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Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Maple Leafs go for 2-0 lead against Bruins

Capitals, Stars, Flames trying to win first two games of their series

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Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily in-depth look at the 2019 NHL postseason. There were four Game 2s on the schedule Friday with three teams taking 2-0 leads in their best-of-7 first-round series

 

On Tap

There are four games on the Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Saturday

Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVAS): The Capitals look for their sixth straight playoff win, dating to last season's Stanley Cup Final. The Capitals are 3-3 when winning the first two games of a best-of-7 series at home.

Dallas Stars at Nashville Predators (6 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN, TVAS2, FS-TN, FS-SW): The Stars look to take a 2-0 lead over a Predators team that reached the Cup Final in 2017 and lost in the second round last season. 

Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVAS): The Bruins admitted they took the Maple Leafs too lightly in their 4-1 loss in Game 1. They need to find a way to slow down Mitchell Marner and company to avoid going to Toronto down 2-0.

Colorado Avalanche at Calgary Flames (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS, ALT): Flames goalie Mike Smith was the story in a 4-0 Game 1 win. The Avalanche, who have been shut out in two straight playoff games dating to last season's first round, need to find a way to get on the board. 

 

About Last Night 

There were four Game 2s on Friday:

Columbus Blue Jackets 5, Tampa Bay Lightning 1: Matt Duchene had a goal and three assists, and the Columbus Blue Jackets took a 2-0 lead over the Presidents' Trophy winners. The Lightning have lost four straight games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs dating to the 2018 Eastern Conference Final against the Washington Capitals. 

New York Islanders 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 1: Jordan Eberle scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period for the Islanders, who took a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series for the first time since the 1983 Stanley Cup Final. The Penguins have lost four straight playoff games dating to the 2018 Eastern Conference Second Round against the Capitals.

St. Louis Blues 4, Winnipeg Jets 3: Ryan O'Reilly scored early in the third period to break a tie and the Blues took a 2-0 lead over the Jets, who have lost six straight playoff games - including four at home - dating back to last season's Western Conference Final. 

Vegas Golden Knights 5, San Jose Sharks 3: The Golden Knights scored two shorthanded goals and one on the power play to tie the series 1-1. The teams combined for six goals in the first period; Vegas scored the first three before San Jose tied the score before the first intermission. Sharks goalie Martin Jones, who allowed three goals on seven shots, was pulled 6:39 into the first period. Aaron Dell made 14 saves in relief.

 

What we learned

Here are some takeaways from Day 3 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

Blue Jackets in control on special teams

The Blue Jackets have simply dominated the Lightning on special teams. That's surprising. The Lightning were at the top of the League in power play percentage (28.2) and tied with Columbus for the best penalty kill (85.0 percent) in the regular season. But through two games it has been Columbus' power play, which was 28th at 15.4 percent in the regular season, that has made a difference, going 3-for-6, including 2-for-4 in Game 2 on Friday. Columbus' second and third goals, putting it up 2-0 and 3-0, were both power-play goals. Seth Jones' game-winning goal with 5:55 left in the third period of Game 1 was also a power-play goal. The Blue Jackets have also scored a shorthanded goal and successfully killed off all five of the Lightning's power-play chances. The Blue Jackets look as comfortable on the penalty kill as they do on the power play, and they've made the Lightning look uncomfortable for the most part on both.

Video: Clutch Performance: Jones lifts Blue Jackets to win

 

Lightning struggling to stick to game plan

The Lightning are a speed and skill team that can add physicality to their repertoire when necessary. In Game 2, though, it looked like they were trying to bully the Blue Jackets and, at times, played too physical, looking for hits that they didn't need to make. It fed right into how the Blue Jackets want the Lightning to play, and they made them pay by controlling the puck, the pace, the score and the game. It ended with the Lightning showing signs of frustration, like Nikita Kucherov punching the glass behind the bench on his way toward the tunnel leading to the dressing room after picking up 17 minutes in penalties out of frustration with 4:26 remaining in the third period. The Lightning must attack with speed and let their skill take over. They have to get the puck behind Columbus' defense and then win battles there. They need to remember the game plan that drove them this season and get back to it as best they can. 

