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Playoff Buzz: Senators have chance to advance

Ottawa can eliminate Bruins with victory; Capitals, Maple Leafs aim to take series lead in Game 5

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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 continued Thursday with four games. NHL.com writers covering the playoffs will be checking in throughout the day to give you latest news, including the sites of the two games Friday. Here is the playoff news for Friday:

7:20 p.m.
Canadiens need production

The Montreal Canadiens will enter Madison Square Garden for Game 6 on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports) trailing the New York Rangers 3-2 in the Eastern Conference First Round, but to coach Claude Julien that means the pressure is off. Julien did his best to put the pressure to win Game 6 squarely on the Rangers, but it's not as if the Canadiens aren't feeling the burden to produce. Many of their top players have been relatively quiet in the series. NHL.com Senior Writer Dan Rosen addresses that in his dispatch from the Canadiens hotel.

 

 

5:40 p.m.
Young Oilers learning on fly

The evolution of the Edmonton Oilers' mental strength continued with a 4-3 overtime win against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday in Game 5 of the Western Conference First Round. The Oilers, leading the best-of-7 series 3-2, now face another new test: an elimination game that could end San Jose's season, NHL.com Staff Writer Tim Campbell reports.

Game 6 in San Jose is Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS, NBCSCA).

Edmonton rebounded after a 7-0 loss in Game 4, indicating more growth from a young team that went from 70 points in 2015-16 to 103 points and second place in the Pacific Division this season.

With a 3-2 lead entering the third period of Game 5, the Sharks were concentrating so much on defending that they simply weren't on their toes, coach Peter DeBoer said Friday. That continued after the Oilers tied the game late in the third period and in overtime.

DeBoer said he liked that the Sharks didn't give the Oilers many chances in the third period of Game 5, correspondent Derek Van Diest reports.

 

5:10 p.m.
Friday primer

The Ottawa Senators look to end their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Boston Bruins in Game 5 on Friday. The Senators have sealed a playoff series on home ice four times, most recently in Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington Capitals look to take a 3-2 series lead against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center.

Here's one final look at the two-game playoff slate for Friday:

Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports 2, CSN-DC) -- Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored a power-play goal in Game 4 on Wednesday to extend his goal streak to three games (three goals), marking the fourth time in his playoff career that he has recorded a goal streak of three games or longer. Check out the lineup projections in the 5 keys to Game 5 by correspondent Katie Brown. The League announced on Friday that Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews is a finalist for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. Matthews is appreciative to be named to the list, but remains focused on the task at hand, according to staff writer Tom Gulitti.

Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators (7:30 p.m. ET; USA, SN, TVA Sports, NESN) -- Bruins forward Sean Kuraly will replace Ryan Spooner (healthy scratch) in the Game 5 lineup, according to staff writer Amalie Benjamin. If the Bruins have any intention of extending the series to at least six games, they'll need to find a way to slow down Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson. Correspondent Chris Stevenson discusses that and much more in his 5 keys to Game 5.

 

2:00 p.m.
No changes for Capitals, Maple Leafs

It appears neither the Toronto Maple Leafs nor the Washington Capitals will make any lineup changes for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Verizon Center on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports 2, CSN-DC).

Each team went with the same line combinations and defense pairs they used in the Capitals' 5-4 win in Game 4 on Wednesday in their respective morning skates Friday. Defenseman Karl Alzner participated in the Capitals' morning skate as one of their extra defensemen but will miss his third straight game with an upper-body injury. The Capitals' decision to call up center Chandler Stephenson from Hershey of the American Hockey League on Friday fueled speculation that one of their centers is injured, but coach Barry Trotz said the roster move was "the plan all along."

Maple Leafs forward Eric Fehr, who hasn't played since March 22 because of a hand injury, continues to skate with the team, but coach Mike Babcock said Fehr is not yet ready to play.

Despite losing Game 4, the Maple Leafs feel good about the position they're in after few expected them to push the Capitals, the back-to-back Presidents' Trophy winners, this deep into the series.

