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Posted On Monday, 06.11.2012 / 11:41 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Six is lucky number for Kings

Not only did the Los Angeles Kings win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history, they found a way to do it that no team had ever done before.

L.A.'s 5-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils on Monday night gave the Kings their first championship since entering the NHL in 1967. The Kings became the first team ever to win the first three games of the Final, lose the next two and take the Cup by winning Game 6. Of the previous 25 teams to take a 3-0 lead, 20 finished off the sweep, three needed five games to win, the 1945 Toronto Maple Leafs won in seven and the 1942 Detroit Red Wings lost in seven -- the only time that's happened in the Final.

The Kings also became the lowest-seeded team to take home the Cup -- they were 13th in the overall standings during the regular season. Before this year, the lowest-seeded team to win it all was the 1995 Devils, who were ninth -- just as they were this season. L.A. also became the first No. 8 seed to win the Cup since the current format was adopted in 1994.

Los Angeles became the first team since 2007 to win the Cup at home -- the Anaheim Ducks did it five years ago by beating Ottawa -- and ended a four-game losing streak by teams that had a chance to win the Cup in front of their own fans.
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Posted On Saturday, 06.09.2012 / 11:56 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Kings impressive road win streak snapped

Because the longest road winning streak in Stanley Cup history is over, the Los Angeles Kings will have to try again on Monday to win their first championship.

The Kings brought a 10-0 record on the road this spring and a 12-0 mark during the past two seasons into the Prudential Center on Saturday night. They left with both streaks ended after a 2-1 loss that cut their lead in the series to 3-2 and sent everyone heading back to the West  Coast for Game 6 on Monday night (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).

The Kings didn't make history because they couldn't defy it -- none of the three teams that won the first three games of the Final and lost Game 4 at home have won Game 5. That scenario hadn't happened since 1945, when Toronto won the first three games only to lose Games 4, 5 -- and 6 -- before winning Game 7 on the road. In the other, Detroit won the first three games in 1942, only to see the Leafs win the next four.
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Posted On Wednesday, 06.06.2012 / 11:45 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Once again, Kings can't close the deal

The Los Angeles Kings have done almost nothing wrong this spring. Their only failing continues to be an inability to complete sweeps.

The Kings are the first team ever to go up 3-0 in all four series in a single playoff year, and they're also the only one to miss out on three chances to sweep in the same spring -- all at home. L.A. lost Game 4 to Vancouver in the opening round, did it again against Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals -- and dropped Game 4 for a third time on Wednesday when they allowed three third-period goals in a 3-1 loss to New Jersey that sent the Stanley Cup Final to a Game 5 in Newark on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).

Los Angeles was the 26th team to take a 3-0 lead in the Final -- and just the sixth that failed to complete the sweep. The last one was the 1981 New York Islanders, who lost Game 4 to the North Stars in Minnesota before winning Game 5 at home. Before that, you have to go back to 1957, when Boston won Game 4 in overtime at home against Montreal, which won the Cup at the Forum in Game 5.

The last eight teams that had the chance to complete a sweep in the Final had done so, until Wednesday.
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Posted On Monday, 06.04.2012 / 11:28 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Kings make history, poised to make more

The Los Angeles Kings made some history on Monday night. They're ready to make even more on Wednesday.

The Kings' 4-0 victory against New Jersey in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final was the 15th of the 16 they need to bring the Cup to L.A. for the first time in franchise history. At 15-2 through 17 games, they've tied the 1988 Edmonton Oilers for the best mark ever at this stage of the playoffs -- and they became the first team since the playoffs went to an all best-of-seven format in 1987 to take a 3-0 lead in all four rounds.

L.A. is showing the value of getting through the early rounds as quickly as possible. The Kings could win the Cup in just 18 games, the same number the Devils played in winning three rounds just to get to the Final.
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Posted On Sunday, 06.03.2012 / 12:39 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Kings stay perfect on the road

Teams spend six months battling for the home-ice advantage. The Los Angeles Kings continue to turn that strategy on its head.

The Kings made it 10 wins in as many playoff games away from Staples Center this spring when Jeff Carter's overtime goal gave them a 2-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. The 10 road wins match the record held by the 1995 and 2000 Devils and the 2004 Calgary Flames -- but L.A. is the only one of those teams to reach 10 road wins without a loss.

Kings of overtime -- Four of the Kings' 10 victories have come in overtime, including their wins in Game 1 and 2 of the Final. All four of the OT victories have come on the road -- a big reason that the guys in the white sweaters are now 16-9 this spring.

Counting their five-game loss to Montreal in 1993, the Kings have played seven games all-time in the Stanley Cup Final -- and five of them have gone into overtime. L.A. lost Games 2-3-4 to Montreal in OT 19 years ago.
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Posted On Thursday, 05.31.2012 / 12:25 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Road teams continue to thrive in overtime

When it comes to winning in overtime during the Stanley Cup Final, it pays to wear the white sweaters.

Anze Kopitar
Center - LAK
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 16
SOG: 52 | +/-: 14
The Los Angeles Kings continued their own success away from home this spring as well as extending the success of visiting teams in the Stanley Cup Final by beating New Jersey 2-1 in OT on Wednesday in Game 1. Anze Kopitar's goal at 8:13 of overtime improved road teams' record in Final games that go past regulation to 6-1 since 2004 and 17-5 since 1990, when Edmonton's Petr Klima scored at 55:13 of extra time in Game 1 to win the longest game in Final history.

Overall, the visiting team has won 44 of the 74 Final games to go past regulation (not counting a pair of ties).
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.29.2012 / 7:58 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Kings vs. Devils by the Numbers

The Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils have never faced each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they don't have a lot of history against each other in the regular season either. The teams have met just 57 times in the 29 seasons since the then-Colorado Rockies moved to New Jersey in 1982.

But both teams have had unexpected playoff runs this postseason -- their combined finish in the overall standings (22) is the lowest for the two teams in the Final since Pittsburgh (7) and Minnesota (16) in 1991. The Devils would match their own mark for the lowest seed to win a Stanley Cup; the Kings, seeded No. 8 in the West, would easily be the lowest-seeded club to win it all.
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Posted On Saturday, 05.26.2012 / 12:10 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Brodeur and Devils slay the ghosts of 1994

It took 18 years, but Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils finally got it done.

The Devils saw a trip to the 1994 Stanley Cup Final vanish when they couldn't hold onto a 2-0 lead against the Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals at home. New Jersey blew another 2-0 lead Friday night -- again in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final -- but, this time, they got to overtime before Adam Henrique's goal at 1:03 gave the Devils a 3-2 win and their fifth trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1995.

