Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Penguins look to make move in Metropolitan

 

Stanley Cup Playoff clinching scenario

The Calgary Flames do not play Sunday, but they will clinch a playoff berth if the Minnesota Wild lose to the New York Islanders (6 p.m. ET; FS-N, MSG, NHL.TV) in any fashion.

 

On Tap

There are seven games on the schedule Sunday, all with playoff implications.

New Jersey Devils at Colorado Avalanche (3 p.m. ET; ALT, MSG+, NHL.TV): The Avalanche are coming off a disappointing 5-3 defeat to the Anaheim Ducks Friday and now face another team, the Devils, below it in the overall NHL standings. A second consecutive loss to a team unlikely to make the postseason would be crippling for the Avalanche, who trail the Arizona Coyotes by six points for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. The Devils are eighth in the Metropolitan Division and have been eliminated from playoff contention.

St. Louis Blues at Buffalo Sabres (5 p.m. ET: NHLN, MSG-B, FS-MW, NHL.TV): The Blues had an impressive 5-1 victory against the host Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Arena Saturday and find themselves in third place in the Central Division. They’re two points ahead of the Dallas Stars, who hold the first wild card in the West. Both the Blues and the Stars, who host the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday, have 11 games remaining. The Sabres have lost seven in a row (0-6-1) and are 15 points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets, who hold the second wild card in the East.

New York Islanders at Minnesota Wild (6 p.m. ET; FS-N, MSG, NHL.TV): Both teams played Saturday: the Islanders losing 2-1 to the Detroit Red Wings; the Wild defeating the New York Rangers 5-2. The Islanders are second in the Metropolitan Division, two points behind the first-place Washington Capitals and two points up on the third-place Penguins, so every point is precious in their pursuit of home ice advantage in the Eastern Conference First Round. The Wild are two points behind the Coyotes for the second wild card in the West.

Vancouver Canucks at Dallas Stars (7 p.m. ET; SN, FS-SW, NHL.TV): The Stars are 7-3-0 in their past 10 games and hold the first wild card in the West, one point ahead of the Coyotes, and two points behind the Blues in the battle for third place in the Central Division. The Canucks are in a 3-5-2 funk that has seen them fall 10 points behind the Coyotes for the second wild card in the West.

Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins (7:30 p.m. ET: TVAS, NBCSN, NHL.TV): Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Matt Murray will start in goal for Pittsburgh despite getting pulled after giving up four goals in the loss to the Blues Saturday. The Penguins are third in the Metropolitan Division, two points behind the second-place Islanders and four in arrears of the first-place Capitals. Philadelphia is eight points behind the Blue Jackets who hold the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

Florida Panthers at Anaheim Ducks (9 p.m. ET; FS-W, FS-F, NHL.TV): The Panthers, 4-3 winners against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, moved to within eight points of the Blue Jackets for the second wild card in the East. The Ducks are 11 points behind the Coyotes for the second wild card into the playoffs from the West but should not be taken lightly, as seen by their win in Colorado on Friday.

Edmonton Oilers at Vegas Golden Knights (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SNW, NHL.TV): Connor McDavid‘s overtime winner gave the Oilers a 3-2 win against the Coyotes Saturday and allowed Edmonton to creep within seven points of Arizona, which holds the second wild card in the West. The Golden Knights are five points ahead of the fourth-place Coyotes in the Pacific Division and have a game in hand. They’re 11 points behind the second-place San Jose Sharks, so a third-place finish in the Division seems likely.

 

Need to know

The latest news surrounding the playoff races

Penguins defenseman Kris Letang (upper body, missed 11 games) and forward Bryan Rust (lower body, missed 10 games) each took contact for the first time during practice Friday and will be game-day decisions.

The Ducks will be without forward Ryan Kesler, who’ll miss his fifth consecutive game with a rib injury and could be out for the year.

 

Thought of the day

A victory over the Philadelphia Flyers at PPG Arena would be satisfying for the Pittsburgh Penguins on two different fronts.

The first is obvious: a win would bring the Penguins another step closer to clinching a post-season berth in the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh enters the game in third place in the Metropolitan Division, two points behind the second-place New York Islanders and four points in back of the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals, who reside in first place.

