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Playoff Buzz: Predators, Ducks eyeing 3-0 leads

Nashville going for third straight against Blackhawks, Anaheim hoping to push Flames to the brink

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Welcome to the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff Buzz, your daily look at the stories impacting the 2016-17 postseason. The playoffs continue Monday with four games. NHL.com writers covering each of the eight series will be checking in throughout the day to give you latest news from the rinks Here is the playoff news for Monday:

6:35 p.m.
Larsson playing key role for Oilers

Edmonton Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson is the perfect fit for a tightening series against the San Jose Sharks.

Larsson has been a key figure in the Oilers' back-to-back shutouts to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.

The close-to-the-vest series has had three 5-on-5 goals in three games.

The Sharks are looking for ways to find offense. Their power play is 1-for-14 in the series, and forwards Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Joe Thornton (who missed the first two games because a knee injury) have combined for one point, an assist by Pavelski in Game 1.

 

5:35 p.m.
Getting ready for a busy night

It's almost time to drop the puck on the first of four games Monday. Here's one final look at the top story lines entering the playoff games for Monday. 

It should be another thrilling night of action.

Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins (7 p.m. ET, SN, TVA Sports, CNBC, NESN) -- The series is tied 1-1. The Bruins hope to have center David Krejci back in the lineup after he missed the first two games of the series because of an upper-body injury. Krejci will skate in warmups and be a game-time decision, as will defenseman Colin Miller (lower body), according to Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. The Bruins did recall defensemen Tommy Cross and Matt Grzelcyk from Providence of the American Hockey League on Monday; Cross appears to be the likely replacement if Miller can't play. Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki won't play Game 3 because of a lower-body injury sustained in the first period of Game 2. Correspondent Matt Kalman has all the news, notes and projected lineups in his Five Keys to Game 3.

Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET, CBC, TVA Sports 2, NBCSN, CSN-DC) -- Air Canada Centre will be jumping for the first playoff hockey game there in four years. Maple Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev will return to the lineup after missing the past two games because of an upper-body injury. Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner will be a game-time decision after sitting out the morning skate for maintenance. Correspondent Dave McCarthy sets everything up with his Five Keys to Game 3.

Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators (9:30 p.m. ET, SN1, TVAS, CNBC, FS-TN, CSN-CH) -- The Predators lead the series 2-0 and correspondent Brian Hedger reported that Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville will tweak his forward lines for Game 3, with, among other moves, Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik shifting to the top line with center Jonathan Toews, who hasn't scored a playoff goal since Game 4 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. Not many changes are expected for the Predators. Goalie Pekka Rinne has two consecutive shutouts, and Nashville has blocked 41 shots. Correspondent Robby Stanley sets everything up with his Five Keys to Game 3

Anaheim Ducks at Calgary Flames (10 p.m. ET, CBC, TVA Sports 2, NBCSN, PRIME) -- The Ducks, who hold a 2-0 series lead, hope to have defenseman Sami Vatanen back in the lineup. Vatanen was a late scratch from Game 2 because of an upper-body injury but is with the team to Calgary and is questionable. The Flames are hoping for some Dome-ice advantage as the series shifts back to Calgary. Correspondent Aaron Vickers has all the news and projected lineups in his Five Keys to Game 3.

 

5 p.m.
Rangers sick of struggles at home

This storyline of the New York Rangers record at Madison Square Garden is starting to get out of hand. The Rangers are doing nothing to squash it. They have another opportunity in Game 4 against the Canadiens on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, MSG), and coach Alain Vigneaultused an interesting and poignant analogy to describe what the Rangers need to do to even the best-of-7 series at 2-2 with a win at the Garden, where they have lost six straight playoff games by a combined 21-4 and have lost nine of their past 11 games overall (2-6-3).

