May 1, 2014
MADISON, Wis. -- Wednesday night was a tense night for many hockey players and fans, Badger Nation included, with three game sevens taking place across the country as the final three spots of eight NHL conference semifinal positions remained up for grabs.
Things went well for Dany Heatley, Ryan Suter and the Minnesota Wild, thanks to a 5-4 overtime victory that saw the home team overcome four one-goal deficits to finally grab victory. Badger All-American Heatley chipped in a goal and two assists, including a helper on the series-winning goal, while Suter was plus-2 and made a key defensive break-up on a Colorado Avalanche 2-on-1 moments before the overtime winner.
Heatley finished the series with a goal and five points in seven games, which shares 30th among all skaters in the NHL playoffs. Suter added a goal and four points to share 56th.
Heatley, Suter and the Wild now move on to face the Chicago Blackhawks. The seven-game series begins Friday night.
Triumphant game seven performances also came from New York teammates Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh, who helped the Rangers eliminate the Philadelphia Flyers with a 2-1 win. Stepan contributed a pair of goals and a pair of assists to the cause throughout the seven games, while McDonagh, the Rangers' regular-season MVP, was his usual dominant self on defense.
The Rangers move on to face the Pittsburgh Penguins beginning Friday night.
The top first-round performance from a Badgers' perspective may have come from Montreal's Rene Bourque. One of the three stars of the game in three of the four games in the Canadians' sweep over the Tampa Bay Lightning, Bourque finished the series with three goals and a plus-4 rating.
Montreal begins the second round tonight against the Boston Bruins in a classic original-six matchup.
San Jose Sharks' forward Joe Pavelski led all Badgers in scoring in the first round with two goals and five points, but after going up 3-0 in the series, the Sharks dropped the final four games to the Los Angeles Kings and were eliminated. It was a stellar year for the 2006 NCAA champion, who became Wisconsin's second 40-goal scorer in the NHL. His Sharks' teammate, Adam Burish, missed the playoffs with a hand injury.
Unfortunately for Badger fans, three other UW alumni were also sent home for the summer after their teams were knocked out of the first round. The Columbus Blue Jackets put up a great fight, but Jack Skille and his teammates fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. Skille posted one assist in the series.
Also going out in the first round were Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith and St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott. Smith and the Red Wings fell in five games to the Boston Bruins, while Elliott, who served as the Blues back-up goaltender, dropped a six-game series to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Fifteen former Badgers have gone on to win the Stanley Cup, including most recently Davis Drewiske in 2012 with the Los Angeles Kings. As a player, 13 Badgers have captured the Cup, while former UW head coach Bob Johnson won a Cup as head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and former Badger Dave McNab was assistant general manager for the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.
This year, McNab's Ducks are still in the running, while former Badger and current Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato is also still in the chase.