With defenseman Kris Letang (upper body) and forward Bryan Rust (lower body) nearing returns after being out several weeks, the Penguins are set to get much-needed reinforcements and have a realistic chance of moving up in the Division with a hot finish to the season in their quest to get home ice in the Eastern Conference First Round. Pittsburgh is 6-2-0 in its past eight games.

Also, the Penguins would like nothing better than to thrust another dagger into the fading post-season hopes of the Flyers, their bitter inter-state rivals. Philadelphia suffered a significant blow by coughing up a 5-2 lead en-route to a 7-6 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday.

Philadelphia, which has lost two straight and three of its past five, comes into the game eight points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets who hold the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

It would be sweet revenge for the Penguins, who remain irked by their 4-3 loss to the Flyers at the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series on Feb. 23. The Penguins surrenered a two-goal lead in the third period, then were sent home disappointed when Flyers captain Claude Giroux scored the winner 1:59 into overtime.

The game also saw the Penguins lose Letang, who was injured during a scrum and has not played since.

Pittsburgh players never are lacking motivation against the Flyers.

Sunday will be no different.

–NHL.com staff writer Mike Zeisberger

 

If playoffs started Sunday

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

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

All 12 games on the schedule Saturday had playoff implications

St. Louis Blues 5, Pittsburgh Penguins 1: The Blues ended a three-game losing streak to move two points ahead of the Dallas Stars for third place in the Central Division. The Penguins missed a chance to move into a second-place tie with the New York Islanders in the Metropolitan Division. They are four points behind the first-place Washington Capitals. 

Detroit Red Wings 2, New York Islanders 1: The Islanders failed to move into a first-place tie in the Metropolitan. They trail the Capitals by two points and are two points ahead of the Penguins with a game in hand. 

Florida Panthers 4, Los Angeles Kings 3: The Panthers won their fourth straight game and are eight points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. The Kings are 20 points behind the Arizona Coyotes for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. 

Winnipeg Jets 2, Calgary Flames 1: The Flames missed a chance to become the first team from the Western Conference to clinch a playoff berth, but stayed one point ahead of the San Jose Sharks for first place in the West and Pacific Division. The Jets remain one point ahead of the Nashville Predators for first in the Central Division. 

Boston Bruins 2, Columbus Blue Jackets 1 (OT): The Bruins ended a three-game losing streak to move four points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs for second place in the Atlantic Division. The Blue Jackets fell back into the second wild card in the East, one point behind the Carolina Hurricanes and three points ahead of the Montreal Canadiens. 

Chicago Blackhawks 2, Montreal Canadiens 0: The Blackhawks won their fifth straight game to move within five points of the Coyotes for the second wild card in the West. The Canadiens fell three points behind the Blue Jackets for the second wild card in the East.

Ottawa Senators 6, Toronto Maple Leafs 2: The Maple Leafs lost for the third time in four games and fell four points behind the Bruins for second place in the Atlantic. They are 10 points ahead of the fourth-place Canadiens. 

Tampa Bay Lightning 6, Washington Capitals 3: The Lightning set a team record with their 55th win of the season and are 19 points ahead of the Bruins for first place in the East and Atlantic Division with 10 games to go. The Capitals, who are 8-2-0 in their past 10 games, lead the Islanders by two points for first in the Metropolitan.

Carolina Hurricanes 4, Buffalo Sabres 2: The Hurricanes, who are 8-2-1 in their past 11 games, moved one point ahead of the Blue Jackets for the first wild card in the East and are within two points of the third-place Penguins. The Sabres are 15 points behind the Blue Jackets for the second wild card in the East. 

Minnesota Wild 5, New York Rangers 2: The Wild, who ended a three-game losing streak, moved within two points of the Coyotes for the second wild card in the West. The Rangers fell 15 points behind the Blue Jackets for the second wild card in the East.

Edmonton Oilers 3, Arizona Coyotes 2 (OT): The Coyotes were defeated on Connor McDavid’s goal 58 seconds into overtime but moved within one point of the Stars for the first wild card in the West and are two points ahead of the Wild for the second wild card. The Oilers are seven points behind the Coyotes for the second wild card and have one game in hand. 

Nashville Predators 4, San Jose Sharks 2: The Sharks failed to clinch a playoff spot for the second straight home game and remained one point behind the Flames for first in the West and the Pacific. The Predators are still one point behind the Jets for first place in the Central.

 

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