Monday night saw two thrilling games of NHL Stanley Cup playoff action. The No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference avoided elimination, while the final entrant into the Western Conference semifinals was determined.
In the first game of the evening, the New York Rangers had their backs against the wall as they visited the Ottawa Senators in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series. With the Rangers down 3-2 in the series, they managed a 3-2 win on enemy territory. From the game recap:
The Ottawa Senators made a third-period charge, and they even scored a controversial goal in the final minute to cut the New York Rangers' lead to 3-2. But in the end they couldn't complete the comeback, and the top-seeded Blueshirts forced a Game 7 with the victory by that same score. Chris Kreider's second-period goal, his first in the NHL, turned out to be the game-winner.
Poor officiating turned into the story of Game 6, with weak calls from officials Tim Peel and Steve Kozari going both ways. One of them, a weak goalie interference call against Ottawa's Nick Foligno in the second period, turned into a Rangers power play goal and gave New York full control of the game.
In the nightcap, the Phoenix Coyotes won their first playoff series in Arizona as they eliminated the Chicago Blackhawks, four games to two. The series finished in Chicago as, for the first time in the matchup, the game failed to head into overtime. Instead, the 'Yotes took the direct route, opting for a 4-0 blowout. From the game recap:
The Coyotes made the most of every chance they had. They were severely outshot by the Blackhawks, but not only did they manage to capitalize on the shots on goal that they did take, the Coyotes were able to lean on the spectacular defense of their goalie, Mike Smith.
The Coyotes managed to take a 1-0 lead in the second period, but they then piled on three more goals in the third period. Gilbert Brule served up the first goal, at 2:24 with an assist by Kyle Chipchura.
At 8:47, the Blackhawks received a backbreaking penalty, as Jimmy Hayes received a five-minute major and a 10-minute misconduct for boarding on Michal Rozsival. On the ensuing power play, Antoine Vermette scored at 13:04. This goal would be the true dagger for Chicago, as the costly penalty led to the goal that put any hope for a late comeback well out of reach and silenced the hometown crowd.
The Coyotes will now match up with the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference semifinals. The other semifinal series in the West will have the St. Louis Blues taking on the Los Angeles Kings. None of those four teams has ever won a Stanley Cup, so we just might be in for a historic year.
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