Kraken oust Avalanche for 1st series win, will meet Stars in Round 2

The Seattle Kraken won their first-ever playoff series in style Sunday night, advancing to Round 2 with a 2-1 road win over the defending champion Colorado Avalanche in Game 7.

Seattle moves on to face the Dallas Stars, who eliminated the Minnesota Wild earlier this week.

Kraken forward Oliver Bjorkstrand delivered a key performance in the series finale, scoring twice. Goaltender Philipp Grubauer was also a difference-maker, posting 33 saves against his former team.

Seattle is the first team in NHL history to earn its first series win against a reigning Cup winner, according to's Nick Cotsonika. Colorado has now lost six consecutive Game 7s dating back to 2002.

The Avalanche were heavy favorites heading into the playoffs after finishing nine points clear of the Kraken in the regular-season standings. However, they fell way short of a run at repeating as champions with a largely different roster from the one that lost only four of 20 playoff games last year.

"I don't think anybody on our side thought they were going to sweep us here in four games," Grubauer said, per Root Sports. "Obviously, we grew together throughout that series, and we had lots to learn. That was an unbelievable performance by everybody and it's not going to get easier from here on out."

He added, "We are resilient, and if we play the right way, we can beat anybody in this league, and we can beat the best."

The Kraken advanced without leading goal-scorer Jared McCann, who was hurt on a controversial hit from Cale Makar in Game 5, and former Avalanche sniper Andre Burakovsky, who was limited to 49 contests this season due to injury.

Seattle's first playoff triumph comes in its second season of existence. The Kraken earned 100 points on the year, a 40-point improvement from their inaugural campaign as the league's 32nd franchise.

Game 1 of the Kraken-Stars series is scheduled for Tuesday night in Dallas.

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Bergeron not ready to decide on future: ‘It hurts right now’

Patrice Bergeron needs time to digest the Boston Bruins' stunning first-round exit before deciding whether he'll continue his illustrious career.

"Right now, it's hard to process anything. It hurts right now," Bergeron said Sunday, according to Ty Anderson of 98.5 The Sports Hub.

The 37-year-old will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and his future is in question after the Bruins' historic regular season came to a grinding halt with a Game 7 loss to the Florida Panthers.

Bergeron was visibly upset after the defeat, hugging his teammates and saluting the TD Garden crowd before heading down the tunnel.

"It's a special city. It's a special fanbase. (The salute was) a thank you for the support all year," Bergeron said.

Bergeron re-upped with the Bruins last summer on a one-year deal featuring a $2.5-million cap hit.

He produced 58 points in 78 contests but wasn't available until Game 5 of Round 1 due to a herniated disc in his back, according to ESPN's Greg Wyshynski.

Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said he doesn't want this to be the end of the road for his captain.

"Learned a lot from him this year. Hope to learn more next year," he said.

The Bruins drafted Bergeron 45th overall in 2003. The future Hall of Famer has amassed 1,040 career points - and 128 more in the playoffs - and won an NHL-record five Selke Trophies as the league's top defensive forward.

Bergeron won the Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011 and captured gold medals with Canada at the Olympics in 2010 and 2014.

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Panthers stun Bruins in Game 7 OT, set up series with Maple Leafs

The Florida Panthers pulled off the upset.

Carter Verhaeghe was the hero for the Panthers in Game 7, as he bested Jeremy Swayman in overtime to eliminate the Presidents' Trophy-winning Boston Bruins.

Florida's Brandon Montour scored with one minute remaining in regulation to extend the contest.

Boston set numerous NHL records during the regular season, including new highs for wins and points. Sergei Bobrovsky started in net for the Panthers in Game 7 and, coincidentally, also defeated the last Presidents' Trophy winners to lose in the first round - the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2019.

"The words that come to mind right now are disappointment and confusion," Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said postgame, according to ESPN's Greg Wyshynski.