Game 6 in 1994 marked the sixth straight playoff start for a rookie goaltender named Martin Brodeur. Friday's game marked Brodeur's 188th consecutive postseason start -- no one else has started a playoff game for the Devils since the series with the Rangers began 18 years ago.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.23.2012 / 11:45 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Unlikely contributors fueling Devils' playoff ride

The New Jersey Devils have plenty of star power in players like Martin Brodeur, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise. But they're one win away from their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final in nine years thanks to some of their foot soldiers.

Ryan Carter
Center - NJD
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 5
SOG: 13 | +/-: 5
The Devils got two of their goals in Wednesday's 5-3 victory against the Rangers from the one trio of forwards coach Peter DeBoer has left relatively intact -- the fourth line of Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier. Gionta opened the scoring 2:43 into the first period and Carter broke a 3-3 tie with 4:24 left in regulation, finishing off a passout by Gionta.

While most teams are happy if their fourth line can get off the ice unscathed and maybe provide a little energy for the big guns, the Devils continue to get scoring from their fourth unit. The Carter-Bernier-Gionta unit has accounted for eight goals and 16 points in 17 games -- even though Carter and Gionta see less than nine minutes of ice time per game and Bernier plays less than 11 minutes per night. Also, all of the unit's production has come at even strength -- Carter and Gionta (3) have accounted for more 5-on-5 goals than Kovalchuk (2).
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.23.2012 / 1:52 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Los Angeles is Kings of the road

The Los Angeles Kings will have the road-ice advantage when the Stanley Cup Final starts next week.

Most teams would rather open a series at home, but the Kings will take the longest road winning streak in Stanley Cup history with them when they open in New York or New Jersey on May 30. The Kings made it 8-for-8 on the road this spring and 10 in a row away from the Staples Center overall by beating Phoenix 4-3 on Tuesday to close out the Western Conference Finals in five games.

The Kings' 10th straight road win moved them past the New York Islanders of 1982 and '83, who won nine straight road games on the way to the last two of their four consecutive Stanley Cups. 

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.22.2012 / 12:09 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Brodeur doing it all for Devils

Martin Brodeur made his 186th consecutive postseason start for the New Jersey Devils on Monday night and came within 5:05 of recording his 25th career playoff shutout in a 4-1 win against the New York Rangers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final at the Prudential Center.

Martin Brodeur
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 10-5-1
GAA: 1.98 | SVP: 0.923
Brodeur was indeed solid in a 28-save performance to help New Jersey even this best-of-seven series at two games apiece. But stopping pucks isn't the only thing Brodeur is doing well this postseason.

The Devils' goaltender also picked up an assist on Zach Parise's empty-net goal with 1:29 remaining in regulation. It was Brodeur's fourth assist of the playoffs -- the most by any goaltender in a single postseason. No goaltender had more than five assists (Nashville's Pekka Rinne reached that mark) during the regular season.

Entering Wednesday's Game 5 at Madison Square Garden, Brodeur -- who now has 109 playoff victories -- will have more points than 92 players this postseason among those who have appeared in at least seven games. He's now averaging a point every four games in these playoffs.
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Posted On Sunday, 05.20.2012 / 7:45 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Coyotes finally break through on power play

The Phoenix Coyotes finally solved the Los Angeles Kings' phenomenal penalty kill on Sunday afternoon.

Shane Doan
Right Wing - PHX
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 9
SOG: 42 | +/-: 3
Coyotes captain Shane Doan ended the Kings' remarkable streak at 30 consecutive successful kills when he beat Jonathan Quick at 14:19 of the opening period. The goal proved to be the game-winner, as Phoenix staved off elimination with a 2-0 win in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final at the Staples Center.

It was the first goal for Doan in five games, and he added an insurance tally midway through the second period to help send the series back to Phoenix for Game 5 on Tuesday night. Doan's first goal was also his club's first on the power play in since Game 1 of the Coyotes' second-round series against the Nashville Predators -- a span of 22 opportunities.
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Posted On Saturday, 05.19.2012 / 6:09 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Make it three in a row for Kreider

Chris Kreider has quickly made a name for himself this postseason.

Less than two months after finishing up his collegiate career at Boston College, the talented rookie tied a franchise mark with the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon.

Chris Kreider
Left Wing - NYR
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 7
SOG: 22 | +/-: -2
Kreider, 21, notched his fifth goal in 15 postseason games in New York's 2-0 win against the New Jersey Devils in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals at the Prudential Center. The 6-foot-3 rookie has now scored in three straight contests, becoming the first Rangers' rookie to do that during the postseason since Don Maloney accomplished the feat back in 1979.

Kreider also set a new record for most playoff goals from a player who has never played in a regular-season game. Montreal's Eddie Mazur had four.
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Posted On Friday, 05.18.2012 / 1:14 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Quick having a spring for the ages

Though Jonathan Quick is a Vezina Trophy finalist, few people would have mentioned him in the same breath with Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuk before the playoffs started. But the two now share an accomplishment that no one else achieved in a six-decade span.

Jonathan Quick
Goalie - LAK
RECORD: 11-1-0
GAA: 1.41 | SVP: 0.951
Quick has won 11 of his 12 starts this spring while leading the Los Angeles Kings within one victory of their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1993. Thursday's 2-1 victory against Phoenix marked the eighth consecutive game in which Quick won without allowing more than two goals. The last goaltender to put together that kind of streak was Sawchuk, who went 8-0 while leading Detroit to a sweep in the 1952 playoffs -- a stretch of brilliance in which he allowed just five goals and posted four shutouts.

Quick wasn't quite that good -- he allowed 10 goals in the eight wins -- but he's been the best goaltender to take the ice so far this spring. In 12 games, Quick has 11 wins, a 1.41 goals-against average, a .951 save percentage and two shutouts -- putting him first in all four categories.
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Posted On Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 12:06 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Tight games continue to be the rule this spring

The hardest thing to get in this spring's playoffs is a big lead.

Martin Brodeur
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 9-4
GAA: 2.05 | SVP: 0.921
New Jersey's 3-2 victory against the Rangers in New York on Wednesday night got the Devils even in the Eastern Conference Finals heading into Game 3 in Newark on Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS). It also marked the 44th time in 73 games this spring that the winning margin was a single goal -- and in eight other games, the two-goal margin of victory included an empty-netter.

There have already been more one-goal games this spring than there were in all of the 2008, 2009 and 2010 playoffs. Last spring's playoffs had 48 games decided by one goal, a total that's a pretty good bet to be exceeded as well. The most one-goal games in the past 10 years came in 2007, when there were 51.
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.16.2012 / 12:48 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Los Angeles now Kings of the road

The Los Angeles Kings were among the poorest road playoff teams in NHL history -- until now.

Jonathan Quick
Goalie - LAK
RECORD: 10-1
GAA: 1.45 | SVP: 0.951
Before this spring, the Kings had won just 29 of 95 playoff games away from L.A. since entering the NHL in 1967 -- and that included wins in their last two games at San Jose during their six-game loss to the Sharks in 2011. The back-to-back wins matched the longest road winning streak in the franchise's playoff history.

But the Kings have been flawless away from home this spring. They improved to 7-0 on the road Tuesday night by dominating the Phoenix Coyotes 4-0 in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. The seven straight wins match a single-season record for consecutive road wins last accomplished by the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.15.2012 / 12:12 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Rangers block 26 shots in Game 1

Henrik Lundqvist is undoubtedly one of the top goaltenders in the NHL. Fortunately for the Rangers' goaltender, though, he's receiving plenty of help from his defense.

With Monday night's 3-0 win, Lundqvist has now faced 23 shots or fewer in four straight contests. He went 21-for-21 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final at Madison Square Garden for his ninth win of the postseason.

Dan Girardi
Defense - NYR
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 9
SOG: 27 | +/-: 3
Lundqvist would have faced more than 40 shots Monday night if not for his relentless defense. Through the first 40 minutes, the Rangers had already blocked 18 shots. Eight more didn't find their way to the net in the third period as New York finished the evening with 26 blocked shots. Ten of those came from the duo of Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, who had five apiece.

"I thought he played really strong the whole night and helped out in front blocking shots," Lundqvist said of Girardi. "I always know what to expect from him, and it's a great feeling as a goalie."
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Posted On Monday, 05.14.2012 / 12:18 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Kings continue to shine on the road

As the eighth seed in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Kings knew they'd have to find ways to win on the road in order to be successful in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Three rounds into the 2012 postseason, they still haven't lost away from Staples Center.

With Sunday's 4-2 win against the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final at Jobing.com Arena, the Kings improved to 6-0 on the road this postseason and 9-1 overall.

Dating back to last year, Los Angeles has won eight straight away from home in the playoffs. No team has accomplished that since the New Jersey Devils from 1995-97.
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Posted On Saturday, 05.12.2012 / 11:24 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Rangers advance despite lack of firepower

There are two ways to win in the postseason: You can try to outgun your opponent (think Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh in the first round), or you can try to play shutdown defense, get great goaltending and hope to get enough offense.

The New York Rangers have opted for Plan B -- and they're playing it to perfection,

The Rangers survived Game 7 for the second time in as many series by beating the Washington Capitals 2-1 on Saturday night. It marked the NHL single season-record 14th consecutive playoff game -- every one they've played this spring -- in which the Rangers held the opposition to three goals or less.

Of course, it's not like the Rangers are filling the net. After scoring four times in their playoff opener against Ottawa, the Rangers have gone 13 straight games without getting more than three goals in a game.
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 11:21 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Capitals don't let OT losses get them down

Braden Holtby
Goalie - WSH
RECORD: 7-6
GAA: 1.95 | SVP: 0.935
The Washington Capitals are nothing if not resilient.

The Caps have lost four times in overtime during this year's playoffs, including a pair of excruciating losses to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals -- a triple-OT loss in Game 3 and a 3-2 loss in Game 5 in which they were 6.6 seconds away from winning.

But the Caps have refused to feel sorry for themselves. They rebounded from each of the first three overtime losses with victories, then did it again on Wednesday by beating the Rangers 2-1 in Game 6 -- sending the series to the limit and becoming the first team in NHL history to won four straight times after an overtime loss in a single playoff year.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 11:13 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Scoring first not a winning formula for Flyers

He who scores first usually scores most -- unless one of the team is the Philadelphia Flyers in this year's playoffs.

Ilya Bryzgalov
Goalie - PHI
RECORD: 5-6
GAA: 3.46 | SVP: 0.887
In a League where the team that gets the first goal won more than two-thirds of the time during the regular season, the Flyers managed to lose six times in seven tries this spring after they opened the scoring. That includes all four of its losses to New Jersey in the Eastern Conference Semifinals -- the Flyers scored first again on Tuesday but saw their season end with a 3-1 loss in Game 5.

In all, the team that scored first in the Flyers' 11 postseason games won just once -- Philadelphia scored first and beat Pittsburgh in Game 6 to close out their first-round series. The Flyers were 4-0 when they allowed the first goal this spring, but became the first team ever to score first in all four of its losses in one series.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 2:22 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Coyotes take another giant step

On March 18, the Phoenix Coyotes weren't even among the top eight teams in the Western Conference.

Less than two months later, they are one of its last two teams standing.

Shane Doan
Right Wing - PHX
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 6
SOG: 35 | +/-: 5
With Monday night's 2-1 win against the Nashville Predators at Jobing.com Arena, the Coyotes have advanced to the Western Conference Final for the first time in franchise history. Phoenix will face the Los Angeles Kings in Round 3, as those squads will battle in a best-of-seven series to determine who will represent the Western Conference in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final.

"We've been pretty business-like the whole time, and we're excited for this win," said Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who appeared in his 50th postseason game Monday night. "It means a lot to our group to keep going. But it's only halfway. We've got to find a way to win four more games and regroup again."
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Posted On Monday, 05.07.2012 / 12:18 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Kings finally head back to Conference Finals

Jonathan Quick's remarkable season will continue in the 2012 Western Conference Finals.

Jonathan Quick
Goalie - LAK
RECORD: 8-1-0
GAA: 1.55 | SVP: 0.949
Quick, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy after notching a League-high 10 shutouts, helped the Los Angeles Kings complete a sweep of the St. Louis Blues with Sunday's 3-1 win at the Staples Center. With Quick leading the charge, the Kings are headed to the conference finals for the first time in almost 20 years.

Not since 1993 has Los Angeles made it this far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With Sunday's victory, the Kings also became the first team to eliminate the top two seeds in a conference since the NHL adopted the format prior to the 1993-94 season.

Quick is 8-1 this postseason and has stopped 260 of 274 shots for a .949 save percentage. With his help, the Kings killed off all 17 power plays the Blues received in the series.
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Posted On Saturday, 05.05.2012 / 4:53 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Holtby getting plenty of help

Washington goaltender Braden Holtby had to face only 20 shots in the Capitals' 3-2 win in Game 4 on Saturday afternoon. For that, he can thank the other 18 guys in the red sweaters.

While the Rangers managed to get just 20 shots on goal, Holtby's teammates blocked 26 others -- exactly half of New York's total of 52 attempted shots. The Caps did a better job of getting their shots through to the net; Washington attempted just 40 shots, but 26 of them got to Henrik Lundqvist -- and three of them went into the net.

The Rangers blocked just seven shots on Saturday after getting in front of 41 during Game 3. They had blocked 14 in each of the first two games.
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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 11:17 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Preds turn into 'gang that couldn't shoot straight'

If the Nashville Predators don't get past the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference Semifinals, their inability to capitalize on Grade-A chances in Game 4 will be a big reason.

