NHL playoffs update
The Stanley Cup conference quarter finals are nearing completion with three more places set to be decided. The Eastern conference is the place to be in terms of excitement, with three of its quarter final match-ups heading to a final seventh game.
New Jersey Devils kept their season alive last night with a 3-2 win over the Panthers courtesy of an OT score from Travis Zajac. That result ties the best-of-seven series at 3-3 and means there will be a deciding game in Florida on Thursday.
“It’s fun to be back competing and playing at this time of year,” said Zajac whose season was limited to 15 regular-season games because of an Achilles injury in August that required surgery.
Zajac scored the biggest goal of his season at 5:39 of overtime on the counterattack against Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen, who had an outstanding game, racking up 39 saves.
The match winner cleared the puck from in front of a harried Martin Brodeur and started a rush up the ice. Zach Parise took his cross-ice pass and gave the puck to Ilya Kovalchuk, who found Zajac skating down the left wing for a shot along the ice into the net.
Florida, meanwhile are looking for their first series win since 1996. “We’re fine,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “We’re going back home. This is where we are. It comes down to one game. Obviously you go to overtime and you’d like to put things to bed, but that’s the nature of it. It will make for a very exciting game on Thursday.”
There are still two more series to settle in the Eastern conference; Washington will be at second-seeded Boston on Wednesday and Ottawa will be at the top-seeded Rangers on Thursday.
The Washington Capitals will be hoping to dump out the defending Stanley Cup winners in tonight’s game, in what has been a surprisingly close series. Every game has been decided by one goal and the Capitals have been the only team in this series to lead by two goals at any point during a game. Even then, the Bruins managed to cut that advantage down within three minutes.
They will be up against it on Wednesday. The Bruins have home-ice advantage although this year’s post season has shown that this factor is not as important as it once was. There is an extra motivation for the Capitals to knock out the champions and likewise the Bruins will be aiming to avoid being eliminated in the first round, as five of the last eight champions have done.
The final 3-3 series yet to be decided sees the Rangers looking to see off the Ottwa Senators on Thursday. Rangers are well aware that no one will remember their elimination-avoiding victory in Ottawa if they don’t finish off the Senators at home in Game 7.
With a two-day break before the deciding game in the back-and-forth, first-round series, the top-seeded Rangers took the day off Tuesday after staying alive with a stirring 3-2 comeback victory on Monday.
Following the surprise elimination of Stanley Cup favourites, Pittsburgh Penguins, earlier in the week the bookmakers have installed the Philly Flyers as the new favourites at +400. Here is the updated list of Stanley Cup betting odds to win the 2012 Stanley Cup:
St Louis Blues
Los Angeles Kings
New York Rangers
New Jersey Devils
Odds are from Intertops