Five days ago, hockey fans witnessed a gruesome hit in Game 1 of the Montreal-Ottawa series. On Wednesday, officials again found themselves scraping blood off the ice of a Canadian rink, but this time no one will be suspended as a result of the play.
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With 12:30 left in the third period, Toronto defenseman Mark Fraser absorbed the full force of a puck from Milan Lucic’s slap shot with his forehead. Replays showed the blow instantly felling the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder and the officials quickly whistled the play dead. Medical personnel immediately rushed to Fraser, who left the ice on his own power.
The play could re-ignite the debate over the mandatory wearing of visors, as a visor likely would have protected Fraser from the shot.
Prior to the start of overtime, the Toronto Sun’s Lance Hornby tweeted:
Fraser walks out of Leaf room with bandaged head. Walking OK.
The play was reminiscent of the 2010 playoffs when Philadelphia forward Ian Laperriere went down to block a shot and it hit him in the face. That incident ultimately ended Laperriere’s career, although he had played more than 1,000 games in the league and was in his late 30s at the time.
Fraser, 26, was not a huge minute-muncher during the regular season for the Leafs, averaging 16:57, but nonetheless proved himself an effective player. His plus-18 rating led the team and ranked 14th in the NHL. Fraser was plus-2 in the game at the time and had played 12:49.
The play left the Leafs with only five defensemen and forced them to shuffle their rotation. They went on to lose, 4-3 in overtime.
In Game 1 of the Senators-Canadiens series, Ottawa defenseman Eric Gryba was suspended for two games for a grisly hit on Montreal forward Lars Eller, who was removed on a stretcher. Among other injuries, Eller suffered broken facial bones as he hit the ice face-first as he fell.
Voynov keeps Kings rolling
The Los Angeles Kings stand one game from eliminating the St. Louis Blues for the second season in a row.
Thanks to Slava Voynov’s goal at 8:00 of overtime, the defending Stanley Cup champions won their third straight in this series after dropping the first two games with a 3-2 victory.
And it had been a while for the Kings to have a defenseman be an OT hero in the postseason:
Slava Voynov is the first LA Kings D-man to score an OT playoff goal since the great Jaroslav Modry in April 2001.
Last year in the second round, the Kings swept the Blues, who were the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
This year, St. Louis once again has home-ice advantage in the series as the No. 4 seed but now the Blues will face elimination on Friday night in Game 6 in Los Angeles.
The win helped the Kings to snap an eight-game losing streak on the road: Games 1 and 2 in St. Louis along with six straight to finish the regular season — an odd way to prepare for the playoffs. For the Blues, the opposite was true: They had won eight straight at home, including six straight to finish the regular season plus the first two games of the series.
The Kings entered with only seven goals in the first four games but their top offensive players came up big. Mike Richards, who entered with a team-high three points (all assists), picked up two more, assisting on Jeff Carter’s two goals. Carter has a team-best three goals for the series.
Anze Kopitar, who tied for the lead among all playoff scorers last year, also picked up two assists, including the primary assist on the game-winner. Justin Williams started a 3-on-2 and passed from the left wing to Kopitar in the middle. Kopitar dished to Voynov, who joined the rush from his defense position and buried a slapshot past Brian Elliott, who made 22 saves.
Jonathan Quick made 34 saves to pick up the win for the Kings.
Ducks make their mark in OT … inch closer to meeting with Kings?
The Anaheim Ducks got their first overtime win in three tries in their series with the Detroit Red Wings and it allowed them to take a three-games-to-two lead with a 3-2 overtime win.
Anaheim and Los Angeles already are scheduled to play an outdoor game next season at Dodger Stadium but they could have the even bigger stage before then of playing each other in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time. If each of them wins their next game, they would face each other in the next round – provided that Chicago wins its series over Minnesota. The top-seeded Blackhawks currently lead the Wild, 3-1.
