Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Maple Leafs can win first series since 2004

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Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily in-depth look at the 2021 NHL postseason. There are two playoff games scheduled for Thursday and there were three Wednesday.

 

On Tap

There are two games on the Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule Thursday:

Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS): The Maple Leafs can win their first playoff series since 2004 and advance to the Stanley Cup Second Round to play the Winnipeg Jets with a win against the Canadiens in Game 5. They lead the best-of-7 series 3-1 after a 4-0 victory Tuesday. William Nylander scored for a fourth straight game and Jack Campbell made 32 saves for his first NHL postseason shutout. Nylander is the third player in Maple Leafs history to score in each of their first four playoff games and the first since Wendel Clark in 1986. Gordie Drillon scored in Toronto’s first five playoff games in 1939.

Carolina Hurricanes at Nashville Predators (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVAS, BSSO): The Hurricanes look to reach the second round with a win in Game 6. Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal scored a 4-on-4 goal at 2:03 of overtime in a 3-2 win in Game 5 on Tuesday. It was Staal’s second playoff overtime goal of his NHL career; he scored in a 1-0 win against the New York Islanders in Game 1 of the 2019 Eastern Conference Second Round. The Predators had won the previous two games, each in double overtime. The home team has won each game in the series. Nashville forward Viktor Arvidsson has missed the past three games with an upper-body injury.

 

What we learned

Here are some takeaways from Day 11 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

Resiliency has Islanders in second round

The New York Islanders gave up the first goal in the first 3:02 or less three times during their Stanley Cup First Round series win against the Pittsburgh Penguins but won two of those games, including the clinching 5-3 victory in Game 6 at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday. Not only did they allow another early goal when Penguins forward Jeff Carter scored at 1:27 of the first period, they rallied three times to tie the game before finally pulling ahead in the second. New York’s ability to roll four lines, combined with the efforts of top defense pair of Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock and goaltending from rookie Ilya Sorokin, the Islanders find themselves in the second round for the third consecutive season under coach Barry Trotz. “Especially at home, we drew a lot of energy from our fans,” forward Kyle Palmieri said. ” … We just had to stay the course and find a way to get ourselves back into the game. We found a way to get the result and close out the series.” — Brian Compton, deputy managing editor

The champs are here

The Tampa Bay Lightning put their Stanley Cup championship experience on display and played the type of game they needed to play to advance to the second round after a 4-0 win against the Florida Panthers in Game 6 of the first round at Amalie Arena on Wednesday. It could go down as an early defining moment of a repeat run. The defending champions were opportunistic early with Pat Maroon scoring on their first shot of the game at 6:16 of the first period. They protected goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy by keeping the net front area clean so he could see most of the 29 shots he faced. They took advantage of an unnecessary roughing penalty on Panthers forward Sam Bennett by scoring 34 seconds into the power play at 13:27 of the second period to go up 2-0. They protected the two-goal lead in the third period by staying disciplined and giving the Panthers nothing off the rush. When opportunity knocked again, Brayden Point scored to make it 3-0 at 14:36. It was a near perfect game at the perfect time following a 4-1 loss in Game 5 that gave Florida hope. The Lightning showed their championship mettle by taking the Panthers’ hope away early and never allowing them to get it back. To the second round they go. — Dan Rosen, senior writer

Golden Knights face goalie decision

Coach Peter DeBoer was not asked about the goalie situation after the Vegas Golden Knights’ 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild in Game 6 of the first round at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday. The loss was not Marc-Andre Fleury‘s fault. Vegas did not score a goal. Still, after allowing four goals in his first four games, Fleury has given up six in his past two. And his backup isn’t just another backup. It’s Robin Lehner, who took the No. 1 job from him in the playoffs last season. DeBoer has always said that he will play the goalie who gives Vegas the best chance to win and that the Golden Knights will need both. Will DeBoer stick with Fleury in Game 7 at T-Mobile Arena on Friday, as he has throughout the best-of-7 series, or will he make a change, if only to have a fresh goalie or give the Golden Knights a spark? — Nicholas J. Cotsonika, columnist

 

About last night

There were three games on the schedule Wednesday:

New York Islanders 5, Pittsburgh Penguins 3: The Islanders advanced to the Stanley Cup Second Round and will play the Boston Bruins after defeating the Penguins in Game 6. The first series-clinching game at Nassau Coliseum since 1993 for the Islanders sets up their third playoff series against the Bruins. New York won each of the previous two on the way to winning the Stanley Cup (1980 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Round, 1983 Eastern Conference Final). The Bruins were 3-3-2 against the Islanders in the regular season. The Islanders scored three goals in 2:59 of the second period, including goals by Pulock and Brock Nelson in 13 seconds to make it 5-3. Sorokin made 34 saves to become the first goalie in Islanders history to win his first four NHL playoff games. He has a 1.95 goals-against average and .943 save percentage in the postseason.

Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Florida Panthers 0: The defending Stanley Cup champions reached the second round with a win in Game 6 and will play either the Hurricanes or Predators in the playoffs for the first time. Vasilevskiy made 29 saves for his second NHL playoff shutout and became the seventh active goalie with multiple shutouts in series-clinching games. He won 2-0 against the Dallas Stars in Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. Steven Stamkos had a goal and an assist, and Nikita Kucherov and Erik Cernak each had two assists for the Lightning. The Panthers have not won a playoff series since 1996, when they advanced to the Stanley Cup Final before being swept by the Colorado Avalanche. Rookie goalie Spencer Knight, who made 36 saves in a 4-1 win in Game 5, made 20 saves Wednesday.

Minnesota Wild 3, Vegas Golden Knights 0: Cam Talbot made 23 saves for his second shutout of the series and the Wild won Game 6 to avoid elimination for a second straight game. Kevin Fiala had a goal and an assist for the Wild, who won their first home game of the series. Wild forward Zach Parise had an assist and has two points (one goal, one assist) in his past two games after being a healthy scratch the first three games of the series. Fleury made 21 saves in his sixth straight start for the Golden Knights, who have been outscored 7-2 in two straight losses. The series will be decided in Game 7 at Vegas on Friday and the winner will play the Colorado Avalanche. The Wild are 3-0 on the road in Game 7s, and the Golden Knights are 1-1 at home. Vegas played without defenseman Brayden McNabb (NHL COVID-19 protocol) and forward Ryan Reaves, who was a late scratch. Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said he hoped to have an update on Reaves on Thursday. DeBoer is 5-0 in Game 7s.

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