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Stanley Cup Daily 4/12: A First Time For Everything

Before last night, two franchises comprised the list of teams to have never won a playoff game - a list that is now empty.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Los Angeles Kings at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Each day during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Canes Country recaps the night before, previews the games for that night, and gives you game times and broadcast information.

Wednesday’s Recaps

Philadelphia Flyers v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game One Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Penguins 7, Philadelphia Flyers 0 (PIT leads 1-0)

Well, that’s the way to start a series for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens continued their postseason dominance with a 7-0 thrashing of the Flyers in Game 1. Sidney Crosby stepped up to the plate and tallied a hat trick, the third in his playoff career, to lead the Penguins to the win.

The Penguins offense erupted in the first period, quickly peppering Brian Elliott with 15 shots and lit the lamp for three early goals. On goal number three, Evgeni Malkin raced end to end before firing a backhand shot for a highlight reel goal. It was the first time since 2000 a team won Game 1 in a shutout while scoring seven goals or more, a feat last achieved by...the Penguins:

Elliott was pulled for Petr Mrazek after goal number five, but Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said that he plans to go back to Elliott for Game 2. Buckle up for what looks like it will be a wild series. -Justin Lape

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Minnesota Wild at Winnipeg Jets James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Winnipeg Jets 3, Minnesota Wild 2 (WPG leads 1-0)

Winnipeg was able to eke out its first playoff win in franchise history Wednesday night, coming back from a 2-1 third period deficit to take Game 1 from the Minnesota Wild by a 3-2 score. The Jets opened the scoring at 17:37 of the 2nd when Mark Scheifele snapped off a quick shot from the slot after a dish from Blake Wheeler. That score would hold for the remainder of the period, but Minnesota answered when the NHL’s oldest active player, Matt Cullen, rifled a wrister past Connor Hellebuyck to tie the game 1:46 into the 3rd. Zach Parise gave the Wild the lead by burying a slick pass from Mikael Granlund barely two minutes later.

But the Wild were not able to hold the lead for very long, as 19-year old wunderkind Patrik Laine scored his first career playoff goal less than a minute after Parise’s go-ahead goal. The Jets then took the lead for good on a Joe Morrow goal with seven minutes left that seemed to pinball through traffic and find a way past Devan Dubnyk, who made 37 saves in the game.

Minnesota looks to even the series on Friday at 7:30 and come home tied 1-1. -Liam Goff

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Los Angeles Kings at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights 1, Los Angeles Kings 0 (VGK leads 1-0)

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all 30 shots he faced and Shea Theodore (or was it Pierre-Edouard Bellemare?) netted the deciding tally early in Game 1 as the Vegas Golden Knights shut out the Los Angeles Kings 1-0 at T-Mobile Arena Wednesday night, giving Vegas their first postseason win in the team’s first playoff appearance.

After an opening skit/lightshow that only Las Vegas could put on, the Golden Knights dictated the pace and bagged the game-winner just over three minutes into the affair. Theodore snapped a shot from the blue line that appeared to deflect off of either Bellemare’s stick or a defender, and past LA netminder Jonathan Quick.

What ensued was a 57-minute battle that saw both teams laying hit after hit, LA squandering chances and Fleury carrying over his renaissance season into the playoffs to seal the win. Dustin Brown inexplicably lifted a shot over an empty net while standing just a foot from the crease in the second period, but the Kings hardly looked dangerous throughout the night. The physicality ramped up as the Kings’ frustration continued to build, and set a tone for heavy competitions that could boil over as the series progresses.

Game 2 will take place again at T-Mobile Arena on Friday night. -Peter Dewar

Thursday’s Previews

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

(A3) Toronto Maple Leafs at (A2) Boston Bruins

7:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN

  1. Frederik Andersen: The quality of Toronto’s 2018 playoff run will come down to the play of Danish goalie (and one-time Hurricanes prospect) Frederik Andersen. If you’ve watched the Leafs this season, you have surely noticed just how solid Andersen has been. Andersen saw, and stopped the most shots of any goalie in the NHL this year. Another good-looking stat for him? His career 10-1-0 record and .935 save percentage against the Bruins.
  2. Will Boston’s busy deadline prove worth it? Unlike the Hurricanes, the Bruins were anything but quiet on deadline day and the days leading up to it. With names like Rick Nash, Tommy Wingels, Nick Holden, and Brian Gionta added to the fold, Boston made a very clear statement that they felt like they could make a deep playoff run. They parted with a boatload of future assets, including their 2018 first-round pick, and now only time will tell if it was worth it. The Leafs are a tough draw for them in round one.
  3. Can Toronto contain the NHL’s best forward line? Boston’s star-studded trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak had a slow finish to their regular season campaign, but they spent a large portion of the year (when Bergeron was healthy) as the league’s most dominant line. Toronto is notorious for their less-than-impenetrable defense, so they will need to tighten things up at their own blue line; Ron Hainsey should be a big part of that effort. Nazem Kadri will draw a lot of shifts against Bergeron, and he will need to be up to the task. Kadri has a very good track record of sizing up to high-end talent. -Brett Finger

