DENVER — This classifies as fun for Frederik Andersen: Protecting a late lead in the third period by leaping out of his net to stop a shot with the handle of his stick.
Sticky situation handled.
“Doing whatever it takes to save it,” the Toronto goaltender explained after the 3-2 win Monday over Boston. “Fun one.”
Going into the post-season, there were some reservations concerning such goaltenders as Andersen, Philipp Grubauer of Colorado and even Pekka Rinne of Nashville. They have each responded in a big way with Andersen, Grubauer, Rinne helping stake their teams to 2-1 leads in their first-round series.
All three look to come up clutch yet again in Game 4 on Wednesday night.
Like Andersen, Rinne turned in a huge save in a 3-2 win Monday over Dallas — sliding over from his knees to stop left winger Jamie Benn’s attempt with his left goalie pad.
“Every once in a while he makes one like that where you roll your eyes and say, ‘How did he do that?'” Nashville defenceman P.K. Subban said. “He’s been doing that for a long time, though.”
Rinne, the reigning Vezina winner, wasn’t exactly vintage Rinne a season ago in the post-season, allowing 21 goals in a second-round series loss to Winnipeg that was extended to seven games. So far this season, Rinne has a 1.98 goals-against average against Dallas and a .936 save percentage.
Now that’s more like Rinne, who led the Predators to the Stanley Cup Final in ’17.
“Peks made a couple unbelievable saves in the third there,” Filip Forsberg said. “It’s what the playoffs is all about.”
Andersen entered the post-season on the heels of a bad stretch to end the season, when he allowed 35 goals over his last 10 appearances.
Against Boston, he’s made 108 saves and none bigger than his stop of centre David Krejci on Monday. Andersen lunged out of his net as Krejci made a move to the backhand. He kept his goalie stick close to the ice and had the puck deflect off the end.
The chants of his name by the fans only intensified.
“Playoff time, this building comes alive. It’s a special place to play,” Andersen said. “It makes you want to play even harder.”
A year ago, Grubauer started the first two games of the Stanley Cup title run for the Washington Capitals before surrendering the net to Braden Holtby. Grubauer was dealt to Colorado in the off-season and he began as the backup to Semyon Varlamov. But Grubauer took over late and went 7-0-2 down the stretch help the Avalanche earn the No. 8 seed. He’s allowed seven goals and made 90 saves against the Flames, the top seed in the Western Conference.
“We have to be in the moment and I think we’re doing the right things right now,” Grubauer said after a 6-2 win, the second in a row for the Avs.
Holtby appreciates the grit of Grubauer.
“He’s too good of a goalie to not have success over time,” Holtby said. “It’s great for him. Obviously he’s had an adjustment to a different situation, adversity he’s grinded through. He’s a strong guy mentally, so it doesn’t come as a surprise to any of us.”
Bruins @ Maple Leafs
(7 p.m. EDT, NBCSN)
Boston forward Patrice Bergeron remains confident his line will crank up the production.
Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand have combined for three goals in three games against the Maple Leafs after a regular season in which they had 106. One of the reasons is the defensive work of Toronto’s offensive line of John Tavares, Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman.
“It’s tight right now. There’s not much space,” Bergeron said. “We believe in ourselves and know we’re playing a good team and a good line.”
Predators @ Stars
(8 p.m. EDT, USA)
At 5-foot-6, Predators centre Rocco Grimaldi is one of the shortest players in the NHL. He’s certainly coming up big in this series, scoring in consecutive games.
After going into the lineup for Game 2 — filling in when 6-6 centre Brian Boyle had an appendix issue following Game 1 — Grimaldi had his first career playoff goal Saturday with a stick coincidentally named “Frankie” — on the three-year anniversary of the death of his grandfather Frank. He added another goal, with a different stick, in Game 3.
Flames @ Avalanche
(10 p.m. EDT, NBCSN)
The Flames watched film as a group in lieu of practice Tuesday. Among the topics discussed was getting back to playing the way they played in amassing a Western Conference-best 107 points. Johnny Gaudreau has been held in check, with just one assist in the series. He had 99 points in the regular season.
“Everyone’s got to be better, not just one guy,” Gaudreau said. “All of us are going to be better next game.”
Calgary is searching for a way to slow down MacKinnon, who has three goals, including an OT winner in Game 2.
“We’re going to have to make sure we eliminate some of that ice he’s had available through three games,” Flames coach Bill Peters said.
AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno and AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Pat Graham, The Associated Press