Morning Skate: Stanley Cup Playoffs Edition – April 14, 2016

MORNING SKATE: STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS EDITION – APRIL 14, 2016

Welcome to the “Morning Skate: Stanley Cup Playoffs Edition,” a daily collection of the latest news and notes from around the NHL.

WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS

Home Team in Caps
TAMPA BAY 3, Detroit 2 – TBL leads 1-0
PITTSBURGH 5, NY Rangers 2 – PIT leads 1-0
ST. LOUIS 1, Chicago 0 (OT) – STL leads 1-0

ELLIOTT, BACKES LEAD BLUES TO OVERTIME VICTORY . . .

Brian Elliott denied all 35 shots he faced and David Backes scored at 9:04 of the extra frame to help the Blues take a 1-0 lead in their series against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.

* Elliott, who made a combined 15 stops in the third period and overtime, registered his first career playoff shutout (20 GP). He posted four blank sheets in 2015-16, including three straight from March 19-25.
* Elliott improved to 12-1-0 in his last 13 decisions (regular-season and playoffs) dating to Feb. 12.
* Backes recorded his first career playoff overtime goal (30 GP). He has two such tallies in 727 regular-season games: Dec. 14, 2013 at CBJ and Oct. 31, 2015 vs. MIN.

. . . 60 IS NOT ENOUGH (AGAIN)

The Blues and Blackhawks required overtime for the fifth time in their past seven postseason meetings. In the 2014 First Round, the clubs played past regulation four times, with each team winning twice.

* The Blues and Blackhawks played their fourth overtime game of 2015-16 (including the regular season). St. Louis has won all four such contests.
* The Blackhawks opened the postseason with an overtime game for the fifth consecutive year, falling to 2-3 in those contests.
* There were 19 overtime games in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, including five that involved the Blackhawks (4-1).

HORNQVIST’S HAT TRICK POWERS PENGUINS . . .

Patric Hornqvist (3-1—4) scored his first career playoff hat trick to power the Penguins past the Rangers in their series opener.

* Hornqvist became the first Penguins player to notch a hat trick in the postseason since Game 6 of the 2014 First Round, when Evgeni Malkin tallied 3-0—3 in Pittsburgh’s series-clinching win at CBJ.
* Via Elias, Hornqvist became the first player in franchise history to post a hat trick in the team’s playoff opener. The last player to accomplish that feat for any team was Toronto’s Alexander Mogilny on April 9, 2003 at PHI (3-0—3).
* Hornqvist registered his only other three-goal and four-point game – regular season or playoffs (539 GP) – earlier this year, on Feb. 29 vs. ARI (3-1—4).

. . . ZATKOFF SHINES IN STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS DEBUT

Jeff Zatkoff stopped 35 shots, including the first 28 he faced, to win his postseason debut in his first NHL start since Feb. 20.

* Elias says that Zatkoff became the first Penguins goaltender to win his playoff debut in exactly 25 years. On April 13, 1991, Frank Pietrangelo earned a Game 6 victory to help Pittsburgh extend its opening round series against New Jersey en route to its first Stanley Cup.

DID YOU KNOW?

Sidney Crosby posted 1-2—3, his 10th career three-point postseason game. Via Elias, Crosby (44-77—121 in 101 GP) ranks sixth in Stanley Cup Playoffs history in points per game:

Most Points Per Game, Stanley Cup Playoffs History (Minimum: 50 GP)
1. Wayne Gretzky 1.84
2. Mario Lemieux 1.61
3. Mark Messier 1.25
4. Bobby Orr 1.24
5. Mike Bossy 1.24
6. Sidney Crosby: 1.20

TOP LINE PROPELS LIGHTNING TO SERIES LEAD

The line of Nikita Kucherov (2-1—3, +3), Alex Killorn (1-1—2, +3) and Tyler Johnson (0-2—2, +3) combined for all three goals to help the defending Eastern Conference champion Lightning take a 1-0 series lead against the Red Wings.
* Kucherov, who scored a career-high 30 goals during the regular season, matched playoff career highs for goals and points. He has registered three other multi-goal games in the postseason, all during Tampa Bay’s run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.
* Killorn scored the winner moments after Detroit successfully challenged a Lightning goal, which was overturned after new blue-line cameras assisted in showing Tampa Bay was off-side.

