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NHL Playoff Game Day 1: Blackhawks-Wild, Blues-Kings, Red Wings-Ducks

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NHL Playoff Game Day 1: Blackhawks-Wild, Blues-Kings, Red Wings-Ducks
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Bryan Bickell's goal in the first overtime got the Blackhawks a narrow win at home in Game 1. (Photo …

Game 1: Los Angeles 1 at St. Louis 2 (OT)

Why St. Louis won: Forget what you see on the scorecard, the Blues dominated this game from the opening faceoff, both from a physical perspective and puck domination. St. Louis' fourth line set the tone early, but a last-minute goal by Los Angeles sent this game into overtime.

Why Los Angeles lost: They just didn't have the jump St. Louis did. From their own zone on out, the Kings couldn't get a rhythm going and it was only a Justin Williams last-minute goal deflecting off the stick of Barret Jackman that gave them a chance in overtime.

Play of the game: Jonathan Quick mishandling the puck behind his own net in overtime was a faux pas for the ages and gave Alex Steen the easiest overtime goal he'll ever score. What's worse, the Kings were in the midst of a four-minute power play and starting to find their groove when it happened.

Three stars
1. Alex Steen - Winning goal aside, Steen set up teammates all night and was a two-way force in all three zones and on special teams (a.k.a. short-handed in overtime).

2. Ryan Reaves - There wasn't a King out there who wasn't aware when Reaves and linemates Adam Cracknell and Chris Porter were banging and crashing like the Hanson brothers.

3. Jonathan Quick - The Blues' dominance would have been reflected more on the scoreboard if not for Quick's composure in the L.A. crease. Yes, he was the OT goat, but he was solely responsible for the Kings getting that far.

What's Next: We all knew this was going to be a heavy series in terms of physicality and corner work. St. Louis has delivered in spades. The Kings have to find a way to exit their zone with puck control rather than puck desperation in order to generate more than a few scoring chances. To their credit, they controlled most of the play in overtime. The Blues aren't going to lighten up on the body contact so L.A.'s fourth line must return the favor to turn this battle into trench warfare. - Brian Costello

 

Game 1: Minnesota 1 at Chicago 2 (OT)

Why the Blackhawks won: Simply put, they played Blackhawks hockey. Despite goalie Corey Crawford giving up a weak goal early, Chicago didn't lose faith and played fast, tough and skilled. Players such as Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa tested a young Minny defense with their speed and derring-do. On top of that, they won a one-goal game, something they were adept at during the regular season.

Why the Wild lost: Minnesota played an excellent road game, but the defense gave up one too many chances to the Hawks. Rookie Jonas Brodin was torched on the first Chicago goal, while Ryan Suter (who played about as much hockey as a mortal can) erred on Bryan Bickell's overtime winner. Failing to capitalize on the power play also hurt their cause, as Chicago carried the play for long stretches 5-on-5.

Play of the Game: After giving up one softie to Cal Clutterbuck, Crawford barred the door on Kyle Brodziak twice with less than a minute left in the first period and his team down a goal. Had Minnesota gone into the first intermission up two goals, the outcome of the game – and Chicago's faith in Crawford – may have been very different.

Three Stars
1. Bryan Bickell – It's easy to give the nod to the guy who popped in the overtime winner, but Bickell made his presence felt earlier in the game too, when he destroyed Zenon Konopka with a big hit.

2. Josh Harding – Rushed into duty when starter Niklas Backstrom hurt himself in warmups, Harding made his first appearance since Jan. 30 and held one of the most talented offensive arsenals in the league to one goal in regulation.

3. Marian Hossa – The most dangerous Blackhawk on the night tied the game with a scintillating shot in the second period and gave the Wild all sorts of problems.

What's Next: The Wild proved they could hang with the Hawks and looking at the blend of two-way skill and rising young stars on each squad, this series looks like a tighter matchup than the seeding indicates. Minnesota's challenge gets greater if Backstrom doesn't come back, however. Harding's fairytale playoff narrative (he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the summer) will only take the team so far and the Wild also needs Jason Pominville back in the lineup, as the former Sabres captain would even the ledger a little bit more. -Ryan Kennedy

Game 1: Detroit 1 at Anaheim 3

Why Anaheim won: The Ducks are known for Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, but Game 1 showed off everything that's gone right for them this season, from Francois Beauchemin's fringe Norris form, to Andrew Cogliano's breakout, and everything in between. They didn't go wrong running with Jonas Hiller over Viktor Fasth in net. The Swiss netminder didn't face a ton of opposition, but he made a few big saves in the third period when the Wings could have tied it.

Why Detroit lost: It's been said so many times, but if Detroit is going to keep up its playoff streak for many more years, a new crop of forwards is going to have to rise. The Wings rode Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, as they should, but Johan Franzen, Damien Brunner and Valtteri Filppula did not do enough to counter a fierce quack attack (Jack). Filppula even took a sloppy penalty late in the game when the Wings were down only one.

Play of the game: As clutch as Jonas Hiller's saves on Brendan Smith and Johan Franzen were in the third, Teemu Selanne's goal was a (ahem) flash of brilliance. Watch it. Enjoy it. Cherish it. This man is a legend.



Three Stars
1. Jonas Hiller - Didn't have to be a world-beater, but when he faced a few good opportunities in the third period in a one-goal game, Hiller stood tall. He made 21 saves, 11 of which came in the last period.

2. Andrew Cogliano - Didn't register a point, but Cogliano was one of those worker bee Anaheim forwards who ran the Red Wings around on the forecheck. He'll get a few points before the series is out.

3. Francois Beauchemin - Logged north of 25:00 and rifled an empty net goal from the other end of the ice like nothing. Beauchemin's outlet passes gave Anaheim's speedy and strong forwards an edge, plus he blocked three shots and played sturdy in his zone. Talk about surprises.

What's Next: Detroit hasn't been in many playoff series in the past 20 years where their depth was challenged. The Ducks got 18:25 out of Saku Koivu, 20:06 out of Daniel Winnik and a vibrant contribution from Nick Bonino, Emerson Etem and Cogliano. If Game 1 is any indication, the Red Wings rebound will rely on Jimmy Howard stealing a game - right now that's the best bet. -Rory Boylen

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