Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Avalanche gain in race for first place in West

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Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2021 NHL postseason. There are 18 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 four games Friday, each with playoff implications:

Montreal Canadiens 5, Winnipeg Jets 3: Nick Suzuki had two goals and an assist and the Canadiens scored the final four goals of the game to extend the Jets’ losing streak to six (0-6-0). Montreal, fourth in the North, moved to within four points of third-place Winnipeg and is now six points ahead of the fifth-place Calgary Flames. 

Colorado Avalanche 3, San Jose Sharks 0: Mikko Rantanen had a goal and two assists and Philipp Grubauer made 21 saves for his sixth shutout of the season and third against the Sharks. Colorado moved into sole possession of second place in the West, four points behind the first-place Vegas Golden Knights and two points ahead of the third-place Minnesota Wild. San Jose remained sixth in the division, seven points back of the fourth-place St. Louis Blues.

Arizona Coyotes 3, Vegas Golden Knights 0: Adin Hill made 25 saves for his second shutout of the season, helping the Coyotes end the Golden Knights’ winning streak at 10 games. Arizona, fifth in the West, is three points back of fourth-place St. Louis. Vegas is first in the division, four points ahead of second-place Colorado.

Los Angeles Kings 2, Anaheim Ducks 1: Lias Andersson and Anze Kopitar scored in the final 5:04 of the third period and Jonathan Quick made 33 saves to help the Kings rally past the Ducks. The Kings are seventh in the West, eight points behind the fourth-place Blues. The Ducks have been eliminated from playoff contention.

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. Edmonton Oilers vs. 3. Winnipeg Jets

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. St. Louis Blues 
2. Colorado Avalanche vs. 3. Minnesota Wild 

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