Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Rangers gain on Bruins in East

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Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2021 NHL postseason. There are 25 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 qualify for the playoffs.

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

About last night

There were five games Friday, each with playoff implications:

Buffalo Sabres 6, Boston Bruins 4: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 36 saves in his NHL debut and Sam Reinhart scored a hat trick for the Sabres, who ended the Bruins’ six-game winning streak. It was Buffalo’s first win in 11 games against Boston, having last defeated the Bruins on Dec. 16, 2018. Boston remained fourth in the East, three points behind the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins, who are tied for second, and six points ahead of the fifth-place New York Rangers.

New York Rangers 4, Philadelphia Flyers 1: Pavel Buchnevich and Alexis Lafreniere each had a goal and an assist and Alexandar Georgiev made 26 saves for the Rangers, who bounced back after losing 3-2 to the Flyers on Thursday. The Rangers are fifth in the East and moved within six points of the fourth-place Bruins, who have two games in hand. The Flyers are sixth in the division and trail the Rangers by five points.

Nashville Predators 3, Chicago Blackhawks 1: Juuse Saros made 29 saves for the Predators, who won seven of the eight games (7-0-1) against the Blackhawks this season. Nashville is fourth in the Central, 10 points behind the third-place Tampa Bay Lightning and four points ahead of the fifth-place Dallas Stars, who have three games in hand. Chicago is sixth in the division, one point behind Dallas and five behind Nashville.

Calgary Flames 4, Montreal Canadiens 2: Sean Monahan scored the go-ahead goal at 5:58 of the third period and had two assists to help the Flames to their fifth win in seven games (5-2-0) against the Canadiens this season. The Flames are fifth in the North and moved within six points of the fourth-place Canadiens. The teams play again Saturday and Monday in Calgary.

Minnesota Wild 4, Los Angeles 2: Kirill Kaprizov scored two goals, giving him 21 on the season to lead all rookies, and Cam Talbot made 40 saves for the Wild, who have won six in a row. Minnesota is third in the West and moved within three points of the second-place Colorado Avalanche, who have two games in hand. The Kings are seventh in the division and remained five points behind the fourth-place Arizona Coyotes. Los Angeles has three games in hand on Arizona.

If playoffs started Saturday

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

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. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 3. New York Islanders

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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