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Lightning Round: The Opening Day recap

Matt Dumba gives a powerful anti-racism speech before the Qualifying Round opener

Chicago Blackhawks v Edmonton Oilers - Game One Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

The qualifying round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs started on Saturday with five games. On opening day the league and their players celebrated social justice activists and front-line workers, all players wore #WeSkateFor Equality helmet decals in support of Black Lives Matter, the message #WeSkateFor Black Lives was displayed on big screens installed in both arenas. The Hockey Diversity Alliance made an opening video for the Hockey Night in Canada which you can see below.

The most resonating moment was the ceremony before the game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Chicago Blackhawks. The Minnesota Wild defender Matt Dumba was invited to make the opening speech where he adressed the issues that many POC and BIPOC players facing during their careers. He also took a knee during the US National Anthem with Malcolm Subban and Darnell Nurse standing by his side.

Opening Day Recap

New York Rangers 2-3 Carolina Hurricanes

On the opening game of the Qualifying Round, the Carolina Hurricane defeated the New York Rangers 3-2. Jaccob Slavin scored the first goal just 61 seconds into the game, disappointing Henrik Lundqvist who started for the Rangers instead of young rookie Igor Shesterkin who reportedly was “unfit to play“. Just three minutes later 38-year old Justin Williams dropped the gloves with Ryan Strome after a clean hit by Marc Staal on Martin Necas.

The Canes doubled the score in the second period when Sebastian Aho converted on power-play after an assist from Andrei Svechnikov. The Rangers responded with a goal by Mika Zibanejad but the Canes returned to a two-goal advantage in the third period, this time the puck rebounded into the net off the skate of Marc Staal after Necas’ shot. Marc Staal scored a goal for his team at the end of the game, but it wasn’t enough to save the game and the Hurricanes taking a lead in the series 1-0.

Chicago Blackhawks 6-4 Edmonton Oilers

The game started well for the Oilers, Connor McDavid scored on the first power play two minutes into the game, but after that moment things went off the cliff for them. The Blackhawks scored four times before the end of the first period, Jonathan Toews scored twice and Dominik Kubalik recorded three assists during that timespan. The Oilers managed to cut the advantage to two goals in the second period, capitalizing on another power play, but just a couple of minutes later Kubalik scored the fifth goal for the Blackhawks, sending Mike Smith to the bench. He scored another goal at the end of the period, recording 5 (2+3) points during this game, which became a new record for playoffs debut.

The Oilers scored twice during the last third of the game, but the Blackhawks deservedly won the first game of the series.

New York Islanders 2-1 Florida Panthers

After a big loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning in an exhibition game, the Florida Panthers lost their first official game too. The New York Islanders opened the scoring with a goal by Jean-Gabriel Pageau in the middle of the first period, then they doubled the score in the second period after Anthony Beauvillier’s power play goal. Jonathan Huberdeau scored the only goal for the Panthers. Sergey Bobrovsky looked better than in the last game against the Bolts, saving his team from much bigger loss.

Montreal Canadiens 3-2 Pittsburgh Penguins

Surprisingly for many people the Montreal Canadiens took over the first game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Young Habs players Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki earned a two-goal advantage for their team by the middle of the game. The Penguins quickly responded with two goals from Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust. The Penguins kept increasing the pressure at the opposite net by the end of the second period, however Carey Price had been solid and didn’t allow another goal.

After a scoreless third period the game went into the overtime. The Canadiens survived a Penguins’ PP early into the extra time and even earned a penalty shot a little bit later, however Jonathan Drouin missed it. That didn’t stop the team and Jeff Petry finally scored a game-winning goal for the Habs, recording a very important victory for the Canadiens.

Winnipeg Jets 1-4 Calgary Flames

The game which started with a early goal turned out into a nightmare for the Winnipeg Jets. Mark Scheifele left the game with a left leg injury after a push from behind by the Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk. In the third period Patrick Laine was also forced to leave the ice after unsuccessful delivering a hit on Mark Giordano. It’s still not clear how serious those injuries are, as Paul Maurice told to the reporters, both players will see specialists today, but potential absence of both players might be crucial for the Jets.

The Flames smashed the opponent in the second period, scoring two power play goals and one shorthanded. Andrew Mangiapane increased an advantage to three goals in the last third and the Calgary Flames taking a lead in the series opener.

NHL hockey continues tonight with another four games of the Qualifying Round and the first Round Robin game of the Eastern Conference between the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers

Other News and Notes

According to the Athletic’s Joe Smith Victor Hedman has already joined the Lightning in Toronto and attended a practice on Saturday. Steven Stamkos is still “unfit to practice“. The opening game of the round robin for the Bolts is scheduled on Monday.

Jon Cooper and other players talked to the media after yesterday’s practice

The New York Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev is donating the proceeds from an auction of his mask to various charities

Tuukka Rask missed the last practice before the Bruins opener against the Flyers, according to head coach Bruce Cassidy the Finnish goalie is not involved with COVID-19 protocol.