Belfast 5, Copenhagen 4 – Belfast leads series 3-1
Copenhagen is in big trouble again and in a few hours, they could be done like dinner. The Belfast Giants beat Copenhagen 5-4 on St. Patrick’s Day and now lead the series 3-1 with tonight’s game to played in front of what is expected to be a wild Irish crowd in Belfast. Dion Phaneuf took a hooking penalty late in a 4-4 game on Tuesday and with just 48 seconds left, his former Maple Leafs teammate Nazem Kadri made the penalty really hurt. Kadri deked Trident defenseman Alex Goligoski and then fired a wrist shot past Brian Elliott to score his 4th of the playoffs. Belfast had a 3-0 lead in the game until there was 8:32 left in the second period. Stephen Weiss, Nathan Gerbe and Troy Brouwer all scored within a 7 minute period to tie it up. James Neal scored his 11th of the playoffs to put Belfast back in front in the third period, but Tomas Fleischmann scored his 4th of the post season for Copenhagen to tie it. Both teams scored two powerplay goals in the game, but Belfast was much more effective, outshooting the Tridents 42-23. Shea Weber played well for Copenhagen, getting an assist, delivering 4 hits and blocking 3 Belfast shots. A strange thing is going on with the top forward lines in this series. The Giants’ top line of Sidney Crosby, Neal and Kadri are playing at sprint speed and being very dangerous on offense, but they are neglecting all defensive responsibilities. Crosby has 8 points in the 4 games and Neal and Kadri each have 5 points. As a threesome, they have fired 43 shots on Elliott and scored 9 goals. But all three are minus 3 for the series. Copenhagen’s current top 3 forwards _ Alexander Ovechkin, Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss, are even, minus 1 and plus 1, respectively, but they have mustered just 25 shots and 4 goals in the four games. Ovechkin has a goal, but that’s his lone point against the Giants and goalie Jonathan Quick. Ovechkin is averaging 2 shots per game in the series. Coach Paul Maurice of Copenhagen disclosed that Phaneuf will likely sit out tonight’s game with an “upper body injury.”
Paris 4, Athens 3 – series tied 2-2
Two shorthanded goals by Paris penalty killers helped the Rouge Eiffels defeat Athens in Greece on Wednesday to tie the series. The rough and tumble series now becomes a best of three series with two games in Paris and one in Athens. In Game 4, Paris took a 3-2 lead into the third period and seemed to be doing their best to lose it. They took 6 consecutive penalties in a 14-minute stretch and twice during that time, Athens had 5-on-3 advantages for a total of about 2 minutes. Nicklas Kronwall scored his second of the game and 4th of the playoffs on the first powerplay of the third period to tie it. But on the next Greek powerplay, penalty killer Josef Vasicek took a lead pass from Kyle Turris and scored on Cam Ward to give Paris the lead back. with 13:52 remaining. It was the last goal of the game. Travis Hamonic scored Paris’ other shorthanded goal in the first period. It was his first goal of the post season. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo of Paris was the first star of the game after scoring a goal and an assist on 5 shots with 3 hits, and 1 shot block. He, Vasicek and Turris finished as plus 3 players in the game. At the other end of the spectrum was the Greeks’ top line of David Backes, Scott Hartnell and Kyle Palmeiri, who were each minus 4, thanks in part to the shorthanded goals they gave up while on the powerplay unit with Nicklas Kronwall and Dustin Byfuglien. In his first playoff game of the season after being called up to replace injured Alexander Semin, Jordan Caron of Paris scored a goal on his second shift after taking a nice pass from Turris, who was great for Paris, collecting 3 assists in the game. They won’t have him for the rest of the series, however, as he joins Semin on the injured reserve list.