Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Golden Knights can even series vs. Avalanche


Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily in-depth look at the 2021 NHL postseason. There were two games on the schedule Saturday and there are two Sunday.

On Tap

There are two games on the Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Sunday:

Winnipeg Jets at Montreal Canadiens, 6 p.m. ET (NBCSN, SN, TVAS): The Canadiens return home for Game 3 with a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Second Round after a 1-0 win on Friday, when goalie Carey Price made 30 saves for his first shutout of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Tyler Toffoli scored a shorthanded goal at 1:41 of the second period for Montreal, which has won five consecutive games since facing elimination by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the best-of-7 first round. The Canadiens have scored first in five straight playoff games for the first time since 1993, when they scored first in six in a row and won the Stanley Cup. This is the seventh time Montreal has taken a 2-0 series lead on the road, and it’s returned home to win Game 3 twice in the previous six series. Price, who has a 1.71 GAA and .947 save percentage over his past five games, will look to become the first Canadiens goalie since Patrick Roy (11-0 in 1993) to win six straight in a playoff year. The Jets will be without center Mark Scheifele, who will serve the second of a four-game suspension he received for charging Canadiens forward Jake Evans in Game 1. 

Colorado Avalanche at Vegas Golden Knights, 8:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN, SN, TVAS): The Golden Knights look to become the ninth team to even a best-of-7 series with the Presidents’ Trophy winner at 2-2 after losing the first two games (since 1985-86) and the Avalanche want to rebound after their first loss of the playoffs (6-1). Jonathan Marchessault and Max Pacioretty scored in a span of 45 seconds late in the third period to give Vegas a 3-2 win Friday in Game 3. Marc-Andre Fleury made 18 saves; Colorado became the 18th team he has defeated in the playoffs, passing Dominik Hasek for second most in NHL history behind Roy (20). Avalanche goalie Philipp Grubauer made 40 saves in the loss, ending his personal 10-game winning streak in the playoffs dating to last season. Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves is eligible to return to the lineup after serving the second of a two-game suspension from the NHL Department of Player Safety for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct against Avalanche defenseman Ryan Graves in Game 1. Colorado forward Mikko Rantanen has scored a goal in four straight games and at least one point in all seven playoff games (four goals, seven assists).

What we learned

Here are some takeaways from Day 21 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

Lightning’s patience fuels power play

The Tampa Bay Lightning are lethal on the power play. That much is known throughout the NHL. But they weren’t lethal on their first three power plays in Game 4 against the Carolina Hurricanes, generating four shots on goal, none on the third man-advantage. “It wasn’t good enough,” forward Nikita Kucherov said. They didn’t make any major adjustments, Kucherov added. They stayed the course and banked on executing when they got another one. They got three more and they scored on all three, with forward Steven Stamkos scoring two and Kucherov the other, each in the second period. Kucherov’s goal cut Carolina’s lead to 4-3 and Stamkos’ second gave Tampa Bay a 5-4 lead in its 6-4 win. The Lightning’s belief in their power play is strong for obvious reasons: it’s good. They are 6-for-14 (42.9 percent) against the Hurricanes after going 8-for-20 (40.0 percent) against the Florida Panthers in the first round. Their patience on it paid off in Game 4. — Dan Rosen, senior writer

Mrazek struggles in Game 4

Petr Mrazek had a strong outing in Game 3, when the Hurricanes goalie made 35 saves in his 2021 postseason debut, a 3-2 overtime win against the Lightning. Outside of the first period, however, he struggled in Game 4, allowing six goals on 26 shots in a 6-4 loss. Before these past two starts, Mrazek last played May 10 and Alex Nedeljkovic started the first eight playoff games. It didn’t help that the Hurricanes had penalty trouble and the Lightning went on the power play six times, scoring on three of them. But the even-strength goal Mrazek allowed Kucherov to score 6:01 into the third period stuck out as a bad one. Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said he’ll decide Monday who starts Game 5 on Tuesday. With the Hurricanes down 3-1 in the best-of-7 series, it may be Nedeljkovic’s net again. — Tracey Myers, staff writer

Barzal just wants to win

Mathew Barzal has scored in consecutive games for the New York Islanders after the dynamic center went the first eight of the Stanley Cup Playoffs without one. Barzal, who scored the go-ahead goal with 6:57 left in the third period of a 4-1 win against the Boston Bruins in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Second Round at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday to even the best-of-7 series, said the drought was easier to take because of his team’s overall success. “I feel like that’s more of a regular-season thing,” Barzal said. “Obviously if we lose in the playoffs and I haven’t produced or my game’s been off, then obviously I’m hard on myself. But we’ve never been out of a series. We won that first series against (the Pittsburgh Penguins) and I wasn’t really offensively putting up crazy numbers. This is the playoffs. This is just about winning hockey games, whether it’s you’re the guy that night that gets the winning goal or you’re the guy that just plays sound all night and helps your team in different ways. I’m obviously hard on myself, but at this time of year it’s just about getting wins. Whether you’re scoring or not, I’m just trying to help the team. It’s just getting wins.” — Brian Compton, deputy managing editor 

The Bruins still need more from other lines

Through the first four games against the Islanders, the Bruins top line of Brad Marchand (two), Patrice Bergeron (one) and David Pastrnak (three) has scored six of their 10 goals that weren’t scored into an empty net. That line was held in check for the most part at even strength in Boston’s 4-1 loss in Game 4, with Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak each managing only one shot on goal at even strength. One exception was when Pastrnak hit the right post after Bergeron set him up in the left circle with an empty net to shoot into late in the first period. That missed opportunity became more glaring when none of the Bruins’ other lines was able to pick up the slack. Although David Krejci scored on the power play, the second line of Taylor Hall, Krejci and Craig Smith also was limited to one even-strength shot on goal for each player. Boston totaled 19 even-strength shots on goal in the game, including four in the third period, and none in the final 6:18 when it was trying to rally from down 2-1. — Tom Gulitti, staff writer

About last night

There were two playoff games Saturday:

Tampa Bay Lighting 6, Carolina Hurricanes 4: Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos each had two goals and an assist, and the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning extended their lead to 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Second Round with a 6-4 win at Amalie Arena. The Lightning trailed 4-2 in the second period before scoring four straight goals, rallying from down multiple goals to win a playoff game by at least two for the second time (also Game 4 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Final against the Bruins). The Lightning, who lost 3-2 in overtime in Game 3, have won nine consecutive playoff games after a loss and six consecutive Game 4s in a best-of-7 series. Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy made 21 saves. Jaccob Slavin had a goal and an assist and Petr Mrazek made 20 saves for the Hurricanes. Mrazek has a 3.90 goals-against average and .873 save percentage in two playoff starts.

New York Islanders 4, Boston Bruins 1: Mathew Barzal scored the go-ahead goal with 6:57 remaining in the third period of Game 4 and the Islanders evened the second-round series at Nassau Coliseum. Kyle Palmieri scored his New York-leading fifth goal in the postseason and Semyon Varlamov made 28 saves in his third straight start. Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored one of the Islanders’ three goals in the third period and leads them with 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 10 playoff games. The Islanders have rallied in each of their past four victories, their longest such run in the playoffs since 1993, when they came from behind in five straight wins. Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo did not play because of an undisclosed injury sustained in Game 3 and was replaced by defenseman Jarred Tinordi, who had two shots on goal and two blocked shots in 13:17. Islanders forward Oliver Wahlstrom missed a fifth straight game with a lower-body injury.

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