The first round of the NHL Playoffs is almost over! Be sure to check out the complete NHL Playoff race here.
Boston Bruins @ Toronto Maple Leafs
After a strong regular season, and a quick start to this series, the Boston Bruins had another opportunity to eliminate the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight in Game 6. Holing a 3-2 series lead, Boston needed just a single victory to advance to the second round to face the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Toronto, however, has shown signs that they do not want to go home for the summer just yet. The Maple Leafs pulled out the victory in Game 5 on Saturday to stay alive. They were down 3-1 in the series at that point.
Once again, Frederik Andersen would be key for the Maple Leafs to remain in the postseason mix. The Toronto goalie, who stats were inflated by a 5-1 and 7-3 loss in the first two games, has held the high-flying Boston Bruins offense to just nine goals in the last four games of this series.
If you have been following along, you would know that nine goals over Games 3-6 would mean that Andersen only allowed a single goal Monday night in Toronto. Andersen stopped 32 of 33 shots to defeat the Bruins and force a winner-take-all Game 7 on Wednesday night.
After a scoreless first period, it was the Bruins who found their lone goal. Jake Debrusk picked up his third goal of the playoffs. After David Krejci would the offensive faceoff, DeBrusk ripped home a shot past Andersen, who never saw the shot from the top of the faceoff circle.
That goal was at 1:02 of the second period, but Toronto would come roaring back very soon after. William Nylander picked up his first of the series just 35 seconds later. Nylander sneaks in to the right of Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, and is all alone when a rebound pops out to him for a quick shot.
Mitch Marner picked up his second of the series at 13:25 of that middle period. The goal, that would stand up as the game winner, came after a shot from the point was deflected and slowed down in front of the net. The speed Marner grabs the puck from Bruins forward Brad Marchand, and backhands a puck over Rask for the 2-1 lead.
The Bruins still have life in this series, but there was a real sense of momentum shift in this game. The Maple Leafs might be the favorites early in Game 7 simply because they have faced two elimination games already, and have played strong enough hockey to win both of those games.
Be sure to check back at Below the Goal Line for coverage of Game 7 on Wednesday! Follow us on Twitter (@belowthegoaline) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/belowthegoalline) for up to the minute updates.
Washington Capitals @ Columbus Blue Jackets
The Washington Capitals traveled back to Columbus after winning Game 5 on Saturday night. With the Game 5 win, the Capitals held a 3-2 series lead over the Blue Jackets. A win tonight would eliminate Columbus, and send the Capitals on to the second round, where they would meet the Pittsburgh Penguins for the third consecutive season.
Washington got off to a good start in this game. Dmitry Orlov would open the scoring in the first period with a big slap shot from the point at 12:12. The Capitals definitely had the energy early in this game, which surprised a lot of people, considering the Blue Jackets didn't seem to get off the plane in Game 5.
But Columbus responded in the second period, pumping 14 shots on goaltender Braden Holtby. One of those 14 shots, quick snap of the puck by captain Nick Foligno, beat Holtby to tie the game in the middle frame.
Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin would respond, however. Critics have been all over Ovechkin for apparently not showing up when his team needed him the most (something I never understood, considering the guy has 51 goals and 98 points in 103 playoff games), but he came to play in the second period of Game 6.
Ovechkin scored his fourth of the series at 12:50. The backhand shot from in close to the net beat a sliding Columbus goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky, for the 2-1 lead. Ovechkin was not done there, and would pick up his second goal of the period at 18:23. The one was a typical one-time slapper from the left faceoff circle that just overpowered Bobrovsky for the 3-1 lead.
The third period featured the most goal scoring in this game. Blue Jackets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois would cut the lead to 3-2 just 2:25 in, but Washington's Devante Smith-Pelly and Chandler Stephenson scored at 3:56 and 5:30 to give the Capitals a 5-2 lead.
Columbus captain Nick Foligno picked up his second goal of the game at 8:22 to cut the lead to 5-3, but that would be as close as the Blue Jackets would get in this game. After an empty net goal, the Washington Capitals picked up the 6-3 win, and the 4-2 series win.
With the series victory, the Washington Capitals set up another date with the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 2. While they haven't been able to take down the Penguins in the past two postseason, this year presents another opportunity to defeat their arch-rivals for the right to move on to the Conference Finals.
Stay tuned to Below the Goal Line for a preview of the second round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, coming your way as soon as the Toronto-Boston series concludes.