Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Lightning eyeing return to Final

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Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily in-depth look at the 2021 NHL postseason. There is one playoff game scheduled for Wednesday and there was one Tuesday.

 

On Tap

There is one game on the Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Wednesday:

Tampa Bay Lightning at New York Islanders (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS): The Lightning have a chance to make it back to the Stanley Cup Final with a win in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday. The Lightning, the defending Stanley Cup winners, lead the best-of-7 series 3-2 after their 8-0 win Monday. The Islanders, however, have won 16 of 21 all-time potential elimination games at the Coliseum. If the Islanders win, Game 7 would be at Amalie Arena on Friday and would be the third Game 7 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Lightning forward Brayden Point comes into the game with the second-longest playoff goal streak in NHL history at eight games, behind Reggie Leach of the Philadelphia Flyers in 1975-76 (10 games). Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy has recorded three consecutive series-clinching shutouts, in Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final against the Dallas Stars, Game 6 of the 2021 Stanley Cup First Round against the Florida Panthers and Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Second Round against the Carolina Hurricanes. It’s the longest such run by a goalie in NHL history, and he can become the first goalie ever with three series-clinching shutouts in one playoff year. Vasilevskiy shut out the Islanders in Game 5 of this series.

 

What we learned

Here are some takeaways from Day 38 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

Canadiens smothering system equals road success

During his morning media availability Tuesday, Montreal Canadiens coach Luke Richardson was asked why his team has been so successful on the road during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. “We’re back on top of the other team in all three zones,” he said. “It’s difficult to play and it’s frustrating. If you can frustrate that home team that maybe wants to put on a show for that home crowd, they want to do well, they want to do something spectacular, and we’re usually in the way of that. It’s frustrating, and it usually bodes well of us in the long run.” That’s exactly the blueprint the Canadiens used that night to defeat the Vegas Golden Knights 4-1 in Game 5 of the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Semifinals, which Montreal leads 3-2. Montreal smothered Vegas from the get-go, took the crowd out of the game and built a 3-0 lead, which caused fans at T-Mobile Arena to boo the Golden Knights off the ice at the end of the second period. Montreal’s ability to clog the neutral zone and limit Vegas to 15 shots on goal in the first two periods is a prime example of the unwavering puck pursuit system that has resulted in a 7-2 road record in the playoffs. It’s the type of recipe that is allowing them to win in whatever environment they’re playing in. — Mike Zeisberger, staff writer

Golden Knights aren’t testing Price enough

The Vegas Golden Knights are facing a world-class goalie in the Stanley Cup Semifinals in Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens. But Price hasn’t had to be a hero because Vegas is struggling to generate dangerous scoring chances. In their 4-1 loss in Game 5 at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday, the Golden Knights had 27 shots on goal, 18 shot attempts blocked and 11 missed shots. The Canadiens are taking away the middle of the ice defensively, and Price is living in the Golden Knights’ shooters’ heads. It looked like Price made a huge save on forward Reilly Smith in the third period, but replays showed Smith shot the puck into Price’s blocker on the left instead of the open net on the right. The Golden Knights have scored 11 goals in the series, and four have come from forwards. — Nicholas J. Cotsonika, columnist

 

About last night

There was one playoff game Tuesday:

Montreal Canadiens 4, Vegas Golden Knights 1: The Canadiens are one win from heading to the Stanley Cup Final after getting three points (one goal, two assists) from forward Nick Suzuki on Tuesday to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Semifinals. It would be Montreal’s first appearance in the Final since 1993, also the last time a Canada-based team won the Stanley Cup. Carey Price made 26 saves for the Canadiens, who also got goals from Cole Caufield, Eric Staal and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Marc-Andre Fleury returned to net for the Golden Knights and made 22 saves, after Robin Lehner got the start in Game 4 on Sunday, a 2-1 overtime win for Vegas. The Canadiens took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Kotkaniemi at 8:45 of the first period and Staal made it 2-0 at 6:32 of the second on an assist from Suzuki, who is second on the Canadiens during postseason with 13 points (five goals, eight assists). Max Pacioretty scored the only goal for the Golden Knights, at 4:09 of the third period to cut the deficit to 3-1.

 

Stanley Cup Semifinals news

Nick Suzuki was drafted by the Golden Knights, and staff writer Mike Zeisberger writes about how he’s doing his best to make them regret trading him to the Canadiens.

A 4-1 loss in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals has the Vegas Golden Knights asking themselves a lot of questions, according to columnist Nicholas J. Cotsonika.

The New York Islanders are determined to be a “different team” against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals, writes staff writer Tom Gulitti.

The “NHL @TheRink” podcast breaks down the Islanders’ chances of winning two straight against the Lightning and reaching the Cup Final.

The Lightning have moved past their blowout win in Game 5 of the Semifinals. “They’re a great team and for sure we’re going to get their best,” Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman said. Senior writer Dan Rosen has the story on the Lightning’s mindset for Game 6.

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