Mike Smith
Goalie - PHX
RECORD: 7-3
GAA: 1.85 | SVP: 0.946
Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith was flawless in stopping all 25 Nashville shots that were on net in Friday night's 1-0 win. But the Predators hurt themselves even more by firing shots that were off-target -- Nashville missed the net on 14 shots, including a handful of excellent scoring chances in the second period when the Predators carried the play but couldn't cash in.

No player symbolized Nashville's off-target shooting more than Patrik Hornqvist, who ended the second period having taken eight shots at goal -- and getting none on target. He had three blocked and missed the net on the other five, including three glorious chances that saw him hit a post, fire a shot over the crossbar and push a pass from David Legwand wide of the right post.

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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 1:49 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Brodeur enjoying overtime success this spring

Success in overtime during the playoffs has been one of the few things that has eluded Martin Brodeur during his career -- he entered this year's playoffs with a record of 12 wins and 21 losses. But as he prepares to turn 40 on Sunday, Brodeur is having the most successful overtime spring of his career.

Martin Brodeur
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 6-3
GAA: 2.16 | SVP: 0.917
Brodeur got the win Thursday night when Alexei Ponikarovsky's goal gave the New Jersey Devils a 4-3 win against the Philadelphia Flyers and a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference Semifinal series. It was the fourth time in their last five games that the Devils have gone to OT -- and the third victory, all with Brodeur in goal.

The three overtime wins are the most Brodeur has ever had in a single playoff year. Thursday's win was also Brodeur's first in four playoff overtime games against the Flyers, who beat him in 1995 and 2010 before doing it again in a 4-3 victory on Sunday.
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Posted On Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 1:34 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Rangers end OT drought in dramatic style

Maybe what the New York Rangers needed to end their overtime drought was a game for the ages.

Marian Gaborik
Right Wing - NYR
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 7
SOG: 23 | +/-: -1
Overtime has never been the New York Rangers' forte -- they entered Wednesday night having won just 31 of 70 playoff games that had gone past regulation and had dropped seven in a row, including two in the first round this year. One more loss would have tied the NHL for consecutive OT losses.

Instead, the Rangers ended their drought with the second-longest victory in franchise history -- no mean feat for a team that began play in 1926. Marian Gaborik's goal at 14:41 of the third overtime gave the Rangers a 2-1 win at Washington in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.01.2012 / 10:55 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Flyers defy 'score first and win' trend

Scoring first is usually the best way to win an NHL game. Someone has failed to get the message to the Philadelphia Flyers and their opponents during this year's playoffs.

For the seventh time in the Flyers' eight games, the team that scored first lost. Unfortunately for the Flyers, they opened the scoring against New Jersey on Tuesday, but went home with a 4-1 loss in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series.

The team that scored first lost all five games in the Flyers' first-round series against Pittsburgh before Philadelphia closed out the Penguins after scoring the first two goals of Game 6. The Devils scored first in the series-opener on Sunday, a 4-3 overtime loss, but dominated the Flyers in Game 2 after rookie Matt Read's early goal put the Flyers ahead.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.01.2012 / 1:31 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Ovechkin makes most of few minutes

One would assume that Alex Ovechkin would be among the leaders in ice time for the Washington Capitals, especially in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But Caps coach Dale Hunter limited his superstar's ice time in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Monday night, and Washington skated away with a 3-2 victory against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Alex Ovechkin
Left Wing - WSH
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 6
SOG: 36 | +/-: -1
Ovechkin, who led Washington with 65 points (38 goals, 27 assists) during the regular season, was on the ice for just 13 minutes and 36 seconds Monday night, just two days after receiving more than 21 minutes in Game 1. Nonetheless, Ovechkin made the most of his limited ice time in Game 2 and scored what proved to be the game-winner via the power play with 7:27 left in regulation.

The 13:36 of ice time Ovechkin played Monday night were the fewest in his NHL postseason career. It was also the fewest in his NHL career in a game -- excluding ejections or injuries. Ovechkin has played fewer than 17 minutes in three of Washington's last five games.

"I feel good. You have to suck it up and use time what Dale is giving to me," Ovechkin said. "First period, two periods I didn't play a lot and I have a couple opportunities I didn't use it. In third, two power plays -- I think on first power play we move well and on second one finally it goes in.

"It's most important thing right now guys just win the series and win the game. If you gonna talk about my game time and all that kind of stuff, it's not a season – it's the playoffs. How I said before, you have to suck it up and play for team."

Not so shorthanded -- Most teams try to stay out of the penalty box. But the Los Angeles Kings seem to do well even when they're whistled for an infraction.

Anze Kopitar
Center - LAK
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 6
SOG: 22 | +/-: 7
Not only did the Kings kill all nine St. Louis power plays Monday night, they also received a shorthanded goal from Anze Kopitar in a 5-2 win against the Blues in Game 2 of their Western Conference Semifinal series at the Scottrade Center.

Kings captain Dustin Brown picked up an assist on Kopitar's tally, giving him four shorthanded points this postseason. It's the most any player has had in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since Detroit center Henrik  Zetterberg had five points in 2008.

"It's good to see that emotional investment from Dustin, right? Good to see, and good for him," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "Hey, it's what I said before the series. We need him to have a good series."

St. Louis has already allowed two shorthanded goals in this series. The Blues surrendered three shorthanded tallies during the regular season.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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Posted On Monday, 04.30.2012 / 12:47 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Playoffs are Briere's time to shine

There are certain players who simply step up their game at this time of year. Danny Briere is at -- or at least near the very top -- of that list.

Danny Briere
Right Wing - PHI
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 10
SOG: 18 | +/-: -2
Just moments after having an overtime goal waved off, Briere scored the 46th goal of his postseason career to lift the Philadelphia Flyers to a 4-3 victory against the New Jersey Devils in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series at Wells Fargo Center.

Briere -- who scored twice Sunday afternoon -- now has 106 points in 104 playoff games. He is now tied with Claude Giroux for the playoff lead with seven goals, and ranks second behind only Giroux with 10 points.

His overtime tally was his 14th goal on his last 18 playoff games. He now has 36 goals and 69 points in 64 postseason contests with Philadelphia.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 11:11 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Kreider is the toast of the town

Three weeks after leading Boston College to the NCAA championship, Chris Kreider is the toast of New York.

Kreider signed with the Rangers after BC's title game victory on April 7, and he's one of the big reasons New York beat Ottawa in the first round and leads Washington 1-0 in the second. In his six games as a pro, Kreider has a pair of game-winning goals -- including the winner in Saturday's 3-1 victory against the Caps -- making him the first Rangers rookie to get more than one in the same year since Mike Allison in 1981 to get more than one.

