NHL playoffs: Canadiens in control; Friday fight night; Predators tie series
Best game: Montreal 3, Ottawa 2 (OT). The Canadiens seized control of their first-round series, but it took extra time to grab a 2-0 series lead. Ottawa defenseman Patrick Wiercioch scored on the power play with 6:35 left in regulation to force overtime, keeping the Cinderella Senators' hopes alive for tying the series before it shifts back to Ottawa. On the game-winner, Alex Galchenyuk whirled and beat Andrew Hammond on a soft goal underneath Hammond's arm after Senators defenseman Eric Gryba committed a horrid turnover along the half wall on a failed clearing attempt. Hammond was so critical to the Senators' late-season surge that earned them an improbable playoff berth. He went 20-1-2 as a starter and posted a .941 save percentage, though he played too little to qualify for the league leaders, it was better than any other goaltender who played more than two games. In two playoff games, however, he's allowed seven goals on 81 shots (.914 save percentage).
Best brawl: A brawl in the closing minutes of the Vancouver Canucks' Game 2 win over the Calgary Flames produced 132 penalty minutes. With the Canucks comfortably in front of the Flames 4-1, all 10 skaters on the ice squared off with 1:17 remaining in the third period. Among the long list of penalties, the Flames' Deryk Engelland received two fighting majors, both for scraps with the Canucks' Derek Dorsett. While Dorsett also got one game misconduct, Engelland received three game misconducts for his actions during the brawl. The tone might have been set for the rest of the first-round playoff series.
Best stat line: Nicklas Backstrom, C, Washington: one goal and two assists: Backstrom set up the Capitals' first two goals of their 4-3 win in Game 2, then scored the game-tying goal when he was — what else — looking to pass first, only to have the Islanders back off to cover his outlets. Backstrom hadn't scored since Feb. 19, a span of 25 games, but his coach was full of praise after his big game. "He's the most complete player in the league," Barry Trotz told The Washington Post. "He doesn't get enough street cred, if you will."
Best stat: Nashville's six goals. The Predators set a franchise record for goals in a playoff game, and they did it against the Blackhawks, who finished tied for the fewest goals allowed in the regular season. Craig Smith had a pair. Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, Colin Wilson and Mike Santorelli also chipped in as Nashville evened the series 1-1 while creating a goaltending dilemma for Chicago. Corey Crawford was the Blackhawks' best player down the stretch of the regular season, but in four periods against the Predators he has allowed nine goals. Starting him in Game 2 after a disastrous Game 1 was the right decision, but you don't get back-to-back mulligans in the playoffs. Chicago has to start Game 1 hero Scott Darling on Sunday.
Best visual: Sealed with a kiss. P.K. Subban's go-ahead goal late in the second period of Montreal's OT win over Ottawa was a thing of beauty: a rocket from the right circle that found the very top shelf of the net in a microsecond. Teammate Andrei Markov liked it so much he decided to express his appreciation with a little man love for Subban.
Best at being worst: Brooks Orpik, D, Washington. Orpik somehow managed a minus-2 rating in Washington's 4-3 win over the Islanders, but the stat wasn't the slightest bit misleading. Orpik's notorious lack of foot speed allowed Ryan Strome a wide-open look from the slot to give the Islanders a 2-0 lead early in the second period. That wasn't his problem on Kyle Okposo's goal. With Okposo streaking down the right wing, Orpik played so close to the net that he served no purpose. He failed to contest Okposo's shot, and he failed to block it when he went down, allowing the puck to sail over him and in for a 3-1 New York lead.
Best break: Patrick Kane's game-tying goal in Nashville. Replays showed the Blackhawks had six skaters on the ice when Brent Seabrook fed Kane for a breakaway goal midway through the second period to tie the game 2-2. Kane hopped over the boards while Patrick Sharp was coming off, but still involved in the play near the Chicago boards. Nashville coach Peter Laviolette was livid, and deservedly so.
Best rally: Washington Capitals. This category originally was titled "best impersonation of a playoff team." The Caps were dead in the water, down 1-0 in the series and down 3-1 in this game, apparently destined for a 2-0 series hole as they headed to New York. The Caps needed a lift from their best offensive players ... and they got it. Alex Ovechkin scored on a rebound late in the second period to pull Washington within one. Nicklas Backstrom scored his first goal since February with some nifty sleight of hand in the slot, and then veteran Jason Chimera wired a perfect shot from the slot at 7:37 of the third period to give the Caps a win they needed to survive.
Best thing to look forward to Saturday: NHL Draft Lottery. After months of speculation and weeks of tanking accusations, we'll finally find out which team will earn the right to draft Connor McDavid at No. 1 and which team will grab Jack Eichel at No. 2. Both players are considered franchise centers that will alter the face of their respective franchises as well as the landscape of the league. Buffalo, which finished last in the standings, has the best chance (20 percent) of landing the No. 1 pick and McDavid. If it doesn't win the lottery, it will pick second. Arizona has the second-best chance at McDavid (13.5 percent). If Buffalo wins the lottery, the 29th-place Coyotes will draft second. If another team jumps both, Arizona will draft third and have to settle for a very good player in what is considered the deepest draft in years. The Lottery results will be broadcast live on NBC at 8 p.m. ET before the start of Game 2 of the Rangers-Penguins series.