Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Avalanche can take 3-0 series lead vs. Blues

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There are four games on the Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule Friday:

Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins (6:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVAS, NESN, NBCSWA): The Capitals and Bruins have gone into overtime in each of the first three games of their best-of-7 series; Boston leads 2-1 after winning Game 3 in double overtime on a goal by Craig Smith. The past 12 playoff games between these teams, including the three this season, have been decided by one goal. The Capitals could get center Lars Eller (lower body) back for Game 4 after goalie Ilya Samsonov and forward Evgeny Kuznetsov (COVID-19 protocol) returned in Game 3. 

Carolina Hurricanes at Nashville Predators (7 p.m. ET; USA, FXX-CA, TVAS2, BSSO): The Hurricanes lead the best-of-7 series 2-0 against the Predators after a 3-0 win in Game 2. Rookie goalie Alex Nedeljkovic made 32 saves in the shutout and has stopped 54 of 56 shots in the series. The Predators went 0-for-7 on the power play in Game 2 and are 0-for-10 in the series. Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin is day to day with a lower-body injury. He played in the series opener but missed Game 2.

Winnipeg Jets at Edmonton Oilers (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS): Oilers center Connor McDavid was held without a point in Game 1 after scoring 105 points (33 goals, 72 assists) this season to lead the NHL, including 22 points (seven goals 15 assists) in nine games against the Jets. He had two shots on goal in 23:14 of ice-time in Game 1. The Jets took a 1-0 series lead with a 4-1 road win, getting 32 saves from goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who won the Vezina Trophy, voted as best goalie in the NHL, last season.

Colorado Avalanche at St. Louis Blues (9:30 p.m. ET; USA, SN360, TVAS2, BSMW, ALT): It has been 15 years since the Avalanche took a 3-0 series lead in the playoffs (2006 Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Dallas Stars), but that’s what they’re looking to do against the Blues after winning the first two games of this best-of-7 series at home. Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon leads the NHL with seven points (five goals, two assists) in the playoffs, and forward Gabriel Landeskog is tied for fourth with five points (one goal, four assists). The Blues have scored four goals on 58 shots against Avalanche goalie Philipp Grubauer in the two games. 

What We Learned

Here are some takeaways from Day 5 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

Balance giving Penguins big boost

It’s hard to fathom the Pittsburgh Penguins scoring five goals in a Stanley Cup Playoff game without a single point scored by center Sidney Crosby, but the two centers playing behind him in the lineup, Evgeni Malkin and Jeff Carter, picked up the slack in a 5-4 win against the New York Islanders in Game 3. Malkin, who made his series debut after missing Games 1 and 2 with an undisclosed injury, had two assists, and Carter continued his torrid pace with two more goals. He has scored 12 goals in 17 combined regular-season and playoff games for Pittsburgh since being acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings on April 12. “To have the depth that we have at this point with ‘Carts’ in the middle now, we think we have a pretty balanced attack,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “On any given night, any line can score. Any line can help us offensively. We have lines that we can utilize in different situations depending on what’s called upon during the course of a game. So, I think Carts’ addition has been huge to our team. It just gives us that much more depth down the middle, but I think ‘Geno’ had a great game tonight.” — Brian Compton, deputy managing editor

Unusual power-play setup pays off for Panthers

Forward Patric Hornqvist‘s power-play goal at 1:45 of the third period got the Florida Panthers started in their comeback that led to a potential season-saving 6-5 overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 on Thursday. The Panthers used a five-forward alignment on the power play to get it done, with Hornqvist joined by Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Sam Bennett and Carter Verhaeghe. Normally defenseman Keith Yandle would be on the Panthers’ top power-play unit, but he was a healthy scratch for Game 3, the first game he’s missed since March 22, 2009. Huberdeau got the puck to Hornqvist in front and he redirected it into the net off his left skate. Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said he liked the setup because it gave the Lightning a different look that they were not familiar with. The Panthers top unit hadn’t scored since the first period of Game 1. Quenneville said he wasn’t sure if the Panthers would go back to using a defenseman up top in Game 4 on Saturday, but having options is good because it could keep the Lightning’s penalty killers guessing. — Dan Rosen, senior writer