Kreider, the first player since John Byce in 1990 to go directly from winning an NCAA championship into the playoffs, had the winning goal and an assist in the Rangers' 3-2 win in Game 6 against Ottawa, then did the same thing on Saturday against the Caps. The 20-year-old is the youngest Ranger to score a playoff goal since Niklas Sundstrom in 1996; he's just the third player ever to score a playoff goal for New York before playing in a regular-season game for the Rangers.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 1:45 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Parade of overtime games continues

We've moved past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the deluge of overtime games shows no signs of abating.

After 16 of the 48 games in the conference quarterfinals went past regulation, the conference semis started out the same way, with Phoenix needing an extra 14:04 to beat Nashville 4-3 on Friday night in the opener of their Western Conference Semifinal series.

It was the first OT game of the playoffs for Nashville, the only team to make it to the second round without playing one. The Coyotes more than made up for it -- Phoenix tied a playoff record by going into overtime in each of its first five games against Chicago and set a Stanley Cup record by going past regulation for the sixth time in their seven games.
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Posted On Friday, 04.27.2012 / 1:58 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

No place like home for Rangers

If the New York Rangers have to play a Game 7, there's nowhere else they'd rather play it than Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers rode the benefits of playing in front of their home fans to a 2-1 victory against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. Playing the deciding game at MSG was their reward for finishing first in the Eastern Conference -- and they'll have the same reward for as far as they go in the playoffs.

The Rangers are now 4-5 all-time in Game 7s -- 4-0 at the Garden and 0-5 on the road. The victory against the Senators was their first in a Game 7 since they held off Vancouver to win the 1994 Final. The other two Game 7 wins both came against New Jersey -- they won 8-4 in the opening round in 1992 and 2-1 in double overtime in the 1994 Eastern Conference Final.

Ottawa has yet to find a way to win Game 7. The Senators have gone to a seventh game five times but have yet to win one -- in fact, they've scored just six goals in the five games.

Martin Brodeur
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 4-2-0
GAA: 2.06 | SVP: 0.922
Marty comes through -- Playoff overtime has never been Martin Brodeur's strong suit, but he came through in back-to-back games when the New Jersey Devils needed him most.

Brodeur made 43 saves before Adam Henrique's goal 3:47 into the second overtime gave New Jersey a 3-2 win at Florida in Game 7 on Thursday night. Brodeur and the Devils also won Game 6 in OT, giving him overtime wins in back-to-back games for the first time beating Toronto in Games 2 and 3 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Despite the two wins against Florida, Brodeur is still just 14-21 in overtime during the playoffs.

The winningest regular-season goaltender in NHL history now has won six of his 10 decisions in Game 7 -- he's 3-2 on the road and at home. Brodeur has split the two Game 7s that went into overtime; he lost to the New York Rangers in double overtime in the Eastern Conference Finals 18 years ago.

The Game 7 win against Florida came about 20 minutes after Thursday night turned into Friday morning -- and April 27 is the 20th anniversary of Brodeur's first Stanley Cup Playoff game, an 8-5 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 5 of their first-round series in 1992.

Fitting conclusion
-- It was appropriate that the first round of the playoffs ended with the longest game of the record 16 contests to go into overtime.

Adam Henrique
Center - NJD
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 3
SOG: 10 | +/-: 1
Henrique's goal at 23:47 of overtime concluded an opening round that saw exactly one-third of the 48 games played go past regulation. It's the most OT games ever in the opening round -- and puts the NHL on track to break the record of 28 overtime games in a single playoff year, set in 1993.

Of the eight series in the conference quarterfinals, only one -- Detroit-Nashville -- didn't have at least one overtime game. Phoenix and Chicago tied a record when they went to extra time in each of the first five games, and the Washington-Boston series had four OT contests.

That the visiting Devils won Thursday night shouldn't have come as a surprise. Road teams won 12 of the 16 overtime games -- and all three that went into a second extra period.

20 and counting -- The departure of the Senators means that the Stanley Cup will be staying south of the 49th parallel again. Not since the Montreal Canadiens beat Los Angeles in 1993 has a Canadian-based team taken home the Cup. This is the first year since 1996 that the final eight in the playoffs don't include a Canadian team.

Ottawa's loss also kept another streak intact. Since the current playoff format was adopted for the 1993-94 season, we haven't had both No. 8 seeds win. Los Angeles became the 12th No. 8 seed to beat a No. 1 seed by eliminating Vancouver, but the Senators came up a goal short in their effort to oust the Rangers, the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

First-round review -- No sweeps. Three seven-game series. Domination by visiting teams. Such was the first round of this year's playoffs.

For the second time in three years, all eight conference quarterfinals went more than four games. Three -- all in the West -- were decided in five games. Two others went six games and three Eastern Conference series went to the limit, the second time that's happened in as many years.

The Vancouver Canucks became the 10th top seed in a conference to fail to get out of the first round when Los Angeles beat them in five games. Boston became the second straight defending champ to be knocked out in the first round when it lost to Washington.

The trend of road teams dominating the opening round continued -- the guys in the white sweaters won 30 of the 48 games, the third year in a row visiting teams have won more than they've lost in the first round. None of the eight winning teams was perfect at home.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 11:33 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Caps and Bruins finish off a series to remember

It will go down as the tightest series in NHL history -- and for the Boston Bruins, one of the most disappointing.

Braden Holtby
Goalie - WSH
RECORD: 4-3-0
GAA: 2.00 | SVP: 0.940
Boston's reign as Stanley Cup champs came to a stunning end Wednesday night when Joel Ward scored 2:57 into overtime to give the Washington Capitals a 2-1 victory in Game 7, sending the Caps onto the second round and the Bruins home for the summer.

It's the first seven-game series in Stanley Cup history in which every game was decided by a single goal -- no other series had had more than five one-goal games. For all but a 2:54 span late in the second period of Game 5, neither team led by more than one goal at any point in the seven games -- meaning that for 427:34 of the 430:28 played in the series, the teams were tied or separated by one goal. 
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 11:59 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Plenty of overtime again this spring

If playoff overtime is your thing, this year's opening round has been a moveable feast.

New Jersey's 3-2 victory against Florida on Tuesday marked the 14th time in 45 games so far during this spring's Stanley Cup Playoffs that the teams were unable to decide matters in the regulation 60 minutes. That equals the number of first-round overtime games a year ago, which ended with 22 of the 89 games being decided in OT. It's also the same number of first-round overtimes as 1993, which ended with a record 28 games going into OT.

Extra time has not been kind to home teams this spring. The Devils became only the fourth home team in the 14 OT games to win when Travis Zajac scored at 5:39 of the first overtime. 
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 1:28 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Rangers prepare for ninth Game 7

"The World's Most Famous Arena" will be hosting its fourth Game 7 on Thursday night.

