NHL takeaways: Mi casa es su casa for Ducks, Kings
The one series that appeared in doubt is now the one conference semifinal that looks like a lock.
Boston got an inspired effort up and down its lineup to take control of its Eastern Conference semifinal series with Montreal off a 4-2 win on Saturday at TD Garden that gave the Bruins a 3-2 series lead.
But Anaheim evened things up with a 2-0 win over Los Angeles at Staples Center, turning both Western Conference semifinal series into three-game nail-biters while the New York Rangers will try to force a seventh game against Pittsburgh when the two teams meet Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
All four of last year’s semifinalists — Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago and L.A. — are looking to advance to that round again, but the Canadiens, Rangers, Minnesota Wild and Ducks will try to break up the monotony.
GAME OF THE DAY
Anaheim 2, Los Angeles 0: The SoCal series is a full-fledged rivalry now that both teams have won on each other’s ice (twice) in this postseason. The Kings tried to bring their physical game on Saturday with 52 hits, but Anaheim’s captain celebrated a milestone in style and the Ducks got a glimpse of their future in goal.
PLAY OF THE DAY
Getzlaf scores and Getzlaf saves: It would have been enough had Ryan Getzlaf just stopped with a goal and an assist. But a birthday calls for something special, so the Anaheim captain added a right leg save to his repertoire, robbing L.A. defenseman Drew Doughty on the doorstep after goalie John Gibson had stopped two other attempts and was out of position with Jarrett Stoll’s stick firmly wedged between his pads. Now to come up with a suitable term for this rare trifecta that rivals the Gordie Howe hat trick.
1. C Carl Soderberg, Boston: We noted at the start of this series that Soderberg would have a chance to make a major impact due to matchups. He made his biggest on Saturday in pivotal Game 5, scoring the opening goal of the game and adding two assists in the Bruins’ win. He has five points in five playoff games against the Habs.
2. C Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim: Getzlaf celebrated his 29th birthday with an assist on the opening goal and what turned out to be an insurance goal in a series-tying win over Los Angeles.
3. G John Gibson, Anaheim: In his first career playoff start, the Ducks’ future in goal arrived early, stopping 28 shots for a shutout. Gibson won his first three NHL starts at the end of end of the regular season with one coming against San Jose to clinch the Pacific Division title.
Series: Boston leads 3-2.
Key stat: Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask had his shutout streak snapped at 121:58 on Brendan Gallagher’s power-play goal late in the second period, but Rask still made 29 saves.
Key player: RW Loui Ericksson, Boston: On a line with Carl Soderberg and Game 4 hero Matt Fraser, Erickson had the primary assist on Soderberg’s goal and scored a dagger late in the third period.
What we learned: The Bruins may have just passed the toughest test they’ll get in the Eastern Conference. Montreal matches up well with Boston, and the Canadiens had two golden opportunities to put the Bruins on the ropes earlier in this series, blowing a two-goal lead in the third period of a Game 2 loss at TD Garden, and losing in overtime in Game 4 at Molson Centre. The Bruins’ size is wearing on Montreal, and Boston knows it. The Bruins posted 39 hits on Saturday — their highest total since Game 1 — and it was clear they were trying to pound the Canadiens into submission. Montreal coach Michel Therrien made the curious decision to scratch playoff money-man Daniel Briere in favor of Brandon Prust, but it didn’t help the Habs match Boston’s physical play — Prust had one hit — and it robbed them of a creative offensive player. Montreal is now faced with the task of beating the Bruins two straight games to survive and advance. Boston broke an 0-for-10 power-play drought with goals from Reilly Smith and Jarome Iginla. The Bruins are getting balanced scoring again, they’ve held Montreal to six goals in the last three games and Rask is on his game, leading the playoffs with a .940 save percentage as Boston looks to close out another opponent. Boston went 5-1 against the East’s other semifinalists, the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh, during the regular season.
Next game: Monday at Montreal, 7:30 p.m. ET
Series: Tied, 2-2.
Key stat: Anaheim had zero shots on goal in the second period — the first time the Ducks have ever finished a playoff period without a shot on goal.
Key player: G John Gibson, Anaheim: The 20-year-old rookie was brilliant and likely earned the start in Game 5 with the Ducks’ first shutout of this postseason and just the franchise’s second in the past five postseasons. Gibson robbed Jake Muzzin and Tyler Toffoli in the final six minutes to preserve the masterpiece.
What we learned: Home ice clearly doesn’t mean much when you’re from the same metropolitan area as your opponent. Anaheim’s win gave road teams a 4-0 record in this series and evened up a series that looked like it might be an L.A. rout after the Kings took a 2-0 series lead as part of a six-game postseason winning streak. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick allowed two goals on 11 shots before coach Darryl Sutter replaced him with Martin Jones in an effort to spark his team. It didn’t work because the Kings couldn’t solve Gibson. That had to be an odd feeling for a team that is used to its goalie dancing in opponents’ heads. Anaheim got just enough first-period offense on goals from Devante Smith-Pelly and Ryan Getzlaf. Then the Ducks held on for dear life as L.A. outshot them 19-3 over the final two periods before a frenzied but unfulfilled Staples Center crowd. Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau, one of the most likeable coaches in the game, has never been past the second round of the playoffs and has never won more than seven games in a postseason. The Ducks are two wins away from erasing both those facts.
Next game: Monday at Anaheim, 10 p.m. ET
Final thought: The one player that has hurt Boston consistently in its series with Montreal is defenseman P.K. Subban. So the Bruins decided to do something about that. They targeted him repeatedly on Saturday, with Milan Lucic and Shawn Thornton both scoring hits on him. They pushed gloves in his face, they threw him to the ice and, at one point, as Subban skated past the Bruins bench, Thornton squirted water in his face, leading an enraged Subban to approach the officials to no avail. Subban still scored a goal to post his seventh point in this series, but the Bruins won the war.