Sunday’s best: Perry bounces back, so Ducks bounce Flames; Rangers force Game 7
Best game: Anaheim 3, Calgary 2 (OT). Late in the second period, Ducks forward Corey Perry went off the ice with a leg injury that looked like it might end his season. Two minutes and 26 seconds into overtime, Perry was on his knees in the crease, batting a puck past Calgary goalie Karri Ramo to give him his postseason-leading 15th point and push the Ducks into what should be an epic Western Conference finals against the Chicago Blackhawks. Anaheim hasn’t been to the conference finals since it won its only Stanley Cup in 2007, and Calgary didn’t make it easy on the Ducks. The Flames grabbed leads of 1-0 and 2-1 — the latter of which the carried into the third period before Matt Beleskey tied the game 59 seconds in, setting the stage for Perry’s heroics that will afford the Ducks a bit of a break before they take on the Hawks. "It’s huge when guys in here can get rest … have a couple days off before we start going again," Perry told NBC Sports Network’s Brian Engblom. Anaheim is an NHL-best 8-1 in the playoffs.
Best gut check: Rangers 4, Capitals 3. The New York Rangers are at their best when their backs are against the wall. That was the case in Game 6 in Washington with the Rangers facing elimination for a second straight game. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 42 saves and New York withstood a whopping 96 shot attempts and a dominant third-period surge by the Capitals to rally from a 3-1 series deficit and force Game 7 on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers are 7-1 in elimination games under coach Alain Vigneault, who is in his second season. This will be the fourth time in five playoff matchups between the Capitals and Rangers that they’ve gone to a Game 7 since 2009. New York has played 13 straight one-goal playoff games dating to last season — an NHL record.
Best stat: Rangers’ fast starts. Chris Kreider’s goal 40 seconds into Game 6 against the Capitals marked the third time in 11 playoff games New York has scored in the first minute of play. Kreider scored 38 seconds into Game 2 and Derick Brassard scored 28 seconds into Game 1 of the team’s first-round series with Pittsburgh.
Best quid pro quo: Johnny Gaudreau, F, Calgary. Fifty-six seconds after Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler ripped a shot in and out of the net so quickly that the officials didn’t notice, Gaudreau answered to give Calgary its lead back at 2-1 early in the second period.
another look at wonder child's goal pic.twitter.com/RZHUaQH2it
— Stephanie Vail (@myregularface) May 11, 2015
Best at being worst: Washington Capitals. Through the second round of the 2015 playoffs, teams have trailed 3-1 in a best-of-seven series 277 times. Only 27 teams have come back to win the series, with two current series still undecided. Montreal and New York have a chance to make it 29 if they can complete rallies. If the Rangers do it, it would mark the fifth time Washington has blown a 3-1 series lead in its history. The Caps blew a 3-1 lead to the New York Islanders in 1987; to Pittsburgh in 1992; to Pittsburgh in 1995 and to Montreal in 2010. No team has blown as many.
Best visual: Washington forward Alex Ovechkin’s hit on New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh. With the Caps throwing everything they had at the Rangers midway through the third period, Ovechkin decided to add his body to the mix by absolutely crushing McDonagh behind the net and knocking him out of the game. Despite the protests of some local media members, the hit was perfectly executed and perfectly clean, with McDonagh turning his back to Ovechkin at the last second.
Ovechkin cheap shots continue. Rams McDonagh into back boards after Lundqvist stops him. No call. Hilarious
— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) May 11, 2015
Man, that hit on McDonagh by Ovechkin was a thing of beauty. Clean, physical hit
— Brian McIntyre (@brian_mcintyre) May 11, 2015
Best quote, via The Washington Post: "We almost tie(d) the game and the character of this group, it shows a lot. We’re going to come back and win the series." — Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, guaranteeing a Game 7 win in New York.
Best debate: Calgary forward Matt Stajan’s hit on Anaheim forward Corey Perry: With the play reversing direction, Stajan clearly saw Perry was on his right and made contact with him as he headed up ice with the puck out of sight. Perry wasn’t ready for the hit, screamed audibly and went immediately to the dressing room, unable to put weight on his right leg. Incidental contact? Interference? Did Stajan deliver a hip-on-hip or knee-on-knee hit deliberately? It’s tough to say. Perry returned to the game, but he cut shifts short and appeared to be skating gingerly until his game-winning goal in overtime. "When it first happened, I couldn’t put any weight on it," Perry told Engblom. "It’s the playoffs. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do and come back out. I found a way to play."
Best Flame extinguisher: Matt Beleskey, F, Anaheim. Beleskey has five goals in this series; one in each game. Two were game-winners; Sunday’s tied the game at 2-2 early in the third period when he deflected Francois Beauchemin’s shot from the point. Beleskey’s five-game playoff scoring streak is an Anaheim postseason record.
Best thing to look forward to Tuesday: Montreal at Tampa Bay, Game 6. The Lightning brushed off a Game 4 rout as a fluke, then shrugged off Game 5 as a tough road loss in the final minutes of play. There will be no such solace if Tampa fails to close out Montreal in Game 6 at home after building a 3-0 series lead. If the Lightning fail to win another game, Montreal will have all the momentum and Game 7 back at Bell Centre. The Canadiens are trying to become the fifth team in NHL history to win a series after trailing 3-0.