Thursday night produced another evening of top quality first round NHL action with two excellent finishes and one more team eliminated.
The best game of the evening was the Blue Jackets last stand against the Red Wings. After going quietly for three games, the Jackets fought hard coming back twice from two goal deficits. With the game tied 5-5 and 1:34 remaining, Columbus was called for too many men on the ice in what Ken Hitchcock and a whole building full of BJ fans thought was a "picky call". As you would expect it took less tan a minute for Johan Franzen to score on the power play to give the Wings the lead and the win. It was a shame that the Jackets lost on a questionable call but the reality was that they didn't show up for the prior three games, so you can't blame the whole series on one call. I was disappointed that the Blue Jackets did not have a better showing in their first playoff experience. The Wings win made them the first defending Stanley Cup champion to win a series since 2002.
My keen interest in the Wings-Jackets game meant that I saw nothing but highlights from the Flyers-Pens game but I was pleased that it extended the series to Game 6 so that there will be an NBC game on Saturday. The Flyers will face elimination once again but this time it will be on home ice.
The end of the Carolina-New Jersey game was another one that went to the final buzzer with Marty Brodeur and the Devils reclaiming the home ice advantage with their best play of the series. They will play again on Sunday with Carolina facing elimination on their home ice.
The Ducks-Sharks game had plenty of action both on and off the ice as there was a 4.0 earthquake between the first and second period. The game as also disrupted for 17 minutes halfway through the second period for a broken sheet of glass that separated the two benches. On the ice, it was the Bobby Ryan show, with the potential Calder Trophy winner getting the games first two goals. Corey Perry added an insurance goal in the third to seal the deal for the Ducks and give them a surprising 3-1 series lead. Drew Miller added an empty netter and Jonas Hiller held on for the 4-0 shutout. Of course, all know that I loved the scuffle at the end of the game. The Sharks will have to win three in a row to advance starting Saturday in San Jose.
There is only one game on the docket for tonight when the Rangers travel to Washington to try to finish off the Caps and move to round two, The Caps have out-shot the Rangers 149-99 and outscored them 8-7 but still trail 3-1 in the series. Henrik Lundqvist has been the difference maker for the Rangers. The big point of discussion on the off day was whether Coach John Tortorella would bench Sean Avery since he appears to have fallen of the wagon from his anger management rehabilitation in the last two games, with the worst offense putting the Caps on the power play in the closing minutes of Wednesday's 2-1 breathtaking finish. I can't imagine that Torts would bench him, but he probably will not put him on the ice at the end of a close contest any time soon.
It has been a different situation for Preds fans to be on the sidelines watching in the first round for the first time since 2003, but it has been fun to sit back and watch hockey without the pressure of having a dog in the hunt. The fact that there have been great games every night has been some consolation too.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass