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Playoff Buzz: Penguins in control entering Game 3

Pittsburgh dealing with injuries, but holds 2-0 series lead against Capitals

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 today with one game. 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:

7:15 p.m. 

Monday, in Nashville, was a day to regroup after Game 3 of the Western Conference Second Round.

The Predators, who won Game 3 against the St. Louis Blues 3-1 at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday, spent Monday trying to temper the rising expectations accompanying the win. This is the first time in Predators history that they have a series lead in the second round.

NHL.com Director of Editorial Shawn P. Roarke has a story on the amazing atmosphere inside Bridgestone Arena on Sunday and throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Even defenseman P.K. Subban, who started his career in the hockey mecca of Montreal, is impressed with the atmosphere the Predators have created.

Forward Colton Sissons has been on fire this postseason. NHL.com Correspondent Robby Stanley finds out why Sissons has been so good this postseason, including a two-point game on Sunday. Coach Peter Laviolette has used Sissons on several lines and each line has become better through the presence of Sissons this postseason.

For the Blues, the loss puts them behind in a series for the first time this postseason, but as NHL.com Correspondent Louie Korac explains, the Blues needed a huge bounce-back to save their season. Now, they will need another one here to win three of the next four games to advance to the Western Conference Final for the second straight season.

To have success in Game 4, and beyond, Blues coach Mike yeo knows he will have to find a way to get his top line, anchored by right wing Vladimir Tarasenko, into advantageous positions. LNH.com Senior Managing Editor Arpon Basu has an interesting look at the chess match being played out between the top line from the Blues and the top two pairs of defensemen from the Predators.

On Sunday, there were 64 hits delivered in Game 3. The physical play resulted in an increase in the angst level on each team. Yeo believes that is good for St. Louis as it should become more engaged in the series. Arpon Basu explains the thought process. 

 

5:01 p.m.
Setting up the night

 

Capitals at Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports)

There's just one game on the playoff schedule tonight but it's a big one. The Capitals need a win to stay in the series, and could have defenseman Karl Alzner in the lineup for the first time in seven games; staff writer Tom Gulitti reports that Alzner will take warmups for the first time since he was injured during Game 2 of the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 2-0 but have injury issues of their own. Forwards Carl Hagelin and Patric Hornqvist and defenseman Brian Dumoulin will be game-time decisions, writes correspondent Wes Crosby. And here are the 5 Keys to Game 3 for the Penguins and Capitals.

 

4:00 p.m.
Rangers seeking spark

New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault has a decision, or maybe decisions, to make regarding his lineup for Game 3 at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

The Senators lead the best-of-7 series 2-0. One decision is surely between forwards Pavel Buchnevich and Tanner Glass, who rotated in with the fourth line at practice Monday. Beyond that, the Rangers have some players who need to be significantly better than they were in Game 2 if they want to get back in the series.

The Senators practiced at MSG on Monday without defenseman Erik Karlsson (foot) but with forward Clarke MacArthur (upper body), who didn't return to Game 2 after playing two shifts in the first 5:37 of the second period. Karlsson will play, but it's not as clear on MacArthur.

The Senators-Rangers series is also making a big impact in Gothenburg, Sweden because of Henrik Lundqvist and Karlsson, two of the country's biggest sports stars. NHL.com Senior Writer Dan Rosen talked to some people in Gothenburg's hockey community to get a feel for how big the series is back there.

 

3:45 p.m.
Oilers look to respond again

The Edmonton Oilers are no stranger to Stanley Cup Playoff adversity. They will be counting on their bounce-back ability again in Game 4 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).

Edmonton lost 6-3 in Game 3 against Anaheim on Sunday, but has a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series and can refer to their lessons learned against the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference First Round. After a 7-0 loss to the Sharks in Game 4 of that series, the Oilers rallied for a 4-3 overtime win in Game 5 before closing out the series in six games.

Oilers captain Connor McDavid scored his first goal of the second round in Game 3, but has been dealing with almost-constant attention of Ducks center Ryan Kesler in the series. Correspondent Derek Van Diest writes that McDavid, who has six points (three goals, three assists) in nine playoff games, is usually a quick study when it comes to adapting to situations.

 

12:45 p.m.
Penguins face injury uncertainty

Defenseman Brian Dumoulin and forwards Carl Hagelin and Patric Hornqvist will be game-time decisions for the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Washington Capitals in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at PPG Paints Arena on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner will also be a game-time decision. Staff writer Tom Gulitti has the details.

The Penguins lead the best-of-7 series 2-0. In his 5 keys to Game 3, correspondent Wes Crosby says the Capitals need to cash in on their opportunities and have fun instead of being consumed by the pressure.

