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Playoff Buzz: Capitals, Ducks try to get even

Washington, Anaheim can tie second-round series with Game 4 victories

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 Wednesday with two games. NHL.com writers covering the playoffs will be checking in throughout the day to give you latest news, including the sites of the two games. Here is the playoff news for Wednesday:

 

7:15 p.m. 
Predators, Blues reflect

With two days off before Game 5 on Friday, the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues reflected Wednesday on the first four games of their Western Conference Second Round series. 

Nashville, after a 2-1 victory in Game 4 on Tuesday, leads the best-of-7 series 3-1 and can advance to the conference final for the first time with one more win. So the vibe around the Predators in Nashville was a bit more relaxed.

Goalie Pekka Rinne spent part of his afternoon explaining to LNH.com Senior Managing Editor Arpon Basu how his journey of the past nine years has coincided with the growth of hockey in the city and how the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs have been special for him because of the uncertainty that preceded them.

Correspondent Robby Stanley examines how the physical play of Nashville forward Auston Watson has affected the series. Watson had a game-high eight hits Tuesday.

In Hazelwood, Missouri, the site of their practice facility, the Blues were a bit more tense facing elimination. After pondering what went wrong in Game 4, St. Louis needs a plan for how to get back into the series. NHL.com Director of Editorial Shawn P. Roarke lays out the five things the Blues must do to stay alive.

One thing the Blues want to do is make life uncomfortable for Rinne, who they believe is seeing too many of the shots he is facing. Correspondent Louie Korac addresses how the Blues plan to do that and some of the challenges that might stand in their way.

 

5:17 p.m. 
Capitals, Ducks out to even series 

The Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks hope their road success continues in the Western Conference Second Round.

The Capitals trail 2-1 in their best-of-7 series against the Pittsburgh Penguins entering Game 4 at PPG Paints Arena, where they won 3-2 in overtime Monday. The Ducks are trying to make it two straight at Rogers Place after their 6-3 win there Sunday.

Here's a deeper look at the two Stanley Cup Playoff games set for Wednesday:

Capitals at Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) - The Penguins will be without top center Sidney Crosby (concussion) in Game 4, but they are focused solely on winning, according to columnist Nick Cotsonika. Who steps up in Crosby's place? Can Capitals goalie Braden Holtby build off his road win in Game 3? Correspondent Wes Crosby answers that and more in his 5 Keys to Game 4.

Ducks at Oilers (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports) - The Ducks may not have forward Patrick Eaves in their Game 4 lineup, so Corey Perry could move to the top line. How he plays there is one of correspondent Derek van Diest's 5 Keys to Game 4. Also worth watching is how the Oilers have handled the extra day off to think about where things went wrong in Game 3. "Obviously, this is a huge swing game. 2-2 there is a huge difference than 3-1," Oilers captain Connor McDavid said.

 

4:11 p.m. 
Zibanejad finds groove for Rangers

New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad was arguably the best player on the ice in Game 3 against the Ottawa Senators because he was hard on the puck, skated well and created scoring chances for himself and others. Now, the challenge is for Zibanejad to carry over that performance to Game 4 on Thursday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

To do it, Zibanejad has to win the mental battle with himself, one he's been engaged in throughout his NHL career, writes NHL.com Senior Writer Dan Rosen.

Ottawa forwards Bobby Ryan and Zack Smith sustained injuries in Game 3 on Tuesday. Ryan is expected to be ready for Game 4, but Smith's status remains unclear.

Urgency and desperation were buzz words for the Senators before Game 3, but they didn't play with enough of either. The Rangers were all over them from the start in a 4-1 win. Ottawa must pick up the pieces and adjust in Game 4 if they plan to go home with their lead in the Eastern Conference Second Round series still intact.

 

1:40 p.m.
Aftermath of Crosby injury

The Pittsburgh Penguins will be without captain Sidney Crosby (concussion) against the Washington Capitals in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at PPG Paints Arena on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

The Penguins have a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.

Correspondent Wes Crosby has 5 keys to Game 4, including how the Penguins plan to fill Crosby's void and how Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen is focusing on his game instead of the noise surrounding him.

NHL.com Columnist Nick Cotsonika writes the Penguins' attitude seems to be just win, not win one for Sid. Staff writer Tom Gulitti talks to Alex Ovechkin and Niskanen about the play that injured Crosby and the aftermath.

 

11:30 a.m.
Capitals, Ducks try to even series

After Game 3 victories on the road, the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks can even their respective best-of-7 series by winning Wednesday.

