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Playoff Buzz: Penguins look to advance to conference final

Pittsburgh leads Capitals 3-2 entering Game 6 of second round

NHL.com @NHL

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

 

5:15 p.m.
Capitals look to keep season alive

The Washington Capitals will look to win their second straight and third in the past four games when they play at the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Second Round. The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 3-2.

Penguins defenseman Trevor Daley will not play because of a lower-body injury, as reported by NHL.com correspondent Katie Brown.

There's a good chance Penguins coach Mike Sullivan will reunite the 'HBK' line of Nick Bonino centering left wing Carl Hagelin and right wing Phil Kessel. NHL.com correspondent Wes Crosby has that and more in his 5 keys to the game

The Capitals are seeking redemption after being eliminated by the Penguins in Game 6 of the 2016 Eastern Conference Second Round last year, staff writer Tom Gulitti says.  

 

4:35 p.m. ET

Henrik Lundqvist has to 'have his Hank on'

The New York Rangers are facing elimination, which is nothing new for the core of this team, especially goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who is 15-5 in elimination games since 2012. The key is his focus, which center Derek Stepan gave a name Monday. Senior writer Dan Rosen was at the Rangers' practice and he explains what it means when Stepan said Lundqvist typically has his Hank on.

Ottawa Senators coach Guy Boucher would not confirm if he will stick with the same lineup in Game 6. He has not adjusted his lineup after a win in this series. But one change the Senators will need to make is their start on the road against the Rangers. New York built significant momentum in the opening 10 minutes of Game 3 and Game 4 to take the lead en route to wins. Mike Morreale was at the Senators practice and wrote about a key for them in Game 6.


J.T. Miller and his fourth line role

Rangers forward J.T. Miller is not your typical fourth line player because fourth liners don't typically score 22 goals and have 56 points in the regular season. But Miller has been much better on the fourth line in this series against the Senators than he was in a top-nine forward role.

 

3:07 p.m.
Penguins could bring back HBK line

It's deja vu for the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguin in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at PPG Paints Arena on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

The Capitals won the Presidents' Trophy but ran into the Penguins in the second round, just like last year. The Penguins took a 3-1 series lead but failed to close it out in Game 5 at Verizon Center in Washington, setting up Game 6 in Pittsburgh, just like last year. The Penguins have put together a line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel, just like last year, when the HBK line accounted for all the goals in the Penguins' 4-3 win in Game 6.

Staff writer Tom Gulitti asks if the Capitals can flip the script, while columnist Nick Cotsonika asks whether the HBK line can stick to it.

Correspondent Wes Crosby explores that and more in his 5 Keys to Game 6, including the news reported by correspondent Katie Brown that Penguins defenseman Trevor Daley is out because of a lower-body injury.

 
11:15 a.m.
Penguins look to advance

The Pittsburgh Penguins have an opportunity to become the first team to advance to the Eastern Conference Final when it plays the Washington Capitals at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh on Monday. The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 3-2.

In the 2016 Eastern Conference Second Round, the Penguins won 4-3 against the Capitals in overtime of Game 6 in Pittsburgh to advance to the conference final. Can they do it again?

Here's a look at the only game on the playoff schedule for Monday:

Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) -- The Capitals scored three goals in the third period, including two in 27 seconds by Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin, to win 4-2 in Game 5 on Saturday. Andre Burakovsky and Nicklas Backstrom also scored and Braden Holtby made 20 saves. Kuznetsov is tied with Backstrom and Ovechkin for the Capitals lead with five goals in the playoffs. Staff writer Tom Gulitti reports how Kuznetsov is coming up big in the postseason. Penguins center Sidney Crosby played in Game 5 after missing Game 4 because of a concussion sustained in the first period of Game 3 on Monday. He led Penguins forwards in ice time at 19:10, had one assist, three shots on goal, and eight shot attempts. Columnist Nicholas J. Cotsonika spoke to Crosby after the Game 5 loss.

 

9:42 a.m.
Predators heading to first conference final

The Nashville Predators are heading to the Western Conference Final. Who they play won't be determined until Wednesday.

In front of a deafeningly loud crowd at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, the Predators won Game 6 against the St. Louis Blues to reach the conference final for the first time.

They will play either the Anaheim Ducks or Edmonton Oilers. On Sunday, the Oilers scored five times in the first period at Rogers Place in Edmonton to win Game 6 and force a Game 7, which will be at Honda Center in Anaheim on Wednesday.

Here's a look at what happened Saturday:

 

Nashville Predators 3, St. Louis Blues 1

Defenseman Roman Josi and forwards Ryan Johansen and Calle Jarnkrok scored for Nashville, which improved to 8-2 during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs and 4-0 all-time at home with an opportunity to close a series.

LNH.com Senior Managing Editor Arpon Basu writes that the victory was a special moment for David Poile, who has been the Predators GM since the team's inception in 1998-99.

The victory kicked off a wild scene in Nashville, and NHL.com Director of Editorial Shawn P. Roarke was there to experience it.

Video: Oilers force Game 7 with 7-1 win against Ducks

 

Edmonton Oilers 7, Anaheim Ducks 1

The Oilers made sure history didn't repeat itself in Game 6, jumping to an insurmountable lead in the first period. In Game 5 on Friday, the Oilers led 3-0 with 3:16 remaining in the third period but couldn't hold on and lost in double-overtime. On Sunday, Leon Draisaitl (hat trick) and Mark Letestu each scored twice in the first period, and Zack Kassian also scored.

The win showed the young Oilers are learning to react positively to adversity

 

Here are some things we learned on Day 26 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

Tight quarters agree with Predators

The Nashville Predators have no issue playing close games. The final three games of the Western Conference Second Round against the St. Louis Blues was tied entering the third period. Nashville won two of the three. Four of the six games in the series were decided by one goal, with the other two two-goal games. Also two of the four victories in their first-round upset of the Chicago Blackhawks were one-goal decisions.

Power outage doomed Blues

An inability to make the power play look even the least bit dangerous was the undoing of the St. Louis Blues in this series. The Blues scored 11 goals in the series, including five in the final four games. Their power play, which went 0-for-1 Sunday, went 1-of-15 for the series. It went 2-of-30 for the postseason. This from a team that finished the regular season with the eighth-best power play in the League at 21.3 percent.

Video: Johansen, Josi lead Preds in Game 6 to win the series

Ducks' curse of Game 6 looms large

While so much attention has been focused on the Ducks' shortcomings in Game 7s, of which are many, but they've shown an inability to close out series in Game 6s. It has happened five consecutive years, most recently in Edmonton on Sunday. Before that in 2016 against the Predators, 2015 against the Blackhawks, 2014 against the Los Angeles Kings and 2013 against the Detroit Red Wings.

Oilers are mentally tough

After losing three in a row, including Game 5 when they blew a three-goal lead in the final 3:16 of the third period, the Oilers continue to prove they are reformed mentally. It's one of the key priorities coach Todd McLellan started working on when he was hired in 2015-16. It didn't pay off much when they missed the playoffs last season, but during 103-point regular season in 2016-17, clearly the Oilers have made huge strides in that department. It will be the case whatever the outcome of Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round.

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