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Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Flames look to avoid elimination

Bruins, Maple Leafs set to play critical Game 5

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily in-depth look at the 2019 NHL postseason. There was a Game 4 and two Game 5s on the schedule Wednesday, with one team trying to close out a series:

 

On Tap

There are two Game 5s on the Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, one featuring the top team in the West facing elimination:  

Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS, NESN): Is anyone surprised this best-of-7 series is tied 2-2? These two teams went to seven games last season and it sure feels like that could be the case this year. David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron combined for three goals and three assists in Boston's 6-4 win in Game 4, but Toronto's Auston Matthews is heating up as well, scoring a goal in each of the past two games. 

Colorado Avalanche at Calgary Flames (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS, ALT): The Flames had the best record in the Western Conference this season, but are one loss from being eliminated after dropping Game 4 in overtime on Wednesday. The Flames had 26 wins at Scotiabank Saddledome this season - the most in the Western Conference - and need one Friday to say alive.

 

About last night

Here is what happened on Day 9 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs: 

Carolina Hurricanes 2, Washington Capitals 1: Petr Mrazek made 30 saves, and the Hurricanes evened the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round with the Game 4 win. Warren Foegle and Teuvo Teravainen scored for the Hurricanes. Alex Ovechkin scored and Braden Holtby made 22 saves for the Capitals, who likely have lost forward T.J. Oshie for an extended period with an upper-body injury. 

St. Louis Blues 3, Winnipeg Jets 2: The Blues scored three goals in the third period, including the game-winner from Jaden Schwartz with 15 seconds remaining to stun the Jets and take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series. The Blues trailed 2-0 entering the third period, but Ryan O'Reilly scored at 1:29 and then Brayden Schenn tied it at 13:52. The road team has won all five games so far in the series.

San Jose Sharks 5, Vegas Golden Knights 2: Tomas Hertl scored two goals and Martin Jones made 30 saves for the Sharks, who kept their season alive with the Game 5 win. The Golden Knights, weho lead the best-of-7 series 3-2, will try to finish off the Sharks in Game 6, like they did last season in the Western Conference Second Round.

Video: Hertl sets tone early in Sharks' Game 5 win

 

What we learned

Here are some takeaways from Day 9 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

 

Mrazek has the Hurricanes' backs

Some wondered whether Carolina goalie Petr Mrazek would be able to hold up to the pressure of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He has not flinched through the four games against Washington in the Eastern Conference First Round. After making 30 saves in a 2-1 win in Game 4 on Thursday that evened the best-of-7 series at 2-2, Mrazek has a 2.00 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage in the playoffs. That compares favorably with Capitals goalie Braden Holtby's 3.00 GAA and .905 save percentage. Holtby, the 2016 Vezina Trophy winner as the League's best goalie, has a winning pedigree after helping the Capitals win the Stanley Cup last season. Mrazek has some work left to do in this series to defeat the Capitals, but after allowing one goal on 49 shots in winning the past two games, he and the Hurricanes are feeling good about themselves heading back to Washington for Game 5 on Saturday.

 

Capitals need more offense

Washington did a better job of breaking out of its defensive zone in Game 4 than it did in Game 3, but its struggles in the offensive end continued. The Capitals were outscored 7-1 in the two games at Carolina and did not produce an even-strength goal in either. They've scored six even-strength goals in the series and haven't gotten any from their bottom-six forwards. Second-line center Evgeny Kuznetsov was ineffective in Game 4, playing 16:18, including 12:56 at even strength, and with forward T.J. Oshie expected to miss an extended period after sustaining an upper-body injury Thursday, the Capitals will need more from others. As good as Carolina goalie Petr Mrazek has been, Washington hasn't done enough to make his life difficult with traffic in front of the net. Mrazek left some rebounds when the Capitals produced some good scoring chances early Thursday, but they had no one in front to get them and turn them into goals.

 

Blues are never out of a game

Their play has not been consistently aggressive or threatening in the offensive zone but the Blues have proven time and again that they are capable of remarkable resiliency. The won 2-1 in Game 1 with the only two goals of the third period in Winnipeg and had a similar comeback in a 3-2 win in Game 5, scoring the only three goals of the third period. The Blues have lost their two home games in this series and were overwhelmed at times in each of those defeats. But being able to consistently rally on the road shows what they are capable of.

Video: Binnington makes 29 saves to help Blues stun Jets

 

Jets are hard to read

With a lineup of potent scorers like Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor, the Jets play a quick, aggressive game that is very tough for opponents to handle. Their trouble in this series has been that such a game goes on hiatus at inopportune times, especially on home ice. The Blues, of course, have proven to be a formidable opponent, but the Jets have buckled in each game at home in this series, a very troubling trend. The ability to lock down a game, especially in the playoffs, is a must. The Jets will have to find their top gear in Game 6 in St. Louis, where they have won twice, and then lock it down if they can find a lead, then do it again in a Game 7, or their season is finished. They are more than capable but their inconsistency is some cause for worry.

 

Karlsson looks better for Sharks 

Karlsson had two assists and was plus-3 in 22:20 of ice time in Game 5, a good sign for the Sharks. When San Jose lost Games 2-4 by a combined score of 16-6, the defenseman had three assists, but was on the ice for 11 goals against and was minus-7. Not all the goals were his fault. But he made some glaring mistakes, and his ice time went from 29:08 to 20:54 to 21:35. Coach Peter DeBoer said Wednesday Karlsson obviously was not 100 percent after missing 27 of the final 33 regular-season games because of groin injuries. His performance in Game 5 was a step in the right direction.

 

Fleury is human for Golden Knights

Fleury allowed four goals on 28 shots in Game 5, after a 28-save shutout in Game 4 that was reminiscent of his Stanley Cup Final run last season and frustrated the Sharks. One mistake in the second period was particularly costly. With San Jose leading 2-1, Fleury went behind the net to play the puck. He lost it to forward Joonas Donskoi. That led to point shot by defenseman Justin Braun, a deflection by center Barclay Goodrow and a 3-1 San Jose lead at 12:22. Other than the shutout, Fleury has allowed three goals twice and four goals twice in the series.

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