Washington Capitals 2, New York Rangers 3 (OT) (NYR leads the series, 3-2)
Nashville Predators 1, Phoenix Coyotes 2 (PHO wins the series, 4-1)
Those Who Shined
1. Mike Smith, Goaltender, Phoenix Coyotes
The Coyotes are headed to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history in large part because of the play of their new (as of the beginning of this season) man between the pipes. Mike Smith had an excellent regular season and it has carried over brilliantly into the postseason. He saved 32 of 33 shots in the series clinching game, which was just enough to hold back the late efforts of the Predators. And, if that number isn’t enough to convince you of his solid performance, take the fact that his team was outshot by nearly 20 shots and he helped stop all four Nashville power plays. This was a dominating effort and now sets up an incredibly interesting matchup with Jonathan Quick in the next round.
2. Marc Staal, Defenseman, New York Rangers
It took less than two minutes for Marc Staal and the Rangers to find the back of the net in overtime of Monday’s game five at Madison Square Garden. The tally from Staal gave him two points in the contest and was just his sixth game-winning goal in well over 300 career games. This performance also gave him five points in the postseason thus far, which already matches his output from the entire regular season — 46 games played. New York has depended largely on late-game heroics in the series with Ottawa and now Washington, so they will be happy to have any input that Staal can supply from his defensive positioning on the ice.
3. Braden Holtby, Goaltender, Washington Capitals
Following a disappointing performance in the opening game of the series with the Rangers, rookie Braden Holtby has again emerged as a shutdown netminder. Monday was one of his top efforts as he stopped 35 of 38 shots, but took the loss in the contest. He faced extreme adversity throughout since his offensive attack was held at bay for the majority of the game and he was asked to kill five power plays. New York did most of their damage with the man advantage, scoring two of its three goals then. On paper, Holtby has been outdone by opposing goalie Henrik Lundqvist because his team trails in the series, but overall his ability to keep the Capitals close has been quite impressive.