With the final three series of the 2011 NHL Playoffs finally underway last night, there was no dearth of surprises. Here's what you may have missed:
San Jose Sharks 3, Los Angeles Kings 2 (OT) -- Sharks forward Dany Heatley scored a goal on his very first shift 28 seconds into the game, and the Sharks pressed their advantage throughout a very physical game between two aggressive teams. The Kings, and especially Jonathan Quick made it a close game. It wasn't until five minutes left in the first overtime when Joe Pavelski beat Quick with a bullet from just outside the crease for a hard-earned victory. The Kings matched up physically and were able to slow the Sharks' offensive attack, and may have a chance in this series (despite what the experts --me-- may say).
Montreal Canadiens 2, Boston Bruins 0 -- Montreal proved they are alive and well, as goalie Carey Price (0-8 in his last eight playoff starts) pitched his third career playoff shutout, all against archrival Boston. Price made it look easy throughout the game, outdueling Tim Thomas, and the quick Canadien forwards (led by Brian Gionta's two goals) dictated the pace. Boston fell into the trap of moving up the ice quickly and abandoned their normally sturdy defensive mentality. If this continues throughout the series, the Bruins are in trouble. They simply don't have the elite offensive talent to keep up with Montreal.
Montreal leads the series, 1-0
Buffalo Sabres 1, Philadelphia Flyers 0 -- Montreal wasn't the only road team to pitch a shutout in their series opener. Sabres goalie Ryan Miller was fantastic, stopping all 35 shots he faced in his second career playoff shutout (his first was also against the Flyers) . Philadelphia goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was no slouch in his first career playoff start, only allowing a tough rebound from Patrick Kaleta in the third period. It was the difference maker for Buffalo. The Flyers didn't play poorly, but they simply couldn't solve Miller, andit was obvious that they missed Chris Pronger's presence on the power play. Make no mistake, this should be a long series.
Buffalo leads the series, 1-0
Games To Watch Tonight:
Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 p.m. EDT -- The Lightning were beat up in the first game of the series, and look to get their offensive game on track.
New York Rangers at Washington Capitals, 7:30 p.m. EDT, on Versus -- The first game of this series went well into overtime, and is hopefully a sign of things to come. Can the Capitals top talent continue to outhustle the gritty Rangers?
Chicago Blackhawks at Vancouver Canucks, 10 p.m. EDT, on Versus -- The Canucks had their way with the reigning champion 'Hawks. Chicago needs a close game to keep this series within reach of the Cup favorite Canucks.
Nashville Predators at Anaheim Ducks, 10:30 p.m. EDT -- The Predators dominated Anaheim in the first game, and should carry the goalie advantage throughout the series. But the Ducks have too much offensive talent to stay dormant for long.