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Stanley Cup Playoff Buzz: Jets try to extend lead in Central

Penguins, Blue Jackets, Stars can clinch berths; Canadiens look to make move in East wild-card race

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2019 NHL postseason. There are five days left in the regular season and though several berths have been clinched there are several races yet to be decided. 

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

 

Stanley Cup Playoff clinching scenarios

EASTERN CONFERENCE

The Pittsburgh Penguins will clinch a playoff berth:

* If they defeat the Detroit Red Wings (7:30 p.m. ET; FS-D+, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV) in any fashion

OR

*If they get one point against the Red Wings AND either of the following occur:

- The Montreal Canadiens lose to the Tampa Bay Lightning (7:30 p.m. ET; RDS, TSN2, SUN, NHL.TV) in any fashion
- The Carolina Hurricanes lose to the Toronto Maple Leafs (7:30 p.m. ET; TVAS, TSN4, FS-CR, NHL.TV) in regulation

OR

* If the Canadiens lose to the Lightning in regulation


The Columbus Blue Jackets will clinch a playoff berth:

*If they defeat the Boston Bruins (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NESN, NHL.TV) in any fashion AND the Canadiens lose to the Lightning in regulation

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

The Dallas Stars will clinch a playoff berth:

* If they get one point against the Philadelphia Flyers (8:30 p.m. ET: FS-SW, NBCSP, NHL.TV)

OR

* If the Arizona Coyotes lose to the Los Angeles Kings (10 p.m. ET; FS-A Plus, PRIME, NHL.TV) in any fashion

 

On tap

There are 10 games on the schedule Tuesday, nine with playoff implications:

Nashville Predators at Buffalo Sabres )7 p.m. ET; MSG-B, FS-TN, NHL.TV): The Predators are third in the Central Division, tied in points for second with the St. Louis Blues but with one fewer regulation/overtime win, which is the first tiebreaker. Nashville and St. Louis are two points behind the Winnipeg Jets for first in the Central with each team having three games left. The Sabres are eliminated from playoff contention.

Boston Bruins at Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NESN, NHL.TV): The Blue Jackets hold the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. They're three points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for third in the Metropolitan Division, one point ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes, who hold the second wild card, and two points ahead of the Montreal Canadiens. Each team has three games remaining. Columbus can clinch a playoff berth with a win of any kind against Boston and a Montreal regulation loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bruins lead the Toronto Maple Leafs by four points for second in the Atlantic Division and are locked into facing the Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference First Round. Each team has three games left. Boston will clinch home-ice advantage in the first round with a win of any kind against Columbus and a Toronto loss of any kind against Carolina, or if it gets one point against Columbus and Toronto loses in regulation against Carolina.

Carolina Hurricanes at Toronto Maple Leafs (7:30 p.m. ET; TVAS, TSN4, FS-CR, NHL.TV): The Hurricanes hold the second wild card into the playoffs from the East. They're one point behind the Blue Jackets for the first wild card and one point ahead of the Canadiens. Each team has three games remaining. The Maple Leafs, who clinched a playoff berth Monday, are locked into facing the Bruins in the Eastern Conference First Round and trail them by four points for second in the Atlantic and home-ice advantage in that series.

Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens (7:30 p.m. ET; TSN2, RDS, SUN, NHL.TV): The Canadiens trail the Hurricanes by one point for the second wild card from the East and are two points behind the Blue Jackets for the first wild card with each team having three games left. With a victory, the Lightning would move one ahead of the 1976-77 Canadiens for the second-most wins in a season and pull within one of the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings' NHL record of 62.

Pittsburgh Penguins at Detroit Red Wings (7:30 p.m. ET; FS-D+, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV): The Penguins are in third in the Metropolitan Division, two points behind the second-place New York Islanders and five behind the first-place Washington Capitals with a game in hand on each team. The Penguins are three points ahead of the fourth-place Blue Jackets, who hold the first wild card into the playoffs from the East; four points ahead of the Hurricanes, who hold the second wild card; and five points ahead of the Canadiens. Each team has three games remaining. Pittsburgh can clinch a playoff berth with a win of any kind against Detroit or with one point against Detroit and a Montreal loss of any kind to Tampa Bay, or with a Montreal regulation loss to Tampa Bay. Pittsburgh also can clinch a playoff berth with one point and a Carolina regulation loss to Toronto. The Red Wings have been eliminated from playoff contention.

Winnipeg Jets at Minnesota Wild (8 p.m. ET; FS-N+, TSN3, NHL.TV): The Jets have a two-point lead on the Blues and the Predators for first in the Central Division with each team having three games remaining. The Jets can clinch home-ice advantage for at least the Western Conference First Round with a win and a Predators regulation loss to the Sabres. The Wild trail the Colorado Avalanche by five points for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference with each team having three games remaining.

Philadelphia Flyers at Dallas Stars (8:30 p.m. ET; FS-SW+, NBCSP, NHL.TV): The Stars, who hold the first wild card into the playoffs from the West, are three points ahead of the Avalanche, who hold the second wild card, and five points ahead of the Arizona Coyotes. Each team has three games left. Dallas will clinch a playoff berth with one point against Philadelphia or an Arizona loss of any kind to the Los Angeles Kings. The Flyers have been eliminated from playoff contention.

