Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Lightning visit Panthers, try to take 3-0 lead

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Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily in-depth look at the 2021 NHL postseason. There were four games on the schedule Wednesday, including the Edmonton Oilers taking on the Winnipeg Jets in Game 1.

 
On Tap

There are four games on the Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Thursday:

Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning (6:30 p.m. ET; USA, FX-CA, TVAS2, BSSUN, BSFL): The Panthers are looking for a change in momentum after losing the first two games of the best-of-7 series at home. They will get forward Sam Bennett back in the lineup after he was suspended for Game 2 for boarding Lightning forward Blake Coleman in the third period of Game 1. The Lightning have won four consecutive playoff series and will be looking to take a 3-0 lead in this one.

Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Islanders (7:00 PM ET; NBCSN, SN360, MSG, MSG+, ATTSN-PT): The Penguins ended a five-game playoff losing streak against the Islanders with a 2-1 victory in Game 2 on Monday that evened the best-of-7 series. Center Evgeni Malkin, who missed the first two games with an undisclosed injury, traveled with Pittsburgh to New York and will be a game-time decision. The Islanders are 5-1 in playoff games against the Penguins under coach Barry Trotz, including 2-0 at Nassau Coliseum.

Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs (7:30 PM ET; NHLN, CBC, SN, TVAS): Goalie Carey Price is expected to start for the Canadiens after missing 19 of the final 21 regular-season games because of injuries, including the last 13 with a concussion. The Maple Leafs are looking to win their first playoff series since 2004 and were 7-2-1 against the Canadiens this season. 

Vegas Golden Knights at Minnesota Wild (9:30 p.m. ET; SN360, TVAS2, BSN+, BSWI, ATTSN-RM): The Wild are 12-3-3 against the Golden Knights in the regular season and playoffs combined, including a split of the first two games in Vegas. The Golden Knights went 95:45 without scoring against Wild goalie Cam Talbot until Alex Tuch scored in Game 2, so finding offense continues to be a key for them.

 
What we learned 

Here are some takeaways from Day 5 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

Blues lose two defensemen

The St. Louis Blues had no update on injuries to defensemen Robert Bortuzzo and Justin Faulk after their 6-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Game 2 of the best-of-7 Stanley Cup First Round. Bortuzzo did not return after being hit by center Tyson Jost near the bench 9:05 into the second period, and Faulk left the game after receiving an illegal hit to the head in the high slot from Nazem Kadri at 6:30 into the third. Jost was not penalized but Kadri was given a match penalty and has been offered an in-person hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety at a date and time to be determined. If either defenseman isn’t available for Game 3 on Friday, the Blues will have some tough decisions to make down 2-0 in the series. Vince Dunn, who missed the final 11 regular-season games and the first two playoff games with an upper-body injury, could be ready to return to the lineup. Jake Walman has been in NHL COVID-19 protocol since May 11, and Steven Santini could also play. To the Blues’ credit, they were down to four defensemen after the injury to Faulk and rallied to pull within 4-3 at 15:40 of the third before the Avalanche scored two empty-net goals. — Mike G. Morreale, staff writer

Hellebuyck on his game

Goalie Connor Hellebuyck was strong for the Winnipeg Jets with 32 saves in a 4-1 victory against the Edmonton Oilers in Game 1 of the best-of-7 first round. The Oilers couldn’t have been surprised by that. Even though Hellebuyck had a losing record against one team, the Oilers (2-5-0, 3.96 goals-against average, .877 save percentage) during the regular season, Edmonton has seen the better version of Hellebuyck before. The Vezina Trophy winner last season voted as the top goalie in the NHL was 7-1-1 with a 2.43 GAA, .919 save percentage and two shutouts against the Oilers in the previous three seasons. Hellebuyck’s strong game had plenty to do with the fact the Jets didn’t ask him to make near-impossible saves. Winnipeg limited Edmonton’s odd man rushes and stuck to a tight style that didn’t leave a lot of open ice for speed attacks or many outnumbered situations. Given those parameters, Hellebuyck has proven repeatedly he can handle that kind of work and he returned to that form against the Oilers on Wednesday. — Tim Campbell, staff writer

Special teams the difference for Hurricanes

The Carolina Hurricanes would probably rather avoid putting the Nashville Predators on the power play seven times in one game, but their penalty kill was 7-for-7 and a big reason for their 3-0 victory in Game 2 of the first round. Part of that was Nashville’s struggling on its power play, but Carolina’s kill was relentless, and it created short-handed opportunities, including an excellent chance for forward Sebastian Aho late in the second period. The Hurricanes, who lead the series 2-0, also scored one power-play goal when Aho, off a great pass from forward Andrei Svechnikov, beat Predators goalie Juuse Saros for a 1-0 lead 8:03 into the first period. The Hurricanes’ kill and goalie Alex Nedeljkovic (32 saves) did the rest. — Tracey Myers, staff writer

Krejci finally has what he needs

It’s been a long search for linemates for Boston Bruins center David Krejci. This season it was supposed to be Jake DeBrusk and Ondrej Kase, but that didn’t exactly work out. It’s safe to say that things are finally clicking, with Taylor Hall, Krejci and Craig Smith looking like an enviable line and extra insurance on nights the top line isn’t connecting. Hall scored the Bruins’ first goal in a 3-2 overtime victory against the Washington Capitals in Game 3 of the first round, and Smith the game-winner at 5:48 of double overtime to give Boston a 2-1 series lead. — Amalie Benjamin, staff writer

 
About last night

There were four games on the schedule Wednesday:

Boston Bruins 3, Washington Capitals 2 (2 OT): Craig Smith scored at 5:48 of the second overtime to give the Bruins their second straight OT victory and help them take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov, playing for the first time since May 1, made 40 saves.

Carolina Hurricanes 3, Nashville Predators 0: Rookie goalie Alex Nedeljkovic made 32 saves for his first NHL playoff shutout to help the Hurricanes take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. The Predators went 0-for-7 on the power play. 

Winnipeg Jets 2, Edmonton Oilers 1: Dominic Toninato scored the tiebreaking goal at 9:14 of the third period and the Jets took Game 1 of the best-of-7 series. Connor Hellebuyck made 32 saves for Winnipeg. Oilers center Connor McDavid, who led the NHL with 105 points (33 goals, 72 assists), was limited to two shots on goal.

Colorado Avalanche 6, St. Louis Blues 3: Nathan MacKinnon scored his first NHL playoff hat trick to help Colorado take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. The center has scored seven points (five goals, two assists) through the first two games.

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