 

Islanders winning in different ways

After they were forced at times to play an up-and-down style not to their liking in Game 1, the Islanders reverted to what made them so successful throughout the regular season when they shut down the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly from start to finish in Game 2. New York allowed 44 shots on goal in the series opener, but that number was trimmed to 33 in Game 2. One was credited to Penguins center Sidney Crosby, who has three shots on goal in the series and is still in search of his first point.

 

Penguins need to play responsibly

The Penguins' penalty-kill unit really stepped up in Game 2, going 5-for-6 against the Islanders, but Pittsburgh will need to show much more discipline if it expects to rally after losing the first two games. The Penguins have killed six of eight penalties in the series, and coach Mike Sullivan is concerned about the heavy minutes being placed on his penalty-killers, including defensemen Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang. Forward Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Jack Johnson, who returned to the lineup after serving as a healthy scratch in Game 1, were each penalized twice in the first period of Game 2. Sullivan expects his team to play a much more responsible game Sunday in Pittsburgh.

 

Blues are full value for their 2-0 lead

The Blues have not taken their foot off the gas after an impressive second half of the season, when they went 30-10-5 and surged from last place in the NHL to finish third in the Central Division. Their first two games in Winnipeg were not perfect, but the Blues were resilient and persistent and calm when they needed to be, winning each game that was tied in the third period. "I think both games we've got everybody pretty dialed in, they're playing hard for each other, doing all the little things, and finding a way to get some goals," coach Craig Berube said. One major indicator of how many good things the Blues are doing is that they managed to win Game 2 despite losing the special-teams battle. Winnipeg had two power-play goals and the Blues had none, but scoring four goals at even strength in Game 2 was enough to put the Blues in the driver's seat in the series.

 Video: STL@WPG, Gm2: Maroon jams in his own rebound

 

Winnipeg is still plugging holes

Though the Jets trail their best-of-seven series with the Blues 2-0 after losing twice on home ice, they had several positives in Game 2. Patrik Laine scored for the second straight game and top-line forwards Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele each scored his first goal in the series. Winnipeg's power play also came to life, with two goals in three chances. But leaks sprung elsewhere. The Jets allowed four goals at even strength -- a red flag in the playoffs -- and goalie Connor Hellebuyck had two goals go through him and then had Ryan O'Reilly's snap shot go by him off a 1-on-1 rush for the game-winning goal at 3:46 of the third period. The Jets had their share of momentum and led in each of the first two games. No team ever has all the momentum all of the time, but the Jets will have to work to have more of it more often.

 

Martin Jones is an issue again for Sharks 

Sharks goalie Martin Jones was a main storyline entering the Western Conference First Round because of his struggles this season (.896 save percentage) and his struggles against the Golden Knights (.895 in the second round last year and .893 this season). Coach Peter DeBoer strongly supported him, and he wasn't an issue in Game 1, stopping 25 shots behind a tight team defense in a 5-3 win. But he was pulled from Game 2 after allowing three goals on seven shots, and the Sharks went on to lose 5-3. Uh-oh. Here come the questions again, at least from the outside.

 

Welcome to the Stone Age for Golden Knights 

Vegas general manager George McPhee deserves credit. The three players who lead Vegas in scoring through two games didn't play for them during their magical inaugural season of 2017-18. They comprise the so-called second line. Forward Max Pacioretty, acquired from the Montreal Canadiens on Sept. 9, has four points (one goal, three assists), most on the Golden Knights. Forward Mark Stone, acquired from the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 25, leads Vegas with three goals. Center Paul Stastny, signed as an unrestricted free agent July 1, has three assists.

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