The NHL always wants the sports spotlight shining on Stanley Cup Playoff games, but probably not like this.
On a night when games in the NBA, Major League Baseball, MLS and the WNBA were postponed in protest over racial injustice, the NHL and the players completed their full slate of games — and then had to answer some uncomfortable questions about why they did.
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Game 3: No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 7 New York Islanders (Tied 1-1) | 7 p.m.
Will it be Semyon Varlamov or Thomas Greiss for the Islanders in the second half of this back-to-back set? Coach Barry Trotz wasn’t tipping his hand after Game 2, but liked Greiss’ game in relief of Varlamov. “I thought he was solid. He made a couple of key saves. He looked very comfortable, which is a great sign, that’s a positive for his attitude and his work ethic for our goaltending department. You have to be ready in the playoffs and he was definitely ready,” he said.
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Game 3: No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 7 Vancouver Canucks (Tied 1-1) | 9:45 p.m.
Which Vegas team is going to show up for Game 3: The one that absolutely dominated the Canucks in a 5-0 Game 1 win, or the one that gave Vancouver too much space to operate in a 5-2 Game 2 loss? “We definitely gave them a lot of room,” said forward Jonathan Marchessault. “Their skill players came into our zone like it was nothing. We made it too easy for them.”
Question of the day: Should Wednesday’s games have happened?
After the Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic opted not to play their game on Wednesday, the NBA postponed its games. Three MLB games were scuttled. Five MLS matches were called off. WNBA games were postponed. They were protesting an incident involving Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot by police on Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as he attempted to enter the driver’s side door of his vehicle with three of his children inside. Video of the shooting was distributed on social media.
The National Hockey League? It played on. One game, the Flyers vs. Islanders, was already underway when the NBA boycotts were starting. But the NHL’s night games were played well after it.
The NHL’s response was to have a pregame presentation before the Bruins vs. Lightning game, with a graphic that read “End Racism,” a short speech by the PA announcer and a brief moment of silence. But that was it. Two months ago, over 100 players, all 32 teams, the NHL and the NHLPA put out varying statements that all expressed support for the Black community and athletes in their fight against racial injustice. But while those athletes in other sports joined the fight in holding a “strike” on Wednesday, hockey remained on ice.
“After our pregame meal, we took naps and then we were on the bus, so I don’t think any of us were watching the TV until we got to the rink. And at that point, obviously, it was too close to the game to start any discussions or try to move the games to different dates. We were basically following the schedule the NHL provided to us,” said Zdeno Chara of the Bruins.
The NHL took heat for playing the games, including an impassioned Kelly Hrudey on Sportsnet in Canada. “I don’t think we should be here. I think the NHL should postpone the games. I really feel we should be more supportive of Black Lives Matter,” he said.
But ultimately that’s on the players. And none of the Stars or Avalanche, for example, went to their teams concerns about playing.
Bet of the day
Golden Knights regulation win over Canucks (-121). The Knights are coming off a Game 2 loss in which their defense failed them, so expect a tightened-up effort in Game 3. Keep in mind Vegas hasn’t lost two non-shootout games in a row since Jan. 14, right before Peter DeBoer took over the team. You’re not getting any value on the Knights on the moneyline, so go for the regulation win instead.
About last night …
Philadelphia Flyers 4, New York Islanders 3 (OT) (Tied 1-1)
Philippe Myers cranked a long distance shot that beat Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss at 2:41 of overtime, giving the Flyers the 4-3 win and an even series. Carter Hart made 31 saves for the win. Semyon Varlamov had a strange game: Breaking Billy Smith’s franchise shutout streak record of 136:59 set in 1980, but then getting pulled after giving up three goals on 10 shots in the first period. The Islanders can build on the fact that they scored three straight goals, including Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s sixth of the postseason at 17:51 of the third period, to force OT. Full recap.
Philippe Myers scores 2:40 into overtime to give the Flyers a 4-3 victory over the Islanders, tying the series at a game apiece. (edited)
Tampa Bay Lightning 7, Boston Bruins 1 (TB leads 2-1)
This was the second of back-to-back games, and the Bruins looked like it. The Lightning scored two goals in 15 seconds in the first period from Ondrej Palat and Yanni Gourde, and they never looked back. “It’s tough. You get behind in this league against a good team it’s hard enough to catch up. Clearly after that, we lost our composure at times and didn’t do enough to get back in the game,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. Tampa chased goalie Jaroslav Halak in the second period after scoring four goals on 16 shots. They ended up scoring three goals in both the first and second periods, and went 3-for-6 on the power play. Full recap.
Ondrej Palat, Mikhail Sergachev and Alex Killorn’s power-play goals fuel the Lightning to a 7-1 victory over the Bruins in Game 3.
Colorado Avalanche 6, Dallas Stars 4 (DAL leads 2-1)
A desperate Colorado team made this easily the best game of the day. The Avalanche scored three goals in the second period to take a 3-1 lead. Dallas roared back with three goals in 6:05 during the third period to take a 4-3 lead. Then Mikko Rantanen and Nazem Kadri scored just 1:52 apart to give Colorado the 5-4 lead, before Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s first playoff goal iced it. “Obviously blowing the lead, it wasn’t our best, but this is a game that can definitely give us some momentum and hopefully change a series,” said Kadri. Full recap.
Nazem Kadri ricochets in a third-period goal to put the Avalanche ahead of the Stars and get them on the board in the series.
1. Nikita Kucherov, RW, Tampa Bay Lightning
An MVP performance from last year’s Hart Trophy winner. Kucherov had a goal and three assists — all helpers on the power play — to lead the Bolts to their 7-1 blowout win.
2. Kevin Hayes, C, Philadelphia Flyers
The forward got the Flyers going in the first period with the first two goals of the game, for his first two-goal playoff game of his NHL career.
3. Nazem Kadri, C, Colorado Avalanche
Nadri deflected a shot by Kevin Connauton at 13:54 for the game-winning goal and assisted on Nikita Zadorov’s game-opening goal in the Avalanche win.
Quote of the day
“NHL is always last to the party on these topics.” — Matt Dumba of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, on the NHL’s response to the boycotts in NBA, MLB and WNBA.
Social post of the day
Louis Domingue’s been making good use of the kitchens inside the bubble. 🤤 #StanleyCup
(📷 @domingue35) pic.twitter.com/cOumWZ6Ouy
— NHL (@NHL) August 26, 2020
Very smart move for the Vancouver Canucks to have Louis Domingue, NHL bubble baker, along for the ride.
Controversy of the day
On a day of many controversies, here’s another one: Vegas Golden Knights star Jonathan Marchessault has apologized after making a series of Instagram comments that profanely taunted critics after the team’s Game 2 loss to Vancouver.
“I just wanted to comment about the remarks that I made on my social media yesterday. I just wanted to apologize, sincerely. I think it was childish, immature and not professional. I want to say I’m sorry and it won’t happen again. I’ve learned from it,” the forward said in a statement before the team’s media availability Wednesday.
On Instagram, Marchessault responded to a handful of comments accusing him of “diving” to draw penalties in Tuesday’s Game 2. His responses varied from telling critics “don’t waste my time” to mocking their looks to suggesting they engage in a lewd act with their mother. Hence the “childish, immature and not professional” part.