opening period.
While I don't particularly blame Dubnyk for the loss in this game, he definitely wasn't his elite playoff goalie self in the first period.
Jacob Trouba scored 31 seconds into the period on a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle. That is the goal Dubnyk needs to save for his team, but the puck finds the top left corner of the net.
With that goal, the flood gates opened for the Jets. Bryan Little picked up his first of the series at 5:42. Brandon Tanev also scored his first, and Joel Armia knocked Dubnyk out of the game with his first of the series at 11:59 of the first period.
Head coach Bruce Boudreau pulled Dubnyk in favor of backup Alex Stalock in hopes that his team would get a jolt from realizing they left their All-Star goaltender down in this game.
But the move was too little, too late, as the Wild would not muster a single goal in this game, despite outshooting the Jets 30-26. The Jets won Game 5 5-0, and ended the series 4-1 for their first ever playoff series victory in franchise history. They now await the winner of the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche.
Colorado Avalanche @ Nashville Predators
Speaking of the Avalanche/Predators series, they also played Friday night in Nashville. With a 3-1 series lead, the defending Western Conference Champions could eliminate Colorado with a win tonight.
This was a spectacular goalie battle, however. Andrew Hammond got the start for the Avalanche, who were looking to avoid elimination for the first time in this series. Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne got the nod once again for Nashville.
Andrew Hammond was great in this game. The Predators peppered Hammond with 45 shots in the game, including 19 in the third period, but the 30-year-old stood tall, allowing just one goal on all of those Nashville shots.
The Predators goal didn't come until 10:18 of the first period, when Nick Bonino deflected a shot past the Colorado netminder. After a review, Bonino was credited with his first playoff goal as a Predator after it was determined he did not kick the puck into the net.
Pekka Rinne was also solid in this game. He stopped all 16 Avalanche shots through the first two period of this one, and looked to take home another playoff victory after the Bonino goal.
It wouldn't be that easy for Rinne, however, because the Avalanche pushed back as they tried to avoid elimination. Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog would tie the game with a little over four minutes left in the game. Nathan MacKinnon skated the puck through the zone and pulled Rinne away from the net. MacKinnon found Landeskog in front, who simply tapped home the pass from MacKinnon to tie the game.
Then, the nightmare set in for Rinne and the rest of his Predator teammates. Sven Andrighetto would score with just 1:28 remaining to give the Avalanche the 2-1 lead. Andrighetto was part of a 2-on-1 coming at Pekka Rinne. After a J.T. Compher shot, the rebound came right to Andrighetto for the easy goal.
That would be all the scoring we would see in this game. The Avalanche shock Nashville for the 2-1 win, and force a Game 6 on Sunday night. Nashville still leads the series 3-2 as it shifts back to Colorado.