Edmonton Oilers at Colorado Avalanche (9 p.m. ET; ALT, SNW, NHL.TV): The Avalanche, who hold the second wild card into the playoffs from the West, trail the Stars by three points for the first wild card and are two points ahead of the Coyotes. Each team has three games remaining. The Oilers have been eliminated from playoff contention.

Los Angeles Kings at Arizona Coyotes (10 p.m. ET; FS-A PLUS, PRIME, NHL.TV): The Coyotes trail the Avalanche by two points for the second wild card into the playoffs from the West and the Stars by five points for the first wild card. Each team has three games left. The Kings have been eliminated from playoff contention.

 

Thought of the Day

The race for first in the Central Division is set up for a dramatic finish.

For a half-hour Monday there was a three-way tie in points for first, with the Winnipeg Jets, St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators each having 94.

That was after the Blues completed a 3-2 shootout win against the Colorado Avalanche to pull even with the Jets and Predators at 10:41 p.m. ET. The Blues' view from the top didn't last long because Kevin Hayes scored at 11:11 p.m. ET to give the Jets a 4-3 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks. 

That put Winnipeg (46-29-4) back in sole possession of first with a two-point lead on St. Louis (43-28-8) and Nashville (44-29-6). St. Louis has one more regulation/overtime win than Nashville, so it holds second via that tiebreaker.

Each team has three games remaining to sort this out, none against each other. So there will be a lot of scoreboard watching the next five days. 

The Blues will watch Tuesday while the Jets play the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center and the Predators play the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Then the Blues play the Blackhawks at United Center on Wednesday while the Jets and Predators have the night off.

All three teams play Thursday, with Winnipeg at the Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis hosting the Philadelphia Flyers and Nashville hosting the Vancouver Canucks. The regular season ends Saturday with Winnipeg playing at the Arizona Coyotes, St. Louis hosting Vancouver and Nashville hosting Chicago.

No one would have predicted that the Blues would have been anywhere near first in the Central when they were last in the NHL on Jan. 2 (15-18-4). But they have gone 28-10-4 since, including 7-1-1 in their past nine, to set up this wild three-team race. 

The winner will face the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference (currently held by the Dallas Stars) in the Western Conference First Round. The other two likely will face each other in the first round -- Dallas, which is five points behind St. Louis and Nashville with three games left, has a longshot chance to finish as high as second -- with home-ice advantage going to the second-place finisher in the Central.

NHL.com staff writer Tom Gulitti

 

If playoffs started Tuesday

Here is a look at the matchups for the first round as they stand entering games Tuesday:

Eastern Conference

(1A) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (WC2) Carolina Hurricanes 

(1M) Washington Capitals vs. (WC1) Columbus Blue Jackets  

(2A) Boston Bruins vs. (3A) Toronto Maple Leafs

(2M) New York Islanders vs. (3M) Pittsburgh Penguins   

Western Conference

(1P) Calgary Flames vs. (WC2) Colorado Avalanche

(1C) Winnipeg Jets vs. (WC1) Dallas Stars 

(2P) San Jose Sharks vs. (3P) Vegas Golden Knights

(2C) St. Louis Blues vs. (3C) Nashville Predators


 
About last night

Seven of the eight games on the schedule Monday had playoff implications

Florida Panthers 5, Washington Capitals 3: The Capitals missed a chance to clinch first place in the Metropolitan Division but remain three points ahead of the second-place New York Islanders.

Video: Trocheck, Barkov fuel Panthers in 5-3 defeat of Caps

Toronto Maple Leafs 2, New York Islanders 1: The Maple Leafs became the fifth team from the Eastern Conference to clinch a playoff berth. Toronto, which will be in the playoffs for the third straight season, will play the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference First Round. The Maple Leafs trail the Bruins by four points for second place in the division and home-ice advantage in the series. The Islanders remain three points behind the Capitals for first in the Metropolitan with two games to go. They are two points ahead of the third-place Pittsburgh Penguins, who have a game in hand. 

Tampa Bay Lightning 5, Ottawa Senators 2: The Lightning became the third team in NHL history to win 60 games, joining the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens (60-8, 12 ties) and the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings (62-13, seven ties). The Lightning (60-15-4) can set the all-time wins record if they can get victories in their final three games. 

St. Louis Blues 3, Colorado Avalanche 2 (SO): The Blues moved into a tie for second place in the Central Division with the Nashville Predators, two points behind the first-place Winnipeg Jets. Each team has three games remaining. The Avalanche, who tied the game with 47 seconds remaining in the third period, moved two points ahead of the Arizona Coyotes for the second wild card from the Western Conference. Each team has three games to play. 

Winnipeg Jets 4, Chicago Blackhawks 3 (OT): The Jets broke a first-place tie with the Predators in the Central. Winnipeg leads Nashville and St. Louis by two points. The Blackhawks are six points behind the Avalanche for the second wild card from the West with three games remaining. 

Vegas Golden Knights 3, Edmonton Oilers 1: The Golden Knights, who will finish third in the Pacific Division and play the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference First Round, ended a five-game losing streak (0-3-2). The Oilers were eliminated from playoff contention.

Calgary Flames 7, Los Angeles Kings 2: The Flames won their 50th game, only the second team in Calgary/Atlanta Flames history to do so, joining the 1988-89 Stanley Cup champions (54). The Flames already have clinched the Western Conference and will have home-ice through the first three rounds of the playoffs.

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