The Florida Panthers are heading home and General Manager Dale Tallon is on his way to the unemployment line. After falling two games behind to the New York Islanders it was always going to be an uphill battle for Florida and despite winning game three to avoid the sweep they were unable to extend the series further, falling 5-1 in game four. After the game news began breaking that the Panthers were parting ways with Tallon who had been associated with the team for a decade in which they made the playoffs only three times. As for the game, the Islanders wore down the Panthers, denied them high danger opportunities and when they did Semyon Varlamov came up big. On the other end, the Islanders tested Sergei Bobrovsky constantly and took their chances with Anthony Beauvillier scoring two first period goals.
Also going home is the Nashville Predators despite a gutsy display in game four of their series against the Arizona Coyotes. They fought back from two goals down and they tied the game at 3-3 with thirty seconds remaining in the third period to force overtime. The Coyotes were just that bit more clinical in front of the net though and Brad Richardson finished it 5:27 into the extra period. Nashville had success in the second period when they went high on Darcy Kuemper and got bodies at the front of the net, but Arizona adapted and the loss of Viktor Arvidsson for the third period only hindered the Predators further.
The Montreal Canadiens produces the shock of the tournament by knocking out five-time Stanley Cup Champions the Pittsburgh Penguins. After taking a 2-1 series lead on Wednesday all eyes were on Carey Price and company to see if the twelfth seed in the East could seemingly do the impossible. Not only did they do just that, but they shutout the Penguins in the process and send them home at the first stage of the postseason for a second year running. Meanwhile, the Canadiens will meet the Round Robin number one seed which will be decided today as the Philadelphia Flyers take on the Tampa Bay Lightning with both teams on four points.
But not to be outdone the twelfth seed in the West also caused an upset as the Chicago Blackhawks ended their series against the Edmonton Oilers, with rookie Dominik Kubalik getting the game-winning goal in the third period. The Oilers always looked dangerous going forward as any team with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but the experience of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane mixed with the youth of Kirby Dach and Kubalik caused the frail Oilers defense problems straight from the start. The Chicago Blackhawks will meet the winner of the Colorado Avalanche and the Vegas Golden Knights game today to decide the number one seed in the West.
I had the Toronto Maple Leafs v Columbus Blue Jackets roundup written and it went something like this…
“who will the Toronto Maple Leaf media and fans blame this year for an exit at the first hurdle? In the last few years, it has been Nazem Kadri who received that honor, but he is busy over in the Edmonton bubble scoring buzzer-beater goals to help the Colorado Avalanche win a top-two seeding. Yet even without his “hindrance” the Maple Leafs are still finding ways to underachieve”
… then they scored three goals in four minutes, forced overtime, and then went on to win it. You’re welcome Toronto! They have another chance to blow it on Sunday in game five of the series and with this team, you never know which way it’s going to go.
And in the last game of the day, the Vancouver Canucks sent the Minnesota Wild packing with a 5-4 win 11 seconds into overtime. The Canucks had to rally from 3-1 and 4-3 down before ultimately winning and with some of the pucks slipping by Jacob Markström they had to wonder if it was going to be their night, but once Quinn Hughes’ power-play goal tied things up at 3-3 you had a feeling the Canucks just wouldn’t be beaten and that proved to be the case when Christopher Tanev’s shot from the blueline in OT beat Alex Stalock to end Minnesota’s postseason and send Vancouver on to the first round of the playoffs.