The Florida Panthers, with only 48 hours between playing Boston in a gruelling Game 7 and Toronto in a Game 1, didn’t think they played great last night but won anyway.
The Maple Leafs, who said they were ready to roll but didn’t look sharp at times, are now preparing for a must-win game Thursday after a disappointing 4-2 setback.
The Edmonton Oilers are pumped to get their second-round series rolling tonight in Las Vegas, where the oddsmakers favour them to win the West. The Oil watched the East favourites get shelled last night, so that might help them focus on this series and not the Cup final.
Here are five things to know about the NHL playoffs:
TKACHUK MAKES PRESENCE FELT
Toronto coaches warned their players not to let Matthew Tkachuk get in their heads with his agitating ways or off-the-cuff comments.
They did let him get near their net, however, and he responded by setting up three goals, including Brandon Montour’s insurance marker with under eight minutes left in the third period.
Sergei Bobrovsky, with his fourth straight win in net, made 34 saves in the 4-2 victory and the speedy, chippy Panthers are suddenly a major problem, or at least a different one than the Lightning squad which the Leafs eliminated in six games.
Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said the Panthers forced his squad into making numerous mistakes in Game 1 that didn’t happen the first round.
The coach, as expected, said it’s a long series and momentum can shift quickly. Leafs Nation would like “quickly” to mean Thursday.
PAVELSKI STARS, BUT KRAKEN WIN
They played past midnight in Dallas last night, waiting for a Stars overtime goal that would have made Joe Pavelski’s four-goal game in his first game back from concussion protocol the main headline.
But Yanni Gourde spoiled the history-making game when he scored at 12:17 of overtime to give the Seattle Kraken a 5-4 victory and 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series.
Pavelski, at 38 years and 295 days old, became the oldest player ever with a four-goal game in the NHL playoffs. It came in his 170th post-season game — he is one of only five players with that many without winning a Stanley Cup.
The Kraken, who eliminated the defending champion Colorado Avalanche in Round 1 with a 2-1 Game 7 win on the road, continue to impress and surprise, even without injured sniper Jared McCann.
ROAD TRIPS FOR RADIO CREW
Joe Bowen no longer has to scream “Holy Mackinaw” from the basement when the Leafs score on the road.
After getting through the first round of playoffs for the first time since 2004, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment announced Monday that Bowen and radio broadcast partner Jim Ralph will get to cover home and away games, making life much easier for the pair who had some problems identifying overtime goal scorers off a TV monitor.
Bowen and Ralph had been calling road games from a remote location while watching the television stream since the league resumed play from the COVID-19 pandemic.
NO SLEEP IN THIS CRIB
We’ve all heard of Sleepless in Seattle, but for Maple Leafs’ netminder Ilya Samsonov there’s new meaning to the phrase if you snooze, you lose.
It turns out that when Toronto wins, elated fans at Maple Leaf Square are so loud that it keeps waking his wife Maria and their newborn baby boy, who live in the downtown area.
Samsonov isn’t complaining, saying he loves the playoff buzz in the Ontario capital. But with crowds growing by the win, and oddsmakers pointing at the Maple Leafs to end Canada’s Stanley Cup drought, baby Samsonov will either need earplugs to sleep, or be forced to watch replays of the final month of the Anaheim Ducks season.
There is a chance everyone slept well last night after the Panthers pounced on the Leafs with a 4-2 win in Game 1.
AVOIDING SIN CITY SIN BIN A KEY FOR KNIGHTS
Even before the puck is dropped tonight to open the Vegas Golden Knights-Edmonton Oilers series the emotions are running hot — but that’s the fans who are steaming, not the teams.
Game 2 in the series, originally scheduled for Friday in Sin City, was switched to Saturday to make it the marquee TV game. Problem is, loads of Oiler fans had booked trips in advance expecting a game Friday.
The Golden Knights have bigger problems, centre Chandler Stephenson said, in mixing physical play and staying out of the penalty box against the lethal Oilers’ power play.
Edmonton scored on 32.4 per cent of power plays during the regular season, the highest mark since the NHL began tracking that statistic in the 1977-78 season. The Oilers were even better against Los Angeles in the first round, scoring at a 56.3 per cent clip.
Vegas was in the middle of the pack in killing off 77.4 per cent of power plays, but the Knights committed a league-low 243 penalties in the regular season.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2023.
The Canadian Press