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Playoff Buzz: Senators, Penguins play Game 1 of Eastern Conference Final

Ottawa's structure, Pittsburgh's speed could be keys to series

NHL.com @NHL

Welcome to the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff Buzz, your daily look at the stories impacting the 2016-17 postseason. Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators is Saturday. NHL.com writers covering the playoffs will be checking in throughout the day to give you the latest news.

Here is the playoff news for Saturday: 

 

2:30 p.m. 
Penguins getting by with depleted defense 

As if losing Kris Letang for the entire postseason before it started wasn't bad enough, the Penguins are also dealing with a lower-body injury to Trevor Daley, who missed the last two games of the series against Washington and is unlikely to play in Game 1 against Ottawa. NHL.com staff writer Amalie Benjamin writes about how the Penguins are still plugging along despite missing two key pieces on defense because of their depth. 

NHL.com correspondent Wes Crosby looks at the five keys to the game, including Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson's health, goaltending and the need for the Penguins to come out strong.

 

12:15 p.m.
Eastern Conference Final begins

The Ottawa Senators visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final at PPG Paints Arena (7 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Ottawa has been off for three days after defeating the New York Rangers in six games to win their second-round series. Defenseman Erik Karlsson has been superb through the first two rounds, and NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen writes that the two-time Norris Trophy winner is the key to Ottawa's chances against the Penguins because he's the cornerstone to coach Guy Boucher's system. Though Boucher portrayed his team as the underdog in the first two series,the Senators aren't buying into that role after winning their first two series, Rosen writes.

The Penguins, perhaps the NHL's fastest team, are halfway to becoming the NHL's first repeat champion since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and '98. One reason is the play of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who has stepped in after starter Matt Murray was injured in warmups before Game 1 of the first round against the Columbus Blue Jackets. NHL.com correspondent Wes Crosby reports that Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford is happy he didn't trade Fleury. Crosby also writes that the Penguins may be without forward Carl Hagelin for a third straight game because of a lingering lower-body injury.

One key to the series will be the battle between Fleury and his Ottawa counterpart, Craig Anderson. Correspondent Kevin Woodley breaks down the matchup. Longtime NHL assistant coach Jim Corsi, who's analyzing the series for NHL.com, tells Rosen that Karlsson's ability to move the puck and join the rush could put the Penguins on their heels and make this an even series.

Video: Hradek previews Penguins vs Senators Conference Final

 
9:30 a.m.
Predators get jump on Ducks

For the 24th time in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, overtime was needed to decide a game. On Friday, it was James Neal of the Nashville Predators who ended it. 

Neal scored 9:24 into overtime to give the Predators a win against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 of the best-of-7 Western Conference Final. The Predators are 2-0 in overtime this postseason; the Ducks are 3-1. 

 

Here's a look at what happened Friday:  

Nashville Predators 3, Anaheim Ducks 2 (OT)

The Predators won Game 1 on the road for the third straight series, outlasting Anaheim in the opener of their first conference final. Filip Forsberg and Austin Watson scored the other goals for Nashville, which is 9-2 this postseason. The Ducks, playing two nights after winning Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Edmonton Oilers, were outshot 46-29 and lost Game 1 of a series at home for the second straight time. Game 2 is Sunday.

NHL.com staff writer Tim Campbell writes about the Predators' ability this postseason to win Game 1 on the road.

Staff writer Lisa Dillman takes a look at the Ducks' slow start in Game 1. 

Video: Neal's OT winner sends Predators past Ducks in Game 1

 
Here are some things we learned on Day 30 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs: 

Power outage continues for Ducks

Anaheim's power-play woes continued. The Ducks went 0 for 4 against the Predators in Game 1 and have not scored a power-play goal since Game 2 of the second round against the Edmonton Oilers. Their power-play efficiency in the playoffs is 12.5 percent, the lowest of the four remaining teams.

John Gibson has to carry Ducks

It's becoming obvious that Ducks goaltender John Gibson is going to have to maintain his high level of play if Anaheim is going to have a chance against the Predators. Gibson had a far busier night in Game 1 than Pekka Rinne, his Nashville counterpart. Gibson made 11 saves during Nashville's five power plays and finished with an NHL postseason career-high 43 saves. His previous high was 39 on May 12, 2014, in Game 5 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Los Angeles Kings.

Predators aren't shy

The Predators are a team with clear intentions: They push the pace and try to pressure all over the ice, and they'll be happy to try that all game long and take their chances. In Game 1 against the Ducks, they forced the issue for long stretches and compelled Anaheim to play keep-up most of the way. Don't expect Nashville to change its push-the-pace style at any time in the Western Conference Final.

Pekka Rinne loves big stage

Rinne has never been this far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but he looked perfectly comfortable and sharp in Game 1. Rinne showed again that it takes excellent shots to score against him, and the confidence he's providing his team is apparent.

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