MILESTONES & BENCHMARKS

* Head coach Joel Quenneville served his 118th career playoff game behind the Blackhawks bench to move past Bill Reay (117) for the most in franchise history.
* Penguins forward Tom Kuhnhackl (1-0—1) scored a shorthanded goal while making his postseason debut. Pittsburgh placed second in the League with 11 shorthanded goals during the regular season.
* Rangers goaltender Antti Raanta (16 SV) made his postseason debut in relief of Henrik Lundqvist, who left the game after the first period.

LOOSE PUCKS

Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop made 34 saves, including five stops in the final 70 seconds of regulation . . . Red Wings defenseman Mike Green and forward Justin Abdelkader scored less than two minutes apart early in the second period . . . Rangers forward Derek Stepan (2-0—2) posted his second career multi-goal playoff game (also May 27, 2014 at MTL: 2-0—2) . . . ICYMI: Rapper Snoop Dogg shared his picks for the Stanley Cup Playoffs Bracket Challenge powered by Samsung . . . “Twitter Moments” highlighted wins by the Blues and Lightning.

SNEAK PEEK AT THURSDAY’S ACTION

All Times Eastern
Philadelphia @ Washington, Game 1, 7:00 p.m., NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, CSN-PH, CSN-DC
NY Islanders @ Florida, Game 1, 8:00 p.m., CNBC, SN, TVAS2, MSG+, FS-F
Minnesota @ Dallas, Game 1, 9:30 p.m., NBCSN, SN360, TVAS3, FS-N, FS-WI, FS-SW
San Jose @ Los Angeles, Game 1, 10:30 p.m., CNBC, CBC, TVAS, CSN-CA, FS-W

CAPITALS BEGIN STANLEY CUP QUEST AGAINST FLYERS

The Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals begin their quest for the first Stanley Cup in franchise history when they welcome the Flyers to Verizon Center for Game 1 of their opening round series.

This marks the fifth playoff meeting between Washington and Philadelphia, who have split their first four – both teams won one of those series in overtime of a Game 7 (WSH: 1988 DSF, PHI: 2008 CQF).

The Capitals and Flyers also split their four matchups in 2015-16 (WSH: 2-0-2, PHI: 2-2-0), with each of the last three games decided by one goal. In fact, seven of the last 10 meetings between these clubs have featured one-goal margins dating to March 2, 2014 (WSH: 3-3-4, PHI: 7-3-0).

PANTHERS, ISLANDERS LOOK TO SNAP PLAYOFF DROUGHTS

The Panthers and Islanders, who are meeting in the postseason for the first time, look to snap lengthy playoff droughts when they begin their series at BB&T Center. Florida has not won a postseason series since the 1996 Eastern Conference Final, when it defeated Pittsburgh (and current Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr) in seven games en route to its lone appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. New York, meanwhile, has not won a playoff series since the 1993 Patrick Division Final, when it beat Pittsburgh (and Jagr) in seven games before bowing out in the Eastern Conference Final. The Panthers went 2-1-0 against the Islanders this season, with New York securing its lone victory via a three-goal, third-period comeback on March 14.

STARS, WILD FACE OFF IN FIRST POSTSEASON SERIES

The Western Conference champion Stars – who played in Bloomington, Minn., from 1967-68 through 1992-93 – start their first postseason series against the Wild when the clubs meet for Game 1 at American Airlines Center.

Four of the five contests between these teams in 2015-16 featured one-goal margins, with Dallas winning three of those games in overtime (DAL: 4-1-0, MIN: 1-1-3). That reversed a trend from last season that saw Minnesota win four of their five head-to-head matchups (MIN: 4-1-0, DAL: 1-3-1).

The Stars are hoping for the return forward Tyler Seguin, who shared fifth place in the NHL with 33-40—73 in 72 games before being sidelined with an Achilles injury on March 17.

KINGS, SHARKS AGAIN RENEW RIVALRY IN PLAYOFFS

California rivals meet in the playoffs for the fourth time overall – and third time in the past four seasons – when the Kings welcome the Sharks to STAPLES Center for Game 1 of their First Round series.

Including regular-season and playoff games, Los Angeles and San Jose have faced off more than any two teams since the start of 2010-11 (51x). In their last postseason matchup, in the 2014 First Round, the Kings became the fourth club in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit – a feat that sparked Los Angeles to its second Stanley Cup triumph.

The teams have split their 10 head-to-head games since then (LAK: 5-5-0, SJS: 5-4-1), with San Jose winning three of their five meetings this season.

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