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Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Lightning aim to clinch berth

Capitals look to extend first-place lead in Metropolitan Division

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2018 NHL postseason. There are 22 days left in the regular season and the races in each conference are wide open.

Here is a look at the NHL standings and everything else that could impact the playoff picture.

 

Clinching scenario

The Tampa Bay Lightning will clinch a playoff berth Sunday:

If they defeat the Oilers in regulation or overtime AND either of the following occurs:

* The Flyers lose to the Capitals in any fashion

* The Devils lose to the Ducks in regulation

OR

If they defeat the Oilers in a shootout AND the Flyers lose to the Capitals in regulation

 

What's on tap

It's a busy Sunday schedule, one with plenty of playoff implications 

Detroit Red Wings at Colorado Avalanche (3 p.m. ET; ALT, FS-D, NHL.TV) -- The Avalanche hold the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference, but are tied in points with the Dallas Stars (second wild card) and the Anaheim Ducks, who each have played one more game. The Red Wings will be eliminated from playoff contention with a regulation loss and a New Jersey Devils win of any kind against the Ducks.

Calgary Flames at Vegas Golden Knights (4 p.m. ET; SN360, SNE, SNO, SNP, ATTSN-RM, NHL.TV) -- The Flames, who are four points back of the Stars for the second wild card in the West, play four of their next five on the road. The Golden Knights lead the San Jose Sharks by six points for first place in the Pacific Division, but have lost their past three home games. 

Edmonton Oilers at Tampa Bay Lightning (5 p.m. ET; SUN, SNW, NHL.TV) -- Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov (91 points) leads Edmonton's Connor McDavid (89) and Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (89) by two points in the Art Ross Trophy race. The Lightning look to rebound from a 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday that cut their Atlantic Division lead on the Bruins to two points. The Oilers are 17 points out of a playoff spot.

Carolina Hurricanes at New York Islanders (5 p.m. ET; MSG+, FS-CR, NHL. TV) -- The Hurricanes have lost three in a row to fall 11 points behind the Devils for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. The Islanders are 1-6-4 in their past 11 games and 12 points behind the Devils.

Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers (5 p.m. ET; NHLN, NBCSP, NBCSWA, NHL.TV) -- The Capitals seek to extend their winning streak to five games and add to their two-point lead on the Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers want to solidify their hold on third place in the Metropolitan. They have the same number of points as the Columbus Blue Jackets (first wild card in East), but own the regulation plus overtime wins tiebreaker and are one point ahead of the Devils.

St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV) -- The Blues have won three of their past four games to pull within three points of the Stars for the second wild card in the West. The Blackhawks are 16 points behind the Stars.

Dallas Stars at Winnipeg Jets (7:30 p.m. ET; SN, TVAS, FS-SW, NHL.TV) -- The Stars are 0-2-2 on their four-game road trip and desperate for a win to break out of their three-way tie in points with the Avalanche and Ducks. The Jets are second in the Central Division, 10 points behind the first-place Nashville Predators and five ahead of the third-place Minnesota Wild. They also get centers Mark Scheifele (upper body) and Adam Lowry (upper body) back from injuries. Defenseman Toby Enstrom (lower body) is a game-time decision.

New Jersey Devils at Anaheim Ducks (9 p.m. ET; FS-W; MSG+, NHL.TV) -- Defenseman Sami Vatanen returns to Anaheim for the first time since the Ducks traded him to the Devils for center Adam Henrique on Nov. 30. The Devils, who are 3-0-0 on their six-game trip, hold a five-point lead on the Florida Panthers for the second wild card in the East. The Ducks are tied in points with the Los Angeles Kings (third place in the Pacific Division), Avalanche (first wild card in West) and Stars (second wild card), but lose the regulation plus overtime wins tiebreaker to each and the Avalanche have played one fewer game.

 

Thought of the day

The Florida Panthers' charge back into the Stanley Cup Playoff race has been one of the fun stories of the second half of the season, but they did not have a good Saturday. 

After losing 4-2 to the Edmonton Oilers, they watched the New Jersey Devils (3-0 at Los Angeles Kings), Columbus Blue Jackets (2-1 vs. Ottawa Senators) and Philadelphia Flyers (4-2 at Carolina Hurricanes) win their games. That dropped the Panthers five points behind the Devils for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference and six points back of the Flyers and Blue Jackets with 13 games remaining.

