Stanley Cup Playoff Buzz: Wild stay hot, gain in West

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Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2021 NHL postseason. There are 27 days left in the regular season and the races in each of the four divisions — the seven-team Scotia North and eight-team MassMutual East, Discover Central and Honda West — are tight. The top four teams in each of the four divisions reach the playoffs. 

Here is a look at the NHL standings and everything else that could impact the playoff picture.

About last night

There were four games Wednesday, each with playoff implications:

Chicago Blackhawks 5, Nashville Predators 4 (OT): Rookie left wing Brandon Hagel scored at 3:00 of overtime after the Blackhawks scored three goals in a span of 2:51 in the third period to tie the game. The Predators are fourth in the Central, two points ahead of the fifth-place Dallas Stars, who have three games in hand. Chicago is sixth, three points behind Nashville. The Blackhawks and Predators play the last of the three-game set on Friday. 

Minnesota Wild 4, Arizona Coyotes 1: Cam Talbot, 5-0-1 in his past six starts, made 39 saves and the Wild won their fifth straight game. Minnesota is third in the West, 16 points ahead of the fourth-place Coyotes and three points behind the second-place Colorado Avalanche. Arizona has lost seven of eight games (1-7-0) and is one point ahead of the fifth-place St. Louis Blues, who have four games in hand.

Vegas Golden Knights 5, San Jose Sharks 2: The Golden Knights became the fourth franchise in NHL history to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of their first four seasons. Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves to win his 487th NHL game, two behind Roberto Luongo for third all-time. Vegas won its eighth straight game and leads the second-place Avalanche by four points in the West, having played three more games. The Sharks are in sixth place in the division, four points behind the fourth-place Coyotes.

Montreal Canadiens 4, Edmonton Oilers 3: Josh Anderson scored two goals for the Canadiens, who are fourth in the North, eight points ahead of the fifth-place Calgary Flames. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in his return from an upper-body injury for the Oilers, who are third in the North, one point behind the second-place Winnipeg Jets. Edmonton lost at home for the first time in nine games.

If playoffs started Thursday 

Here is a look at the matchups for the first round as they stand entering games Thursday:

North Division 

1. Toronto Maple Leafs vs. 4. Montreal Canadiens

2. Winnipeg Jets vs. 3. Edmonton Oilers 

East Division 

1. Washington Capitals vs. 4. Boston Bruins 

2. New York Islanders vs. 3. Pittsburgh Penguins 

Central Division  

1. Carolina Hurricanes vs. 4. Nashville Predators  

2. Florida Panthers vs. 3. Tampa Bay Lightning

West Division  

1. Vegas Golden Knights vs. 4. Arizona Coyotes 

2. Colorado Avalanche vs. 3. Minnesota Wild 

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