Who was the guy?: Not Ben Chiarot! Shot attempts were 16-12 in Washington’s favor while he was on the ice at five-on-five, according to Natural Stat Trick. That may not seem horrible, right? But then you measure the quality of the shots and … it’s not good! That’s why Florida generated under 33 percent of the expected goal share with him on the ice. That’s a tough look for a player management spent *checks notes* a first-round pick and more for at the deadline.
In all seriousness, let’s credit Marcus Johansson for his efforts in Game 3 — including roofing a backhander to put Washington ahead 2-1, and a primary helper. The Capitals generated about 61 percent of the five-on-five expected goals share while he was on the ice, too.
What was the key?: The Panthers were a top-five team in generating offense from the slot off the rush in the regular season at five-on-five, according to Sportlogiq. Through the first two games of this series, the Capitals have worked to limit that, only allowing eight slot attempts against, four of which went on the goal, two of which ended in the back of the net. That ability to convert, even on few chances, shows why this has been such a priority for Washington. In Game 3, after generating a rush chance for — one that ended up in the back of the net, thanks to Jonathan Huberdeauto open the scoring — the Panthers only mustered one more shot attempt in transitioning the rest of the game.
Key stat: Zero. The Panthers have scored zero power-play goals since shifting away from the five-forward top unit that excelled late in the season. It’s not Aaron Ekblad’s fault, and it’s understandable to want him to return to the position he held pre-injury. But why fix what isn’t broken? And why wait so long to bring it back this game after the team is clearly struggling?
The moment it was over: This moment can be tough to spot in a game with the Panthers because they’re one of the best teams at playing from behind. Sometimes it legitimately is not over until it’s over. They were pushing in the second period, generating 79 percent of the five-on-five shots. So the Capitals’ power-play goal in the third felt significant because it gave them more security with a 4-1 lead.
The moment of the game: We’re sticking with the Alex Ovechkin power-play goal. Few things in life are inevitable. Ovechkin standing in the left circle on the power play waiting to be set up is one of those things. And there he was, completely alone. Conor Sheary saw that and sent him the puck. You know what happened next. It’s impressive how many teams continue to allow this to happen.
Panthers Worry Meter: 🥴🥴🥴🥴… Maybe there was a point to how their style of play would hold up in the postseason. And the coaching adjustments aren’t inspiring any confidence.
Capitals Worry Meter: 🙃🙃… It’s still not a pretty picture for their top players below the surface, so we still have some doubts.
– Shayna Goldman
Who was the guy? All the usual Colorado suspects were excellent in this one, but Gabriel Landeskog gets the nod for scoring the go-ahead goal twice, barely three minutes apart, during a wild, back-and-forth second period. Landeskog added two assists for his first four-point game in the postseason.
What was the key? The difference between Colorado and Nashville is, in our Predators beat writer Adam Vingan’s words, “chasmic.” The difference between the two teams when Colorado is on the power play was downright cosmic. Comic, even. Or maybe tragic, depending on what side you were on. The Avalanche scored on their first four power plays of the night, and here’s how long it took them to do it each time: 79 seconds, 22 seconds, 34 seconds, 39 seconds. Per SportLogiq, the Avalanche spent 73.8 percent of their power-play time in the offensive zone. That’s a lot! It’s also pretty close to what they averaged in the regular season (74.7 percent). And it’s also well below the 82 percent they logged in Games 1 and 2. Nashville should stop taking penalties, is what we’re saying here.
Key stat: Nashville had a pair of power-play goals of its own, making it six PPGs combined through 40 minutes. It’s been 10 years since two teams combined for more than that, as the Penguins and Flyers combined for seven in Game 4 of the 2012 playoffs, a game Pittsburgh won 10-3.
The moment it was over: Shortly after Landeskog and Roman Josi traded second-period power-play goals to turn a 2-2 game into a 3-3 game, Landeskog scored again, beating Predators goaltender Connor Ingram (34 saves on 40 shots) top shelf. Nashville coach John Hynes challenged for goaltender interference, because Artturi Lehkonen made contact with Ingram at the top of the crease. Did Mikael Granlund push Lehkonen into Ingram? Yeah, he did. Did Lehkonen make any effort at all to extricate himself from the situation? No, he did not. The replay team ruled that the former outweighed the latter and the goal stood. Nashville was hit with a delay-of-game penalty for the failed challenge, and Nazem Kadri scored 39 seconds into the power play to make it 5-3. It was a devastating swing for the Predators, who had been hanging tough with the mighty Avs since the start of Game 2 and never really threatened again.
The moment of the game: In one of those “it’s kind of amazing and we’re all super grateful it doesn’t happen more often” hockey plays (like when a player gets cut by a skate blade), Colorado goalie Darcy Kuember took a Ryan Johansen stick in the eye — right through his mask — in the final minute of the first period and immediately left the game in obvious pain. Avs coach Jared Bednar said Kuemper has some swelling, but that he remains a possibility for Game 4. Pavel Francouz came in cold and stopped 18 of 20 shots to pick up the victory in relief.
