Day Nine of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was one of extremes. While the Penguins and Ducks ended up coasting to easy victories over the Rangers and Predators, respectively, the other two matchups brought the intensity you’d expect in elimination games. In the end, the Lightning sent the Red Wings packing, while the defending champion Blackhawks stayed alive with a double overtime win over the Blues.
Here’s who stood out to us on Thursday:
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Who else? With Chicago’s season on the line, the NHL’s leading scorer delivered his biggest goal of the season. Kane was stymied twice by Brian Elliott, but finally connected on a wraparound in double OT to clinch a 4–3 win for the Hawks and send this series back to the United Center for Game 6.
Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
By all rights, the Lightning should be on a plane headed back to Detroit for Game 6. Bishop just wouldn’t let ’em board it. Despite being left on his own much of the night, the big keeper made 34 saves to steal a 1–0 victory for the Bolts and send the Wings home to clear out their lockers.
He was at his best during the second period, robbing Riley Sheahan, Darren Helm and Dylan Larkin on breakaway chances.
“If you [grade] our team a C, and give Detroit an A, the problem is Bish got an A-plus,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “The A-plus trumped the A and that’s why we got lucky in that one.”
The win marked the third time Bishop pitched a shutout in a series clincher since the start of the 2015 playoffs.
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Anyone still think that Malkin’s return to the lineup in Game 2 jammed a stick in the Penguins’ spokes? The big man picked up apples on first-period goals by Eric Fehr and Patric Hornqvist, then scored twice on the power play to lead the Penguins to a 5–0 rout of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The four-point effort tied a career high for Malkin, who missed the final month of the season with an upper body injury.
“I feel so much better now,” he said after the game. “I’m playing better, more confidence. Our line played well. We can play better every game.”
That last bit is bad news for the Rangers in Game 5 ... and maybe worse for whichever team the Pens face in the next round (should they advance).