So much for the notion that goals are hard to come by in the playoffs. If the opening night of the chase for the Stanley Cup is an indication of what’s to come, the NHL is in for another wildly unpredictable postseason.
Granted, Game 1 is a small sample size. But losing teams were outscored 18-4 on Monday night, with three teams losing by four or more goals and the Kings and Oilers combining to score seven times in the only opener decided by a single goal.
Even reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy posted ugly numbers – allowing five goals on 33 shots to Toronto – after going 16-7 with a 1.90 goals against average and .937 save percentage in helping Tampa Bay win the second of back-to-back Stanley Cup titles a year ago.
Toronto handed the Lightning their worst playoff loss under coach Jon Cooper in a 5-0 road loss.
”It’s the classic, you’ve got to turn the page,” Cooper said, adding he’s confident Vasilevskiy and the two-time defending champions will rebound with a strong performance in Game 2 on Wednesday night.
The St. Louis Blues blanked the Minnesota Wild 4-0, with Marc-Andre Fleury giving up four goals on 31 shots.
Carolina, meanwhile, scored four times in 24 shots against Boston’s Linus Ullmark on the way to a 5-1 win over the Bruins.
In the only game not decided by multiple goals, Phillip Danault scored late as the Kings took advantage of Edmonton goalie Mike Smith failing to clear the puck from behind his net to beat the Oilers 4-3.
The opening-night scoring barrage came after a regular season in which teams combined to average 6.29 goals per game – up from 5.87 the previous year.
Monday night was also a busy night for officials, who doled out 48 penalty minutes in Blues-Wild. A combined 24 penalties were called in Lightning-Maple Leafs, resulting in a whopping 113 penalty minutes.
BRUINS AT HURRICANES
Carolina leads 1-0. Game 2, 7 p.m. EDT (ESPN)
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy is tinkering with his defenseman pairings entering Wednesday’s Game 2.
But he’s sticking with the same goaltender.
Cassidy said Tuesday that Ullmark would start again. Ullmark had 20 saves in his first career playoff appearance while surrendering four goals: two while dealing with traffic in front of the crease, one on a perfectly executed 2-on-1 rush and one that saw Vincent Trocheck bang the puck off the left side of Ullmark’s helmet and into the net on a sharp-angle rush.
”He had a great run here coming into the playoffs and we’re not going to judge him on one game,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy also shuffled his top four defensemen from Monday’s lineup, pairing Hampus Lindholm with Brandon Carlo instead of Charlie McAvoy. McAvoy is now set to play with Matt Grzelcyk.
Carolina has outscored Boston 21-2 in four meetings this season, though Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour shrugged off any idea of his team having Boston’s number.
”Players know better than anyone how the game went,” Brind’Amour said. ”They judge their shifts. They know if they were doing what they were supposed to do. The score again doesn’t tell the story.”
LIGHTNING AT MAPLE LEAFS
Toronto leads 1-0. Game 2, 7:30 p.m. EDT (ESPN2)
The Lightning, shut out in the postseason for the first time a Game 7 loss to Washington in the 2018 Eastern Conference Final, hasn’t lost consecutive playoff games since the first round of 2019.
”Last night was ugly, make no bones about that. But this isn’t the first time we’ve lost a Game 1 and won the series,” Cooper said after practice Tuesday. ”It’s not ideal, but it’s not like it’s uncharted water, either.”
The Maple Leafs will be without forward Kyle Clifford for Game 2 after the NHL suspended him one game for boarding Tampa Bay’s Ross Colton during the first period of Game 1.
BLUES AT WILD
St. Louis leads 1-0. Game 2, 9:30 p.m. EDT (ESPN)
The Blues already have the Wild on their heels, thanks to their stellar special teams.
The Wild were pleased enough after Game 1 with their 5-on-5 play, a season-long strength of theirs, but their season-long problems on the power play and the penalty kill came back to bite them.
The Blues penalty kill went 6 for 6. David Perron, who finished with the 14th postseason hat trick in franchise history, gave St. Louis goals on its first two power plays.
”We have a bunch of different ways that we can score. If they want to take one thing away from us, we have another option and we’re just prepared for that. We’re definitely very confident right now,” said defenseman Torey Krug, who had three assists in Game 1.
The Blues not only ranked second in the NHL during the regular season with the 27% success rate on their power play, they set a franchise record for that efficiency.
The Wild let their frustration of facing a multi-goal deficit over the final 44:04 of the game get the best of them, taking too many penalties and letting their trust in their own game erode down the stretch.
They’re planning adjustments to their special teams schemes — and doubling down on their commitment to keeping the game in as much 5-on-5 as possible.
They’re not looking to rely on their power play and the preceding whistles going their way that are required, nor do they want to be killing so many penalties as in Game 1.
KINGS AT OILERS
Los Angeles leads 1-0. Game 2, 10 p.m. EDT (ESPN2)
Edmonton coach Jay Woodcroft said he knows who will start at goaltender Wednesday night, but would not say if it’s Smith or Mikko Koskinen.
With Game 1 tied 3-3, Smith tried to clear the puck from behind his net, but instead put it on the stick of a Los Angeles player in front. He made a diving save, but couldn’t corral the puck and Danault delivered his game-winner a few seconds later.
”I think it was one puck-handling error. He made a big save off that error,” Woodcroft said. ”I think as a team we can do things to help him in that situation, the first being communicate (better).”
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