The Panthers (35-27-7) have played two fewer games than the Devils and three fewer than the Flyers and Blue Jackets, but their upcoming schedule is not easy. After playing 11 of their past 12 games at home and going 9-2-1 over that span, the Panthers visit the Montreal Canadiens on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; TSN2, RDS, FS-F, NHL.TV) to begin a difficult stretch when they play seven of eight on the road.

Video: McDavid leads Oilers to 4-2 win against Panthers

Although five of those eight games are against teams below them in the standings (Canadiens, Islanders, Arizona Coyotes and two against the Senators), the Panthers' 5-3 loss to the Senators on Monday and the loss to the Oilers (17 points out of a playoff spot) on Saturday were reminders that there are no easy games. These next two weeks will be pivotal in the Panthers' quest to qualify for the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. -- Tom Gulitti, NHL.com Staff Writer

 

About last night

There were 10 games and plenty of movement in the playoff races Saturday: 

Buffalo Sabres 5, Chicago Blackhawks 3 -- The Sabres defeated the Blackhawks for the first time in their past 12 games dating back to Dec. 11, 2009 (2-1 win). Nicholas Baptiste had two goals for the Sabres, who were eliminated from playoff contention. The Blackhawks are 16 points out of a playoff spot. 

Edmonton Oilers 4, Florida Panthers 2 -- Vincent Trocheck scored his 28th goal for the Panthers, who fell five points behind the New Jersey Devils for the second wild card in the East. The Panthers also have two games in hand. 

New Jersey Devils 3, Los Angeles Kings 0 -- Keith Kinkaid made 38 saves for his first shutout of the season and the Devils stayed in the second wild card from the East. New Jersey is one point behind the third-place Philadelphia Flyers in the Metropolitan Division. The Kings remain in third place in the Pacific Division, five points behind the second-place San Jose Sharks.

Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Montreal Canadiens 0 -- Curtis McElhinney made 33 saves and had his first assist of the season. The Maple Leafs have won three in a row and remain in third place in the Atlantic Division, five points behind the second-place Boston Bruins. 

Boston Bruins 3, Tampa Bay Lightning 0 -- Tuukka Rask made 23 saves, defenseman Torey Krug had three assists and the Bruins moved to two points behind the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division. The Lightning, who have lost two in a row, were shut out at Amalie Arena for the first time since a 5-0 loss to the Maple Leafs on March 16, 2017. 

Philadelphia Flyers 4, Carolina Hurricanes 2-- Valtteri Filppula scored the game-winning goal and Wayne Simmonds had two assists for the Flyers, who remained in third place in the Metropolitan Division, four points behind the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins. The Hurricanes, who have lost three in a row, are 11 points behind New Jersey for the second wild card in the East. 

Columbus Blue Jackets 2, Ottawa Senators 1 -- Sergei Bobrovsky made 23 saves and the Blue Jackets won for the seventh straight time to hold onto the first wild card in the East. The Blue Jackets are tied with the Flyers in points (83) in the Metropolitan Division but the Flyers remain in third place because they have one more regulation and overtime win (34). 

St. Louis Blues 4, New York Rangers 3 (OT) -- Brayden Schenn scored 62 seconds into overtime and Alex Pietrangelo scored two goals with an assist for the Blues, who are three points behind the Dallas Stars for the second wild card in the West. The Rangers are 10 points behind the New Jersey Devils for the second wild card in the East.

Minnesota Wild 3, Arizona Coyotes 1-- Eric Staal reached 70 points for the first time since 2011-12 (with the Hurricanes) and the Wild remained in third place in the Central Division. Minnesota is five points behind the second-place Winnipeg Jets.

San Jose Sharks 5, Vancouver Canucks 3 -- Timo Meier scored two goals to help the Sharks, who have won four in a row, remain in second place in the Pacific Division. The Sharks are six points behind the first-place Vegas Golden Knights and five points ahead of the third-place Kings. The Canucks have lost six in a row. 

 

If playoffs started Sunday

Here is a look at the matchups for the first round as they stand entering games Sunday:
 
Eastern Conference
(1A) Tampa Bay Lightning vs (WC2) New Jersey Devils  
(1M) Washington Capitals vs. (WC1) Columbus Blue Jackets  
(2M) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (3M) Philadelphia Flyers
(2A) Boston Bruins vs. (3A) Toronto Maple Leafs

Western Conference
(1C) Nashville Predators vs. (WC2) Dallas Stars 
(1P) Vegas Golden Knights vs. (WC1) Colorado Avalanche 
(2C) Winnipeg Jets vs. (3C) Minnesota Wild
(2P) San Jose Sharks vs. (3P) Los Angeles Kings

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