Easter Sunday was a day for laying eggs. Detroit laid one in a loss at Boston. Los Angeles laid one in a rout at San Jose. Tampa Bay laid one in Montreal and the New York Rangers produced one after taking a 2-0 lead in a loss to Philadelphia.
Sunday was probably the least memorable day of the playoffs thus far — unless you’re Brent Seabrook — but the Flyers, Bruins, Canadiens and Sharks aren’t complaining about the lack of drama.
GAME OF THE DAY:Montreal 3, Tampa Bay 2. Thomas Plekanec scored early in the third period and Montreal held off Tampa at raucous Bell Centre to grab a commanding 2-0 series lead. Canada’s only Cup hope is poised to become the first team to advance to the conference semifinals.
PLAY OF THE DAY: It’s not often you see a 3-on-0, and it almost never happens against the Los Angeles Kings, the league’s best defensive team. But that’s what San Jose produced off a poor Kings line change in the third period. Sharks forward Joe Pavelski made them pay, beating Jonathan Quick to the glove side in a 7-2 laugher at the Shark Tank.
1. G Tuukka Rask, Boston: Rask made 34 saves to help the Bruins even their series with Detroit at one game apiece, 4-1.
2. LW Joe Pavelski, San Jose: The Sharks’ MVP — and unsung Hart Trophy candidate — had a goal and two assists to help San Jose rout the Kings for a second straight game.
3. G Ray Emery, Philadelphia: Emery had 31 saves to help the Flyers post their first win at Madison Square Garden in three years.
Series: Tied 1-1
What we learned: This series will live up to expectations. The Rangers had a 2-0 lead just 8:22 in. They were one goal away from probably pushing this game and series too far out of reach. But Philadelphia dug deep, established a withering forecheck, won puck battles and scored four straight goals to send the series back to Philadelphia tied at 1. Jakub Voracek had a huge goal late in the first period to ease Philly’s jitters in the face of that lengthy MSG losing streak. Jason Akeson made up for that costly double-minor in Game 1 with a power play to tie it in the second period and Luke Schenn got the game-winner on another rebound. The Flyers didn’t fare any better than Game 1 at staying out of the penalty box, handing New York six more power plays on Sunday. But the Flyers cashed in on two of their own three power plays when Wayne Simmonds seemingly fought off the entire Rangers roster to muscle a puck into an empty net with 26 seconds left. Emery made a number of big saves. He stoned Derek Stepan and Martin St. Louis on backdoor feeds, and he stopped Mats Zucarrello on the doorstep to preserve the lead.
Next game: Tuesday at Philadelphia, 8 p.m. ET
Key player: G Tuukka Rask, Boston. Rask made 34 saves and has allowed two goals in two games.
What we learned: If Boston gets any offense against the Red Wings, it can regain control of this series in Hockeytown. The Red Wings pulled off the shocker of the first round when they beat Boston in Game 1 at TD Garden, where the Bruins were a league-best 31-7-3 this season. But lost in that storyline was that nothing changed about Boston’s superlative defensive game — or Rask. One brilliant Pavel Datsyuk rush was all the Red Wings had to show for their efforts and, four out of five times, that will be enough for Boston to do what it did as much as any team in the NHL this season: win. The missing ingredients in Game 1 were the net presence, power-play mechanics and forechecking the Bruins brought in Game 2 to counter Detroit’s speed and possession advantage. Boston had two power play goals in four chances Sunday. Now it’s time for Red Wings coach Mike Babcock to make his counter-adjustments. We’re guessing it won’t involve the below matchup that never materialized between Zdeno Chara and Brendan Smith, but Detroit has already shown the past two years it won’t back down from the biggest of obstacles. If the Wings can get the next one — and if goalie Jimmy Howard can avoid costly mistakes like the turnover that led to Boston’s first goal — this series cold go the distance.
Key stat: Montreal forward Rene Bourque’s goal 11 seconds into the game was the fastest playoff goal ever scored at Bell Centre.
Key player: D P.K. Subban, Montreal. Subban logged 28:03 of ice time and had two highlight-reel assists to spark the Canadiens’ offense. The first came on a stretch pass from deep in his own end that set up a streaking Bourque on the first goal of the game. The second came after he circled the Tampa net and slipped a pass across the slot to Brendan Gallagher for an easy tap-in and a 2-1 lead.
What we learned: Tampa has overcome enormous obstacles this season, including the trade of Martin St. Louis and star Steven Stamkos’ broken leg. But the Lightning are done. The loss of goalie Ben Bishop before this series began was a devastating blow for a team that had relied so heavily on its goaltender both to steal games and to inject confidence into the players in front of him. His replacement, Anders Lindback, hasn’t played poorly, but he hasn’t been great, and Bourque’s early goal — one Lindback could have had — set the tone for Sunday’s last-ditch effort. Tampa is in a 3-0 hole, Bourque has three goals in his past two games and the Canadiens are about to advance to the second round for the first time since 2010. Most encouraging for Montreal is that goalie Carey Price has settled down after a shaky Game 1. The Canadiens will need him at the top of his game in a likely second-round matchup against the top-seeded Boston Bruins.
Series: San Jose leads 2-0
Key stat: The Sharks have 13 goals in two games against the regular season’s goals-against leader.
Responding to Seabrook’s assertion that he thought the puck was still there, the NHL said the onus is still on Seabrook not to hit an ineligible opponent, noting that Seabrook skated "some distance" to deliver the hit so he should have recognized the circumstances.
Oddly, the NHL never mentioned the hit to the head, which was the initial point of contact, but it did note that Seabrook has no suspension history. That was a mitigating factor in the length of the suspension, but three games is still a lengthy suspension for the playoffs, and it seems even longer when the NHL didn’t even have to mention the head shot to justify it because there were two other pieces of evidence that sufficed.
Even so, if Backes is out longer — and if Valdimir Sobotka misses time due to Bryan Bickell’s penalized but otherwise unpunished kneeing infraction — the Blackhawks could gain an undeserved upper hand as a result of this incident. Then again, the way the Hawks have been handing away leads, three games may be enough to ensure Seabrook never plays again this season.