Home is where the wins are in the Western Conference. The Los Angeles Kings’ victory over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday improved Western teams’ home record to 15-1 thus far in the postseason.
The bad news for the Kings, Blackhawks, Wild and Stars, who are feeling better about themselves after tasting some recent success in their respective series, is that all four of those clubs will head back on the road for pivotal Game 5.
San Jose is the only team to post a road win in the conference thus far.
GAME OF THE DAY: Boston 3, Detroit 2 (OT). The return of Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg wasn’t enough to help the Red Wings hold off the Bruins at Joe Louis Arena. Following a lucky bounce in overtime, Boston is poised to advance to the second round.
PLAY OF THE DAY: The triple deflection. Boston defenseman Dougie Hamilton started perhaps the luckiest goal of the postseason by following that age-old doctrine of getting pucks to the net. Hamilton’s shot bounced off the stick of Detroit’s Luke Glendening, off the stick of Bruins forward Jarome Iginla, off Detroit defenseman Danny DeKeyser’s leg and past goalie Jonas Gustavsson to give Boston a 3-2 overtime win at Joe Louis Arena.
THREE STARS: 1. LW Marian Gaborik, Los Angeles: Gaborik got the Kings rolling with the first goal of the game, then finished off the Sharks with an early-third-period goal.
2.C Mikael Granlund, Minnesota: One assist, three drawn penalties and three blocked shots in the closing minutes.
3. G Tuukka Rask, Boston: He’s become a fixture in the three stars. Rask made 28 saves and kept the Bruins in it early against a spirited Detroit effort.
Boston 3, Detroit 2 (OT)
Series: Boston leads 3-1
Key stat: Ten of the NHL’s 31 playoff games in 2014 have gone to overtime.
Key player: Boston goalie Tuukka Rask. Detroit played its most inspired hockey of the series, throwing 37 shots at Rask. He made a number of huge saves to keep the Bruins in striking distance, then stopped Justin Abdelkader on a breakaway in overtime.
What we learned: Detroit has thrown everything it has at Boston. The Red Wings just don’t have enough to take down the NHL’s best team. Detroit doubled its offensive output of the series on Thursday, but the Wings still have only four goals in the series. Zetterberg’s return provided an early emotional lift and linemate Pavel Datsyuk scored his second goal of the series, but by the midpoint of the second period, you could feel the Bruins taking over the game with their superior forward depth coming in waves. Goalie Jonas Gustavsson (37 saves) performed well in place of Jimmy Howard, who was a surprise scratch with flu-like symptoms, but the Bruins are going to close out this series on Saturday in Boston, setting up a much anticipated second-round series with longtime nemesis Montreal. Zetterberg logged 18:54 of ice time in his first game since leaving the Winter Olympics for back surgery. That was the fourth-highest total among Detroit forwards.
Next game: Saturday at Boston, Noon EST
Minnesota 2, Colorado 1
Series: Tied 2-2.
Key stat: The Wild allowed a franchise-low 12 shots on goal while blocking 11.
Key player: C Mikael Granlund, Minnesota. As noted in the three stars, the hero of Game 3 did it all in the Wild’s series-tying, Game-4 win.
What we learned: Possession stats are all the rage in the NHL, and with good reason. It’s pretty obvious that the longer you have the puck, the greater your chance of winning becomes. Minnesota rarely gave up the puck on Thursday and that meant the Wild evened their series with Colorado. This was a total team effort from the Wild to shut down Colorado’s big guns by playing keep-away with the puck. Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper allowed his first goal of the playoffs (a soft one), but he barely broke a sweat.
Colorado has been a poor possession team all year — one of a couple reasons some analysts predicted their fall in the first round. But the greater issues for the Avs right now are the losses of two key players. Leading scorer Matt Duchene still is injured and, thanks to suspended Wild forward Matt Cooke’s illegal kneeing infraction, the Avs lost top offensive defenseman Tyson Barrie for four to six weeks with an MCL injury. Cooke’s classless act may end up being the play that turns this series. As we’ve seen throughout these playoffs in the Western Conference, momentum can swing when a team reaches home ice. But Colorado has some real soul searching to do as it heads home after a lifeless performance in Game 4.
Next game: Saturday at Colorado, 6:30 p.m. EST
Los Angeles 6, San Jose 3
Series: San Jose leads 3-1
Key stat: Only three times in 176 tries (1.7 percent) has a team come back to win a series after trailing 3-0 in the playoffs (Toronto vs. Detroit in 1942; the New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh in 1975; and Philadelphia vs. Boston in 2010).
Key player: RW Justin Williams, Los Angeles. Twice San Jose rallied, twice Williams scored to give L.A. the lead back — the second time for good.
What we learned: Kings coach Darryl Sutter breathed life into his drought-stricken team by juggling his lines and putting tough guy Dustin Brown on the right side with Anze Kopitar at center and Marian Gaborik on the left wing. The line was terrific all night, accounting for two Gaborik goals, a Brown empty-netter and steady pressure in the San Jose zone. Their impact trickled down, as the Kings got three additional goals from their second and third lines. San Jose didn’t come with the same fire as it had in the previous three games when it scored 17 goals. It’s hard to tell whether that was a product of a comfortable 3-0 series lead or L.A.’s early push — or both. Regardless, the Kings survived another day and showed some fight. But the task is enormous as they head back to San Jose for Game 5.
Next game: Saturday at San Jose, 7 p.m.
Final thought: Friday’s action will feature two pivotal Game 5s when the Blues host the Blackhawks and the Ducks host the Stars. In both cases, the availability of key players will be major storylines. The Orange County Register reported that Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf, a strong Hart Trophy candidate, is questionable at best for Game 5 with an upper body injury. St. Louis captain David Backes did not skate Thursday as he battles back from an apparent concussion (and a lingering foot injury) suffered one week ago on that infamous hit from Chicago’s Brent Seabrook. "Read into it what you will," Blues coach Ken Hitchcok told reporters of Backes’ continued absence.