Athens ends Madrid’s fabulous run

After making a meteoric ascent through the Southern Conference, winning 19 of their last 21 regular season games, the Madrid Royals flamed out. The Athens Greeks dispatched them in 5 games, taking the last one by a convincing 5-2 score.  Defense might have been the problem for the Spanish side, as they allowed Athens to score 5 goals in two games and 6 in two others. Athens’ top line of David Backes, Scotty Hartnell and Jason Pominville were dominant Friday, firing 18 shots on the Madrid net. Hartnell scored 2 goals and Backes had 1. Both skaters finished with 3 points in the game, as did defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, who was plus 3 for the game. Athens built a 3-0 lead after the first period and when Joe Pavelski finally scored his first goal of the playoffs early in the second period, the Greeks quickly countered with a Hartnell goal to snuff out any smoldering hopes. The bad news for Athens is that they lost T.J. Oshie, the second line right wing, to an injury.  Coach John Tortorella was in  a good mood after the win but wouldn’t tell reporters the nature of Oshie’s injury. The forward himself later told the media that he seemed to have tweaked a groin muscle.  The Greeks will need Oshie to recover as soon as possible.  In the second round, they will face either the Berlin Smurfs or the Paris Rouges Eiffels. If Bratislava wins one of the last two games in its series with Munich, Athens will be headed for Germany next week.

Bratislava won in Munich Friday and are now one win away from advancing to the second round. Shawn Matthias of Bratislava made the most of a recent call-up by coach Bruce Boudreau. The 25-year-old Matthias took Ville Leino’s place in the lineup after the former Sabre veteran was made a healthy scratch. Leino has no points in 20 playoff games over three seasons.  Matthias contributed with a goal and an assist against Munich while playing on a line with second-year pros Weiyang Zhang and Milan Gulas. Point shots seemed to give Munich goalie Jonathan Quick trouble Friday. When Zdeno Chara scored his first of the series with a minute left in the second period, he gave his team a 4-2 lead and he was  the third defenseman to score on Quick. Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff also tallied.  The Fox had been outshooting the Eagles 24-21 when the second period ended, but they seemed deflated by the late Chara goal. Bratislava outshot Munich 15-6 and scored the only 2 goals of the third period. Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley were the two most noticeable Fox players, as they combined for 12 shots on Craig Anderson, but a Thornton assist was as much scoring as they could produce. Game 6: Munich will still be without Swedish defenseman Magnus Johansson when the two teams square off for Game 6 in Bratislava on Sunday, but otherwise, all other players are fit and ready to go.  The Eagles were happy with the way Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Martin Erat checked the Thornton line two days ago, even though Munich won the game. Look for Toews to match up against Thornton. Munich will try to funnel pucks to the left side and Patrik Elias. He is the only member of the Fox forward crew who is producing and he has scored 5 goals in 5 games. But the real key to Game 6, and in fact the rest of the playoffs for Munich, is Quick.  His numbers in the four playoff games he’s started are uncharacteristically poor for him. He has allowed an average of 4 goals per game and is stopping pucks at 88.3 percent, which is 2.5 percent below his save percentage during the regular season and also below his stats from the previous two playoff seasons.

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