Monday's best: Ducks spoil return of playoffs to Winnipeg, control series
Best game: Anaheim 5, Winnipeg 4 (OT). They played a playoff game in Winnipeg, in case you haven't heard. The fans at MTS Centre wore white, they taunted Corey Perry with chants of "Katy Perry" and they took another lead into the third period. None of it mattered. The Ducks got a goal from Ryan Kesler with 2:14 remaining in regulation to force overtime. Rickard Rakell redirected Francois Beauchemin's shot past Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec at 5:12 of overtime to give Anaheim a chokehold on Winnipeg with a 3-0 series lead. Anaheim rallied from three separate deficits and has won 15 games (regular season and postseason) when trailing after two periods. The Ducks are a staggering 35-1-7 in one-goal games. "Unreal feeling right now," Rakell told NBC Sports Network. "The way we battled back in this game, over and over again -- so proud of everybody."
Best stat: Not-so-early birds. The Rangers have scored the first goal in all three games of their series with Pittsburgh, and the Penguins have given up the first goal in eight of their past 10 home playoff games. Pittsburgh is 2-6 in those games. The focus for Game 4? That should be obvious, no?
Best at being worst: St. Louis on the road. The Blues have lost nine straight road playoff games following Monday's 3-0 loss at Minnesota. Their last road playoff win came April 19, 2012: a 2-1 victory at San Jose. It's an odd reality for a team that posted the NHL's third-best record away from home during the regular season at 24-12-5 and is 57-39-10 away from Scottrade Center over the past three years.
Best at being worst, part deux: Pittsburgh. The Penguins had as many shots on goal as they had blocked shots (11) through the first 40 minutes against the Rangers -- in their first home playoff game of the series with a chance to take a 2-1 series lead. Where was the momentum from a big Game 2 win in New York? Where was the urgency? What happens to this underachieving but admittedly flawed cast of characters if it falls in the first round of the postseason? How much longer will Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin be wasted?
Best visual: The Whiteout. Winnipeg hadn't hosted a playoff game in 19 years, so you can imagine the pent-up frustration and anticipation that was released Monday night at MTS Centre. The sea of white seemed appropriate since downtown Winnipeg was feeling a wind chill of 20 degrees -- in late April! The intimacy of this arena made the atmosphere all the more electric. So did Lee Stempniak's goal at 9:38 of the first period that gave the Jets a 1-0 lead. Unfortunately for the home fans, the local team couldn't sustain the momentum or ride the crowd's energy, blowing three separate leads.
Best visual you may have missed: The Whiteout. This wasn't a problem in Canada and it wasn't in the Southern California market, thanks to FOX Sports West's broadcast. But in most American markets, NHL Network gave us mundane analysis of the game while the raucous national anthem was playing inside the arena. "A great tradition is returning to Winnipeg tonight after a 19-year absence. Take our word for it. And here are some more words. Nothing to see here ..."
Best sequence, Keith Yandle, D, New York Rangers. Yandle isn't known for his defensive prowess, but he has worked hard the last few seasons to become more effective with his stick to disrupt passing lanes and poke pucks away from opponents. Yandle used that ability to disrupt Penguins star Sidney Crosby at one end, then displayed a gift that few players in the NHL execute better: the stretch pass. Yandle's three-zone pass split two Penguins defenders and settled right on Carl Hagelin's tape for a breakaway goal and an early 1-0 lead.
Best quote, via the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Following the third playoff shutout in Minnesota Wild history, goalie Devan Dubnyk, who made a mere 17 saves, was asked if this was the textbook way to play St. Louis: "That was a textbook way to play anyone."
Best thing to look forward to Tuesday: Tampa Bay on the road. The Lightning's 18 regular-season road wins were the fewest of any of the 16 teams to make the playoffs. Tampa coach Jon Cooper noted that the team did win some quality road games in Anaheim and Montreal (he also mentioned San Jose for some reason), but the Lightning will be without defenseman Jason Garrison, while Detroit gets a boost with the return of big, fast forward Justin Abdelkader, who missed the previous five games because of a hand injury. His return will allow coach Mike Babcock to play Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on separate lines, adding balance to the Red Wings' thus-far anemic attack. "Putting (Zetterberg) back in the middle and giving him a winger, a guy that can skate and work for them, helps," Babcock told NHL.com. "(Abdelkader) is a big body. He's an everyday-er. He competes hard."