By and large, linesman are keeping things tight so far this postseason, with penalties up to 9.7 per game.
One of those was Nashville’s Shea Weber’s two-minute roughing minor in the final moments of the Predators’ Game 1 win over the Red Wings. By now you’ve surely seen the video. After Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg checked Weber into the corner boards, Shea Weber retaliated, punching Zetterberg in the back of the head and then grabbing his neck and slamming his face into the boards.
Weber’s punishment? A measly $2,500 fine — the maximum allowed during the league’s collective bargaining agreement. No suspension.
The explanation? “This was a reckless and reactionary play on which Weber threw a glancing punch and then shoved Zetterberg’s head into the glass,” said NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan. “As is customary whenever supplemental discipline is being considered, we contacted Detroit following the game and were informed that Zetterberg did not suffer an apparent injury and should be in the lineup for Game 2.
“This play and the fine that addressed it will be significant factors in assessing any incidents involving Shea Weber throughout the remainder of the playoffs.”
Another factor might have been Weber’s importance to the Predators — and therefore the series. Weber leads the team in power-play goals and +/- at +21 for the season.
“In my view, it was pretty bad,” said Zetterberg who was “a little woozy” after the game. “I heard he got fined. I guess the bar is set. I thought it was dirty. I thought it was a direct hit to my head. If we look at what happened the last few years with all the head injuries, I think that shouldn’t belong in the game.”
The whistles are blowing on the ice — but Shanahan and company appear to be willing to let the boys play. (Unless your name is Bryan Bitz. The Canucks defenseman was suspended two games for this hit on Kyle Clifford.)
The top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference came out firing, scoring the game’s first four goals, capped by Brad Richards’ tally early in the third period which all but iced the game. The Rangers killed three first-period penalties to maintain momentum, but the Seanators ramped up the pressure in the second period. With Ottawa seemingly poised to break through with the tying goal, Rangers coach John Tortorella used his timeout and New York regained control from there. Marian Gaborik and Brian Boyle scored minutes apart, and Vezina trophy candidate Henrik Lundqvist was on his game, stopping 30 shots.
“This is the way we have to play to win,” Rangers forward Ryan Callahan said. “We felt like we’ve been playing playoff hockey right through the season.”
On a night full of extra hockey, San Jose and St. Louis gave their fans a double-helping of added ice time in the longest game yet this postseason. Sharks winger Martin Havlat, who missed more than two months of the season with a hamstring injury, was still fresh enough after more than 21 minutes of ice time to fire home the game-winning slapshot 3:34 into the second overtime. It was Havlat’s second goal of the night, but he never would have had the chance were it not for a late third-period rush by playoff-newcomer Tommy Wingels that set up Andrew Desjardins for the tying goal with 5:16 left in regulation.
“There was no panic on the bench, that’s for sure,” Sharks forward Ryane Clowe said. “You don’t want to get too uptight and panicky and think it’s not going to happen.”
Much maligned for their history of postseason failures, San Jose may find a lower seed to their liking as they’re able to play with a little less pressure. Of course having a former Cup winner in Antti Niemi on his game between the pipes (40 saves) won’t hurt their chances either.
Phoenix absorbed a massive blow early, losing leading scorer Radim Vrbata to an injury on his first shift, but their offensive depth came through in the clutch, just as it has all season.
Martin Hanzal’s goal midway through the extra period gave the Pacific Division champions a Game 1 victory and moved them one step closer to the franchise’s first playoff series win.
“You’re not going to get many opportunities to play overtime in the playoffs,” captain Shane Doan said. “I’m not saying that’s the way you want to go into it, but once bounce there, you’ve got to enjoy it and that’s what we did.”
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Devils at Panthers, 7 (NHLNET) — Series tied 0-0
Flyers at Penguins, 7:30 (NBCSN) — Flyers lead series 1-0
Red Wings at Predators, 7:30 (CNBC) — Predators lead series 1-0
Kings at Canucks, 10 (NBCSN) — Kings lead Series 1-0