On the other side, Panthers bench boss Paul Maurice moved to 4-0 in his career in Game 7s. Maurice joins Scotty Bowman as the only coaches to have eliminated a Presidents' Trophy-winning team from both conferences. Maurice first did so in the West in 2018 when his Winnipeg Jets knocked out the Nashville Predators.

Florida's win sets up a clash against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the next round.

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Bruins’ Swayman gets Game 7 start over Vezina Trophy favorite Ullmark

The Boston Bruins are surprisingly turning to Jeremy Swayman instead of Linus Ullmark in goal for Game 7 of their first-round series against the Florida Panthers on Sunday night, the Bruins announced prior to puck drop.

Ullmark is the clear Vezina Trophy front-runner who's started all six of the Bruins' previous playoff games this spring. The Swede had played all but 191 seconds in the series before Sunday. However, he's struggled over his last two outings, allowing 10 goals on 57 shots for a .825 save percentage in a pair of losses.

The 29-year-old also gave up five goals in the Bruins' Game 2 defeat, but Boston head coach Jim Montgomery stuck with him for the next one, and he came through with a victory in which he allowed only two goals on 31 shots. Ullmark had an .896 save percentage in the series entering Sunday.

Swayman started five postseason games in 2021-22, going 3-2 with a .911 clip. The 24-year-old was solid during the 2022-23 regular season, authoring a .920 save percentage along with a 24-6-4 record in 37 games, 33 of which were starts.

Ullmark was brilliant this season. He went 40-6-1, tying for the league lead in wins and topping all NHL netminders with more than two games played in save percentage at .938. He made 49 appearances, starting all but one of them. He led the league in goals saved above average at five-on-five and ranked fourth in goals saved above expected in the same situations, according to Evolving-Hockey.

The Bruins won the Presidents' Trophy in 2022-23 and set numerous records amid their regular-season prowess.

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Bowness to return as Jets’ head coach next season

Rick Bowness will be back behind the Winnipeg Jets' bench in 2023-24, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff confirmed Sunday.

"The job that Rick did for us in coming in and taking on this task and giving him a shot at trying to win (the) Stanley Cup, I thought they did a great job," the GM said.

The Vegas Golden Knights eliminated the Jets in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series Thursday night. Bowness publicly tore into his team in the aftermath, saying he was "so disappointed and disgusted" with their efforts.

Jets forward Blake Wheeler criticized Bowness on Saturday, saying he didn't agree with how the bench boss handled himself after the defeat. Wheeler felt Bowness could've had those conversations with the team in private rather than airing them with the media, though Wheeler clarified Bowness did so with the team in the second intermission of Game 5.

Bowness then walked back his postgame comments. He said he regretted using the word "disgusted" and admitted he let his emotions get the better of him in the moment.

Wheeler was the Jets' captain for six seasons dating back to 2016-17. But Bowness stripped him of the "C" heading into this campaign, and Winnipeg subsequently played without a captain all season.

The Jets nabbed the second Western Conference wild-card spot with a 46-33-3 record.

Cheveldayoff said Bowness' contract is for two years plus an option. The Jets hired the veteran bench boss in July. The 68-year-old coach replaced Dave Lowry, who took over when Paul Maurice resigned in December 2021.

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Toronto rejoices over Maple Leafs’ 1st playoff series win in 19 years

One might think the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup, given the way the city of Toronto and its NHL club celebrated Saturday night.

Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas couldn't contain his excitement after his team defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in overtime of Game 6 at Amalie Arena to advance to the second round for the first time since 2004.

Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews' parents took in the game live. They went wild after John Tavares' overtime winner, and then the center and his father embraced once the dust settled.

Meanwhile, back in Toronto, crowds poured onto the streets to celebrate finally getting over the opening-round hump after nearly two decades of disappointment.

The celebration was particularly jubilant at Maple Leaf Square, just outside Scotiabank Arena.

It's safe to say those fans don't want the Boston Bruins to win Game 7 of their first-round series against the Florida Panthers on Sunday night.