Misfiring Maple Leafs power play

One of the biggest concerns for the Toronto Maple Leafs entering the postseason was if their power play finally could catch fire. Through one game in their best-of-7 series against the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup First Round, the answer remains no. The Maple Leafs entered Game 1 having converted six of their previous 75 opportunities in the final 30 games of the regular season, and the sputtering continued Thursday. Not only did Toronto’s power play go 0-for-4, it gave up the game-winning shorthanded goal to Montreal forward Paul Byron in the Canadiens’ 2-1 win. The Maple Leafs spent too much time on the periphery instead of simply putting pucks to the net and looking for rebounds. Toronto forwards Zach Hyman and Wayne Simmonds each has a good net front presence and will be the beneficiaries when rebounds come out. With Canadiens goalie Carey Price in top form in the opener, taking advantage on the power play becomes even more valuable in what looks to be a low-scoring series. — Mike Zeisberger, staff writer

Depth pays off for Golden Knights

Forward Patrick Brown and defenseman Nick Holden were two of the heroes of the Vegas Golden Knights’ 5-2 win against the Minnesota Wild in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup First Round. Brown had played four games for Vegas this season, none since sustaining a torn hamstring April 3, and he scored to tie the game 2-2 in the second period. The primary assist went to Holden, who had played 17 games for Vegas this season, none since April 9. Holden also had the primary assist when forward Reilly Smith scored to make it 3-2 later in the second. Those plays came after he broke up a breakaway by Wild forward Kevin Fiala with the score 2-0 early in the second. “We don’t win without both those guys in the lineup,” coach Peter DeBoer said. — Nicholas J. Cotsonika, columnist

About Last Night

There were four playoff games Thursday:

Florida Panthers 6, Tampa Bay Lightning 5 (OT): The Panthers cut the Lightning’s lead to 2-1 in the best-of-7 series with a goal by Ryan Lomberg at 5:56 of overtime, after Gustav Forsling scored the game-tying goal with 3:07 remaining in the third period. The Lightning scored five times in the second period on goals by Anthony Cirelli, Ross Colton, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Alex Killorn, before the Panthers came back. It was the 10th playoff game in NHL history in which each team overcame a multigoal deficit, and it marked the Panthers’ first playoff overtime win in 25 years (Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal in 1996) after losing eight straight. 

Pittsburgh Penguins 5, New York Islanders 4: The Penguins got the tie-breaking goal from Brandon Tanev with 3:36 remaining in the third period to give them a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. Jeff Carter scored two goals for the Penguins and goalie Tristan Jarry made 26 saves. After the Penguins went up 3-1 at 18:03 of the second period on a Jason Zucker goal, the Islanders came back to tie the game twice in the third period, including two goals by Cal Clutterbuck. Kris Letang scored three points (one goal, two assists), including an assist on Tanev’s game-winner. 

Montreal Canadiens 2, Toronto Maple Leafs 1: Carey Price made 35 saves in his first NHL start since April 19 and Paul Byron scored a shorthanded game-winning goal at 12:44 of the third period to give the Canadiens the win in Game 1 of the best-of-7 series. Price had missed the final 13 games of the regular season with a concussion. Maple Leafs captain John Tavares left the ice on a stretcher with 9:31 remaining in the first period after being hit in the face by the knee of Canadiens forward Corey Perry. Tavares was released from a Toronto hospital Friday and is out indefinitely.

Vegas Golden Knights 5, Minnesota Wild 2: The Golden Knights came back from a two-goal deficit to score five unanswered goals and go up 2-1 in the best-of-7 series. Mark Stone scored two goals for Vegas, which got the eventual game-winning goal from Reilly Smith at 17:33 of the second period. The Wild, who won the first game of the series before dropping the next two, had 16 shots on goal, with Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury saving 14 of them. Wild goalie Cam Talbot allowed four goals on 39 shots. 

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