After the first Sunday of May, we now know half of the participants of the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. In the East, the Tampa Bay Lightning await the winner of the Penguins and Capitals series after they dispatched the Boston Bruins in five games. Out West, the expansion Vegas Golden Knights set aside the San Jose Sharks in six and now await the winner of the Predators and the Jets.
For the Lightning, it is their third appearance in the conference finals in the past four seasons. They have not won the Cup however since the 2003-04 season. They will look to the return to the Stanley Cup Finals after losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015. And, of course, it will be the Golden Knights first appearance. They are now 8-2 as a franchise in the playoffs.
Lightning Silence the Bruins
Entering the series, this had the making of a seven-game slugfest. Despite the Bruins holding a 3-1 regular season edge, only one point separated the two teams in the standings. With Tampa having that edge. The Bruins started strong in the series with a 6-2 win in Tampa, however, that would not last. The Lightning dominated 5-on-5 play throughout the entire series. In fact, entering game five, the Bruins had not scored a single even-strength goal in two straight games.
This trend continued in game five. The Bruins scored first as David Krejci notched his first goal in 10 games on a first-period power play for the Bruins. This came on the heels of an expiring 5-on-3 for Boston. Ultimately, that was the only goal the Bruins scored on the night. The Lightning answered twice in the second period with goals from Brayden Point and J.T. Miller. Anton Stralman added an empty-netter with 90 seconds left in the third for insurance as the Lightning became the first team in this series to win the game without scoring the first goal.
Looking ahead to the next round, the Lightning hold identical 2-1 records against both the Penguins and Capitals during the regular season. The Capitals have a chance to close out the series on Monday.
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Golden Knights Shut Out the Naysayers
The magical season for the expansion Golden Knights continued with their game six win over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday evening. Just like their closeout game against the Los Angeles Kings, it came on the back of a Marc-Andre Fleury shutout. Fleury, the three-time Stanley Cup Champion, made 28 saves en route to his fourth shutout of this postseason.
Jonathon Marchessault scored what would be the game-winning goal six minutes into the second period. Nate Schmidt added another 10 minutes later. Cody Eakin added an empty-netter just for kicks as all the Golden Knights need was one. Fleury, just as he was in the closeout game in round one, was unbeatable.
For advancing to the third round, the Knights become the third team in NHL history to win at least two playoff series in their first season. Both the Toronto Arenas (1918) and St. Louis Blues (1968) went on to the finals with the Arenas, now the Maple Leafs, winning the ultimate prize.