Here's an early look at the two games:

Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET; CBC, TVA Sports, NBCSN) -- The Capitals allowed two goals in the final 1:53 of regulation of Game 3 on Monday, but defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk came to the rescue when he scored his first goal of the playoffs on a power play at 3:13 of overtime to give Washington its first win of the series. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby (concussion) will not play Game 4, so others will need to pick up the scoring slack, according to NHL.com correspondent Wes Crosby. In 118 games that Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin has played without Crosby in the lineup, he has 154 points (66 goals, 88 assists), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Despite the win, NHL.com staff writer Tom Gulitti reports that Capitals coach Barry Trotz seeks improvement from his group.

Anaheim Ducks at Edmonton Oilers (10 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports, NBCSN) -- The Ducks won for the first time in this series when Jakob Silfverberg scored two goals and had an assist in a 6-3 victory at Rogers Place on Sunday. Anaheim likely will be without forward Patrick Eaves , who sustained a lower-body injury in Game 3, according to staff writer Lisa Dillman. Staff writer Tim Campbell reports that the Oilers are looking to improve their faceoff win percentage, an area that has been a concern for coach Todd McLellan. Edmonton ranked last in faceoff win percentage (47.0 percent) during the regular season and is 15th among the 16 teams that qualified for the playoffs (44.6 percent).

Fantasy picks: John Carlson primed for big Game 4

 

9:15 a.m.
Predators one win from conference final

The Nashville Predators moved within one win of their first appearance in the Western Conference Final with a 2-1 win against the St. Louis Blues in Game 4 of their Western Conference Second Round series Tuesday.

The Predators, who swept the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, are 4-0 at Bridgestone Arena in the playoffs this season and lead the best-of-7 series 3-1.

The New York Rangers got their third straight postseason win at Madison Square Garden, defeating the Ottawa Senators 4-1 in Game 3 of their Second Round Eastern Conference series. Ottawa leads the best-of-7 series 2-1.

Here's a look at what happened Tuesday:

New York Rangers 4, Ottawa Senators 1

It turns out all the Rangers needed was an extra day off. They rebounded from a 6-5 double-overtime loss in Game 2 on Saturday for their first win of the series. Mats Zuccarello, Michael Grabner, Rick Nash and Oscar Lindberg each scored for the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist, who made 26 saves, became the 15th NHL goaltender to win 60 career playoff games. He tied Turk Broda for 14th place all-time and moved within one of equaling Tom Barrasso (61) for 13th place.

Senior writer Dan Rosen explains why the Rangers were so dominant Tuesday.

Nashville Predators 2, St. Louis Blues 1

Ryan Ellis and James Neal scored third-period goals and Pekka Rinne made 32 saves for Nashville. Ellis has at least a point in seven straight games.

The Predators, who lost in Game 7 in the second round last season, go for the series win Friday in St. Louis.

LNH.com Senior Managing Editor Arpon Basu wrote about the red-hot Ellis.

 

Here are some things we learned on Day 21 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

Rangers can break down Senators' structure

They did it well at times during Games 1 and 2, but not enough. The Rangers were dominant in this area in Game 3 by chipping the puck into the attacking zone in areas where they could win a foot race and get to it first. That caused chaos for the Senators and goalie Craig Anderson, and created possession for the Rangers that led to scoring chances and goals.

J.T. Miller has arrived

Miller, the Rangers' forward who was demoted to the fourth line during Game 2, played his most assertive game of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He had an assist on Oscar Lindberg's goal by taking the puck to the net and making a smart backhand pass. Miller epitomized the Rangers' first-to-the-puck mentality by dominating on the forecheck. He also made several strong plays to help the Rangers break out of the defensive zone. He was around the net a lot too.

Penalty-killing remains issue for Blues

The Blues were the best penalty-killing team in the NHL after Mike Yeo took over as coach Feb. 1, but they gave up their third power-play goal of the series against Nashville in Game 4 and their fifth in the past five games. The penalty kill is working at 68.8-percent efficiency during that span. It hurt them in Game 4 when they allowed a power-play goal by Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis at 5:09 of the third period to break a 0-0 tie. It was a critical moment in the game and the Blues needed a penalty kill in the worst way.

Pekka Rinne still rock-solid

Predators goalie Pekka Rinne stopped 32 of 33 shots and is showing no signs that his tremendous postseason play will end anytime soon. In eight games he's 7-1 with a .953 save percentage and 1.33 goals-against average. That's a big improvement from the .918 save percentage and 2.42 GAA he had during the regular season. The Predators made it so that Rinne didn't need to be spectacular in Game 4, but he made saves when he needed to and that's all that matters during the playoffs.

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