Edinburgh beats Copenhagen in series, 4-3
A stunning upset has the Edinburgh Capitals playing for the Northern Conference championship. The Caps, who finished the regular season 43-32-7, good enough for fifth in the conference and 12th overall in the EURO, and who were a loss away from elimination twice in the first round against Dublin and four straight games in the second round, bounced the league’s top team in seven games. To make the comeback more difficult to understand, Edinburgh coach Lindy Ruff chose to keep Jamie Benn out of the lineup even after he recovered from an injury. Instead Ruff went with Daniel Winnick on the first line with John Tavares and James Neal and Andrew Cogliano, a natural center, as the left winger on the fourth line. In the deciding game, Copenhagen outshot the Capitals 29-27 and took only 3 penalties to Edinburgh’s 7, but it was the combination of Clarke MacArthur to Kyle Wellwood that proved to be lethal. Wellwood came into the game with 2 goals in the post season and he beat Roberto Luongo twice in the first period to send shivers through a Copenhagen team which was already gripping sticks too tightly in fear of blowing a 3-0 series lead. The Tridents seemed to barely hang on in the second period and when Derek Stepan scored three minutes into the third period to put the Scots up 3-0, Copenhagen’s worst fears seemed to be turning to reality. And with five minutes to go, when Copenhagen couldn’t score on a powerplay with Tavares in the box, it seemed hopeless. But then Andrei Kostitsyn went into full goat mode. The Russian forward received a penalty for diving and Alexander Ovechkin promptly put the Tridents on the scoreboard for the first time against Ilya Bryzgalov. Kostitsyn got out of the box and onto the ice only to take another penalty, this one for tripping. Derek Roy scored about 40 seconds later and suddenly, it was 3-2 with 3:11 to play. A Copenhagen crowd of 17,731 was going nuts, the Tridents were scratching and clawing to tie the game, but defensemen like Jay Bouwmeester, Karl Alzner and Francois Beauchemin were throwing their bodies in front of Bryzgalov and thwarting the Tridents. Luongo left the net in favor of an extra attacked with about a minute on the clock and with 25 seconds left, Alzner got to a loose puck and swept it to Tavares, who burst out of the Edinburgh zone. In a couple of seconds, Copenhagen defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk found himself in the terrible position of defending a 2-on-1 in front of an empty net. Tavares reached the blueline and sent an unstoppable pass to Winnick, who took two strides with the puck and zinged it into the goal for an insurmountable 4-2 lead with 18 seconds left. Edinburgh will travel to St. Petersburg to start the conference finals series against the Red Stars.
Rinne, Cole lead St. Petersburg to next round
St. Petersburg beats Moscow in series, 4-3
Pekka Rinne shut out Moscow, stopping all 22 shots he faced, as the Red Stars won the Battle of Russia in seven games to advance to the Northern Conference finals. Duncan Keith returned to the Moscow blueline after missing three games with an arm or shoulder injury, but he was clearly not at 100 percent. St. Petersburg, playing in front of a capacity crowd of 17,111, outshot Moscow 7-3 in a tense, feeling-out first period. The game remained scoreless until about 8 minutes into the second period when Erik Cole’s drop pass found Brad Richards who skated into the low slot and beat Moscow goalie Jaro Halak. It was the 3rd goal of the playoffs for Richards. That turned out to be all Rinne and Petrograd would need, but when the third period opened with Moscow’s Aleksey Morozov in the penalty box, the St. Petersburg powerplay added an insurance goal. Of the faceoff to open the period, Marc-Edouard Vlasic picked up the puck and hit Cole with a pass as he raced along the wing. Cole took a slapshot that seemed to handcuff Halak. Moscow managed 10 shots on Rinne after that, but the Finn wouldn’t allow them back into the game. The seven-game series was a very close, back-and-forth battle. St. Petersburg won the first game and never trailed in the series but every time they won, Moscow was able to follow it up with a series-tying win.