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Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Blue Jackets, Islanders eye first-round sweeps

Blues, Golden Knights seek commanding 3-1 series leads

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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 3s on the schedule Monday:

 

On Tap

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

Tampa Bay Lightning at Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN360, TVAS, FS-O, SUN): The Blue Jackets will try to become the first team in NHL history to sweep the Presidents' Trophy winner in the first round. Columbus, which has outscored the Lightning 12-2 since falling behind 3-0 in Game 1, is also trying to win the first postseason series in its history. 

New York Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2, ATTSN-PT, MSG, MSG+): The Islanders will go for their first series sweep since the 1983 Stanley Cup Final and their second series win since 1992-93. The Penguins haven't been swept in a series since the 2013 Eastern Conference Final against the Boston Bruins. 

Winnipeg Jets at St. Louis Blues (9:30 p.m. ET; SN, TVAS, FS-MW): The Jets will look to even the only series where the road team has won every game. The two leading scorers in the series are defensemen: Dustin Byfuglien for the Jets (five points) and Alex Pietrangelo for the Blues (four points). 

San Jose Sharks at Vegas Golden Knights (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2, ATTSN-RM, NBCSCA): The Sharks are down 2-1 in the series and will be without center Joe Thornton, who was suspended one game for a check to the head of Tomas Nosek in Game 3. The Golden Knights got 12 combined points from Mark Stone (three goals, two assists), Paul Stastny (two goals, three assists) and Max Pacioretty (one goal, one assist) in a 6-3 victory Sunday.

 

About last night

Here is what happened on Day 6 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs: 

Toronto Maple Leafs 3, Boston Bruins 2: Auston Matthews and Andreas Johnsson each had a goal and an assist for the Maple Leafs, who took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. It was the first game the Maple Leafs played without center Nazem Kadri, who was suspended for the rest of the series for cross-checking Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk in Game 2.

Carolina Hurricanes 5, Washington Capitals 0: Warren Foegele had three points (two goals, assist), and the Carolina Hurricanes limited the Washington Capitals to 18 shots on goal in the Game 3 win. Petr Mrazek earned his fourth shutout in 14 Stanley Cup Playoff games. Dougie Hamilton scored two power-play goals, Brock McGinn had a goal and an assist, and Jaccob Slavin and Jordan Staal each had two assists for the Hurricanes, who trail the best-of-7 series 2-1.

Nashville Predators 3, Dallas Stars 2: Mikael Granlund scored the tiebreaking goal with 8:19 remaining in the third period to help the Predators take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. Pekka Rinne made 40 saves and Rocco Grimaldi and Filip Forsberg also scored for the Predators. Mats Zuccarello and Tyler Seguin scored and Ben Bishop made 25 saves for the Stars in their first home playoff game since May 11, 2016.

Video: Rinne powers Predators to Game 3 road win vs. Stars

Colorado Avalanche 6, Calgary Flames 2: Nathan MacKinnon had two goals and an assist, and Cale Makar scored in his NHL debut to give the Avalanche a 2-1 series lead. Makar, the Hobey Baker Award winner, signed his entry-level contract with Colorado on Sunday. Sam Bennett and TJ Brodie scored for Calgary, and Mike Smith had 50 saves.

 

What we learned

Here are some takeaways from Day 6 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

 

Charlie Coyle was right fit for the Boston Bruins

Though the Bruins need their top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak to provide more offense than it has so far in the Eastern Conference First Round, the one thing that's become clear is that snagging Coyle at the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline was a shrewd move. He's been their best forward in the first three games of the series, scoring two goals and providing the depth they needed. Now, they need the top line, which has combined for one even-strength goal in three games, to get on track.

 

The Maple Leafs have more depth than last season

It can be argued that the Maple Leafs' best line in Game 3, at least at even strength, was their fourth unit consisting of Trevor Moore, Tyler Ennis and Frederik Gauthier. Moore brought some outstanding energy and was rewarded by scoring the first goal of the game in the second period. Forward Andreas Johnsson, like Moore playing his first home playoff game for the Maple Leafs, also scored a goal. William Nylander and Patrick Marleau took turns replacing suspended center Nazem Kadri in the face-off circle and combined to win seven of 10 face-offs (Marleau won five of seven). Toronto didn't have such depth when it lost the Eastern Conference First Round in seven games to the Bruins last year. It could be the reason they advance this time around.

 

The Hurricanes have another gear

Carolina played well at times in losing the first two games of the Eastern Conference First Round at Washington but took its play to another level in Game 3 on Monday. Feeding off the energy of a sellout crowd excited to see its first home Stanley Cup Playoff game since 2009, the Hurricanes dominated the Capitals from start to finish, outshooting them 45-18. Despite losing forwards Micheal Ferland and Andrei Svechnikov to upper-body injuries, they kept coming at the Capitals with their relentless forecheck and repeatedly pressured them into defensive-zone turnovers. They also elevated their physical game and outhit them 52-34 and gave the Capitals more to think about heading into Game 4 at Carolina on Thursday.

Video: Breaking down the Hurricanes' Game 3 victory

 

The Capitals have defensive-zone issues

For the second time in three games, the Capitals had trouble breaking out of the defensive zone against the Hurricanes' forecheck. Putting together two crisp passes was a challenge in Game 3 and they coughed the puck up repeatedly, leading to scoring chances against. The absence of top-pair defenseman Michal Kempny, who had season-ending surgery to repair a torn left hamstring on April 2, has contributed to a lack of a cohesion at times moving the puck out of their end. Shifting defenseman John Carlson, a right-handed shot, to the left side and moving Nick Jensen up from the third pair to play with Carlson has had mixed results so far and the Capitals other defensemen have also had trouble at times with the Hurricanes' pressure.

 

Stars do a lot right, but don't win

The Stars tied Game 3 in the third period after being down 2-0, played with a lot of energy, and had 42 shots against Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne but still lost 3-2. A reason why is because their power play failed to capitalize on a 5-on-3 which lasted 1:31 in the second period. They had five shots but did not score. The Stars were 0-for-4 on the power play on Monday. It came back to haunt them.

 

Rinne outstanding for Predators

The Predators heaped credit on Rinne for winning Game 3, and rightfully so. The 36-year-old saved 40 of 42 shots, some in spectacular fashion, to give the Predators a chance to steal a win on the road. Fourteen of his 15 saves came in the third period. Rinne is 2-1 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .936 save percentage in the series.

 

Avalanche didn't hold back

The Avalanche were determined to have a strong start in their first home game of the Western Conference First Round, and they weren't about to let up on the gas after building a 3-0 lead in the first period. They remembered all too well the frustration of squandering 2-0 and 4-1 leads in two regular-season losses to the Flames. They had 56 shots on goal, including 35 after the first period, in a relentless performance.

 

Undisciplined play cost Flames

The Flames could do no wrong killing penalties in Games 1 and 2 against the Avalanche. They took eight penalties and killed them all. But Colorado's power play is too potent to be silenced the entire series. Calgary learned this the hard way in Game 3. The Flames were penalized three times in a 5:52 span of the first period, Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon made them pay with two goals, and the Flames never recovered.

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