Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Islanders clinch berth, remain third 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 17 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 15 games Saturday, 14 of them with playoff implications:

New York Islanders 3, New York Rangers 0: Semyon Varlamov made 28 saves for his third straight shutout, including his second in three nights against the Rangers, and Anthony Beauvillier scored twice to help the Islanders clinch a playoff berth for the third straight season. The Islanders are third in the East, one point ahead of the fourth-place Boston Bruins and two points behind the second-place Washington Capitals. The fifth-place Rangers fell eight points behind the Bruins with four games remaining.

Pittsburgh Penguins 3, Washington Capitals 0: Bryan Rust scored two goals and Tristan Jarry made 24 saves for his second shutout of the season for Pittsburgh, which moved two points ahead of second-place Washington for first in the East. The Penguins won each game in the two-game series against the Capitals and six of the eight games in their season series (6-2-0).

Boston Bruins 6, Buffalo Sabres 2: Craig Smith scored his second NHL hat trick and David Krejci had three assists to help the Bruins win their third straight game and move within one point of clinching a playoff berth. Boston is fourth in the East, one point behind the third-place Islanders and eight ahead of the fifth-place Rangers. Buffalo, which had already been eliminated from playoff contention, has lost four in a row.

Nashville Predators 1, Dallas Stars 0 (OT): Erik Haula scored at 3:32 of overtime and Jusse Saros made 28 saves for Nashville, which increased its lead for fourth place in the Central to three points ahead of fifth-place Dallas. The Predators were 5-3-0 against the Stars this season, with each of their wins coming after regulation. 

Carolina Hurricanes 2, Columbus Blue Jackets 1 (OT): Dougie Hamilton scored with 53 seconds remaining in overtime and the Hurricanes extended their point streak to 10 games (7-0-3) to remain first in the Central, two points ahead of the second-place Florida Panthers. The Blue Jackets have been eliminated from contention.

Florida Panthers 5, Chicago Blackhawks 4: Anthony Duclair had two goals and an assist for the second-place Panthers, who kept pace with the first-place Hurricanes in the Central and moved two points ahead of the third-place Tampa Bay Lightning. Florida has won three straight and swept the two-game set with sixth-place Chicago, which fell eight points behind fourth-place Nashville in the division.

Detroit Red Wings 1, Tampa Bay Lightning 0 (shootout): Thomas Greiss made 33 saves for his second consecutive shutout and Sam Gagner scored the deciding goal in the eighth round of the shootout for Detroit to prevent Tampa Bay from getting a valuable second point. The third-place Lightning fell two points behind the second-place Panthers in the Central. The Red Wings have been eliminated from playoff contention. The teams compete their two-game series Sunday.

Montreal Canadiens 3, Ottawa Senators 2 (OT): Cole Caufield scored his first NHL goal at 2:25 of overtime to complete Montreal’s comeback after it trailed 2-0 in the third period. The Canadiens, who are fourth in the North, pulled within two points of the third-place Winnipeg Jets and moved eight points ahead of the fifth-place Calgary Flames. The loss eliminated the sixth-place Senators from playoff contention.

Edmonton Oilers 4, Calgary Flames 1: Connor McDavid had a goal and two assists and Leon Draisaitl had four assists for second-place Edmonton, which remained nine points behind the first-place Toronto Maple Leafs and pulled five points ahead of third-place Winnipeg in the North. Johnny Gaudreau scored for fifth-place Calgary, which fell eight points behind fourth-place Montreal.

Toronto Maple Leafs 5, Vancouver Canucks 1: Auston Matthews score twice, increasing his NHL-leading total to 38 goals, and Toronto won its fifth-straight game to maintain its nine-point lead on Edmonton for first in the North. Tanner Pearson scored for seventh-place Vancouver, which is 1-5-0 in its past six and fell 14 points behind fourth-place Montreal with five games in hand.

Vegas Golden Knights 3, Arizona Coyotes 2 (OT): Jonathan Marchessault scored a power-play goal 3:04 into overtime and Marc-Andre Fleury made 19 saves to tie Roberto Luongo for third in NHL history with his 489th win. The Golden Knights maintained their four-point lead on the Colorado Avalanche for first in the West. The Coyotes rallied from trailing 2-0 to reach overtime and earn a point with third-period goals from Christian Fischer and Christian Dvorak, but remained fifth in the West, three points behind the fourth-place St. Louis Blues.

Colorado Avalanche 4, San Jose Sharks 3: Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon each had a goal and an assist for Colorado, which is 14-0-1 in its past 15 home games. The second-place Avalanche remained four points behind the Golden Knights and two points ahead of the third-place Minnesota Wild in the West. The sixth-place Sharks are 2-9-1 in their past 12 games and fell eight points behind the fourth-place Blues.

Minnesota Wild 4, St. Louis Blues 3 (OT): Kevin Fiala scored 2:16 into overtime to complete the Wild’s comeback from a 3-1 third-period deficit. Third-place Minnesota avoided being swept in the three-game series with St. Louis and remained two-points behind second-place Colorado in the West. Fourth-place St. Louis’ four-game winning streak ended, but it earned a point to remain three points ahead of fifth-place Arizona.

Anaheim Ducks 6, Los Angeles Kings 2: Danton Heinen and Jacob Larsson each had a goal and two assists for the Ducks and Ryan Miller made 23 saves in the final home game of his 18-season NHL career after announcing Thursday he will retire after this season. The seventh-place Kings are 3-6-0 in their past nine games and fell nine points behind the fourth-place Blues in the West. The Ducks have been eliminated from playoff contention.

 

If playoffs started Sunday 

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

North Division 

1. Toronto Maple Leafs vs. 4. Montreal Canadiens
2. Edmonton Oilers vs. 3 Winnipeg Jets   

East Division 

1. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 4. Boston Bruins 
2. Washington Capitals 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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