"We came into this series being a confident team when we play the right way and now here we are, a best-of-3," left wing James van Riemsdyk said. "These are the elements that make it fun. These games are fun to play in."

Correspondent Katie Brown has the 5 keys to Game 5.

 

1:39 p.m.
Rangers turn series around

The New York Rangers have won their past two games against the Montreal Canadiens and have an opportunity to close out their best-of-seven series in Game 6 at home on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). 

À big reason for their turnaround has been the inclusion of rookie forward Pavel Buchnevich into the lineup since Game 4. As LNH.com Senior Managing Editor Arpon Basu explains, Buchnevich has had a ripple effect throughout the Rangers lineup. 

 

1:21 p.m.
Spooner sitting for Game 5

The Ottawa Senators know they can't take the Boston Bruins lightly. They might have a 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference First Round series, but each game has been decided by one goal. 

That could make for a very interesting Game 5 at Canadian Tire Centre on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; USA, SN, TVA Sports, NESN).

The Bruins, for their part, could have won each of the three games they've lost. They're coming in with the confidence that they haven't been overwhelmed by the Senators and the knowledge that one shot or goal could be the difference between forcing Game 6 on Sunday.

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy is making one notable change to his lineup, inserting rookie forward Sean Kuraly in place of third-line center Ryan Spooner.

The Senators will insert former Bruins forward Chris Kelly, who will make his series debut in place of forward Tom Pyatt. Ottawa coach Guy Boucher said Pyatt is day to day because of an undisclosed injury.

Correspondent Chris Stevenson has the 5 keys to Game 5.

 

11:17 a.m.
Senators look to advance

The Ottawa Senators will look for their fourth straight win against the Boston Bruins, and in the process advance into the second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Friday. The Washington Capitals hope to gain the upper hand on home ice against the Toronto Maple Leafs; their best-of-7 series is tied 2-2.

Here's a look at the playoff schedule for Friday: 

Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET; CBC, TVA Sports 2, NBCSN, CSN-DC) -- The Capitals scored four first-period goals on the way to a 5-4 win in Game 4 on Wednesday. Capitals goalie Braden Holtby hasn't been in top form through four games with a 3.01 goals-against average and .907 save percentage. Staff writer Tom Gulitti spoke to Holtby on Thursday and learned that the 2016 Vezina Trophy winneris hoping to bounce back in a big way in Game 5. Correspondent Dave McCarthy reported that the Maple Leafs are looking to have a better start after allowing two goals in the opening five minutes of the past two games.

Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators (7:30 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports, USA, NESN) -- The Senators will look to advance past the first round for the first time since defeating the Montreal Canadiens in five games in the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Senators goaltender Craig Anderson made 22 saves and Bobby Ryan scored his third goal of the series in a 1-0 win in Game 4 on Wednesday. Staff writer Amalie Benjamin reported Thursday that Bruins coach Bruce Cassidydoesn't expect injured defensemen Torey Krug (lower body), Brandon Carlo (upper body) and Adam McQuaid (upper body) to return to the lineup Friday.

Video: Kevin Weekes and Alex Tanguay preview Friday's games

 

9:35 a.m.
Penguins, Predators moving on

The defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins advanced to the second round on Thursday. The Chicago Blackhawks, a team many expected to reach the Stanley Cup Final and possibly win it all, are headed home, getting swept by the Nashville Predators, who wrapped up their Western Conference First Round series on Thursday. 

While the Penguins and Predators advanced, the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers each won a Game 5 on Thursday to take 3-2 leads in their respective series.

Here's a look at what happened on Thursday:

Pittsburgh Penguins 5, Columbus Blue Jackets 2 -- Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who wasn't expected to play in the series, made 49 saves to help win the series in five games. Next up for the Penguins will be the winner of the series between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs.

New York Rangers 3, Montreal Canadiens 2 (OT) -- Can this series get any tighter? The third game of the series decided by one goal went to the Rangers when Mika Zibanejad scored at 14:22 of overtime. It was the Rangers' first overtime win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since May 13, 2015, when Derek Stepan scored for a 2-1 win against the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Second Round.

