The Tampa Bay Lightning took a commanding series lead, the Pittsburgh Penguins jumped back out on top of the Rangers, the Ducks won their first game of the Stanley Cup playoffs while the Blues endured the Blackhawks.
Here are five things we learned on Wednesday:
Drouin, Kucherov carry Lightning:
Who needs Steven Stamkos anyway?
Jokes aside, the Tampa Bay Lightning are doing just fine in the post-season without the services of their captain and highest-profile forward.
The biggest contributors — at least offensively — for Tampa Bay Wednesday were forwards Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin, who both played a crucial role in the club’s 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in Game 4.
Kucherov scored two power-play goals to improve his series total to five and needs just one more to tie the Tampa Bay record for most goals in a playoff series.
He had 10 in the playoffs last year which was tied for third in the NHL.
Meanwhile, Drouin was equally effective on the power play, recording three assists — including this beauty to Kucherov.
It has to be a relief for Drouin to perform on such a big stage considering the months of trade speculation and the team-induced suspension following a demotion to the AHL.
The Lightning claim they never gave up on Drouin and certainly they are reaping the benefits in this first-round series.
Penguins take series lead in Murray’s playoff debut:
There was plenty of uncertainty surrounding the Penguins’ goalie situation entering Game 3, but 21-year-old rookie Matt Murray held up just fine in his NHL playoff debut.
Murray provided a calming presence while making 16 saves on 17 shots, including plenty of point-blank stops, as Pittsburgh got their first road victory of the seven-game series.
With Marc-Andre Fleury’s timeline to return still unclear, it’s reasonable to expect Murray will be the starting goalie going forward for Pittsburgh, rather than Jeff Zatkoff who performed admirably in Game 1 of the series.
All in all, it was a pretty good debut for the youngest goalie ever to start a post-season game for the Penguins in franchise history.
Milestone for Letang, but will he be suspended?
It was certainly an eventful Game 3 for Kris Letang.
The Penguins defenceman scored an empty-net goal to seal the victory for Pittsburgh which took a 2-1 series lead over the New York Rangers while collecting a significant milestone in the process.
However, Letang will get a lot more attention for a dangerous play earlier in the game in which he viciously swung his stick at the face of New York Rangers forward Viktor Stalberg.
Incredibly, Letang was not penalized for the play but it’s fair to assume he’ll be hearing from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety in the coming days.
Crawford’s outburst gives Hawks power play
Usually the instigator gets the extra two.
In an increasingly heated Blackhawks-Blues series, Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford went nuts on Blues forward Robby Fabbri after the youngster toppled over him during a scoring chance. While Fabbri fell to the corner, Crawford stood up and charged the forward, instigating a melee that got everyone on the ice save Brian Elliot involved.
And somehow, the Hawks came away with the power play.
Fabbri got two for interference, Crawford and Andrew Ladd got roughing penalties while Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk each got minors, though it’s not clear what they did that was any different from the other dance partners.
Chicago scored on the man-advantage to take a 2-1 lead but the Blues evened the score later in the period.
That’s a strange one.
Boudreau’s goalie change works
It was a surprise to see the Anaheim Ducks go down 2-0 to the up-and-down Nashville Predators but no one was blaming goaltender John Gibson. Still, coach Bruce Boudreau, who’s had his share of playoff goaltending controversies with both Anahiem and Washington, felt a change was necessary.
Frederik Andersen came into the net for Game 3 and got the Ducks on the board, making 27 saves for the shutout.
He even braved this Shea Weber slap shot that hit him in the mask:
Andersen had 23 playoff games under his belt prior to this game and his experience showed. Now, Boudreau simply has to play the hot goalie to get his team back into this series.
This brand new series.