Thanks to the work of youngsters such as Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider -- along with world-class goaltender Henrik Lundqvist -- the Blueshirts managed to stave off elimination Monday night and force a seventh game with a 3-2 win against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.

The victory means the Rangers will be participating in their ninth Game 7 in franchise history, and the fourth to be played at Madison Square Garden. It will also be the first Game 7 on Broadway since the Rangers won their only Stanley Cup championship in the last six decades, when they beat the Vancouver Canucks in a dramatic seventh game in 1994.
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Posted On Sunday, 04.22.2012 / 11:26 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Road teams continue to reign supreme in OT

The first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is still ongoing, but there have already been 13 games that have gone past regulation.

So far, that has been bad news for the home teams.

The visiting squad won both games that required overtime on Sunday, as Boston's Tyler Seguin and Jarret Stoll of Los Angeles lit the lamp in the extra session. With the victories, the road team is now 10-3 in overtime games this postseason.

Los Angeles won a playoff series for the first time in 11 years and became just the 10th team that finished eighth in the conference to eliminate a No. 1 seed since the National Hockey League adopted the format in 1993-94, and the sixth to upset a Presidents' Trophy winner. Vancouver finished the 2011-12 regular season with an NHL-best 111 points.

The Canucks lost all three games they hosted at Rogers Arena and have been ousted in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2004.

Marc-Andre Fleury
Goalie - PIT
RECORD: 2-4-0
GAA: 4.63 | SVP: 0.834
Nothing special -- The subpar goaltending by Marc-Andre Fleury certainly is a big reason why the Pittsburgh Penguins' season has ended prematurely. But perhaps an ever bigger reason is special teams.

The Philadelphia Flyers set a new franchise record with 12 power-play goals in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the Pens, which ended with Sunday's 5-1 decision at Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers finished the series 12-for-23 with the man advantage, an astonishing 52.2 percent.

Pittsburgh's penalty kill ranked third in the League during the regular season with a success rate of 87.8 percent. But for these six games against its arch nemesis, it was nowhere to be found.

It's now 8-8 -- Sunday marked the 16th playoff game between the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins.

And, after Seguin scored 3:17 into overtime, each team has now won eight games.

This is the third time in history the Caps and Bruins have faced each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the teams will need a Game 7 to determine the winner. Alex Ovechkin erased a 3-2 deficit late in the third period Sunday, but Seguin -- who is only 20 years old -- won it for Boston early in the extra session.

Seguin led the Bruins during the regular season with 29 goals and 67 points, but was scoreless in the playoffs until notching two points on Sunday.

Wednesday marks the fifth Game 7 for Bruins goalie Tim Thomas and the first for Washington's Braden Holtby. Thomas is 3-2 with a 2.04 goals-against average in Game 7s.

It will be the 10th Game 7 for Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference. He has won five of nine in his career.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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Posted On Sunday, 04.22.2012 / 1:06 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Blues advance for first time in a decade

Not since 2002 had the St. Louis Blues advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But on Saturday night, Ken Hitchcock's club changed all that.

Going up against a team that had reached the Western Conference Final the last two years, the Blues disposed of the San Jose Sharks in five games with Saturday's 3-1 win at the Scottrade Center. Including the regular season, the Blues won eight of nine against the San Jose.

In those nine games, the Sharks scored a total of 11 goals.

Jamie Langenbrunner, David Perron and Andy McDonald scored for the Blues, who were 6-7 when Hitchcock replaced Davis Payne behind the bench. St. Louis also entered the season having not qualified for the postseason since 2009.

Special teams played a huge role in the series, as the Blues killed 15 of San Jose's 17 power plays. The Sharks went 0-for-2 with the man advantage Saturday night.

Craig Anderson
Goalie - OTT
RECORD: 3-2-0
GAA: 1.79 | SVP: 0.943
Anderson does it again -- Craig Anderson was spectacular again for the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night.

The Ottawa Senators goaltender made several phenomenal saves to lead his team to a 2-0 win against the top-seeded New York Rangers in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden. Anderson, who finished with 41 saves, lowered his goals-against average to 1.79. Through the first five games of the series, Anderson is boasting a .943 save percentage.

The Rangers have scored only three goals in the past three games, including a 1-0 victory in Game 3. Anderson, meanwhile, improved to 8-1-1 lifetime at MSG.

Since the Blueshirts took a 2-0 lead in the first period of Game 4, Anderson has gone 116 minutes, 32 seconds without allowing a goal.

Theodore bounces back -- Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen had complete faith that goaltender Jose Theodore would respond after allowing three goals in the first 6:16 against the New Jersey in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal last Tuesday.

All Theodore did Saturday night was stop all 30 shots he faced for his second career postseason shutout as the Panthers moved within a win of the second round with a 3-0 victory at the BankAtlantic Center.

It's been 16 years since Florida has won a playoff series, but Theodore's ability to respond has the Devils on the brink of elimination when the series resumes Tuesday night at the Prudential Center.

Theodore went eight years in between postseason shutouts -- his first one came back on April 19, 2004, when the Montreal Canadiens blanked the Boston Bruins in a 2-0 win.

Dennis Seidenberg
Defense - BOS
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 3
SOG: 11 | +/-: 2
Struggling to score -- Goals have been hard to come by for the defending Stanley Cup champions.

When Dennis Seidenberg beat Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby at 17:21 of the second period on Saturday afternoon, it was the Boston Bruins' first goal in 84 minutes, 9 seconds. Rich Peverley had Boston's lone goal in the opening period of Thursday night's 2-1 loss.

The Bruins' lack of offense is a huge reason why the club is playing with its season on the line Sunday afternoon, when the series shifts back to Washington.

Make it five -- For the first time in 61 years, a playoff series has opened with five consecutive overtime games.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes reached an extra session for a fifth time Saturday night, as Nick Leddy erased a 1-0 deficit midway through the third period before captain Jonathan Toews won it in overtime as the Hawks staved off elimination with a 2-1 victory at Jobing.com Arena.

Saturday night marked the first time a series opened with five straight overtime games since the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs battled in the 1951 Stanley Cup Final.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 12:43 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Penguins one step closer to making history

The Pittsburgh Penguins had never won a Game 5 in a series when they trailed 3-0 until they beat Philadelphia 3-2 on Friday night. They're hoping for some more firsts in the next few days.

Sidney Crosby
Center - PIT
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 8
SOG: 10 | +/-: 0
Now that they've won two games after losing the first three games of a series, they'll try to pull even on Sunday (noon ET; NBC, CBC). If they do, they'll get a chance to become only the fourth team in NHL history to win a series after trailing 3-0.

