Kevin Fiala came into Sunday’s game with one overtime goal in his career. He’s headed to Winnipeg with a second.
The Nashville Predators forward potted the winner against the Jets in Game 2, taking a feed from Craig Smith, drawing goalie Connor Hellebuyck to the side and dancing around him to deposit the puck at 5:37 of the second overtime period for the 5–4 win that evens their second-round series.
“Huge,” Nashville center Ryan Johansen said of Fiala’s OT tally to CBC’s Scott Oake. “That kid… that kid comes up in big moments. He did it last year and did again tonight. You need that this time of year, you need guys to step up and take their game to another level and that kid knows how to do it.”
Fiala also played the hero in the 2017 postseason, scoring the winner in Game 3 of their first-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks. His playoff run was later cut short following a broken femur, but Nashville knew the 21-year-old Swiss forward would be a big part of this season’s Stanley Cup hopes. He now has goals in each of the first two games against the Jets, giving him three goals and four points through eight playoff games this year.
For Fiala and the Predators, there was little panic in the crazed end-to-end action of overtime, as they traded chances with the Jets.
“We have character,” he said to NBC’s Brian Boucher. “We’ve done it before, we have big belief in our group and what we can do. It’s a great win for us.”
Winnipeg forward Mark Scheifele sent the game into overtime, scoring his second of the night with 1:05 remaining in regulation by whipping a tipped pass from Blake Wheeler into the net behind Predators goalie Pekka Rinne. Scheifele finished the night with three points and tied for the league lead in goals with eight.
The Predators got a big night out of their top line, with Filip Forsberg (three assists), Viktor Arvidsson (goal, two assists) and Johansen (two goals) combining for eight points after being held without a point in Game 1.
Johansen opened the scoring just :27 after puck drop, but goals 29 seconds apart by Dustin Byfuglien and Scheifele halfway through the first period put Winnipeg out in front. P.K. Subban evened the score with a power-play blast at 5:04 of the second period and Arvidsson added his third of the playoffs at 18:41. Jets forward Brandon Tanev made it a 3–3 game early in the third period, but Johansen answered 34 seconds later at 5:45 to put the the Predators back out in front. That set the stage for Scheifele to send the game into extra time, something Nashville players were prepared for.
“Just play with confidence, have composure and poise with the puck,” Johansen said of the team’s overtime message. “Stick to the details, make sure you’re focused on the details because you never know what play is going to make the difference. Our guys found a way to do it tonight.”
In a series between two of the NHL’s top regular season teams that looks poised to go the distance, the details are going to be huge. Expect another hard-fought, bump-and-bruise-filled matchup in Game 3 in Winnipeg on Tuesday.
CAPITALS 4, PENGUINS 1
In Game 1, the Capitals jumped out to a 2–0 lead over the Penguins, only to see things fall apart in a 3–2 loss. The second matchup of the series had a similar start: Alex Ovechkin and Jakub Vrana scored in the first period to put the Caps out in front, and this time—thanks to the standout goaltending of Braden Holtby—things stayed that way. Brett Connolly added a third goal before Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang cut the lead to 3–1 in the second period, and controversy arose in the third period when officials waved off Patric Hornqvist’s stuff-in attempt from the top of the crease, a call that was backed up by league review. There were no definitive angles shown that disputed the call on the ice, leaving the Penguins still trailing by two goals. “My thought was it was 100% a goal,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said, “that’s how we saw it. So, we respectfully disagree with the league and their ruling.”
“I never saw it across the line,” Holtby told NBC’s Pierre McGuire. “I really had no clue what happened.”
Holtby continued to stand tall as Pittsburgh pressed in the late minutes, finishing the afternoon with 32 saves. Penguins goalie Matt Murray made 28 stops in the loss.
Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom added an empty-netter in the game’s final seconds for the final score. The teams will play for the series lead as things shift to Pittsburgh for Game 3 on Tuesday.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT
Kevin Fiala combined the drama of double OT with the beauty of a nifty finish to send the Nashville fans home happy, if only a little past Sunday bedtimes.
1. Braden Holtby, WSH — After a few weeks of uncertainty, the Capitals have their star goalie back in top form, and it could be a big problem for the Penguins.
2. Viktor Arvidsson, NSH — His stat line (1G, 2A) doesn’t tell the full story. He was in Connor Hellebuyck’s face all night long, creating havoc in front of the crease.
3. Mark Scheifele, WPG — The 25-year-old forward continued his postseason tear with another three points (2G, 1A), giving him multi-point efforts in each of his last four games.
Are the Lightning feeling the pressure after dropping their second-round opener to the Bruins? Following Saturday’s 6–2 loss on home ice, the Bolts stepped it up a notch with an intense practice on Sunday, appearing focused and ready to exact some vengeance. “Our mindset is we win the next game, we’ll tie the series up and we’ll go from there,” captain Steven Stamkos said. For Tampa Bay to even the series in Game 2 on Monday, the answer is clear: shut down the Bruins’ stand-out top line of Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak. It’s easier said than done, but stifling that trio will force Boston to find its offense elsewhere. The Bruins have lost both times they’ve been held to two-or-fewer goals this postseason, while they’re 4–0 when scoring at least five times.
The Golden Knights laid a whooping on the Sharks in Game 1, but San Jose showed its resilience in taking a 4–3 win in double overtime in Game 2. Logan Couture’s tally in the 86th minute evened the series, but the Sharks are aware that it’s a marathon. “We fixed some things and it was a better team game,” defenseman Brent Burns said. “It’s just one game, obviously we had to win it, but it’s one game.” The physicality stepped up in the second matchup and with the teams set to battle for a third time on Monday, don’t expect that to calm down anytime soon—especially with Evander Kane returning to the Sharks’ lineup after a one-game suspension and both teams looking to take the series lead.