Stanley Cup Playoff Buzz: Penguins close in on first place 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 28 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 eight games Tuesday, each with playoff implications:

Boston Bruins 2, Buffalo Sabres 0: Tuukka Rask made 32 saves and the Bruins won their fifth straight game to increase their lead for fourth place in the East to six points over the New York Rangers. They also stayed three points behind the third-place Pittsburgh Penguins.

Pittsburgh Penguins 7, New Jersey Devils 6: The Penguins led 6-0 in the second period before giving up six goals in the third. Sidney Crosby‘s goal at 11:15 of the third was the difference for Pittsburgh, which is one point behind the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders for first in the East. The Devils were eliminated from playoff contention.

New York Islanders 6, New York Rangers 1: Forward Anthony Beauvillier scored four points (one goal, three assists) and the Islanders moved into a tie with the Capitals for first place in the East. The Rangers had their four-game winning streak end and fell six points behind the fourth-place Bruins. 

Carolina Hurricanes 4, Tampa Bay Lightning 1: Alex Nedeljkovic made 26 saves and the Hurricanes stayed in a tie for first in the Central with the Florida Panthers. The third-place Lightning fell three points behind the Hurricanes and Panthers.

Florida Panthers 5, Columbus Blue Jackets 1: Spencer Knight made 33 saves in his NHL debut and the Panthers kept pace with the Hurricanes for first in the Central.

Dallas Stars 5, Detroit Red Wings 2: The Stars are 6-0-2 in their past eight games and one point of the fourth-place Nashville Predators in the Central. The Red Wings are 12 points behind the Predators. 

Vancouver Canucks 6, Toronto Maple Leafs 3: The Canucks won their second straight against the Maple Leafs and are two points behind the fifth-place Calgary Flames and eight behind the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens in the North. Vancouver has six games in hand on Calgary and four on Montreal. The Maple Leafs are in first place, four points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets. 

Los Angeles Kings 4, Anaheim Ducks 1: Calvin Petersen made 24 saves for the seventh-place Kings, who moved within five points of the fourth-place Arizona Coyotes with three games in hand. The victory by the Kings prevented the Vegas Golden Knights, who were off, from clinching a playoff berth. The Ducks are in last place, 10 points behind the Coyotes. 

If playoffs started Wednesday 

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

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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