Leafs fans from all walks of life reveled in the victory.

Based on how Leafs Nation reacted to winning one round, planning a parade might just be the tip of the iceberg if the team claims the Cup.

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Leafs’ Rielly wants more than long-awaited series win: ‘We’re not done’

The longest-tenured member of the Toronto Maple Leafs was elated to be part of the club's first playoff series victory in 19 years, but he wasn't completely satisfied.

Morgan Rielly described his dual mindset after Toronto eliminated the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 2-1 overtime win in Game 6 that gave the Maple Leafs their first postseason series victory since 2004.

"It's a mix of being relieved, being extremely happy, being grateful, and all that stuff, but also, you want more," Rielly said. "You want to keep going, you want to keep building, you want to keep pushing for more."

"That's the great thing about our group," the defenseman continued. "We're looking forward to the challenges that are ahead. We're proud of the effort, but, ultimately, we want to keep playing."

Rielly doesn't believe there's a major reason why the team finally broke through after nearly two decades, but the 29-year-old reiterated that he wants to keep it going.

"It's a hard question to answer because there's no one thing that's different, it's just a cumulative group that has really worked hard and learned a lot over the years and has grown together," he said. "We want to win, we're desperate to win, and again, we're not done."

Leafs superstar Auston Matthews also simultaneously expressed relief and a desire for the team to not rest on its laurels.

“I've been here seven years. Mitchy (Marner). Willy (Nylander). Mo (Rielly has) been here 10. Johnny (Tavares) five. Just to get over that hump, it's huge mentally for us," Matthews said. "Just to get that monkey off the back. We don't want to look back now. We just want to keep putting our foot on the gas and keep pressing forward."

Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe echoed those sentiments.

"From Day 1 of the season, we haven't talked about winning the first round," he said. "We're trying to win the Stanley Cup. ... So, we're not going to celebrate as though we've won anything beyond just the first round (Saturday night), but it is a significant step for our team. So, we'll enjoy it tonight."

Toronto will face either the Boston Bruins or Florida Panthers in the second round. Game 7 of that series is scheduled for Sunday night.

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Built to win Cup, Oilers take 1st step thanks to resilience and firepower

Way back in the third period of Game 1, Vladislav Gavrikov dropped to all fours to disrupt Connor McDavid's dish to Leon Draisaitl's wheelhouse. The pass breakup on an Edmonton Oilers odd-man rush changed the direction of the series. Shut out to that point, the Los Angeles Kings surged up ice and scored to spark a multi-goal comeback.

It was only one play, but the sequence threatened to haunt the Oilers. That the Kings took Game 1 meant Trevor Moore's overtime snapper in Game 3 restored their lead in the series. It meant the Oilers were careening toward premature elimination when they trailed with a few minutes left in Game 4. It showed that icing two all-world scorers doesn’t guarantee victory, and it affirmed Los Angeles wasn't a walkover.

The Kings leveled up over the past year, strengthening the lineup that pushed the Oilers to seven games in the prequel to this matchup. L.A. traded for difference-makers at every position: Kevin Fiala up front, Gavrikov on defense, and Joonas Korpisalo in net. Plus, Viktor Arvidsson and Drew Doughty weren't injured this time around.

Plenty of hockey was played after Gavrikov's deflection. Momentum kept shifting. Edmonton bewailed stick penalties that were called and high puck touches that weren't. The noise ebbed when Evander Kane and Zach Hyman buried goals that saved the season, setting up Kailer Yamamoto to flick the floater from above the faceoff circle that bumped the Kings from the Stanley Cup hunt Saturday night.

Fortitude fuels long playoff runs. Being resilient and adaptable helped the Oilers oust the Kings.

Discounting empty-netters, Kane and Hyman had yet to score in the series when they beat Korpisalo to steal Game 4. Promoted to center the second line, Nick Bjugstad caused havoc in the Kings' zone and struck twice in Game 5. Klim Kostin's two-goal eruption and Yamamoto's late winner made up for Edmonton squandering multiple Game 6 leads.

