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Playoff Buzz: Penguins take big step; Predators hope to finish job

Pittsburgh takes 3-2 series lead against Senators; Nashville can advance to Stanley Cup Final with win against Ducks

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Welcome to the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff Buzz, your daily look at the stories impacting the 2016-17 postseason. Game 6 of the Western Conference Final between the Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators is Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). NHL.com writers covering the playoffs will be checking in throughout the day to give you latest news.

Here is the playoff news for Monday:

 

3 p.m.
Penguins focused on task, not opportunity

Experience helps the Pittsburgh Penguins in many ways. It's helping them keep their focus on the task at hand instead of the huge opportunity in front of them in Game 6 against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

A win and the Penguins will have a chance to become the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998. Senior Writer Dan Rosen wrote about what the Penguins are thinking with a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series.

[ RELATED: Fantasy picks for Game 6s of ANA-NSH, PIT-OTT ]

The Penguins held an optional practice at their training facility Monday. None of their injured players participated, but there is news on all of them. Correspondent Wes Crosby has all the details. Forward Conor Sheary is expected to remain a healthy scratch in Game 6.

Video: OTT@PIT, Gm5: Bonino, Rust, Rowney, Sullivan on win

Pittsburgh defenseman Olli Maatta has dealt with injuries and health concerns throughout his career, but has been their most stable defenseman when the Penguins have needed him most with a depleted defense corps. Coach Mike Sullivan says Maatta is playing the best hockey of his career. Tom Gulitti wrote about Maatta, who has a two-game goal scoring streak going.

The Senators need to pay attention to detail if they want to avoid elimination from the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. That's the analysis from former NHL assistant Jim Corsi, who has been breaking down the Eastern Conference Final from Ottawa's perspective. Corsi saw a lot of troubling things in the Senators' overall game in Game 5.

Ottawa had a rare practice Monday at Canadian Tire Centre. Prior to it, they had a meeting. The message: Play the system. They haven't done that in the past two games and they've been outscored 10-2. Correspondent Chris Stevenson writes about Ottawa's focus after losing 7-0 and what, if any, updates coach Guy Boucher might have on center Derick Brassard and defensemen Erik Karlsson and Cody Ceci. None of them played in the third period Sunday.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan thinks so highly of assistant Jacques Martin that he'd even let him fix his car if the situation would ever arise.

 

1:15 p.m.
Endless love for Predators

The Nashville Predators can clinch their first Stanley Cup Final appearance Monday when they play the Anaheim Ducks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final at Bridgestone Arena (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Columnist Nick Cotsonika looks through the eyes of a fan who has followed the Predators since they joined the NHL in 1998, calling into talk radio shows as an eighth grader and getting engaged on the ice at Bridgestone.

Correspondent Robby Stanley has 5 keys to Game 6.

 

1 p.m.
Nashville's cardiac kids

The Nashville Predators have proven to be resilient and unrelenting in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Nashville earned its fifth come-from-behind win of the playoffs in a 3-1 victory in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.

It is the 31st comeback victory in 78 playoff games (39.7%). The NHL record for comeback wins in a postseason was set in 1990, when 45 of 85 contests (52.9%) saw the winning team erase a deficit of at least one goal. Six of the nine total games played in the Conference Finals have been decided by one goal, with another two decided by two goals following an empty-net goal.

The Predators have not lost consecutive games since the regular season when they lost to the St. Louis Blues and New York Islanders on April 2 and April 4, respectively.

Predators left wing Filip Forsberg, 22, has a six-game point streak (four goals, two assists) and 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in 15 playoff games.

Video: ANA@NSH, Gm4: Forsberg ties game in final minute

 

11:45 a.m.
Gibson's status uncertain

The Anaheim Ducks will be without forwards Rickard Rakell and Patrick Eaves, and goaltender John Gibson is questionable for Game 6 against the Nashville Predators on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). Each of the three players has a lower-body injury.

Gibson, who was replaced by Jonathan Bernier to begin the second period of Game 5, stopped all 10 shots faced in the first period. Ducks coach Randy Carlyle will determine after the morning skate Monday if Gibson can play, according to columnist Nicholas J. Cotsonika. 

Gibson, 23, is 9-5 with a 2.59 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in 16 games in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Predators learned Sunday that center Ryan Johansen is expected to make a full recovery after having emergency left thigh surgery shortly after a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 4 on Thursday. Johansen, who will miss the remainder of the playoffs, had 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 14 playoff games.

Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne is 11-4 with a 1.62 GAA and .942 SV% this postseason. He is 10-1 when allowing two or fewer goals. Former NHL assistant Perry Pearn, who has been breaking down the action from the Predators' perspective throughout the series for NHL.com, told staff writer Tim Campbell that Nashville doesn't need to change its game plan for Game 6.

 

11 a.m.
Nashville eyes first Stanley Cup Final berth

The Nashville Predators have an opportunity to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in history with a win against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final at Bridgestone Arena on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

The Predators, who began play in 1998-99 and are competing in their 10th postseason, gained a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series with a 3-1 road win in Game 5 on Saturday. Nashville is eager to finish the job on home ice, as correspondent Robby Stanley reports.

Former St. Louis Blues coach Davis Payne, who has been providing analysis of the series for NHL.com, discussed with staff writer Lisa Dillman how the defensemen from Nashville and Anaheim have excelled in this tight series.

Video: J.P. Morosi on the Predators historical opportunity

 

12 a.m.
What we learned Sunday

The Pittsburgh Penguins took a big step toward reaching the Stanley Cup Final on Sunday. The Nashville Predators hope to finish the job on Monday.

The Penguins, who had scored a total of six goals against the Ottawa Predators in the first four games of the Eastern Conference Final, scored seven times on Sunday to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series. Game 6 is Tuesday in Ottawa.

If the Predators can win at home on Monday against the Ducks, they will win the Western Conference Final and reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time.

 

Here is look at what happened on Sunday:

Pittsburgh Penguins 7, Ottawa Senators 0

Seven different Penguins scored for Pittsburgh, which has won two straight in the series and is one victory away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the second straight season.

Olli Maatta, Sidney Crosby, Bryan Rust, Scott Wilson, Matt Cullen, Phil Kessel and Trevor Daley each scored for Pittsburgh, which was 3-for-3 on the power play.

The Senators' Goalie Craig Anderson allowed four goals on 14 shots, getting pulled twice -- the first time at 16:04 of the first period, and, after coming back in 1:28 later, at the end of the first period. Also, defenseman Erik Karlsson sat out the third period.

Still, NHL.com Senior Writer Dan Rosen reports the Senators feel good about Anderson and their chances in Game 6 on Tuesday.

The Penguins, though one game away from getting back to the Stanley Cup Final, say they are just focused on winning the next game, and not what's at stake, writes NHL.com Staff Writer Tom Gulitti.

Video: Pens pound Sens 7-0, take 3-2 series lead in ECF

 

Here are some things we learned on Day 39 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

Pittsburgh has a new third line

Last season, the Penguins' third line, which became popularly known as the "HBK Line," was a huge reason for their championship success. Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel were arguably the most dominant line for most of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The "RBR Line" isn't as catchy, but Bryan Rust, Bonino and Carter Rowney got off to a strong start together in Game 5. They combined for seven points, including a career high three assists from Rowney, who was plus-4. Rust scored and had an assist. Bonino had two assists. They combined for 10 shots on goal.

Video: OTT@PIT, Gm5: Rust extends lead on a redirection

Ottawa can't keep up with the Penguins' speed

The Penguins' speed put the Senators on their heels a few minutes into the first period and Ottawa could never recover and trailed 4-0 after 20 minutes. The Senators want to play a patient and, at times, a passive, wait-for-their-mistakes game, but they couldn't contain the Penguins so they were too gassed when the Penguins made a rare mistake.

Pittsburgh's power play is rolling

The Penguins went 3-for-3 on the power play and are 5-for-10 since Game 3. They were 3-for-28 on the power play in their previous nine games, including 0-for-11 in four games from Game 6 of the second round against the Washington Capitals through Game 2 against Ottawa. Pittsburgh's success on the power play started with Sidney Crosby's goal at 6:07 of the third period in Game 3, a goal that was window dressing in a 5-1 Senators' win. Crosby has three points on the power play since, including a goal and an assist in Game 5.

Video: OTT@PIT, Gm5: Kessel nets Crosby's dish for PPG

Senators' special teams problems are not going away

At first, it was just a power-play problem for the Senators. Now, it's a special teams problem. Ottawa has gone 10 games without a power-play goal, a goalless streak that reached 28 consecutive power plays in Game 5. The Senators have allowed a power-play goal in three straight games, including three Sunday. But the power play is seriously hurting them. Not only are the Senators not generating any production, they aren't even getting momentum. They had a power play cut short because of a penalty in the first period Sunday. They gave up a goal on the ensuing penalty kill.

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