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Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Maple Leafs eye 3-1 series lead over Bruins

Predators, Avalanche can also move within one win of advancing to second round

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily in-depth look at the 2019 NHL postseason. There were four Game 4s on the schedule Tuesday, two that ended in first-round sweeps.

 

On Tap

There are three games on the Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Wednesday

Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, NESN): The Bruins will try to even this best-of-7 series 2-2 with a road win. To do so, they will likely have to generate more offense. They have seven goals and no player has more than Brad Marchand's three points (one goal, two assists). Toronto defenseman Morgan Rielly is averaging 25:28 per game, the most of any skater in the series.

Nashville Predators at Dallas Stars (8 p.m. ET; USA, SN, TVAS2, FS-SW, FS-TN): The Predators can take a 3-1 series lead by winning consecutive road games at American Airlines Center. Nashville forward Rocco Grimaldi has two goals in two games after scoring five goals in 53 regular-season games. Dallas goalie Ben Bishop has a .931 save percentage. 

Calgary Flames at Colorado Avalanche (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, ALT): Forward Nathan McKinnon has three goals in the past two games for the Avalanche, who are looking to put the top team in the West during the regular season on the brink of playoff elimination with another win at Pepsi Center. Calgary has four even-strength goals in three games.

 

About last night

Here is what happened on Day 7 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs: 

Columbus Blue Jackets 7, Tampa Bay Lightning 3: The Blue Jackets became the first team to sweep a Presidents' Trophy winner in the first round; and the Lightning, who tied the NHL record with 62 wins, became the third team with the best regular-season record to be swept at any point in the postseason. The Detroit Red Wings (1995 Stanley Cup Final) and Calgary Flames (1988 Smythe Division Final) were the others. It was the Blue Jackets' first series win in five tries. They will play the winner of the Eastern Conference First Round between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins. Toronto leads that best-of-7 series 2-1. 

New York Islanders 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 1: The Islanders recorded their first playoff sweep since the 1983 Stanley Cup Final, defeating the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday. Jordan Eberle scored for the fourth straight game, Brock Nelson scored the game-winning goal and Robin Lehner made 32 saves. The Penguins, last swept in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final by the Boston Bruins, scored six goals in the series. Sidney Crosby, who had 100 points during the regular season, finished with one assist in the four games. New York will play the winner of the first-round series between the Washington Capitals and the Carolina Hurricanes, which Washington leads 2-1. 

Winnipeg Jets 2, St. Louis Blues 1 (OT): Kyle Connor scored at 6:02 of overtime to give the Jets another victory in St. Louis, evening the best-of-7 series 2-2. The road team has won each of the four games in this series. Mark Scheifele assisted on the game-winning goal and scored the tying goal at 7:33 of the third period. Scheifele has 12 goals in his past 10 road playoff games.

Vegas Golden Knights 5, San Jose Sharks 0: Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves for his 14th shutout in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Golden Knights moved within one win of knocking out the Sharks for the second straight season. Max Pacioretty had two goals and two assists and Mark Stone had two assists for Vegas, which leads the first-round series 3-1.

Video: Golden Knights continue their high-scoring hot streak

 

What we learned

Here are some takeaways from Day 7 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

 

Special teams doom Penguins

The Penguins were thought to have an enormous edge on special teams in this series, particularly on the power play. But Pittsburgh finished with one goal in 11 man-advantage opportunities after going 0-for-3 in Game 4, which included a save from defenseman Scott Mayfield when he stretched across Robin Lehner's crease to bail out his goalie with a right-leg save against Phil Kessel in the third period. Pittsburgh's inability to capitalize on the power play led to subpar numbers for Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Evgeni Malkin and Kessel, who combined to score three goals in the series, two at even strength. Crosby finished with one assist, which came on Guentzel's goal in the first minute of the finale.