Meanwhile, the Canadiens are feeling good about where they are in the series and how they played in Game 3, what they considered to be basically a near-perfect game. A key reason for their success has been the resolve shown by forward Alex Galchenyuk, demoted to the fourth line late in the regular season and for the start of the playoffs but now playing a key role in a top-nine forward group that has been better than the Rangers' top-nine forward group.

 

4:30 p.m.
Blackhawks make changes in search of a goal

Expect the Chicago Blackhawks to look a little different, and a little more determined in Game 3 of their Western Conference First Round series against the Nashville Predators on Monday at Bridgestone Arena (9:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN1, TVA Sports, FS-TN, CSN-CH).

As correspondent Brian Hedger reports, expect the Blackhawks to do some line juggling to fine the right combinations as the Blackhawks hope to avoid falling into an 0-3 hole in the best-of-7 series. The changes started Monday morning during practice as it appears forward Jordin Tootoo is back on the fourth line and Vinnie Hinostroza will be scratched. Also, forward Dennis Rasmussen has moved onto the third line.

But the more important changes need to come on the mental side of the equation. The Blackhawks need a new mindset after losing the first two games at home, outscored 6-0 so far in the series. That change, NHL.com Director of Editorial Shawn P. Roarke says,will come from a leadership group headed by captain Jonathan Toews, leading scorer Patrick Kane and defenseman Duncan Keith. Each has won the Stanley Cup three times and each has played more than 100 postseason games. They are the ones driving home the message that Chicago still is in the series and needs only to win Game 3 to be make things interesting.

For the Predators, it's all about taking advantage of the opportunity before them. In their playoff history they have been ahead 3-0 in a series. They also have never beaten the Blackhawks in the playoffs. But they remember well the 2-0 first-round series lead they had against the Anaheim Ducks last year after winning the first two games on the road only to return home and lose two straight. NHL.com correspondent Robbie Stanley covers that and other topics in his Five Keys to Game 3.

It is a later than usual puck drop tonight, so enjoy the early games before tuning into what should be a rager of a game here at Bridgestone Arena.

 

3:45 p.m.
Zaitsev back for Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs will get defenseman Nikita Zaitsev back for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Washington Capitals on Monday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports 2, CSN-DC) after he missed the first two games of the best-of-7 series because of an upper-body injury. Zaitsev, who was injured in the Maple Leafs' regular-season finale against the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 9, participated in the morning skate Monday and confirmed he will play after taking to the team doctor.

Zaitsev's return could not come at a better time for the Maple Leafs, with Roman Polak ruled out for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Playoffs because of a lower-body injury he sustained in the second period of the Maple Leafs' 4-3 double-overtime victory in Game 2 on Saturday.

The news wasn't as good for the Capitals, who might have to play without defenseman Karl Alzner for the first time in almost seven years. Coach Barry Trotz said Alzner will be a game-time decision after sitting out the morning skate for maintenance. If Alzner is unable to play, Nate Schmidt will take his place in the lineup.

For more on the game, check out correspondent Dave McCarthy's Five Keys to Game 3.

 

3:11 p.m.
Busy day in Boston

It's a packed sports day in Boston. The Boston Marathon kicked off this morning, followed by the Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park at 11 a.m., and it all leads up to the Boston Bruins vs. the Ottawa Senators in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN, TVA Sports, NESN). It's the first Stanley Cup Playoff game in Boston since 2014.

There are questions up and down the Bruins lineup, starting with center David Krejci, who will skate in warmups, according to Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. He will be a game-time decision, as will defenseman Colin Miller. The Bruins did call up two defensemen from Providence of the American Hockey League on Monday, Tommy Cross and Matt Grzelcyk. Cross appears to be the likely replacement if Miller is not able to play. Correspondent Matt Kalman has that and more in his 5 Keys to Game 3.
 
The health questions for the Senators surround defenseman Mark Borowiecki, who did not finish Game 2 because of a lower-body injury. The other question is whether the Senators will be able to take back home-ice advantage after the Bruins were able to grab Game 1 in Ottawa.

