The NHL Playoffs kicked off last night and the first night's schedule did not fail to disappoint. The early games saw the four and five seeds do battle in both conferences and although both series' were touted as being the best two match-ups in the the first round, only one of the two came through.
The Ottawa Senators, who have only one player on their roster that does not have any NHL playoff experience in Joe Corvo, let their experience pay off in a 6-3 thrashing of the inexperienced and evidently nervous Pittsburgh Penguins. The sens opened up an early 2-0 lead on the Pens capitalizing on jittery play by the Penguins team and a shaky goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury settled down by the end of the first period and kept his team down by only two goals after being outplayed, but by the second period the fat lady had sung. Ottawa extended their lead to 6-1 later in the game and until late in the contest, kept young phenoms Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal in check.
The Western Conference's 4/5 match-up was everything but a blowout. The game was a high tempo and high scoring contest which saw the San Jose Sharks take a 4-2 lead into the third period, only to allow a last minute tying goal on a deflection by Nashville's J.P. Dumont. After a scoreless first overtime, the San Jose Sharks came through and made amends for their blown lead when Patrick Marleau fed Patrick Rissmiller who netted his first of the post-season to give the Sharks the win. In one of the two remaining opening night games, the Anaheim Ducks won a low scoring affair topping the Minnesota Wild 2-1, in Anaheim.
The final game of the night - and the game that ran the longest - was the marathon between the Dallas Stars and the Vancouver Canucks. In a series that was expected to be low scoring and highly defensive, the Stars and Canucks came out guns a blazing in game 1, both scoring four goals before heading to overtime. Markus Naslund played one of his best games of the year notching one goal and one assist and Jeff Cowan continued his torrid pace of great play taking the spot of Matt Cooke after Cooke left the game with a groin strain. Both goaltenders who were under immense scrutiny entering the playoffs played well enough to keep their respective teams in the game despite allowing some questionable goals. In the end - which didn't come for a while, not until the 4th overtime - it was the Sedin twins who came through continuing to be the go-to-guys for the Canucks as Daniel Sedin fed his brother Henrik who ended the game late in the fourth overtime frame.
The first night of playoff hockey was far from a let down and was full of drama. The story lines are set for each set of game twos, but before we get there we have more exciting game 1's on hand tonight as Detroit takes on Calgary, Atlanta battles the Rangers, Buffalo and the Islanders square off and New Jersey and Tampa Bay begin their series.
It is official, the 2nd season is underway. Soak it in and enjoy the two months of non-stop exciting hockey!