The two home teams won Monday night in Northern Conference first-round series that, as most predicted, would be real battles. Both home teams won and now each holds a 3-2 lead in their series.
Gothenburg 3, Stockholm 2 (OT) – The game in Gothenburg between Swedish foes was one of the best playoff games the league has seen in years. Fast forward to the first overtime period, when Stockholm goalie Braden Holtby was doing his Dominik Hasek imitation, turning away shot after shot and giving the home fans the uneasy feeling that it wasn’t going to be their night. Holtby’s teammate Eric Staal took a roughing penalty, the first called in overtime, and while his Eagle teammates were killing it off, one of the two forwards, young Curtis Lazar, took another roughing penalty 14 seconds into the powerplay. That gave Gothenburg a 5-on-3 advantage for nearly a full two-minutes. But Stockholm fought hard and kept the game-winner out of the net. Once even-strength play resumed, both teams played offense-first, risky hockey and the OT period featured more shots than were produced in any of the previous three periods. In the final minute, after a scrum in front of Holtby, Stockholm’s Zach Bogosian was called for unsportsmanlike conduct and Frolunda had another powerplay. After the ensuing faceoff in the puck never again got out of the Stockholm zone. Petr Vrana, Jordan Eberle and Adam Henrique worked the puck around for about 45 seconds and then, with 10 seconds left in the period, defenseman Kevin Dallman found space in the high slot, Henrique fed the puck to him and Dallman took a full-windup slapshot that found the net behind Holtby. Gothenburg can thank Matt Calvert for scoring the goal that tied the game and necessitated overtime. The third-liner scored late in the second period with assists from Benn Ferriero and Chris Kelly. Gothenburg started the game in penalty trouble but were able to take the lead on a Dan Girardi goal while shorthanded. Stockholm’s first goal came on a powerplay later in the period and the tally had three defensemen figuring in on the scoring. John Kligberg scored it with Bogosian and Keith Yandle assisting. Yandle also had an assist on an Eric Staal goal two minutes later that put the Eagles in front 2-1 with about 6 minutes remaining in the first period. Holtby ended up stopping 49 shots Monday.
Belfast 4, London 2 – The Giants trailed 2-0 when the third period began, but were able to reel off four third-period goals to the delight of the home fans. The loss of Rick Nash has hurt London. In Game 3 against his former team, the big right wing was injured and it is unlikely he will return for Wednesday’s game in London. Michael Grabner has seen his ice time increase due to the injury, and he hasn’t looked good when he’s skated with top liners Taylor Hall and Jeff Skinner. Grabner was minus 3 on Monday. Three Belfast players had multi-point games Monday: Micki Dupont (2 assists), Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene (each with a goal and an assist). The game was a nasty one, with Belfast being whistled for 8 penalties and London for 6. To add to London’s injury woes, defenseman Jamie McBain is now out with an ankle injury. Expect either Tim Erixon, Rasmus Ristolainen or Dylan Olsen to make a EURO playoff debut in Game 5.