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Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Jets, Capitals try to extend division leads

Hurricanes closer to first postseason berth in decade

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2019 NHL postseason. There are 18 days left in the regular season and the races in each conference are wide open.

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

 

On tap

Toronto Maple Leafs at Buffalo Sabres (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, SN, MSG-B, NHL.TV): The Maple Leafs could have pulled ahead of the Boston Bruins and into second place in the Atlantic Division on Saturday had they won against the Ottawa Senators and the Bruins lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Instead, the opposite happened, and now, less than a week later, the Maple Leafs remain in third place in the Atlantic, six points behind the Bruins. The Maple Leafs were shut out by the Nashville Predators on Tuesday and need points in the second half of their back-to-back set in Buffalo. 

Tampa Bay Lightning at Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN):The Lightning are sitting pretty, knowing they've already won the Presidents' Trophy and clinched home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Capitals aren't doing badly either, having moved two points ahead of the New York Islanders into first place in the Metropolitan Division with a win against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.

Ottawa Senators at Vancouver Canucks (10 p.m. ET; SNP, RDS, TSN5, NHL.TV): Every game is crucial for the Canucks right now because they trail the Arizona Coyotes by six points for the second wild card from the Western Conference with nine games to play. The Canucks, who have won two straight games, would have to pass three teams -- the Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche and Chicago Blackhawks -- to have a shot at the Coyotes and the playoffs.

Winnipeg Jets at Anaheim Ducks (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN3): The Jets have won three straight heading into their game against the Ducks and are first in the Central Division, one point ahead of the Nashville Predators with two games in hand. The Jets play Anaheim in the first game of a back-to-back set that concludes against the red-hot Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday.

 

Thought of the day

The Hurricanes took another step toward making their first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance in a decade with a 3-2 shootout win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. 

The victory put them three points ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference with one game in hand and inched them closer to the Penguins, who are third in the Metropolitan Division. The Hurricanes have 87 points in 72 games; the Penguins have 89 points in 74 games. 

It took a late goal by Justin Williams, having a renaissance season with 47 points (22 goals, 25 assists) at 37 years old, with 1:56 left in the third period to force overtime, but the Hurricanes made a statement against a very good and seasoned Penguins team. However, they have a tough road ahead of them before the postseason begins. 

Video: PIT@CAR: Williams buries rebound to tie game late

Including that game against the Penguins, the Hurricanes finish the regular season with the third-hardest strength of schedule with their last 11 opponents having a .591 winning percentage. The only teams facing a more difficult schedule are the Montreal Canadiens (.605) and Washington Capitals (.600).

The good news for Carolina is that six of their final 10 games are at home, where they are 20-11-4 this season. 

Next up for the Hurricanes on their current five-game homestand are the Presidents' Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, TVAS, FS-CR, SUN, NHL.TV), followed by a weekend back to back against two teams fighting for their playoff lives, the Minnesota Wild and Canadiens. 

For now, though, the Hurricanes are in a good spot, and given how much fun they had duck hunting in the Storm Surge on Tuesday, it looks like they're still enjoying the ride. 

--Amalie Benjamin, NHL.com Staff Writer

 
If playoffs started Wednesday

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

Eastern Conference

(1A) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (WC2) Columbus Blue Jackets

(1M) Washington Capitals vs. (WC1) Carolina Hurricanes

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

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

Western Conference

(1P) Calgary Flames vs. (WC2) Arizona Coyotes

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

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

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

 

About last night

Nine of the 10 games on the schedule Tuesday had playoff implications:

Montreal Canadiens 3, Philadelphia Flyers 1: The Canadiens moved within one point of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference with their first win in three games. Max Domi had a goal and an assist, and Brendan Gallagher and Shea Weber scored for Montreal. The Flyers remain six points behind the Blue Jackets for the second wild card.

Video: Price, Canadiens take down Flyers, 3-1

Washington Capitals 4, New Jersey Devils 1 The Capitals regained first place in the Metropolitan Division with the win. Pheonix Copley made 20 saves for the Capitals (43-23-7), who moved two points ahead of the New York Islanders with nine games remaining.

Carolina Hurricanes 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 2 (SO): The Hurricanes moved within two points of the Penguins for third place in the Metropolitan Division with two games in hand. The Hurricanes, who are 9-2-1 in their past 12 games, are three points ahead of the Blue Jackets for the first wild card from the East. The Penguins, who have lost three in a row (0-1-2) trail the New York Islanders by two points for second place in the division.

Boston Bruins 5, New York Islanders 0: The Islanders fell out of a tie for first place in the Metropolitan when they lost at home to the Bruins for the eighth straight time. The Bruins are six points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs for second place in the Atlantic Division.

St. Louis Blues 7, Edmonton Oilers 2: Blues forward Jaden Schwartz had his fourth NHL hat trick in the win and St. Louis remained five points behind the Nashville Predators for second place in the Central Division. The Blues are two points ahead of the Dallas Stars for third in the division. The Oilers remain seven points behind the Arizona Coyotes for the second wild card from the West.

Nashville Predators 3, Toronto Maple Leafs 0: The Predators moved to within one point of the Winnipeg Jets for first place in the Central Division behind Wayne Simmonds' first goal with Nashville and 22 saves from Pekka Rinne. The Maple Leafs, who are 1-4-0 in their past five games, fell six points behind the Bruins for second place in the Atlantic.

Colorado Avalanche 3, Minnesota Wild 1: The Avalanche moved within two points of the Coyotes for the second wild card into the playoffs from the West. Tyson Barrie, Tyson Jost and Ian Cole scored for the Avalanche, who have won two in a row and are one point behind the Wild, who have lost two in a row (0-1-1). The loss by the Wild clinched a playoff berth for the San Jose Sharks.

Video: Grubauer's 36 saves help Avalanche hold off Wild

Dallas Stars 4, Florida Panthers 2: The Stars moved four points ahead of the Coyotes for the first wild card from the West and remained two points behind the Blues for third in the Central. The Panthers missed a chance to gain on the Blue Jackets and remain eight points out of the second wild card in the East.

Calgary Flames 4, Columbus Blue Jackets 2: The Flames, who have clinched a berth in the playoffs, move three points ahead of the Sharks first place in the Western Conference and Pacific Division. The Blue Jackets saw their lead for the first wild card in the East shrink to one point over the Canadiens.

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