Avalanche worry meter: 🤠 *plays Rocky Mountain High*
Predators worry meter: 🤯 🤯 🤯 🤯 🤯 *plays sad, twangy country song while drinking out of a whiskey bottle in the flatbed of a broken-down pickup truck*
— Mark Lazerus
Game 3: Penguins 7, Rangers 4 | Pittsburgh leads 2-1
Who was the guy?: On simple on-ice merit, Louis Dominguez doesn’t deserve an honor significant as ours. Ol’ “Spicy Pork” saved 32 of the Rangers’ 36 shots, giving him two sub-.900 starts in two opportunities, and somehow managed to largely look even worse in the process.
This is The Athletic’s Guy of the Night, though; it can’t just be about ✌️stats✌️ or ✌️skill✌️ or ✌️effectiveness✌️. In these parts, we take a holistic approach. We consider the whole picture. And on-ice merit be damned, this is Louis Domingue’s moment. He senses it. He’s seizing it. My man knew exactly what he was doing when he shared his between-periods meal after Game 1, just like he knew what he was doing when he wished all the moms a Happy Mother’s Day at Game 2’s postgame press conference.
This is what it feels like to witness the birth of a folk hero. To see it through, all Pittsburgh’s third-string goalie needs is a little luck, some timely saves and Tristan Jarry to take back the keys at some point in the very, very near future.
What was the key?: Evan Rodrigues’ first period. The Penguins forward, after some mid-winter Alexei Kovalev cosplay, regressed to the mean with authority (32 points pre-All Star; 11 points post-All Star). In Game 3, he threw it back to November, scoring twice and nearly getting credit for a third that went to Jeff Carter. It all added up to a 4-1 lead that the Penguins couldn’t quite blow … which they might’ve, had Rodrigues’ heat-check backward pass on a delayed penalty been two inches to the side. But whatever.
Key stat: After two periods of the Rangers carrying nearly every stat you could imagine at five-on-five — and, again, blowing a three-goal lead — Pittsburgh locked down in the third period, controlling expected goals (72 percent), shot attempts ( 22-9), scoring chances (14-4) and high-danger chances (6-2).
The moment it was over: When Sidney Crosby cooked up the nicest empty-net assist you’ll ever see to make it 7-4, and not one second before.
— Shayna (@hayyyshayy) May 8, 2022
The moment of the game: The 32-second sequence that started with Domingue successfully flopping in front of a shot by Artemi Panarin …
— Sᴘᴏʀᴛs 24/7 (@Sports_24x7_) May 8, 2022
… and ended with Danton Heinen pouncing on a loose puck at the bottom of the circle and breaking the tie.
WE LOVE HEINEN, YES WE DO.
WE LOVE HEINEN, HOW ‘BOUT YOU? pic.twitter.com/2F2mztrpfD
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 8, 2022
The on-ice moment of the game came a couple seconds after that.
Tried to close it out after that Heinen goal and got poke checked 😭💀 pic.twitter.com/2PfEJLKlDL
— Bill Crawford (@dveBillCrawford) May 8, 2022
Penguins worry meter: 🙃🙃 … They’re going to need Jarry at some point, and they’re close to buying enough time.
Rangers worry meter: 😬😬😬 … Igor Shesterkin is the trump card, but a 2-1 deficit speaks for itself.
Who was the guy?: It’s the inverse of Pens-Rangers; the best player in the game was also our guy. What a night for Joe Pavelski — his first goal tied the game 2-2, and his second turned out to be the winner. In a series where the Stars, by design, have choked the offensive life out of Calgary, Pavelski now has as many goals (three) as the Flames’ entire roster. Pavelski turns 38 in July and just had a career-high 81 points. Dallas signed him to a $5.5 million extension through next season. That’s already money well spent.
What was the key?: The way Dallas responded to Elias Lindholm‘s go-ahead goal for the Flames early in the second period. After that, they locked in at five-on-five and, as usual, got enough from the Pavelski-Roope Hintz-Jason Robertson line to pull even heading into the third.
Key stat: Fourteen. That’s how many game-winning postseason goals Pavelski has, most among active players. Saturday was his 164th career playoff game. In other words, he’s played two full extra seasons (64 goals, 58 assists).
The moment it was over: With about 3:30 left, Johnny Gaudreau was in free for a Grade-A chance on Jake Oettinger. He couldn’t convert, thanks to Oettinger’s right pad, and the game felt like it ended in that moment. There was some time left, and Calgary had its obligatory pulled-goalie chances, but nothing came close to Gaudreau’s. In this series, neither team can get away with wasting those. There will be repercussions.
The moment of the game: Pavelski’s game-winner on the power play. Jacob Markstrom kicked Vladimir Namestnikov’s rush rebound into the slot, where Pavelski — who should’ve been picked up by either Noah Hanifin or Tyler Toffoli — was all by himself.
Stars worry meter: 🤠 … What’s to worry about? They were heavy underdogs, they’ve done exactly what they came to do, and the series is there for the taking.
Flames worry meter: 😬😬😬 … This was a regression from their Game 2 loss. It’s not full-blown panic time, but it’s … three-quarters-blown panic time, let’s say.
On tap for Sunday
(Photo: Joe Sargent / NHLI via Getty Images)