Tuesday was a good day for Gothenburg, Munich and Bratislava and a bad one for Stockholm, Lisbon and especially Athens.
Bratislava 6, Athens 3 – An important game for both teams went the home team’s way. With the win, coupled with Lisbon’s loss in Portugal to powerful Paris, Bratislava moved up one spot in the standings – to sixth – and Lisbon dropped to seventh. Milan Gulas and Tyler Toffoli scored two goals each for Bratislava. More significantly, the loss meant Athens failed to get the two points it needed to overtake Munich in the standings. As a result, Game 1 of the Athens-Munich playoff series will be held in Germany instead of Greece. Even worse, Athens’ T.J. Oshie was injured in the Bratislava game. The Greeks will limp into the playoffs with both Oshie and Jason Pominville hurting. Team officials won’t say how badly hurt the team’s top two right wingers are, citing the vague “upper body injury” cop-out, and there is no word on how ready they will be when the playoffs start in about 4 or 5 days. Pominville finishes as Athens’ third-leading scorer and Oshie is fifth on the team. If they can’t go, then Athens will start the Munich series with this contingent of right wings: Tomas Vincour, Erik Condra, Dimitrios Kalyvas (a center), and Tanner Pearson (also a center). Bratislava didn’t escape the game unscathed either. Two-time 30-goal scorer Tyler Ennis sustained an injury and will be questionable for the Eagles’ series that will open in Spain against number 3 seed Madrid.
Paris 5, Lisbon 2 – Tantalizingly close to the 50-goal plateau, Evgeny Malkin proved Tuesday that he thinks the team is more important than the individual. The Russian star scored one of the two goals he needed to hit 50, but he also dished out four assists. Onlookers agreed he passed up a high-percentage shot attempt to feed the puck to linemate Corey Perry for an easy goal late in the second period. Malkin, who is the league’s second-leading scorer behind Minsk center Nicklas Backstrom, has one more game – at home against Madrid – to hit 50 goals or to tie leader Backstrom at 51. If Madrid chooses to rest starting goalie Robin Lehner, then Malkin and crew will be facing Darcy Kuemper. That’s assuming, of course, that Paris coach Michel Therrien doesn’t decide to rest Malkin. Malkin’s play on Tuesday overshadowed excellent performances by several of his teammates. Tuukka Rask made 34 saves in the win, Alex Pietrangelo and defense partner Kris Letang were plus 5 – Letang with two goals – and forwards Joffrey Lupul and Perry each had a goal and two assists.
Madrid 6, Berlin 2 – A game between two of the Southern Conference’s best teams was very lopsided. The Royals won in a romp, outshooting visiting Berlin 39-20. Not long after Berlin’s David Krejci fired in his 34th goal of the season to give the Smurfs a 2-1 lead in the second period, Madrid really turned it on, seizing control of the game and pasting Berlin goalie Jimmy Howard for five straight goals.In the third period, the Royals scored just after a 5-on-3 advantage turned into a one-man advantage, and then they added two more powerplay goals in the following 2:08. Blake Wheeler and Gabriel Landeskog each had a goal and 2 assists for Madrid. A day earlier, it looked like Madrid was going to face Iberian Peninsula neighbor Lisbon in the playoffs and Berlin was going to get Bratislava. But the two lower-seeded teams swapped places on the last days of their schedules.
Gothenburg 5, Moscow 4 – Five different players scored for Gothenburg in a difficult venue to play in as Frolunda locked down home-ice advantage in the playoffs against Swedish rival Stockholm. Dan Girardi and John Carlson played a lot of minutes for Gothenburg and they were plus 3 and plus 2, respectively, with Carlson earning first star honors with a goal and an assist. Dustin Brown scored two and had 8 shots on net for Moscow. The game meant relatively little to Spartak, who knew ahead of time that they would be hosting Helsinki in the first round.
Milan 6, Prague 2 – The young Guerriero finished their season on a high note, scoring 6 times and not taking a single penalty against the visiting Sparta team. Mathis Olimb scored two goals, as did Season 3 EURO Rookie of the Year Niklas Danielsson. Danielsson, Olimb and Tyler Johnson all finished the season with 20 or more goals for Milan, while Marcus Kruger was the team’s top scorer with 16 goals and 52 points. He also led the team in shots on goal and takeaways. Par Arlbrandt was the top plus-minus player on the team (plus 16) by a good margin.It was a disappointing end for Prague fans as they failed to make the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. Marcus Johansson and Alex Galchenyuk both finished the season with more than 60 points for Prague.
Only two more games remain in the EURO League regular season. On Friday, Paris will host Madrid and Gothenburg will host Bern. The playoffs will start soon after.