 

Eberle scores again for Islanders

There's a long way to go in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but Islanders forward Jordan Eberle is among the early favorites to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player of the postseason. Eberle became the third player in the past seven years to score in each of his team's first four playoff games, joining Calgary Flames center Sean Monahan (2017 against the Anaheim Ducks) and former San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau, who scored in four straight against the Vancouver Canucks in 2013. Much like he did in Game 3, Eberle quickly responded for New York after it fell behind in Game 4 when he scored 1:34 after Guentzel gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead 35 seconds into the game Tuesday. Eberle also had two assists in the series to finish with six points.

Video: NYI@PIT, Gm4: Eberle beats Murray on odd-man rush

 

Lightning never found their game

There were spurts, like the first period in Game 1, the third period in Game 3, the second half of the first period and a few more minutes in the second period of Game 4. That was about it for the Lightning in terms of playing their game, with speed, skill and playmaking. They were stymied the rest of the time by the Blue Jackets, who were relentless with their pressure, forecheck, structure and goaltending. The Lightning were left without answers. They tried through video sessions and meetings to figure out how to combat what the Blue Jackets were doing. They never found a way. It was made even more difficult because their penalty kill was in shambles. It went 5-for-10 in the series (50 percent), after finishing the regular season tied for No. 1 in the NHL at 85.0 percent. Basically, everything the Lightning were in the regular season, they were the opposite in four games against Columbus.

 

Blue Jackets have killer instinct

It's one thing to come back from a 3-0 first-period deficit to win Game 1 and then dominate and frustrate the Lightning in Game 2. It's another thing to come home and lay the knockout punch the way the Blue Jackets did. That's what championship teams do, and the Blue Jackets are trending in that direction. It was especially obvious in Game 4, when they jumped out to a 2-0 lead in less than four minutes. The Lightning responded to make it 2-1 in the first period but Columbus got the lead back up to 3-1 before Tampa Bay scored back-to-back goals in 4:49 to make it 3-3 with 2:08 left in the second. The Blue Jackets answered again on Oliver Bjorkstrand's 6-on-5 goal on a delayed penalty 54 seconds later. Then goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made 13 saves in the third period and Columbus scored three empty-net goals. Every time the Lightning thought they had something going, the Blue Jackets took it away. It's a great sign for a team that is only now starting to believe in how good it can be.

 

Scheifele a beast on road for Jets

The Jets center has been an impact player in the postseason, especially away from Bell MTS Place. Scheifele scored 11 goals in eight road games in the 2018 playoffs, a Stanley Cup Playoffs record and he's trending that way again. In Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference First Round at Enterprise Center, he scored one goal and had two assists. Scheifele scored the tying goal at 7:33 of the third period and then set up Kyle Connor for the game-winning goal at 6:02 of overtime.

 

Blues must regroup quickly

The Blues, who took a 2-0 lead in the series by winning a pair of one-goal games in Winnipeg, didn't finish well enough in Games 3 and 4 at home. In each game at Enterprise Center, the Blues scored first to bring the crowd into the game, but they couldn't build on or hold that lead. After the two losses at home, the Blues have no choice but to discard the disappointment and rebound with the kind of sharp game they have already put on the ice twice before in Winnipeg. The home-ice advantage they had stolen from the Jets is gone, but the series is a long way from over.

Video: Breaking down Kyle Connor's overtime winner in Game 4

 

Burns and Karlsson are struggling for Sharks

Erik Karlsson leads the Sharks in scoring against the Golden Knights with five points (five assists). Brent Burns has two points (one goal, one assist). But they have not looked like the Norris Trophy winners they are, let alone like the strength of the Sharks they are supposed to be, making mistakes with and without the puck. The nadir was the Golden Knights' fourth goal in Game 4, when Burns flailed at the puck, and forward Alex Tuch grabbed it, skated past a flat-footed Karlsson and scored on goalie Aaron Dell.

 

Golden Knights keep striking quickly

The Sharks started Game 4 the way they wanted to, sustaining pressure in the offensive zone. But then the puck came out to the blue line, and Karlsson turned it over and fell down. The Golden Knights took off on the rush, and forward Max Pacioretty scored at 1:11. Vegas became the first team in NHL history to score in the first 90 seconds of four straight periods in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the pattern goes back farther than that. It was the 10th time in the 18 games between these teams that Vegas scored first in the opening five minutes.

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