Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Islanders can extend series lead vs. Penguins

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

On Tap

There are three games on the Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule Tuesday:

New York Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS, ATTSN-PT, MSG, MSG+): The Penguins will try to rebound after taking a 2-1 lead into the third period of Game 1 and losing 4-3 in overtime. Evgeni Malkin did not play in the series opener because of an injury and Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said the center will be a game-time decision for Game 2. The Islanders will try and win the first two games of this series on the road. Teams that go up 2-0 when starting as the road team are 80-20 all-time winning a best-of-7 playoff series.

Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers (8 p.m. ET; CNBC, SNE, TVAS2, BSFL, BSSUN): Game 1 was the first playoff game between the intrastate rivals, and it lived up to the hype. Tampa Bay led 1-0. Then Florida led 2-1. Then Tampa Bay led 3-2. Then Florida led 4-3. Finally, Brayden Point scored twice, with 7:00 and 1:14 remaining in the third period, to give the Lightning a 5-4 win. What’s in store for Game 2? The Panthers need to stay out of the penalty box against the Lightning, who were 3-for-4 on the power play in the opener. Florida forward Sam Bennett will serve a one-game suspension from the NHL Department of Player Safety for boarding Tampa Bay forward Blake Coleman in Game 1. Goalie Chris Driedger will start for the Panthers after Sergei Bobrovsky made 35 saves in Game 1.

Minnesota Wild at Vegas Golden Knights (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVAS, ATTSN-RM, BSN, BSWI+): The Golden Knights are looking for offense after losing 1-0 in overtime in Game 1. They have scored 12 goals and gone 2-7 in their past nine playoff games dating to last season, despite outshooting the opposition 335-202. Vegas has trailed 1-0 in a best-of-7 series three times since joining the NHL in 2017-18: in the 2018 Western Conference Final against the Winnipeg Jets, the 2019 Western Conference First Round against the San Jose Sharks and 2020 Western Conference Final against the Dallas Stars. Each time, it won Game 2.

 
What we learned

Here are some takeaways from Day 3 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

Washington’s center depth is being tested

The Washington Capitals already were thin at center with Evgeny Kuznetsov not ready to play in Game 2 against the Boston Bruins on Monday after returning from NHL COVID-19 protocol, forcing T.J. Oshie to shift to center from right wing. Then they lost Lars Eller, who was being matched against the Bruins top line, to a lower-body injury in the second period. That left Nicklas Backstrom and Nic Dowd as Washington’s only true centers for the remainder of a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 2, making it more difficult to contain Boston’s skilled players. This could be a major issue in the best-of-7 series if Kuznetsov and Eller remain out for the Capitals. — Tom Gulitti, staff writer

Blues need to limit Avalanche attack

The St. Louis Blues had no answers for the Colorado Avalanche in Game 1. The Avalanche generated more shots (50-23) and more shot attempts (80-48). If not for Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, who made 46 saves on 49 shots, the Avalanche’s three-goal margin of victory (4-1) would have been greater. Colorado’s top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen scored eight points (three goals, five assists) and had 16 shots on goal and 22 shot attempts. The third line of Tyson Jost, Brandon Saad and Valeri Nichushkin equally was troublesome for the Blues, generating 12 shots on goal and 22 shot attempts. The Blues need to figure out a way to get pucks behind the shifty Avalanche defense and then work hard on the forecheck as a unit and not as individuals in order to keep it there. Blues center Tyler Bozak said after the game that “probably the best defense you can play against them is to not let them have the puck.” Easier said than done, but to have success the Blues will need to dedicate themselves to playing a heavier game down low and in the trenches. — Mike G. Morreale, staff writer

Predators must shoot more

The Nashville Predators got off to a solid start with 10 shots on goal in the first period, and forward Filip Forsberg gave them a brief 1-0 lead 12:14 into their 5-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 1. But as the game continued, their shots dwindled and the Hurricanes controlled play. In the second period, Nashville had five shots on Carolina rookie goalie Alex Nedeljkovic, though it tied the game 2-2. In the third, the Predators had nine shots on goal and were outscored 3-0. The Predators played a physical game, but the Hurricanes matched them in that category and kept coming in waves at goalie Juuse Saros, especially in the second and third period, when they had 25 shots on goal. Nashville must challenge Carolina’s goalies more going forward. — Tracey Myers, staff writer

 
About Last Night

There were three playoff games Monday:

Boston Bruins 4, Washington Capitals 3 (OT): Brad Marchand scored 39 seconds into overtime after Taylor Hall tied the game with 2:49 left in the third period as Boston rallied to tie the best-of-7 series 1-1. Jake DeBrusk and Patrice Bergeron also scored for the Bruins; Tuukka Rask made 36 saves. Garnet Hathaway scored twice, and T.J. Oshie also scored for Washington. Craig Anderson made 44 saves in his first playoff start since 2017.

Carolina Hurricanes 5, Nashville Predators 2: Jordan Staal scored two goals and the Hurricanes took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. The game was tied 2-2 entering the third period. Nino Niederreiter gave Carolina a 3-2 lead at 2:26; Staal made it 4-2 with his second goal at 8:00; and Andrei Svechnikov scored into an empty net with 1:47 left. Teuvo Teravainen also scored for the Hurricanes, and rookie Alex Nedeljkovic made 22 saves in his NHL playoff debut. Filip Forsberg and Erik Haula scored for Nashville. Juuse Saros made 33 saves.

Colorado Avalanche 4, St. Louis Blues 1: Nathan MacKinnon scored two goals and Colorado took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. The game was tied 1-1 entering the third. MacKinnon scored 30 seconds into the period to give the Avalanche a 2-1 lead; Gabriel Landeskog made it 3-1 at 8:30; and MacKinnon scored into an empty net with 40 seconds left. Cale Makar also scored for Colorado; Philipp Grubauer made 22 saves. Jordan Kyrou scored for St. Louis; Jordan Binnington made 46 saves.

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