Meanwhile, on the Boston Marathon course, the team of former NHL player Bobby Carpenter and former NWHL player Denna Laing were in the race to benefit Journey Forward, an organization that has helped Laing tremendously since she sustained a spinal cord injury Dec. 31, 2015, at the Outdoor Women's Classic at Gillette Stadium. Staff writer Amalie Benjamin wrote about their effort here.

 

11:08 a.m.
Looking ahead to Monday

The Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks each look to take a commanding lead in their Western Conference First Round series, while the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs return home with an eye toward gaining a series edge in the East.

 

Here's a look at playoff schedule for Monday:

Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins (7 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports, CNBC, NESN) -- The Senators pulled even in the series when Dion Phaneuf scored 1:59 into overtime in a 4-3 win in Game 2 on Saturday. Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki is day to day because of a lower-body injury, but Marc Methot (finger) did return to the lineup for the first time since he was hurt March 23. The Bruins are hoping to get at least one of their injured defensemen back in the lineup after Brandon Carlo (upper body) and Colin Miller (lower body) each took part in an optional practice Sunday after missing Game 2. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said Miller is getting better and could be available, but Carlo is doubtful. Their other injured defenseman remained off the ice; Adam McQuaid, who sustained an upper-body injury in the first period Game 2, and Torey Krug who last played April 6 because of a lower-body injury.

 

Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET, CBC, TVA Sports 2, NBCSN, CSN-DC) -- The Maple Leafs play a postseason game at Air Canada Centre for the first time since May 12, 2013. They evened the best-of-7 series 1-1 when rookie forward Kasperi Kapanen scored 11:53 into the second overtime in a 4-3 win Saturday. The Maple Leafs might get defenseman Nikita Zaitsev back after he missed the first two games because of an upper-body injury. His return would be timely as the Maple Leafs are without defenseman Roman Polak for the remainder of the playoffs because of a lower-body injury. Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he may make a few lineup changes, including splitting left wing Alex Ovechkin and center Nicklas Backstrom. Ovechkin and Backstrom have played on the same line for most of the regular season.

 

Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators (9:30 p.m. ET, SN1, TVA Sports, CNBC, FS-TN, CSN-CH) -- Goaltender Pekka Rinne has stopped all 59 shots in two games to help the Predators take a 2-0 series lead. They are the fifth NHL team to start a postseason with back-to-back road shutouts, the first since the Maple Leafs in 2001, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville will stick with goalie Corey Crawford but could make minor adjustments up front. The Blackhawks went 24-13-4 away from United Center during the regular season and set a franchise record with eight straight road victories.

 

Anaheim Ducks at Calgary Flames (10 p.m. ET, CBC, TVA Sports 2, NBCSN, PRIME) -- The good news for the Flames is they're no longer at Honda Center in Anaheim, where they have lost 29 straight in the regular season and playoffs. They lost by identical 3-2 scores in the opening two games of the series. The Ducks haven't lost in regulation in their past 16 games, dating to March 10. Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen, who was a late scratch prior to Game 2 on Saturday because of upper-body injury, made the trip to Calgary and is questionable. With defensemen Vatanen and Cam Fowler (knee) out of the lineup, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle played four defensemen in Game 2 -- Korbinian Holzer, Brandon Montour, Shea Theodore and Josh Manson -- with a combined 10 games of playoff experience. Ducks goalie John Gibson made 35 saves in Game 2.

 

9:20 a.m.
Wild, Blue Jackets in tough spots

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are five days old and two teams, the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets, are down 3-0 in their respective series.

The Wild were defeated by the St. Louis Blues and the Blue Jackets lost in overtime to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday. In the other two games Sunday, the Montreal Canadiens took a 2-1 series lead against the New York Rangers and the Edmonton Oilers shut out the San Jose Sharks for the second straight game to take a 2-1 lead of their own.

