Don’t be surprised if Oiler and Leaf Nation declare Sunday Kailer Yamamoto Day in Edmonton, and John Tavares Day in Toronto.
The Oilers and Maple Leafs, Canada’s last two teams in the NHL playoffs, are headed for the second round after nail-biting victories last night that ignited victory parties in Alberta and Ontario, respectively.
Here are five things to know about the NHL playoffs:
HOLLYWOOD ENDING FOR OILERS
Kailer Yamamoto doesn’t get a chance to play the hero very often on a hockey team with elite players such as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but the stage was all his last night when he scored at 16:57 of the third period to snap a 4-4 tie and give the Oilers a 4-2 series victory.
The Oilers’ Hollywood ending means they’ll face the rested Vegas Golden Knights in the next round, but they’ll worry about that tomorrow. Today, they’ll still be playing La Bamba, baby!
TAVARES ENDS PLAYOFF NIGHTMARES IN OT
The Toronto Maple Leafs ended two decades of playoff frustration last night when captain John Tavares found nothing but net at 4:36 of overtime in Amalie Arena, finally driving a stake in the heart of the resilient Tampa Bay Lightning with a 2-1 victory.
The Leafs, who won three of four games in overtime in the series, bent but never folded in Game 6 against a veteran team that had made three straight trips to the Stanley Cup final before this year’s early exit. In fact, the Bolts had won 11 of their past 12 playoff series and have two Cups to show for their hard work.
A second-period goal by Toronto’s Auston Matthews looked like it might be enough, but Bolts captain Steven Stamkos tied the game at 4:11 of the third period and from then until Tavares’ heroics, it was nail-chomping time as each team rushed end to end looking for the glory goal.
KRAKEN PUMPED IN MILE HIGH CITY
Jaden Schwartz of the Seattle Kraken didn’t spend much time sulking over Friday’s 4-1 loss at home to the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche that forced Game 7 in Denver.
The forward said it would have been ideal to clinch the series at Climate Pledge Arena for the fans, but added his underdog squad is extra pumped about the winner-take-all battle tonight.
The Kraken fully expect Jordan Eberle to be Public Enemy No. 1 at Ball Arena after his second-period boarding penalty on Andrew Cogliano in Friday’s tilt. The Avs’ fan base figured he should have been suspended just like Colorado defenceman Cale Makar was earlier in the series. Eberle said composure and tenacity will be the keys for his squad tonight should the Avs try and send an early message.
SWAYMAN IN, ULLMARK OUT?
The Boston Bruins, finally facing some adversity in a season filled with records and highlights, might be switching goaltenders for Sunday’s Game 7 showdown with the visiting Florida Panthers.
Linus Ullmark, who played himself into the Vezina Trophy conversation as his team compiled an unparalleled 65-win, 135-point record, is starting to show some cracks. He surrendered six goals in a Game 2 loss and was shelled for seven more in a 7-5 loss in Game 6.
So, with the Bruins’ season on the line, coach Jim Montgomery is considering calling Jeremy Swayman’s number. Swayman had 24 regular-season wins and a .920 save percentage.
Florida forward Matthew Tkachuk, who has 10 points in the series while trying his best to be peskier than Boston’s Brad Marchand, said he expects the TD Garden to be buzzing tonight. He also believes all the pressure is on the home team, which finished 43 points ahead of the Panthers.
WORD GAMES IN WINNIPEG
Rick Bowness admits his choice of words — like disgusted, no pushback, lack of pride — following the Winnipeg Jets’ 4-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights were probably too strong for public consumption, blaming his emotions and frustrations for getting the best of him after being eliminated from the NHL playoffs.
But the veteran bench boss insists the effort in Thursday’s must-win game wasn’t what he or his co-coaches expected or liked, and said some players still gave their all despite an injury-riddled roster.
A number of players, including former captain Blake Wheeler, said they didn’t like the way Bowness handled himself after the game, leading to a backlash on social media and a number of questions about the futures of some players and the head coach.
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff will meet with the media later today.
The Canadian Press