Nashville Predators 4, Chicago Blackhawks 1 -- What's the most shocking aspect of this series? That the Blackhawks, who finished with the best record in the Western Conference, didn't win a game? Or that they scored a total of three goals in the four games? Or that the Predators are moving on to the second round?

Oilers 4, Sharks 3 (OT) -- Just when it appeared the Sharks had regained the form that took them to the Stanley Cup Final last year, they allowed the Oilers to storm back from being down 3-1 and win in overtime. David Desharnais' goal at 18:15 of OT was the winner Edmonton.

Video: Desharnais' overtime winner gives Oilers series lead

 

What we learned on Day 9 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

 

Penguins need to tighten up defensively

Fleury was a hero in the first round, but the Penguins would be better off if he weren't in the second against the Capitals or Maple Leafs, both of whom have more offensive star power than the Blue Jackets. The Penguins allowed 38.8 shots per game against the Blue Jackets. Too many.

Blue Jackets can be proud

Yes, they lost in five games. But as coach John Tortorella said, "That's not a 4-1 series." It wasn't as lopsided as it looked. The Blue Jackets started strong in each game and controlled more than half the shot attempts, 53.76 percent, at 5-on-5. They lost because they couldn't cash in enough and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who was great in the regular season, struggled in the playoffs again.

Rangers don't simply counterpunch

The Rangers are known for their ability to wait on their opponents to make mistakes and then hit them with quick-strike offense off the rush, often resulting in them being on the wrong end of the possession game.

They showed in Game 5 they can dictate the fight just as well as they can counterpunch.

The Rangers controlled the game in the third period and overtime, forcing the Canadiens to defend and chase them for long stretches. It was the Rangers' most dominant stretch of hockey in the series and came at the perfect time.

Canadiens' top players need to produce

During the past two games, both losses, the Canadiens' top three regular-season scorers, Max Pacioretty, Alexander Radulov and Alex Galchenyuk, have two assists between them. With their season on the line, the Canadiens need them to produce.

Pacioretty had a solid game Thursday with five shots on goal and 13 shot attempts. But at this time of year solid games matter less than productive ones.

Rinne is near perfect

Predators goalie Pekka Rinne rarely has played this well. During the Western Conference First Round series against the Blackhawks, he was a difference maker, allowing three goals, two coming on the power play. He stopped 123 of 126 shots in the series, 30 of 31 in Game 4 on Thursday.

Everyone's to blame on the Blackhawks

There was plenty of blame to go around for the Blackhawks. Their big scorers did not score: Patrick Kane had one goal, captain Jonathan Toews had one goal and was a minus-5, Artemi Panarin had no goals. Their defenseman were victimized by the faster Predators forwards on a repeated basis. Goalie Corey Crawford could not, by his own admission, make the tide-turning save, allowing 12 goals. But it was coach Joel Quenneville who fell on the sword when it was all over. "We didn't compete to the level that is necessary," he said. "I take that personally as a coach that we didn't find the all-out button, didn't get the job done."

Oilers have staying power

The Oilers took the Sharks' best punch in a 7-0 defeat in San Jose in Game 4 and rebounded with a determined effort on home ice in Game 5. Even behind by two goals in the second period, the Oilers didn't back off its game and rallied to force overtime. In the extra period the Oilers dominated and the Sharks couldn't get untracked. When David Desharnais scored at 18:15, it put the shots on goal in overtime at 14-2 for the Oilers and 48-30 on the game.

Sharks are playing with fire

The Sharks had much going their way in Game 5. They scored three consecutive goals for a 3-1 lead by 8:38 of the second period. Leading 3-2 going to the third they tried to manage the game, rarely playing in the offensive zone and instead being content to flip the puck into the neutral zone or dump it into the Oilers zone. The Sharks spent so much time playing in their zone that when they had to go on the attack in overtime they couldn't get anything going. Now the rebound story is switched. Will the Sharks be able to do in Game 6 at home what the Oilers did in Game 5?

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