Here's a look at what happened Sunday:

St. Louis Blues 3, Minnesota Wild 1 -- Blues goalie Jake Allen did it again to the Wild, making 40 saves. Allen set the tone with a 51-save performance in Game 1, an overtime win for the Blues, and has been brilliant in all three games.

Pittsburgh Penguins 5, Columbus Blue Jackets 4 (OT) -- Rookie Jake Guentzel had a hat trick, including the winner 13:10 into overtime, to end a wild affair in Columbus. Guentzel is the first Penguins rookie with a hat trick in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Montreal Canadiens 3, New York Rangers 1-- The Canadiens didn't need any late drama Sunday, dominating the Rangers. Alexander Radulov, who scored the overtime winner in Game 2, had a goal and assist for the Canadiens, who held the Rangers to 21 shots on goal.

Edmonton Oilers 1, San Jose Sharks 0 -- Cam Talbot became the second goalie this postseason to have two straight shutouts, making 23 saves in the win. Predators goalie Pekka Rinne has yet to allow a goal to the Chicago Blackhawks through the first two games of their Western Conference First Round series.

Video: Talbot, Kassian guide Oilers to 1-0 win in Game 3

 

What we learned on Day 5

 

Allen is tough to beat

Allen has been nearly impenetrable and made a number of spectacular saves in the second period when the Wild were pushing. And to think Allen was in such a bad state Jan. 21 that he was told to stay home from a road trip. Allen has made 114 saves on 117 shots in the series.

 

The Wild are in trouble

Of course, any team down 3-0 in a best-of-7 series has the odds stacked against it. The Wild have been down 3-0 in three previous series, and have lost all three, two by sweep.

 

The Penguins are deep again

A big reason the Penguins won the Stanley Cup last year is that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin had help from up-and-coming players. They seem to have the same and more this year. Bryan Rust has two goals in three games, giving him six in his past 11 playoff games. Guentzel has four goals in three games after his hat trick in Game 3.

 

Safe is death, but ...

Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella wants his players to push the pace, but it's hard to do it better than the Penguins, who can make 5-on-5 hockey look like 3-on-3 overtime with the way they transition. To have any hope of coming back in their series, the Blue Jackets must sustain a forecheck, spend more time in the Penguins zone and keep the Penguins from zooming down the ice.

 

Artturi Lehkonen is playoff ready

Lehkonen, the Canadiens' 21-year-old rookie forward, scored his first Stanley Cup Playoff goal and had four shots in 12:39 of ice time Sunday. He has improved with each game. Lehkonen scored a power-play goal at 17:37 of the second period. He nearly scored earlier in the power play on back-to-back shots coming out from behind the right post. Canadiens coach Claude Julien praised him for being unfazed by the big moment, saying that Lehkonen is playing like a veteran. That's a heck of a compliment and a great sign for the Canadiens.

Video: MTL@NYR, Gm3: Lehkonen buries tic-tac-toe PPG

 

The Rangers need to get their power play going

They went 0-for-3 with three shots on goal on the power play in Game 3 and is 0-for-10 with 11 shots in the series. The Canadiens' penalty kill obviously is a huge factor in that. They had the League's best kill (88.9 percent) after Claude Julien was named coach Feb. 14. It's showing in the series. The Rangers have to find some holes in it.

 

Oilers are deep

Left wing Zack Kassian is shining in the playoffs. He has goals in consecutive games, both of them game-winners, and has a made an impact physically in each game. With a weapon like that on their third line, the Oilers are an even more formidable opponent three games into their first playoff series in 11 years.

 

Sharks need to score

That apparently is easier said than done. Joe Thornton returned to the Sharks lineup after missing the first two games of the series and the final three games of the regular season because of a knee injury. Thornton looked effective and comfortable in his first game since April 2, but the Sharks again came up with zero on offense. Another of their offensive leaders, center Logan Couture, has no points in three games in the series. Couture is battling his way back from taking a puck to the face against the Nashville Predators on March 25 and has not looked much like his normal dangerous self. The Sharks need someone to step up soon.

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