Not only would that represent a first-ever Ducks-Kings postseason meeting, but with San Jose already having advanced, the NHL could be in store for a little California Dreamin’, with three of the four teams potentially surviving in the Western Conference all hailing from the state.
Nick Bonino made it possible with his third goal of the playoffs at 1:54. He converted Ben Lovejoy’s goalmouth feed from close range.
Twitter user @rollingdux tipped us off to this. Didn’t the celebration at the end resemble these ladies?
Earlier, captain Ryan Getzlaf had helped to tie the game. At 14:15 of the second period with the Red Wings up 2-1, Anaheim’s Daniel Winnik received a five-minute major penalty for boarding. At 18:26 of the second, Getzlaf drew a holding call on Detroit’s Ben Smith, helping to ensure the Ducks would kill off that critical penalty.
Then on the ensuing power play that resulted from the penalty, Getzlaf scored his third goal of the postseason to even the score at 19:28 of the second. Getzlaf took a break-out pass from Francois Beauchemin, cruised half of the way through the offensive zone and ripped a wrist shot from the slot high over Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard. Getzlaf also has two assists in the series, giving him a total of five points.
Previously, Anaheim had lost Game 2 5-4 in overtime and Game 4 3-2 in overtime.
Chick fight? … Krejci goes all hatty on us
First off, if you haven’t seen it, this GIF of April Reimer (James’ wife) apparently rolling her eyes at Elisha Cuthbert (Phaneuf’s fiancee) is priceless.
Hold the phone! The April went to Twitter to stop all the rumors!
Anyway, David Krejci’s hat trick prolonged the Toronto Maple Leafs’ search for their first postseason win at the Air Canada Centre in more than nine years, as Boston took a 3-1 series lead with a 4-3 overtime victory.
Krejci’s goal at 13:06 of overtime was the game-winner. Toronto defenseman Dion Phaneuf stepped up to deliver a crushing check on Boston’s Nathan Horton but Horton was able to move the puck forward and that sent Krejci in on a 2-on-1. Krejci took his time before snapping off a quick, short shot low to the blocker side that beat Leafs goalie James Reimer.
“I made a bad play and it cost us the game,” Phaneuf told reporters after the game.
Krejci, 27, continued his career playoff excellence. In 63 playoff games, he has 25 goals and 32 assists for 57 points. When the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, Krejci led all playoff scorers in goals (12) and points (23).
The goal was the first in the playoffs by a Bruin since Phil Esposito in 1969, according to Chris Johnston of SportsNet.
The Leafs’ last home playoff victory came on April 30, 2004, over Philadelphia, 3-1, in the second round.
NYR’s Richards earns his paycheck (finally)
One of the highest-paid players in the league finally earned his keep during the postseason, as Brad Richards earned the game’s first goal in helping the New York Rangers to even their series with Washington with a 4-3 win at Madison Square Garden.
The goal represented the first point of the postseason for Richards, who earned the pro-rated portion of $12 million this season. That came on top of a disappointing regular season for Richards, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2004 with Tampa Bay while playing for current Rangers coach John Tortorella. Richards’ 11 goals ranked fourth on the Rangers while his 34 points were slightly better, third on the team.
Richards took advantage of a foolish play by Washington goalie Braden Holtby at 16:25 of the first period. Holtby came all the way out to the right faceoff circle to field the puck and rather than reversing it safely behind the net or trying to play it high off the glass, Holtby passed the puck through the dangerous middle of the ice.
Richards knocked the puck down with this stick and it bounded to teammate Carl Hagelin, whose slapshot was blocked by Washington defenseman John Carlson.
The rebound came out to Richards before Holtby could get back in the crease and he quickly fired it in for the 1-0 lead.
With the NHL’s salary cap set to come down by about $6 million to $64 million per team next season, Richards has been the subject of trade and buyout rumors. The 33-year-old will have seven years and $36 million remaining on his deal.
But if he can help the Rangers to advance after starting out in the series down 0-2 and continue to prove his worth, one of Tortorella’s favorites is likely to stay safe.