Tavares, Islanders Rattled by Pens
PITTSBURGH – Budding New York Islanders star John Tavares anticipated the open space he found so easily during the regular season to be whittled away by the Pittsburgh Penguins in their opening-round playoff series.
He never thought it would disappear entirely.
The Penguins held the NHL’s third-leading goal scorer without a shot during their remarkably easy 5-0 victory in Game 1 on Wednesday, the first time all year Tavares failed to get at least one puck on the net.
Nobody ever said this whole Quest for the Cup thing would be easy, kid.
“It’s part of the playoffs to be physical on me,” Tavares said. “Sometimes that gets you going, gets the blood going, gets you a little (ticked) off.”
Harassed at every turn and dropped on his backside more than once, Tavares skated through 17:03 of fruitless ice time against a team intent on showing it’s serious about its defense after getting embarrassed in a first-round loss to Philadelphia a year ago.
Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside all 26 shots he faced for his sixth career playoff shutout and the Penguins continued to dominate the Islanders at home. Pittsburgh has allowed just one goal to the Islanders in the last 10 periods played at Consol Energy Center, outscoring the Islanders 14-1 over that span.
Keep it going for another three periods in Game 2 on Friday and the Penguins will have a commanding 2-0 lead. Pittsburgh hasn’t lost a series when it won the first two games since 2000 against Philadelphia.
Not that the Penguins are getting ahead of themselves. Coach Dan Bylsma has ordered his players to wear T-shirts with the number “4” on them to serve as a reminder on how many victories it takes to advance to the next round. As dominant as Pittsburgh looked in the opener even with captain Sidney Crosby sidelined with a broken jaw, it was just one game.
However, it was as complete a performance as the Penguins could have expected with their best player watching from the press box. Crosby’s return remains uncertain, and in a way his absence has only brought Pittsburgh’s vastly improved defense into focus.
The addition of hulking Douglas Murray at the trade deadline helped. So did the acquisition of Morrow, who took turns shadowing Tavares with Cooke.
Any concerns Pittsburgh was too soft to make a run at the Cup were dispelled in the opener when defenseman Kris Letang and Tavares found themselves sprinting toward a puck behind the Penguins’ net.
Letang is one of the fastest players in the league. Yet rather than outsprint Tavares to the puck, he hesitated just a second and knocked Tavares on the ground before going on his way. It didn’t matter that Letang turned it over before he got to center ice. The message had been sent.
Senators 4, Canadiens 2
MONTREAL (AP) – Craig Anderson made 48 saves in a spectacular goaltending performance as the Ottawa Senators beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 Thursday night in Game 1 of their playoff series.
Jakob Silfverberg and Marc Methot scored early in the third period and gave Ottawa a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, with Game 2 set for Friday night at the Bell Centre.
Erik Karlsson and Guillaume Latendresse also scored for the Senators, who were outshot 50-31 but saw Anderson easily win the goaltending duel with Carey Price, who was beaten twice through the pads.
Capitals 3, Rangers 1
WASHINGTON (AP) – Alex Ovechkin’s franchise-record 31st career playoff goal got the Capitals started before less-heralded teammates Marcus Johansson and Jason Chimera scored 46 seconds apart, and Washington beat the New York Rangers 3-1 Thursday night in Game 1 of their first-round series.
Ovechkin, a two-time MVP who led the NHL with 32 goals this season, crashed the net to score on a power play about seven minutes into the second period to tie the game for the Capitals, the third-seeded team in the Eastern Conference.