Five things to know about the NHL playoffs

·4 min read

Many veterans on the Montreal Canadiens consider Carey Price to be the backbone of their team and felt he was deserving of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy he received yesterday. Habs forward Cole Caufield said leadership and goaltending mean everything in the NHL.

He said that just before Igor Shesterkin proved it for his team, turning in another superb goaltending performance for the Rangers at Madison Square Garden as the Broadway Blueshirts grabbed a 2-0 lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference final with a 3-2 win.

Here are five things we need to know heading into tonight's NHL playoff action:

LIGHTNING OUT-FOXED IN GAME 2

Adam Fox set up the go-ahead and game-winning goals for the Rangers as they won both games at home against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.

Fox, who now leads all NHL defencemen with 17 assists and 22 points in the post-season, extended his home point streak to nine playoff games. He also recorded his fourth consecutive multi-point game, surpassing Brian Leetch (1992 and 1995) for the longest multi-point streak by a defenceman in Rangers playoff history.

And with 22 points, Fox is tied for third with teammate Mika Zibanejad for most points in a playoff year by a Ranger skater -- Brian Leetch had 34 in 1994, and Mark Messier had 30 in 1994.

“He’s just a joy to watch,” Shesterkin said of Fox. “When he comes onto the rink, I definitely play a bit freer, a bit surer. He plays not like any other defenceman.”

The Rangers became the first team since 2019 to defeat Tampa Bay in consecutive playoff games, ending their 17-0 stretch of responding to a loss with a win.

LOVING IGOR IN THE BIG APPLE

With the “No Quit in New York” crowd behind him yet again, Shesterkin made 29 saves -- including 24 consecutive stops after allowing an early power-play goal — to back the Rangers to their first 2-0 series lead since the 2014 conference final against Montreal.

Shesterkin extended his franchise playoff record home winning streak to eight games, the longest in the NHL since 2013. He also recorded his NHL-leading 10th victory of the 2022 playoffs. He has allowed two goals or fewer in five consecutive games. Overall this post-season, he owns a 2.04 goals-against average and .948 save percentage at MSG.

JUMP DEFENCE TO BREAK DE-CURFEW

Wayne Gretzky loves end-to-end hockey more than anyone, but the former NHL star who scored 1,072 goals in pro hockey says the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers need to be much better on the back end if they want to win a championship later this month.

"I wish I could've played this kind of playoff hockey in my day," the Great One said Tuesday night on a TNT hockey panel. “I was the most offensive player that maybe ever lived, but you gotta play defence, man, that's how you win Stanley Cups."

In the first game of the Western Conference Final, in which the Avs won 8-6, the teams combined for 14 goals and 83 shots. In Colorado's Game 2 victory, the teams combined for 64 shots and four goals, all by the Avs.

It brings to mind a vintage coaching quote from Gretzky's era that for some teams "defence is the thing you jump over to break de-curfew."

KASSIAN FORCED TO DELIVER BIG CHEQUE

Colorado defenceman Bowen Byram wasn't impressed when Zack Kassian ripped his helmet off after he was shoved into the Oilers' bench on Thursday. Neither was the NHL's department of player safety.

Kassian, who was sitting on the bench at the time when Byram paid a "visit," was fined $2,500 for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Oiler was assessed a minor penalty for interference on the play.

AVS EXPECT TO GET BUZZED TONIGHT

Jared Bednar spent some time yesterday reminding his squad not to get caught up in the "hostile" Edmonton environment when the teams resume their series tonight with Game 3 at Rogers Place.

"Edmonton will be buzzing. They'll get behind their team," the Avalanche coach said. "It's been the same message [for us] all year, road or home. It's about the way that we play and the things that we have to do to be successful. That process is really important to us, the detail in our game and the commitment in our game has to be there.

"And then you have to play and execute. A lot doesn't change when we go on the road or at home. In one, you have your fans behind you and the other one, you're trying to prove that it doesn't matter."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 4, 2022

Gord Kurenoff, The Canadian Press

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