Petr Vrana is one of the fastest skaters in the league and he quietly put together an excellent sophomore year in Gothenburg. He scored 18 goals and 37 points as a third-liner for the Devils and his plus-minus rating for the year was +21. In the first three and a half games of the playoffs against Helsinki, he and linemates Chris Kelly and Cal Clutterbuck had a combined total of zero points. Another loss and the trio would be in the running for goats of the series honors. But the line finally clicked for a goal late in the second period Tuesday to put Gothenburg up 3-1. Vrana finished the play. And then near the end of the third period, after Helsinki fought back to tie it at 3-3, Vrana scored the game-winner. Gothenburg’s Martin St. Louis played well, getting a game-high 6 shots on goals and scoring a goal and an assist. Young Jacob Trouba scored two goals for coach Barry Trotz and the Jokerit. A major factor in the game was the fact Gothenburg wasn’t short-handed even once. Helsinki penalty killers had to defend 7 Devil powerplays and allowed one goal. Game 5: The Gothenburg win evens the series at 2-2 as it heads back to Finland. The Devils’ game has been markedly better in Sweden, so look for a lower shot total against Helsinki’s Henrik Lundqvist on Thursday.
Dustin Brown assisted on 3 Moscow goals and is now tied with Dublin’s Ryan Kesler for the playoff scoring lead with 8 points in 4 games. Andrew Ladd scored twice for Spartak, but their biggest goal game when Brown hit Brandon Sutter breaking down the right side in the neutral zone with 8:45 left ion the third period. Sutter’s slapshot from the top of the faceoff circle beat Edinburgh goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and made the score 5-2. It also would up being the game-winner because the Capitals scraped their way to two more goals – one by James Neal and the other by Francois Beauchemin – with 3:22 still to play. Moscow goalie Jaroslav Halak and his Spartak defensemen kept Edinburgh from tying the game, despite Beauchemin’s mammoth effort. The defenseman had 7 of his team’s 25 shots on goal Tuesday. He also was credited with 6 hits. Game 5: Edinburgh has played well int he series but have not found the winning combination yet, with neither their forwards nor their goaltenders. Bryzgalov has started twice and James Reimer has started twice. Moscow entered the series as the favorites and could end it in their home arena. The play of defenseman Jason Garrison has been steady and mostly overlooked in the playoffs. He leads Moscow in hits, takeaways and is tied for second in plus-minus at +4 through 4 games.
Roberto Luongo posted a 27-save shutout as Copenhagen evened their series with Minsk. The Tridents must have practiced a certain play because it worked twice for them in the first period, which ended 3-0 in favor of the Danes. Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring with a goal 42 seconds into the contest, and not long afterward, Copenhagen struck again when Matt Moulson streaked along the left boards, stopped and took a couple of strides back toward the blue line before firing the puck hard around the net and into the right corner. Waiting for it there was Brooks Laich, who seemed to collect the puck and slide a centering pass without looking. Cutting diagonally through the slot at the time was teammate Mark Giordano and the defenseman fired a wrist shot past Carey Price for his second of the series. About 14 minutes later, Moulson carried the puck down the left side again, did the exact same thing and Laich reached the puck and centered it to Giordano for another goal. Alex Goligoski and Tomas Fleischmann also scored for Copenhagen. The best player on the ice was a Hussar, Ilya Nikulin. The second-year Russian defenseman had 7 shots on goal and 4 hits. He will still be looking for his first point of the playoffs in Game 5, however. Game 5: Minsk has given Copenhagen a lot to worry about in this first-round battle. A 5-0 win is just another win and the Tridents can’t afford to be over-confident. Price held Copenhagen to 1 goal in Game 2 in Denmark and he is fully capable of stealing another game. Minsk’s Thomas Powell, a 22-year-old Australian, has made a name for himself int he series. In the four games, he has been the team’s best offensive player and he leads the Hussars in takeaways with 10. The veteran Laich and defenseman Goligoski lead the Tridents in scoring in the series. Each has 6 points. It’s not often a forward leads a team in ice time, but Copenhagen’s Stephen Weiss leads his time with 27 minutes per game.
It’s hard to decide which Dublin Fighting Irish force was more devastating on Tuesday: goalie Tim Thomas or the top forward line of Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel and Bobby Ryan. In the Irish’s 6-2 win, Thomas’ save total hit 35, which is 4 short of his age. The top line played a lot of minutes and accounted for 3 goals, including 2 by Ryan. Kesler racked up 4 assists. The most pleasant surprise in a Dublin sweater is third-line right wing Jakub Silfverberg, who scored again Tuesday to give him 5 playoff goals on 9 shots. Game 5: St. Petersburg outshot Dublin 39-27 Tuesday and they had two more powerplays. It seemed they did what they had to to win. They will need more of their big guns like Erik Cole, Brent Burns and Blake Wheeler to come through on Thursday – and they’ll need inspiring play from goalie Pekka Rinne – or their season could be over.