We had a pair of Game 7 playoff matchups on each coast on Tuesday night. In the battle between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins, we have seen this movie before. In fact, this was the third installment of the rivalry. For the contest between the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks, we have not had the pleasure of seeing these teams square off in a decisive Game 7, but after Tuesday's epic battle, hopefully this rivalry continues to grow. Maybe there is something to the National Hockey League's playoff seeding system after all. Let's get started!
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Boston Bruins 5, Toronto Maple Leafs 1
The Toronto Maple Leafs just cannot get over the hump known as the Boston Bruins. 1967. It's a year every fan has heard over and over from opposing fan bases chirping about the lack of success of the organization. Happy Leafs Elimination Day Memes. Fans of other teams hate the New York Yankees sized fan base of the Maple Leafs -- or Maple Laffs, as some fans refer to them -- even if their trophy case resembles that of the Florida Panthers instead. It's been 15 years since the Leafs have even gotten out of the first round. And the count continues after another convincing win by the Bruins on their home ice in Game 7. Pack away the Yonge Street parade blueprints for now, and maybe think about adding some defense for next season instead.
Joakim Nordstrom registered a fourth-line goal with assists from Matt Grzelcyk and Sean Kuraly, who was toughing it out after suffering a broken hand suffered in late March. That whipped the Beantown faithful into a frenzy, and then Marcus Johansson kicked it up another notch on an unassisted goal three minutes later. Jake Gardiner was behind Frederik Andersen's cage and he must've forgotten which team he plays for. He had a perfect pass to Johansson, a play which is a microcosm of Toronto's problems and why they're heading for the golf course again before the calendar even reads May.
John Tavares gave the blue and white faithful a little bit of hope when he wired one top shelf over the shoulder of Tuukka Rask on a pass from Tyler Ennis, slicing the lead to 2-1. That's how the second period would end.
Kuraly was back to start the third, notching his first goal of the playoffs on assists from Noel Acciari and Nordstrom, as the fourth line was strong in this one. Charlie Coyle notched an empty-netter with 2:34 left in regulation to salt it away and kick off the party, and Patrice Bergeron added an insult-to-injury goal with just one second remaining. Perhaps the score wasn't indicative of how close the game was, but it doesn't matter. The Bruins are moving on to face the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Leafs fans are wringing their hands, there is talk of Mike Babcock not being the right coach for the organization, and fans are pining for the days of even Wade Belak, Carlo Colaiacovo, Hal Gill, Ken Klee and Bryan Marchment, when the Leafs actually had a defensemen corps which had more than a first-round and out pedigree.
Andersen is now winless in four Game 7s in his postseason career, while Rask improved to a perfect 3-0 in his three Game 7s against the Maple Leafs.
San Jose Sharks 5, Vegas Golden Knights 4 (OT)
If you were a fan of the Game 6 battle in Las Vegas the other night, you really got a kick out of Game 7 in the Bay Area on Tuesday. What a game!
The Vegas Golden Knights were playing in their first-ever Game 7, and it's not one anybody is going to forget anytime soon. Vegas had so much success last season in their expansion year, getting to the Stanley Cup Finals and losing, they hadn't really had a lot of adversity. After a ton of moves to get even more offensive firepower, this team looked like one of the favorites for the Stanley Cup, especially once the Calgary Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning were bumped out. However, the Golden Knights are also making their tee times, and they're probably still shaking their heads wondering what went wrong.
William Karlsson registered his second of the postseason when he took a pass from Jonathan Marchessault to beat Marc-Andre Fleury for the 1-0 lead. At nearly the same point of the second period, Cody Eakin notched his second of the playoffs with assists to Brayden McNabb and Shea Theodore, making it 2-0. Eakin would be a huge part of this game. More on that later. Max Pacioretty made it 3-0 just 3:36 into the third period, and it appears that Vegas was well on its way to cashing big in this Western Conference Quarterfinals, setting up a potential date with the Colorado Avalanche.
With just 10:40 remaining in regulation, Eakin decided to cross-check Joe Pavelski right after a faceoff. While he was awkwardly falling to the ice, Paul Stastny also put a shoulder into the San Jose center, and he fell to the ice and banged his head hard. There was a pool of blood on the ice, and Pavelski's fellow Sharks players immediately called for the medical staff. Joe Thornton helped one of the trainers over in rather quick fashion, and after a few minutes Pavelski was helped off the ice and into the training room where it was officially ruled an "upper-body injury." However, it's pretty clear Pavelski is in the league's mandated concussion protocol after the ugly incident. Eakin was whistled for a major penalty and game misconduct, and it was debated in the Twittersphere whether or not it was an actual major with intent to injure, etc. Either way, that was the call on the ice.
The injury and call galvanized the Sharks, as Logan Couture scored a power-play goal just several seconds after the penalty. Since it was a major, the Sharks remained on the power play, with Tomas Hertl scoring just 49 seconds later. Couture was back at 12:53 of the third, tying it up 3-3, before Kevin Labanc was back 28 seconds later for the 4-3 lead. The Sharks posted four power-play goals in 4:01 of ice time, expediently erasing a 3-0 deficit.
The Golden Knights pulled their goalie and showed amazing resolve after being punched in the gut, as Jonathan Marchessault fought back for the game-tying goal to force overtime. The two sides exchanged haymakers in the extra session before Barclay Goodrow became the unlikely hero at 18:19 of OT, sending the Sharks from a 3-1 series deficit to a 4-3 series win over the course of the past week. Now, the Sharks will battle the Colorado Avalanche for a chance to go to the Western Conference Finals.