Florida teams thawing out in first round of the NHL Playoffs

Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals took a 2-1 series lead over the Florida Panthers.

Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals took a 2-1 series lead over the Florida Panthers.
Image: Getty Images

The President’s Trophy winners are in trouble. The resilient regular season champion Florida Panthers have a tough task ahead of them to win their first playoff series in 26 years. They were overmatched Saturday afternoon by the Washington Capitals 6-1, giving the 2018 Stanley Cup Champions a 2-1 overall series lead.

The Panthers scored first at Capital One Arena after putting up five goals in their Game 2 win. But that’s all they got as new Washington goaltender Illya Samsonov shut them down the rest of the way. While alarm bells might not ring in Sunrise due to Florida’s body of work this season, a dormant power play takes away one of their biggest weapons from that impressive regular season. Florida’s physical play didn’t derail a Tom Wilson-less Capitals team, with Game 4 scheduled for Monday in the nation’s capital.

Alex Ovechkin had an assist on T.J. Oshie’s first-period goal and added a power play goal in the third that all but sealed the win. He scored it while left wide open in his “office,” the left faceoff circle, which, maybe you shouldn’t do that, Florida:


Also in trouble is the other Floridian team in the NHL playoffs. Taking down the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round always appeared to be a huge undertaking for the Maple Leafs, even with their high-powered offense. Yet, the Lightning’s defense couldn’t keep Toronto at bay Friday night.

The Maple Leafs took back the series lead with a 5-2 win over Tampa in Game 3 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series. Toronto scored the game’s first three goals and held off a Lightning comeback after they whittled Toronto’s lead to one. That’s when a pair of goals from Ilya Mikheyev ended the contest. Tampa now must win three of the next four games to avoid elimination, with only one more home game guaranteed the rest of the series.

The winning team has scored five goals in each game of this series so far. Advantage Toronto, who has scored 13 goals in the playoffs so far. Game 4 on Sunday from Tampa has to be considered a must-win for the Lightning. A loss all but guarantees they won’t be successfully defending their title any longer.

While Tampa suffered at home, Atlantic division rival Boston showed life for the first time in its series against Carolina, winning 4-2 and now trailing the Hurricanes two games to one overall. During the second period, the game was delayed for several minutes when a section of glass outside the penalty box fell on NHL off-ice official Joe Foley.


Play was stopped with 5:07 left in the second frame, with medical personel running across the ice to tend to Foley, who was taken off on a stretcher. An NHL spokesperson said Foley was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital for observation.

The other two games from Friday night were blowouts, with Edmonton taking a 2-1 series lead over Los Angeles by scoring eight goals in Game 3. Leon Draisaitl was the only Oilers’ player to score in the game that didn’t do so multiple times. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman had two goals apiece, while Evander Kane had a playoff hat trick. Edmonton has scored 14 goals in the past two games and has completely overpowered the Kings since a 4-3 Game 1 defeat.


Minnesota won its second straight game against the St. Louis Blues. The Wild scored twice in the opening 40 seconds of a period to jump on the Blues and quickly take any momentum they had away. Five different Wild players scored in the game, as they’ve looked more like their regular-season self since getting blown out in Game 1.

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