Including Pittsburgh and Vancouver this year, 170 teams have lost the first three games in a best-of-seven series. The Penguins are just the 15th to get as far as a sixth game -- Vancouver will try to do it against Los Angeles on Saturday.

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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 1:51 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Another line in the record book for Brodeur

Martin Brodeur took over another line in the NHL record book on Thursday night.

The NHL's all-time regular-season leader in wins and shutouts added the record for most Stanley Cup shutouts to his Hall of Fame resume by stopping all 26 Florida shots in New Jersey's 4-0 victory in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.

Shutout No. 24 broke a tie with Patrick Roy that had existed since Brodeur blanked Carolina 1-0 on April 23, 2009. It was just his fourth in the last nine years since a 3-0 victory against Anaheim in Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final. That shutout was the last of seven he had while leading the Devils to their third championship in nine years.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 1:28 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Penguins-Flyers series a goaltender's nightmare

Conventional wisdom is that the Stanley Cup Playoffs are all about tight checking and great goaltending. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers obviously didn't get the message.

After a season in which the average NHL game saw a combined total of roughly 5.3 (non-shootout) goals, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have shattered the record for the most goals scored in the first four games of a series. The Penguins' 10-3 win on Wednesday brought the total to 45 -- one more than the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks scored in the first four games of the 1985 Campbell Conference Finals.

But the Oilers and Hawks played run-and-gun in a free-scoring era -- the average regular-season game in 1984-85 featured nearly 7.8 goals per game, nearly 50 percent more than this season's average. To have two teams averaging nearly double the number of goals scored in the regular season in such a tight-checking era is nearly incomprehensible.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 2:01 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Three straight overtimes for Coyotes, Blackhawks

When it comes to the Western Conference Quarterfinal between the Phoenix Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks, 60 minutes just haven't been enough.

Mikkel Boedker
Right Wing - PHX
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 9 | +/-: 2
After a wild third period, the clubs played overtime for a third straight game Tuesday night before Mikkel Boedker gave the Coyotes a 2-1 series lead when he beat Corey Crawford from a sharp angle at 13:15 in a 3-2 win at the United Center.

Overtime was needed again after the teams traded three goals during a 65-second span in the third period. Michael Frolik gave Chicago a 2-1 lead almost immediately after Rostislav Klesla had tied it for Phoenix, but Ray Whitney evened things up again for the Coyotes just 32 seconds later.

The victory has Phoenix halfway towards its first postseason series victory in 25 years. In 1987, the Winnipeg Jets ousted the Calgary Flames in six games.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 10:00 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Road warriors having their way in playoffs

After a one-night interruption, the road-ice advantage in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs was back in evidence on Monday night.

Home teams won three of four games on Sunday. But the guys in the white sweaters were in charge again on Monday, winning all three games to give visitors 14 wins in the 22 games played so far. Home teams have won exactly one game in each of the eight series.

Contrast that to the regular season, when home teams were 687-399-144, a winning percentage of .551.

Road teams appear to be on their way to winning more than half of the first-round games for the third year in a row. Home teams haven't been over .500 in the first round since going 24-20 in 2008-09.
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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 10:00 AM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Can Kings complete improbable sweep?

It's happened only eight times in 19 years, but the Los Angeles Kings are a solid 60-minute effort away from becoming No. 9.

Thanks to a 41-save performance from Jonathan Quick and another tremendous effort from team captain Dustin Brown, the Kings -- who haven't won a playoff series since 2001 -- took a 3-0 lead on the Vancouver Canucks in their Western Conference Quarterfinal with a 1-0 win at the Staples Center on Sunday night.

Jonathan Quick
Goalie - LAK
RECORD: 3-0-0
GAA: 1.33 | SVP: 0.965
Only eight teams that finished eighth in the conference have managed to knock off a No. 1 seed since the National Hockey League adopted the format in 1993. But the Kings, who didn't even know they were playing the Canucks until the final night of the regular season, can eliminate the Canucks with another victory in Game 4 on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.

Vancouver's special teams have struggled in this series, as the Canucks clearly miss injured winger Daniel Sedin. Vancouver went 0-for-4 on the power play Sunday night and is now 0-for-14 in the series.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, treated its fans to something they hadn't seen in quite some time -- a playoff victory on home ice. With Sunday's win, the Kings snapped a five-game playoff skid at Staples Center.

A long time coming -- Fifteen years since their last playoff victory, the Florida Panthers had reason to celebrate after Sunday's 4-2 win against the New Jersey Devils in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal at the BankAtlantic Center.

When Tomas Fleischmann scored an empty-net goal in the game's final second, it sealed Florida's first postseason win since a 3-0 triumph against the New York Rangers on April 17, 1997 -- a span of 5,478 days.

Sunday's win didn't come easily for the Panthers. The club held a 3-0 lead, but the Devils scored twice in the third period and nearly tied it with just under 10 seconds to go before Fleischmann's tally helped Florida even the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.

It's probably a good thing Florida won Sunday, too -- New Jersey is 10-0 all-time when it wins the first two games of a playoff series.

Fleury of goals
-- What's happened to Marc-Andre Fleury?

Marc-Andre Fleury
Goalie - PIT
RECORD: 0-3-0
GAA: 6.34 | SVP: 0.798
Easily one of the top goaltenders in the League during the regular season, the Pittsburgh Penguins' netminder has struggled mightily against the Philadelphia Flyers and was pulled after allowing six goals on 28 shots in the first two periods of Sunday's 8-4 loss at Wells Fargo Center.

Fleury won 42 games during the regular season while boasting a 2.36 goals-against average and .913 save percentage. But, in three appearances in the playoffs, he has a 6.34 GAA and .798 save percentage.

Seventh time's a charm -- The Nashville Predators finally won a playoff game at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday.

After going winless in their first six postseason games in Detroit, the Predators squeaked out a 3-2 victory against the Red Wings in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Nashville now has a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven series, with Game 4 to be played in Motown on Tuesday.

The Preds also finally experienced some success on the power play against the Wings. Nashville was 0-for-12 with the man advantage in the series before captain Shea Weber found the back of the net 2:48 into Sunday's contest.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 2:26 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Home ice no edge thus far in playoffs

Remember the home-ice advantage? The thing everyone is so desperate for in the playoffs? Four days into this year's postseason, home ice has been anything but an advantage.

With 15 games in the books, home teams have won all of five contests. None of the eight teams that opened with two games at home won both of them -- and two visiting teams, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, swept both games.

For all the effort teams put into getting the home-ice advantage, it hasn't been much of an edge in the opening round in the last couple of seasons. Home teams went just 22-27 in the first round last spring and were just 23-26 in 2009-10. The last time home teams were above .500 in the opening round was 2008-09, when they won 24 of the 44 games played.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 12:07 PM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Flyers' comebacks have them in control

Maybe the Philadelphia Flyers ought to let the Pittsburgh Penguins just start the game with a couple of goals to get the preliminaries out of the way.

