Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily in-depth look at the 2021 NHL postseason. There were two playoff games on the schedule Wednesday and there are two Thursday.
There are two games on the Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Thursday:
Boston Bruins at New York Islanders (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS): The Stanley Cup Second Round shifts to Nassau Coliseum for Game 3 after the Bruins and Islanders split the first two games in Boston. New York hopes to build off a 4-3 overtime win in Game 2 on Monday. The top line of Brad Marchand (one goal), Patrice Bergeron (one goal) and David Pastrnak (three goals) have scored five of the Bruins’ eight goals in the first two games. With the last change at home, the Islanders will have an easier time getting the defense pair of Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock on the ice against that line. Boston forward Craig Smith is expected to return after missing Game 2 with a lower-body injury.
Carolina Hurricanes at Tampa Bay Lightning (8 p.m. ET; USA, SN, TVAS): Tampa Bay will host Game 3 at Amalie Arena with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series after consecutive 2-1 wins at Carolina. The Hurricanes were limited to two goals despite outshooting the Lightning 70-45, including 32-15 in Game 2, and have yet to score at 5-on-5. Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy has made 68 saves for a 1.00 goals-against average and a .971 save percentage. Carolina likely will be without center Vincent Trocheck, who was unable to put weight on his right leg leaving the ice after a collision with teammate Warren Foegele in the second period of Game 2.
What we learned
Here are some takeaways from Day 18 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:
Canadiens have found their formula
The debate between rest and fatigue was overrated for Game 1 of the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Second Round between the Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets. The Canadiens stayed in their rhythm of playing every second day and won their fourth straight playoff game, 5-3 victory at Winnipeg. Montreal was the sharper team from the opening face-off with better anticipation and better puck and defensive support all over the ice. The Canadiens also got busy with a productive forecheck and pressured the Jets into mistakes that led to a 3-1 first-period lead. From there, the game had its back-and-forth moments and Montreal bent but didn’t break against Winnipeg’s response. It’s going to take discipline to crack the momentum the Canadiens have going. — Tim Campbell, staff writer
Jets’ challenge is clear
It’s likely the Jets already knew they were going to have to be patient, smart and opportunistic to get the better of the Canadiens, but it appears they needed the lesson of a live experience to clarify what will be needed in the series. Winnipeg looked out of sync and unsure of too many plays in the first period of Game 1, falling behind 3-1 en route to a 5-3 loss. Some of those areas became more sound as the game moved along and the Jets closed to within 3-2 and 4-3 in the third. But there were too many odd-man rushes against and breakaways for Canadiens forward Joel Armia and defenseman Shea Weber, things that rarely were seen against the Jets during their first-round sweep of the Edmonton Oilers. So it’s easy to predict those will be a focus for Winnipeg’s improvement in Game 2 on Friday. — Campbell
Avalanche show they’re also resilient
The Colorado Avalanche won their first five games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs by at least three goals, including 7-1 in Game 1 of the second round against the Vegas Golden Knights. They didn’t need to worry about resiliency because they dominated every game, outscoring their opponents 27-8. But the Avalanche had to show their resolve after the first period Wednesday to win Game 2 at Ball Arena. They did, winning 3-2 in overtime to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series despite playing their worst game of the playoffs so far. Colorado led 2-1 at the first intermission, but Vegas started to tilt the ice in the second and tied the game on forward Reilly Smith‘s goal at 10:28. The Avalanche couldn’t get their game back on track for the rest of regulation, but goalie Philipp Grubauer kept them in it with 15 saves in the second period and 15 more in the third. It was the first time in the playoffs that the Avalanche needed Grubauer to bail them out. That’s part of being resilient, the goalie making the biggest difference. When the Avalanche got their opportunity on the power play in overtime, they took advantage. Mikko Rantanen scored at 2:07. — Dan Rosen, senior writer
Golden Knights prove Game 1 was a fluke
Don’t let the 3-2 overtime loss and that the Golden Knights are down 2-0 to the Avalanche fool you. What the hockey world saw in Game 2 was the Golden Knights in their most dominant fashion. They proved, as coach Peter DeBoer said, that their 7-1 loss in Game 1 on Monday was an aberration, and even though they have lost the first two games of the series, they’re not out of it because of how they’re capable of playing, and shutting down, the Avalanche. Vegas controlled the neutral zone from the second period on by limiting Colorado’s rush chances and forced dump-ins. The Golden Knights controlled the puck in the offensive zone, generated good looks, Grade A scoring chances and 41 shots on goal. The problem is they gave the Avalanche six power-play opportunities. Colorado scored two power-play goals, including Rantanen’s winner in overtime. The Golden Knights have a reason to believe they can come back in this series if they limit the penalties. They proved it by how they played in Game 2. — Rosen
About last night
There were two playoff games Wednesday:
Montreal Canadiens 5, Winnipeg Jets 3: Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Eric Staal scored in the opening 5:10 to give Montreal a 2-0 lead and it never trailed on its way to winning Game 1 of the second round. Carey Price made 27 saves for the Canadiens, who have won four in a row since falling behind 3-1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round. Winnipeg, which lost for the first time in the playoffs after sweeping the Oilers in the first round, closed within one goal three times before Jake Evans‘ empty-net goal at 19:03 of the third. Evans was stabilized and taken off the ice on a stretcher following a hit from Jets forward Mark Scheifele, who was assessed a charging major and game misconduct and will have a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety on Thursday. Game 2 is in Winnipeg on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; USA, CBC, SN, TVAS).
Colorado Avalanche 3, Vegas Golden Knights 2 (OT): Mikko Rantanen scored a power-play goal 2:07 into overtime to give the Avalanche a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. Rantanen beat Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (22 saves) over the left shoulder from the right circle for his third goal of the playoffs. Brandon Saad and Tyson Jost scored to give Colorado a 2-1 lead after one period, but Reilly Smith’s goal 10:28 into the second pulled Vegas even. The Golden Knights outshot the Avalanche 31-12 during the second and third periods but couldn’t score a third goal on goalie Philipp Grubauer (39 saves). Colorado is 6-0 in the playoffs and has won 11 consecutive games dating to the regular season. Game 3 is at Vegas on Friday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).