The Carolina Hurricanes evened their series, the St. Louis Blues mounted a frantic comeback, and the San Jose Sharks warded off elimination on a busy Thursday in the NHL playoffs. Here are some key takeaways from each game.
An unlikely headline-grabber, even on a Hurricanes team that lacks star power, Foegele opened the game flying and scored just 17 seconds into the contest after the Capitals' Matt Niskanen was caught up ice.
But the 23-year-old rookie winger could face suspension for the check he delivered to T.J. Oshie late in the third period. Capitals coach Todd Reirden said postgame that Oshie will be out for the foreseeable future.
Carolina has been one of the NHL's healthiest teams this season, but the Canes have already proven capable of compensating for the absence of some key contributors. They were down Micheal Ferland and Andrei Svechnikov in Game 4, while fellow middle-six winger Jordan Martinook played only 4:39 after twisting his right leg in the first period.
Losing Foegele would be another blow as the series shifts to D.C. on Saturday, but the Capitals will face an even greater test with Oshie out. Reirden elevated him to Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom's line in Game 4, hoping to spark Washington's sputtering attack. But the trio struggled at even strength against Carolina's top defensive pairing of Jaccob Slavin and Dougie Hamilton, and second line of Foegele, Jordan Staal, and Justin Williams.
No matter who does or doesn't play on Saturday, one of the Capitals' chief objectives should be to reverse their newfound offensive malaise. Washington scored eight goals at home in Games 1 and 2 - five of which came at even strength - but only mustered one goal in Carolina, and that was on the power play.
As TSN and NBC commentator Gord Miller noted in the wake of Winnipeg's latest third-period meltdown, this series has followed anything but a logical progression.
In the spirit of this topsy-turviness, consider this stat from the Blues' madcap 3-2 comeback win in Game 5: Of the 10 high-quality scoring chances the Jets generated, eight came courtesy of their bottom two lines. Not coincidentally, those are the units that outmuscled the Blues for two goals in the first period.
But for all the praise heaped on goal-scorers Adam Lowry and Kevin Hayes along with their respective linemates, St. Louis was in position to steal a victory with 15 seconds left because Winnipeg's best players weren't nearly good enough. Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, and Kyle Connor, the Jets' No. 1 line, were severely outgunned at five-on-five by Oskar Sundqvist, Brayden Schenn, and Jaden Schwartz, whose efforts to drive possession paid off when each of them featured prominently in the final two goals.
Ahead of puck drop, it seemed like the Blues' best chance to buck their two-game losing skid would be to hope for a David Pastrnak-like breakout performance from their stars. Schenn, Ryan O'Reilly, and Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis' usual first line, combined for just one goal at even strength (plus two on the power play) through four games. Jordan Binnington, a revelation in net since he wrested the starting role from Jake Allen in January, came into Thursday with a decidedly average .902 playoff save percentage.
Pastrnak's two-goal performance against Toronto on Wednesday might have been louder on its own, but Schenn's two points, O'Reilly's power-play goal to get his team on the board, Tarasenko's multiple scoring chances on the power play, and Binnington's 29 saves constituted an admirable response under pressure.
In a close game, the late results they got made the Blues deserving winners, controversy surrounding Sundqvist's drive to the net on the tying goal be damned. All they have to do now is remember how to win at home.
Early in Game 5 between Vegas and San Jose, NBC producers cued up a graphic to detail the exploits of Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny, and Mark Stone, who form what is ostensibly the Golden Knights' second line. Those players scored a combined 28 points through the first four games of the playoffs, more than any forward trio since Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, and Esa Tikkanen tallied 30 points in the same number of games for the 1987 Edmonton Oilers.
But Thursday was an entirely different story. In their strongest defensive showing since the postseason's opening slate of games, the Sharks finally kept Vegas' leading bigwigs in check, holding them scoreless in a 5-2 win that prolonged Joe Thornton's career for at least one more monumental road trip.
Stone, Pacioretty, and Stastny still top the individual playoff scoring leaderboard in that order, so San Jose shouldn't derive too much hope from their off night. After all, it was their impression of prime Gretzky and Co. that led Vegas to outscore the Sharks 13-3 over the eight periods of action directly preceding Game 5.
Still, the Sharks have reason for cautious optimism as they set their sights on staving off elimination again on Sunday. Unceremoniously yanked from the net in Games 2 and 4, Martin Jones rebounded with a 30-save effort and only allowed two power-play goals. His pad save on Reilly Smith, Vegas' best forward on the night, with fewer than eight minutes left in the third period forestalled a possible catastrophe with his club clinging to a one-goal lead.
Equally encouraging were the contributions the Sharks got from their stars. Tomas Hertl, who emerged as a point-per-game scorer this season, came within a pinged crossbar of a hat trick. San Jose's top line of Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Timo Meier potted two goals and teamed with Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who returned from a two-game absence, to hound the Stastny line at five-on-five for much of the night.
Smith and Jonathan Marchessault's power-play markers kept the score close until the waning minutes. Vegas now has a playoff-high eight goals with the man advantage (on a playoff-high 24 opportunities), which, along with the Stastny line's overall prowess, emphasizes that the series is still the Golden Knights' to lose. The onus is on Jones and the defensemen in front of him to come out with the same steeliness on the road in Game 6.
Nick Faris is a features writer at theScore.