Brilliant all series, Draisaitl recorded 11 points in six games and was on the ice for 19 of Edmonton's 25 goals. Incandescent last postseason, McDavid was slowed by L.A.'s mobile defense corps at times yet put up 10 points himself, including a pair in Saturday's madcap 5-4 win. The supporting cast's timely emergence propelled the Oilers to the second round, where they'll face the Pacific Division champion Vegas Golden Knights.

Juan Ocampo / NHL / Getty Images

Before the playoffs started, theScore wondered if Mattias Ekholm, the defensive stalwart who debuted with Edmonton in March, would become this season's best trade addition. Korpisalo held the title for about a week. Unafraid to challenge McDavid when he slipped open into shooting range or drove headlong to the crease, the Kings netminder held him goalless at even strength until Saturday and boasted a .931 save percentage through Game 3.

Korpisalo's steadiness, combined with L.A.'s offensive punch, discombobulated Edmonton. Jack Campbell, the backup goalie whose save percentage cratered to .888 this season, relieved Stuart Skinner when desperation spiked in Game 4.

After Campbell shut the door, ensuring a three-goal deficit didn't snowball, Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft returned Skinner to the net for the commanding Game 5 win and narrow Game 6 closeout. Skinner made 40 saves Saturday, a new personal high in his sixth career playoff appearance.

The Oilers are deeper than they used to be. Skinner excelled as a rookie this season over 48 starts. Evan Bouchard, the NHL's top power-play producer in Round 1, is maturing into a force. Porous defensively in the 2020 postseason and unable to buy a goal in the '21 playoffs when McDavid rested, Edmonton added Kane, Hyman, Kostin, Bjugstad, and Ekholm over a two-year span to assist McDavid, Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and blue-line workhorse Darnell Nurse.

The defensive effort against L.A. was imperfect. Paced by Adrian Kempe's five tallies, 11 Kings scored in the series, depressing Skinner's save percentage to .890. The average shot that eluded Skinner at five-on-five was fired from 16.5 feet away, per Natural Stat Trick, signifying the Kings did damage in the low slot and by the blue paint. The Oilers blew three multi-goal leads and only killed 66.7% of their penalties.

Nicole Vasquez / NHL / Getty Images

Conversely and crucially, Edmonton's power play was dominant. Bouchard factored into eight of the Oilers' nine goals on 16 opportunities. Edmonton received 2.67 man advantages per game, the second-lowest average in the playoffs, meaning it could really light up a less disciplined foe.

Power-play goals from Alex Iafallo in Game 1 and Moore in Game 3 bruised the Oilers' record in playoff overtime. They're 3-10 in the situation in the McDavid and Draisaitl era.

Three teams - the 2017 Anaheim Ducks, the '21 Winnipeg Jets, and these Kings - inflicted multiple OT defeats versus the Oilers. Hyman's Game 4 snipe will be applauded in Edmonton for years to come if it reverses this trend.

Korpisalo and Gavrikov are free agents, but L.A.'s core will return intact for more kicks at the can. McDavid was minimally effective when he squared off against Phillip Danault's line and the Gavrikov-Matt Roy pair. The Kings attacked relentlessly and scored opportunistically, punishing miscues like Skinner's whiffed pass in Saturday's third period. They made the NHL's best offensive club and hottest team since March 1 look vulnerable, though Korpisalo's Round 1 save rate ultimately plunged to .892.

Scarred by past letdowns but bolstered by general manager Ken Holland's wheeling and dealing, the Oilers bounced the Kings without winning any blowouts. Last year, they spanked L.A. by six in back-to-back games. This round started uncomfortably, and that feeling rarely let up, but they finally finished the job, moving four wins closer to the ultimate goal. Vegas awaits.

Nick Faris is a features writer at theScore.

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