The 2023 NHL Playoffs featured some big games on Thursday night. The Vegas Golden Knights became the first team to win a series, the Tampa Bay Lightning staved off elimination against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the New Jersey Devils took a 3-2 series lead agains the New York Rangers.
The Maple Leafs have not reached the second round of the playoffs since 2004, and they had a chance to end that drought on Thursday. However, the back-to-back-to-back Eastern Conference champs had something to say about that. The Tampa Bay Lightning quieted the Scotiabank Arena crowd with a 4-2 win to force Game 6.
In the second game of the evening, the Devils continued their stretch of dominance against the Rangers. New Jersey rolled to a 4-0 win while rookie goaltender Akira Schmid frustrated the Rangers with another brilliant showing in the crease. New Jersey can now eliminate New York in Madison Square Garden in Game 6.
The Golden Knights became the first team to advance to the second round when they blew out the Jets, 4-1, in Game 5. Chandler Stephenson got the party started less than a minute into the game, Vegas didn’t let its foot off the gas pedal. The Golden Knights will now face the winner of the series between the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers.
For the full playoff schedule and final score updates on every Stanley Cup Playoff series, click here. For now, follow along tonight as the first-round action continues.
Lightning stay alive, force Game 6 in Tampa
The Toronto Maple Leafs had a chance to reach the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 19 years on Thursday, but the Tampa Bay Lightning kept that drought alive for at least one more day with a 4-2 win.
The Maple Leafs got Scotiabank Arena rocking early when Morgan Rielly beat Andrei Vasilevskiy to give Toronto a 1-0 lead less than six minutes into the game.
RIELLY RIPS!! 💥 pic.twitter.com/yOZlFJmCd7
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) April 27, 2023
However, it was all Lightning after that.
Just 26 seconds after Rielly opened the scoring, Anthony Cirelli punched home a rebound to tie the game at 1-1.That score would hold until 4:23 of the second period, when Michael Eyssimont flew down the left-wing side of the ice and tucked a shot underneath Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov for a soft goal.
What a BEAUT for your first playoff goal!!! pic.twitter.com/wvqIPEBE69
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) April 28, 2023
Nick Paul extended Tampa’s lead to 3-1 midway through the third period, but the story of the final frame was the Bolts’ ability to smother Toronto’s offensive attack. Toronto couldn’t get much of anything going until it pulled Samsonov for the extra attacker.
Auston Matthews was able to make it a one-goal game with a few minutes remaining in regulation, but the Lightning held on for a huge win to force a Game 6. Now, the series will shift back to Tampa, and there will be a lot of pressure on Toronto to get over the hump on the road.
Devils cruise to Game 5 win over Rangers
Unfortunately for the Rangers, the trend of the road team winning every game in this series ended on Thursday night. The Devils turned in another dominant performance for a 4-0 win at home, and they have come back to lead the series 3-2.
For the third game in a row, New Jersey has completely frustrated a New York roster that is loaded with firepower up front. The Rangers could only muster 23 shots on goal, and when the Devils did need a big save, rookie goaltender Akira Schmid was there to make it.
2.5 games of #StanleyCup Playoffs experience under his belt and Akira Schmid has been POISED under pressure. 🥶
🇺🇸: @espn ➡️ https://t.co/cdZbLqOFZM
🇨🇦: @Sportsnet ➡️ https://t.co/KpoLgdggDu pic.twitter.com/UeeA5uRuCl
— NHL (@NHL) April 28, 2023
On the offensive side of things, Ondrej Palat got the party started just 39 seconds into the first period when he got a fortunate bounce on a rebound goal.
Pally Ondrej attack. pic.twitter.com/IostC3M0g3
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) April 27, 2023
After the Rangers won the special teams battle in Games 1 and 2, the Devils clobbered them in that department in Game 5. Erik Haula tallied a power play goal in the second period, and Dawson Mercer made it a 3-0 game with a shorthanded goal about 10 minutes later.
MERCDAWG SHORTY! pic.twitter.com/rGNxrt6DH9
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) April 28, 2023
New Jersey looked dead in the water after dropping the first two games in Newark, but the team has completely flipped the script in the last three games. The Devils have simply outplayed the Rangers, and they are one win away from disposing of their rivals and advancing to the second round.
Golden Knights eliminate Jets in dominant fashion
We have our first handshake line of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Vegas Golden Knights were determined to end this series in Game 5, and the Winnipeg Jets didn’t provide much resistance in a 4-1 loss.
The opening minute of this game was a preview for things to come. Just 50 seconds into the game, Vegas forced a turnover, and a slick passing play allowed Chandler Stephenson to slide the puck behind Connor Hellebuyck for a goal.
hot start, Stevie!!! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/HHPbEbp0OL
— z – Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) April 28, 2023
With star defenseman Josh Morrissey out of the lineup with a lower-body injury, the Jets had major issues trying to get the puck out of their own zone. The Golden Knights’ forecheck was relentless, and it resulted in another goal just 42 seconds into the second period when Mark Stone capitalized on a Winnipeg mistake.
IN THIS HOUSE WE STAN #61 MARK STONE 🗿 pic.twitter.com/h7pqEVwDPt
— z – Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) April 28, 2023
The Golden Knights would add two more goals in the second period, and by that point, the game was out of reach. Vegas didn’t give Winnipeg any room to breathe, and the Jets didn’t really test Golden Knights goaltender Laurent Brossoit until they pulled the goalie with 8:18 remaining in the third period.
To his credit, Brossoit made one of the best saves of the postseason so far on one of the rare scoring chances for the Jets.
Beaut of a glove save by Brossoit, robbing Lowry blind in tight#VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/djR2qC7HWM
— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights (@HockeyDaily365) April 28, 2023
After eliminating the Jets, the Golden Knights will now advance to play either the Los Angeles Kings or Edmonton Oilers in the second round.