Friday night marked the fourth time in less than four weeks that the Penguins jumped to a multiple-goal lead against the Flyers -- and lost. On Wednesday, they led 3-0 and lost 4-3 in overtime; on Friday, they led 2-0 and 3-1, only to be beaten 8-5.

Three of the Flyers' four comebacks have come in Pittsburgh, where the Flyers are 7-1-0 at the two-year-old Consol Energy Center.
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 10:51 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

It only took 77 years ...

Halley's Comet comes around every 76 years -- or almost as often as the Boston Bruins win a playoff game 1-0 in overtime.

The Bruins did just that in their playoff opener on Thursday, beating the Washington Capitals on Chris Kelly's goal 1:18 into overtime after the teams battled through 60 scoreless minutes of regulation. The last time Boston won 1-0 in overtime in a playoff game was 77 years ago -- March 25, 1935, when Dit Clapper scored 3:26 into the second extra period.

It was the first 1-0 overtime game involving the Bruins since they lost 1-0 to New Jersey in the first round in 1995 -- and the first one ever for the Caps.

One reason for the Bruins' victory was their continuing ability to shut down Alex Ovechkin, who entered Thursday with the fourth-highest points-per-game average in playoff history. Ovi led the Caps with seven hits but had only one shot on goal and has now managed just one goal in his last nine games against Boston since the start of the 2010-11 season.

Tim Terrific -- Tim Thomas started the 2012 postseason the way he ended the playoffs last year -- perfect.

Thomas wasn't severely tested in the Bruins' win against Washington, but he was flawless in stopping all 17 shots he faced before Chris Kelly's game-winner 1:18 into overtime. It was the sixth playoff shutout of his career and his second in a row -- he ended last season by putting up a zero in Boston's 4-0 win at Vancouver in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Thomas, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner this past spring, has stopped the last 58 shots he's faced in a span of 123 minutes and 44 seconds since Vancouver's Maxim Lapierre scored with 2:26 remaining in Game 6.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 10:52 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Flyers' rally should come as no surprise

Turnabout was fair play for the Philadelphia Flyers.

The last time the Flyers played the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, on April 25, 2009, they led 3-0 in Game 6 and were less than 40 minutes away from forcing a seventh and deciding game -- only to have the Penguins score five unanswered goals for a series-ending 5-3 win.

The Pennsylvania rivals hadn't met in the playoffs since that afternoon -- until the Flyers exacted some revenge in the opener of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series on Wednesday. This time, it was the Flyers who overcame a 3-0 deficit -- rookie Brayden Schenn's third-period power-play goal forced overtime and Jakub Voracek's goal 2:23 into OT gave Philadelphia a 4-3 win.

On one hand, the comeback shouldn't have come as a surprise -- Philadelphia was the only team to win three regular-season games after trailing by three goals (there were only 17 other games in which it happened this season) -- and this was the third time in four meetings with the Penguins since March 18 that the Penguins saw a multiple-goal lead against Philadelphia turn into a loss.
 
The three-goal comeback was the sixth in Stanley Cup play by the Flyers -- and the first since their historic rally from a 3-0 deficit in Game 7 of the 2010 conference semifinals against Boston, a game they came back to win 4-3 to cap a comeback after losing the first three games of the series.

But the loss had to be a shock for the Penguins and their fans. Pittsburgh had won 28 of the last 29 playoff games it led after two periods and was 32-0-3 during the regular season when taking a lead into the third period, as well as 29-0-0 when leading by three goals at any point in the game. The last time the Penguins led after two periods in a playoff game and didn't win was May 6, 2010, when they took a 2-1 lead into the third period of Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series at Montreal and allowed two quick goals in a 3-2 loss.

Preds get the jump
-- For the first time, the Nashville Predators actually lead the Detroit Red Wings in a playoff series.

The Wings ended Nashville's season by beating the Predators in the first round in 2004 (the first time Nashville qualified for the postseason) and again in 2008. In both series, the Wings never trailed.

But both of those series began in Detroit -- this year's Western Conference Quarterfinal series began at Bridgestone Arena, where the Predators got two goals by rookie Gabriel Bourque and held off the Wings 3-2 to take their first-ever series lead on Detroit.

The Predators have won Game 1 in four of the eight playoff series since entering the NHL 12 years ago. The Wings, playing in their 116th postseason series, fell to 63-52 1 in Game 1s.

If history is any guide, one thing not to expect in this series is a sweep -- Nashville has never been involved in a series that went less than five games. Nor have the Predators ever played a seven-game series; they've had two five-game series and six that have gone six games.

Two of Detroit's top stars reached individual milestones. Captain Nicklas Lidstrom joined Hall of Famer Larry Robinson as the only players to take part in the playoffs in 20 consecutive seasons when he stepped onto the ice for his first shift -- the Wings have never missed the playoffs since Lidstrom joined them in 1991. It was his 260th playoff game, six short of Chris Chelios' all-time record. Forward Henrik Zetterberg's second-period goal was his 50th in Stanley Cup play, as well as his 100th point; he's the 53rd player to score 50 playoff goals and the 80th to hit triple figures in points.

First time's the charm
-- Wednesday marked the start of the fifth playoff series between the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks -- and for the first time, the Kings will go into Game 2 with a lead in the series.

Though the teams had split their first four series, the Canucks had won the opener in all four until late goals by Dustin Penner and Dustin Brown gave the Kings a 4-2 win at Rogers Arena on Wednesday.

It's hard to say which was more unusual, Los Angeles winning a series opener or Vancouver losing one.
For the Kings, it was the first Game 1 victory since they beat Colorado 4-3 in the opener of their second-round series in 2001. To find the last time the Kings won a series-opener in regulation, you have to go back to the 1993 Stanley Cup Final, when they beat Montreal 4-1 at the Forum.

The Canucks, in contrast, had won their last eight series openers -- all four last year and a pair in both 2009 and 2010 (including their first-round series against L.A.). Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo was 9-1 in series openers as a Canuck before the loss.

Vancouver hopes it can turn history on its head in Game 2 the way the Kings did in Game 1 -- while the Canucks had won the four previous series-openers against L.A., the Kings have won Game 2 in all four series against Vancouver.
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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 5:33 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Dan Rosen gives his first-round picks

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When we started our journey we made a commitment to our fans to be relevant and to see the Chicago Blackhawks become the best professional hockey organization. There are not two finer symbols of that than Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The commitment we have made to these incredible young men is equal to the commitment they have made to our team, our fans, our entire organization and the city of Chicago.

— Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz on signing Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to contract extensions