As the Conference Finals continue, we’ll give you a recap from last night’s game and what to look forward to in tonight’s action.
Eastern Conference Final Game 4
After the humiliating Wednesday loss, the Penguins came back in Game 4 Friday to build up a 3-0 lead and hold off a late Ottawa surge for a 3-2 road win, putting the series at two games a piece.
Craig Anderson almost fought off the 14-shot first period effort by the Penguins offense, but let a relatively easy goal in off of a 3-on-2 rush by Pittsburgh in the last minute of the period. Olli Maatta flung the puck stick side, and Anderson was off the post just enough to give Maatta’s shot space to give the 22-year-old his first playoff goal.
The Penguins would build that lead in the second period with a classic Sidney Crosby goal: perched up against the goalpost, waiting for a feed from Jake Guentzel and, on receiving it, slapping until the puck finds a way in. Then, the third goal being...well, just an unfortunate one for the Senators, as Brian Dumoulin redirects the puck off the skate of Dion Phaneuf as he chases Evgeni Malkin away from the crease. Good defense, bad luck.
As the second period winded down and it seemed the Senators would go to the third period down 3-0, Bobby Ryan turned every-which-way and somehow fired off a perfect pass to Clarke MacArthur just above the crease to make the deficit a manageable two goals. But even after Tom Pyatt redirected an Erik Karlsson slapshot late in the third to make it 3-2, the Senators couldn’t force overtime.
Though the shots easily favored Pittsburgh 35-26, Matt Murray was tested, especially in the first half of the third period. He followed up two back-to-back pad saves in the first two minutes against Viktor Stalberg with an even more impressive toe save against Derick Brassard five minutes later, not allowing any momentum to build for the home team.
Well, folks, it seems we’ve got ourselves another good series...
- Jake Crouse
Western Conference Final Game 5
Life without Johansen—The Nashville Predators received a punch to the gut on Friday when they learned that Ryan Johansen would miss the remainder of the playoffs after undergoing thigh surgery following their game four loss.
Losing Johansen changes the dynamic of this series and makes a 2-2 series look like a 3-1 series in favor of the Ducks. Johansen is their number one center and leading point producer. Taking that away from any team has potential to derail any chance of success.
This will also free up Ryan Kesler and maybe even make him more of a threat offensively since he's not going to be occupied with getting in Johansen's face on a shift-to-shift basis. It's a tough situation for Nashville, and they'll be in an uphill battle from here on out.
Depth—Without Johansen, it becomes imperative that Nashville's depth up front finds a way to contribute. Calle Jarnkrok hasn't been noticeable in the offensive end this postseason and neither Colin Wilson nor Colton Sissons has been effective in this series, combining for just one point against the Ducks.
For the sake of their playoff lives, they need offense out of forwards not named Filip Forsberg or Viktor Arvidsson.
Rinne vs. Gibson—We've seen some fun goalie battles this postseason, and, so far, Rinne and Gibson have given us an entertaining show. Rinne has been the star goalie of these playoffs, and while Gibson has been far less consistent, he's given his best performances in this series.
Pekka Rinne's role becomes so much more important now without Johansen. He can't let up any freebies. He needs to be Nashville's rock and keep a dangerous Anaheim offense off the board any way he can. This Predators team can't afford to be playing from behind anymore.
- Brett Finger