Another key? Penguins rookie forward Jake Guentzel, the third player in 73 years to score seven goals in his first seven Stanley Cup Playoff games, after Maurice Richard in 1944 and Dino Ciccarelli in 1981. NHL.com Columnist Nick Cotsonika spoke to Ciccarelli about Guentzel. "Obviously he has a knack for the net," Ciccarelli said.

 

9:59 a.m.
Ducks climb back into series with Oilers

The Anaheim Ducks went up big in Game 3 against the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday, saw their lead disappear, and built a new one pretty quickly. The result was a 6-3 win at Rogers Place and they now trail the Oilers, 2-1 in their Western Conference Second Round series.

The Nashville Predators took a 2-1 lead in their second-round series against the St. Louis Blues with a 3-1 win.

 

Here's a look at what happened Sunday:

Predators 3, Blues 1

More offense from the defense helped the Predators. Defenseman Ryan Ellis opened the scoring in the first period, and after Alexander Steen scored in the second period to get the Blues within 2-1, defenseman Roman Josi scored in the third to give the Predators a 3-1 advantage. It was the NHL-best seventh goal by a Predators defenseman during the playoffs.

Ducks 6, Oilers 3

The Ducks scored three times in the first 11:01 of the first period, but the Oilers slowly worked their way back into the game, tying it on a spectacular goal by Connor McDavid . But Chris Wagner scored 48 seconds later to steal the momentum back for the Ducks. Anaheim is the fifth team in Stanley Cup Playoff history to surrender a lead of three or more goals and win by a margin of at least three.

Video: Top Shelf: NHL's best plays of Sunday night

 

What we learned on Day 19 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Return to form for Anaheim's penalty kill

The Ducks have not forgotten how to kill penalties. They went 3-for-3 when shorthanded in Game 3 after allowing power-play goals in each of the first two games of the series. In those games, the Oilers were a combined 3-for-9 with the man advantage, dropping the Ducks to the bottom of penalty-killing efficiency among the 16 playoff teams (16-for-25, 64.0 percent). The Ducks' strong effort in Game 3 raised them to 15th at 67.8 percent (19-for-28) and also was the first time in seven games during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs that they didn't allow a power-play goal.

 

Edmonton uncomfortable chasing game

The Oilers were not the same team when playing from behind. Game 3 was the first time in the series that they did not hold a lead at any point in a game; they were ahead for a combined 67:59 during the first two games of the series. The Oilers rallied from down three goals to tie the game, but their periods of ragged execution and sloppy puck management were a serious problem. They trailed 4-3 entering the third period but never looked like a threat to derail the Ducks' urgency and take over the game.

 

Depth key for Predators

It seemingly has been a different player stepping up each game this postseason for the Predators. Sunday it was left wing Cody McLeod, playing in his third game of the playoffs, scoring the game-winning goal. It was his third postseason goal in 26 career games after he scored five in 59 regular-season games. In Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues, it was forward Vernon Fiddler with the game-winning goal in his first game this postseason. Six players have scored the winning goal in the Predators' six playoff wins: McLeod, Fiddler, Ellis, Kevin Fiala, Colton Sissons and Viktor Arvidsson.

 

Faceoff success paying dividends for Nashville

The Predators have paid extra care in the faceoff circle and it has paid off. Against the Blues in Game 3, they won 61.9 percent of faceoffs (39 of 63), dictating the possession game as a result. For the postseason, the Predators have won 54.5 percent of their draws, the third-best success rate among playoff teams, behind the Minnesota Wild (57.4 percent) and the Ducks (56.0 percent). Predators center Calle Jarnkrok has won 59.2 percent, including 16 of 19 on Sunday. Center Mike Fisher is at 56.5 percent.

 

Blues stopping offense from Predators' defense is primary concern

The Predators defensemen have figured into 12 of their past 13 goals, and Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said that would be a topic of conversation heading into Game 4. The Blues know they need to do a better job getting into shooting lanes, pressuring shooters and not allowing the space the Predators' mobile defense uses to create offense.

 

Possession not primary issue for the Blues

The Blues did not have the puck much in Game 3, but coach Mike Yeo didn't see that as the problem Sunday. He considered the Predators' puck possession to be similar to what the Wild did in the first round, a series the Blues won in five games. The difference to Yeo was the Blues' level of aggression in their zone and their inability to cut plays off before they become extended shifts in the defensive zone. Look for them to try to interrupt the Predators' cycle game much sooner rather trying to simply contain it to the outside in Game 4.

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