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

(WC2) New Jersey Devils at (A1) Tampa Bay Lightning

7:00 p.m. ET, NHL Network

  1. The Taylor Hall Factor: The Devils’ season has entirely hinged upon the play of 2010 first overall pick Taylor Hall. The winger has dominated the NHL this season on his way to 39 goals and 93 points. But the Devils are up against the most potent offensive team in the league, and they come off of a season in which they performed at about the league average offensively even with Hall’s heroics. They’re going to need a serious catalyst to keep up with the high-flying Lightning, and that task runs through Hall.
  2. Can the Lightning regain their form? Look at almost anyone’s predictions leading into this series: most people have the Lightning steamrolling New Jersey. If everything plays out like it should, then this series should be over very quickly. But hockey is a sport full of upsets. If I were an overly optimistic hockey fan from New Jersey, I’d draw hope from the fact that the Lightning have been playing at a lower level as of late compared to how they had performed for much of the season. It’s not too far-fetched for this series to end up much closer than it should be. The Lightning have been the best team in the league this year, annd now it’s time for them to show it.
  3. O Captain! My Captain! Two summers ago, Steven Stamkos chose to re-sign with the team that drafted him. Tonight, the captain is back in the lineup after a three game absence as the Lightning enter the playoffs with a team hungry for a Stanley Cup. It’s time for the franchise player to step up. The Lightning are built to win now, and Stamkos is the perfect player to lead them. -Andrew Ahr

Columbus Blue Jackets v Washington Capitals Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

(WC1) Columbus Blue Jackets at (M1) Washington Capitals

7:30 p.m. ET, USA Network

  1. Caps Crease Conundrum: The Capitals have mismanaged goaltending all season, resulting in Braden Holtby breaking down after starting 46 games through the opening four months of the year. After a string of bad performances and a February that saw Holtby post just four games with a save percentage of .900 or better, the Caps switched to backup Philipp Grubauer. Grubauer played well down the stretch and has now been named the starter for game one. How long of a leash does he have with Barry Trotz, and will he get pulled after a loss in either game one or two?
  2. Peaking at the Right Time: The Blue Jackets are the hottest team in the Metropolitan Division entering the playoffs. Columbus has a 16-6-3 record since the midway point of February and has looked relatively unstoppable since the All-Star Break. Their 88 goals in this stretch is tied for fifth-best in the league while their 68 goals against were good for sixth-fewest in the league. The Caps will have their hands full.
  3. Are they ready for the playoffs? The Caps have been notorious playoff underachievers in the Alex Ovechkin era. Since he joined the team in the 2005, the Caps have not reached the conference final despite eight playoff appearances. Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets have never escaped the first round, and have just won one playoff game in their history. Last season the team looked poised for a run but were dominated by the Penguins. Which Jackets team will show up: last year’s playoff team, or the regular season team from the past two seasons? -Zeke Lukow

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Nashville Predators Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

(WC2) Colorado Avalanche at (C1) Nashville Predators

9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN

  1. The Upstart and the Wily Vet: When Jonathan Bernier signed on to back up Semyon Varlamov this season, very few people would have envisioned that he’d be Colorado’s starter for a first round playoff series - or that Colorado would even be in a first-round playoff series. But after Varlamov struggled through some injuries, that’s exactly where we are. Bernier and his solid .913 regular season save percentage will be put to the test against 35-year-old Finn Pekka Rinne, who has enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance season and is a virtual guarantee to be one of the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy. If Rinne can outplay the upstart Bernier, this will be a very quick series.
  2. MacKinnon vs. Nashville’s Defense: This alone will make this series worth watching. MacKinnon had an MVP-caliber year, but he’ll be put to the test against the best defense the league has to offer. It will be interesting to see which pair of defenders Peter Laviolette uses against the superstar, but he’ll be up against it in a big way regardless.
  3. Colorado’s Youth The Avalanche are the youngest team in this year’s playoffs. Led by the aforementioned MacKinnon and others like Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, and Tyson Jost, this will be either the first or second taste of playoff hockey for pretty much the entire Colorado roster. A key part of this series will be how mentally prepared they are to take on the battle-tested and hungry Predators. -Kyle Morton

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Anaheim Ducks Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

(P3) San Jose Sharks at (P2) Anaheim Ducks

10:30 p.m. ET, USA Network

  1. Injuries on both sides: Every team deals with injuries, but the walking wounded in this series could fill a team on their own. The Sharks were dealt a big mid-season blow when Joe Thornton suffered a right MCL injury, but he is expected to be able to return sometime during the postseason if the Sharks can extend their run. Evander Kane is dealing with an arm injury but is expected to suit up for the Sharks in Game 1. The Ducks, injury-plagued all year, have been bitten by the injury bug again late, with Cam Fowler expected to miss most of the series with a shoulder injury and starting netminder John Gibson unclear for Game 1 with an upper-body injury.
  2. Defense First: Both the Ducks and the Sharks finished in the top-10 in goals against: the Ducks are 4th, and the Sharks 9th. San Jose’s transformation has been noteworthy, toning down their traditionally high-octane offense to a defensively sound team in front of Martin Jones. Meanwhile, when the Ducks brought Randy Carlyle back as head coach prior to last season, it signaled a change in approach back to the tough, defensive-minded brand of hockey that he preaches. Expect 3-4 goals to be enough in most all of these games of what promises to be a tight-checking series.
  3. In and Out (And not the California-born burger joint): In order for either of these teams to have a hope of making a significant run, they will need to keep the exhausting wear and tear of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to a minimum. With aging anchors serving as important pieces on each side, not playing an extended series would provide some valuable rest that these teams will require to run the Stanley Cup Playoff gauntlet. If a team does grab a series lead, don’t expect any complacency, as they are all aware of the value of days off for these two seasoned playoff combatants. -Andy House