5 things we learned in the NHL: A night of firsts

Watch as Thomas Hickey scores in overtime to give the New York Islanders the Game 3 win over the Florida Panthers.

It was good night for players searching for their first career playoff goals, Mrazek reclaimed the No. 1 job in Detroit, Smith continues to get it done for the Panthers, and more in five things we learned in the NHL.

First nights

Thomas Hickey scored the first playoff goal of his career in overtime to give the New York Islanders a 2-1 series lead over the Florida Panthers Sunday night.

It was big night for players scoring their first post-season goals.

Hickey’s Islanders teammates Shane Prince and Ryan Pulock also potted their first playoff goals in the 4-3 win.

Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov scored the first playoff goal of his career in the Game 3 loss.

St. Louis Blues defenceman Colton Parayko scored his first post-season marker in a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Detroit Red Wings forward Andreas Athanasiou also bagged his first playoff goal in his team’s Game 3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Mrazek’s shutout magic

Petr Mrazek started all seven games of the Red Wings’ first-round playoff series versus the Lightning in 2015. The native of the Czech Republic functioned as the man of choice between the pipes for the better part of the 2015-16 season before relinquishing the gig down the stretch.

Jimmy Howard started Games 1 & 2 of the Red Wings’ best-of-seven series with the Lightning this year before taking a seat in favour of Mrazek for Game 3 Sunday night.

Mrazek stopped 16 shots to shut out the Lightning and help Detroit pick up its first win of the series. He’s probably a safe bet to be back in goal for Game 4.

Although he’s only started eight playoff games in his career, Mrazek has recorded three shutouts. Not too shabby.

He’s Reilly good

Reilly Smith was traded twice before his 25th birthday, but the sniper appears to have found a home with the Panthers.

Smith scored a goal and added two assists in Florida’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Islanders Sunday night to become the NHL’s post-season leading scorer with four goals and eight points in three games.

Smith totalled 25 goals in 2015-16 to record the second 20-goal season of his career. He’s proven to be worth every cent of his $3.35-million salary.

Stick work

The Nashville Predators took a 2-0 series lead on the Anaheim Ducks with a 3-2 win Sunday night.

An incident that’s sure to draw a second look from the NHL, if not dozens of stories condemning such activity, is James Neal’s stick to the face of Ducks goaltender John Gibson in the second period.

Neal’s act seemingly went unnoticed by officials as no penalty was called on the play.

Neal wasn’t the only player delivering some dirty stick work in the game, though. Ducks’ Ryan Kesler also got his blade into the face of Predators netminder Pekka Rinne earlier in the game Sunday night.

It’s an ugly trend we have here.

Tale of the tape

Game 2 between Detroit and Tampa Bay saw things get ugly late in the contest when Red Wings’ Justin Abdelkader hammered away on Lightning defenceman Mike Blunden with his fists, leaving him bloodied at the bottom of a scrum.

Tempers flared once again at the end of Game 3 with Lightning forward Brian Boyle looking to exact some revenge on Abdelkader as players on both teams engaged in some pushing and shoving. Abdelkader appeared to want nothing to do with the 6-foot-7 giant, refusing to drop his gloves and eventually finding himself a target of some mockery from Boyle.

It turns out Abdelkader’s unwillingness to drop the gloves with Boyle had less to do with a disadvantage in size and more to do with him potentially earning a match penalty…we think.

Abdelkader could be seen showing an official his tape job, which was rather convenient because yeah…Boyle is a large man.

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