The official NHL Playoffs got started yesterday afternoon, and apparently won’t ever stop. For the first time in history, one NHL Playoff game had to be bumped to the next day because another NHL Playoff game squatted on the ice for just over six hours, the kind of thing you do before David Blaine thinks of it. Perhaps it was Tantric hockey, including the hours of everyone looking exhausted, uncomfortable, and sweaty and just wanting things to be over while pretending this was some spiritual experience.
Brayden ended it in the 5th overtime, after the Lightning had fired 88 shots at Joonas Korpisalo and could only solve him three times. That’s three games-worth of saves crunched into one night.
This being hockey, there couldn’t be a game this length without some controversy. Earlier in the 5th OT, Cam Atkinson — one of the faster players in the league — nabbed a turnover just inside his own zone with nothing between him and the Lightning goal. Victor Hedman, by that point having skated over 55 minutes, is probably the only man on Earth now who can truly empathize with Sisyphus after being the only one who could chase down the fleet-footed Atkinson, did so and prevented a breakaway. The play he made was similar to one Seth Jones made in regulation that resulted in Jones getting the gate for holding, but Hedman was not saddled with any such call.
Hedman’s play was legal, as was Jones’, and a second bad call wouldn’t have solved anything. NHL officials’ habit of trying to pass their whistles through their lower intestines during playoff overtimes is annoying as shit, but this wasn’t a case of that.
Because the game ended after 9 p.m. EST, and it would have taken over an hour to prep the arena and ice for another game, the Bruins and Hurricanes won’t actually start their series until 11 a.m. today. This deprived us of some truly weird, late-night sport, which fans of tennis will tell you is when the best stuff happens. You can only get to the heart of the sport in the hours when the demons come, and the Lightning, Jackets, and NHL robbed us of that. Don’t ever forget it. Having a crowdless marathon game also didn’t quite give this one the atmosphere of three-quarters of the building sliding more and more into a hangover as beer sales were cut in regulation, but the constant, confused, and wayward ramblings of Mike Milbury came pretty close.
Over in the NBA bubble, Damian Lillard continues to be an unidentified element on the periodic table. After going for 45 and 51 in previous games in the Blazers’ chase for the last playoff spot, Dame-time found the straight flush to top those hands with 61 against the Mavericks. For reference: The only player other than Dame to go for 60+ points three times in a season? Wilt Chamberlain. The win for Portland was their fifth in seven in the bubble, and moved them into the 8th spot in the West, with the Suns, Grizzlies and Spurs now all in a bar brawl to get into the play-in series. All four have one game left on Thursday.
Lillard may be pulling this Atlas act only to watch the Lakers go upside the Blazers’ head in Round 1, but somewhere within Lillard is an enemies list that Paul George and Lou Williams added themselves to by getting on Lillard earlier, and Lillard seems intent on making that justice swift and thorough, even if everyone is going to pay.
And they’d better put some respect on his fucking name.
The MLS Is Back tournament ended as well, with Portland claiming the trophy with a 2-1 win over Nani and 10 other buffoons who make up Orlando City SC. While the league will claim it was a wild success after it had to boot two teams out of the damn thing before it even started, going through this it’s pretty obvious this tournament was something the MLS simply got away with more than succeeded at.
Doesn’t mean they can’t provide us with some moments of hilarity, though! Late in the game, Portland’s Jorge Villafaña attempted to headbutt Nani and then dove to the ground like Ophelia into the pool in Hamlet. Generally, one pretends to be headbutted before acting like one’s skull has been caved in, but the wonderful thing about art is that it evolves and changes with society’s tastes, so kudos to Villafaña on taking the form forward. And it worked, because Nani was yellow carded for...having a cranium?
In the 85th minute, Orlando’s Ruan figured if Villanfaña wanted to act like he got kicked in the head, he might as well actually kick him in the head, which he promptly did while using the ball being in the area code as an excuse. Because this is MLS refereeing, Ruan only received a yellow card even though they might pick a cleat or two out of Villafana’s molars. But hey, if you’ve been stuck at Disney World for six weeks, you’d probably kick some face too.
Speaking of headbutts, did you happen to see this one last night by Giannis Antetokounmpo on the Wizards’ Mo Wagner? The headbutt came moments after the Bucks star was called for a charge on Wagner, and the two having a little chat over it. Giannis was issued a Flagrant 2 and ejected.
“Terrible action,” said Giannis after the game. “If I could go back, turn back time and go back to that play, I wouldn’t do it. But at the end of the day, we’re all human. We all make mistakes.”
That AEW-worthy “mistake” didn’t keep the Bucks from winning the game, however, and they are already the top seed in the East, but we’ll have to wait and see if the NBA hits Giannis with a suspension. Any more than one game and that ban would leak into the playoffs.
Don’t count on it being more than a game.