Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily in-depth look at the 2021 NHL postseason. There is one playoff game scheduled for Thursday and there was one Wednesday.
There is one game on the Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Thursday:
Vegas Golden Knights at Montreal Canadiens (8 p.m. ET; USA, CBC, SN, TVAS): The Canadiens can advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993 when they host the Golden Knights in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals. Montreal has won 10 of its past 12 playoff games since it trailed 3-1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup First Round. Canadiens forward Nick Suzuki, who scored three points (one goal, two assists) in a 4-1 victory at the Golden Knights in Game 5, has scored 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 16 games, second on the Canadiens in the playoffs to forward Tyler Toffoli (14 points; five goals, nine assists). Montreal went 2-for-2 on the penalty kill in that game and has not allowed a power-play goal in 28 times shorthanded in their past 12 playoff games, the longest postseason streak since the NHL began tracking goals by strength in 1933-34. The Golden Knights are 0-for-13 on the power play in the series and have scored 11 goals in the five games. Three Vegas forwards have scored in the series; Nicolas Roy has two goals and Max Pacioretty and Mattias Janmark each has one. Teams that take a 3-2 lead are 68-16 (.857) winning a best-of-7 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff semifinals series.
What we learned
Here are some takeaways from Day 39 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:
Lightning clearly need Kucherov
Nikita Kucherov played one shift that lasted 46 seconds in Game 6 against the New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup Semifinals. There’s no question the Lightning were a different team without the forward, who leads the NHL with 27 points (five goals, 22 assists) during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, especially on the power play. During their 3-2 overtime loss, the Lightning had two opportunities on the power play. They fumbled the puck around on the first one, never really had a good setup and gave it up 58 seconds premature when defenseman Victor Hedman was called for tripping. On their second power play they were able to set up in the zone and had five shots on goal, but forward Ondrej Palat was in the right circle instead of Kucherov so the Islanders could sag into the middle because they didn’t have to worry about his one-timer. They also didn’t have to worry about Palat’s& ability to thread a pass through the seam. Kucherov’s shot and vision make him an elite power-play threat. The Lightning power play runs through him a lot of the time and missing that element made it far less threatening than it has been. It was 39.2 percent heading into the game, with Kucherov scoring 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) on it. His status for Game 7 on Friday is uncertain. — Dan Rosen, senior writer
Barzal found another level
With the New York Islanders’ season on the line in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals against Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday, Mathew Barzal did what great players often do in big moments: the talented center elevated his game. Utilizing his dazzling skating and puck-handling skills, Barzal set up goals by forward Jordan Eberle and defenseman Scott Mayfield, and the Islanders erased a two-goal second period deficit before forward Anthony Beauvillier scored 1:08 into overtime to give them a 3-2 victory, forcing a deciding Game 7 on Friday. New York coach Barry Trotz said he was disappointed in Barzal after he took a cross-checking major and received a game misconduct at the end the second period of an 8-0 loss in Game 5 on Monday. Barzal redeemed himself with what Trotz called his, “best game of the series,” on Wednesday. Barzal leads the Islanders with five points (three goals, two assists) in the first six games against the Lightning and has helped them move within one win of reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1984. — Tom Gulitti, staff writer
About last night
There was one playoff game Wednesday:
New York Islanders 3, Tampa Bay Lightning 2 (OT): Anthony Beauvillier scored at 1:08 of overtime and the Islanders forced a Game 7 with their come-from-behind victory at Nassau Coliseum. Beauvillier intercepted Blake Coleman‘s short breakout pass attempt deep in the Tampa Bay zone, and his quick shot beat Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Islanders rallied from a 2-0 deficit with goals by Jordan Eberle at 14:22 of the second period and Scott Mayfield at 11:16 of the third. The defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning had the first chance to advance from the best-of-7 series and took a two-goal lead in Game 6 with goals from forwards Brayden Point at 16:02 of the first and Anthony Cirelli at 12:36 of the second. Point leads the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 14 goals and has scored at least one in nine consecutive playoff games, one short of the NHL record held by Reggie Leach of the Philadelphia Flyers in 1976. Game 7 will be at Tampa Bay on Friday.
Stanley Cup Semifinals news
The Lightning will rely on their playoff experience in Game 7 against the Islanders, according to senior writer Dan Rosen.
Islanders coach Barry Trotz had a simple message for his players entering overtime, according to staff writer Tom Gulitti: “Stick to the process. Stick to what we’re doing.” Because they were able to do that, they’re heading to Game 7.
Nikita Kucherov’s status for Game 7 is unknown after the Lightning forward was injured on his first shift in Game 6.
The Montreal Canadiens are trying to block out the excitement in their city as they prepare for a chance to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993. Staff writer Mike Zeisberger has the story.