WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 04: Derick Brassard #16 of the New York Rangers shoots the puck in overtime against the Washington Capitals in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on May 4, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Playoffs Tonight: Rangers look to bounce back vs Capitals

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We have some critical games for you today. Three of these teams could end up just one game away from elimination before this night is done.

Please remember that in addition to the channels listed below, you can watch the Capitals-Rangers, Red Wings-Ducks, and Blues-Kings games online.

Game 3: Toronto Maple Leafs host Boston Bruins (7:00 p.m. ET)
Series tied at 1-1

For the first time since 2004, an NHL playoff hockey game will be played at the Air Canada Centre.

The Boston Bruins have an edge in experience, but the Toronto Maple Leafs made a statement in their 4-2 win on Saturday. The Leafs are capable of rising to the occasion in the playoffs, especially goaltender James Reimer, who stopped 39 shots.

This hasn’t been the most physical of the series, but there have been some controversial hits. Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference is eligible to return after serving a one-game suspension for his hit on Mikhail Grabovski. Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf will also be available after the decision was made not to punish him for his hit on Paille.

Game 3: New York Rangers host Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Capitals lead series 2-0

After Game 1, Rangers coach John Tortorella said his team couldn’t afford to take as many penalties as they were and in Game 2 he talked about their “stagnant” power play.

The Capitals have dominated the special teams battle through two games, but it’s hard to put too much emphasis on that when the Rangers have scored just one goal overall. The Rangers quite simply need to figure out goaltender Braden Holtby and the Capitals’ defense soon, or they will be eliminated.

With that in mind, Rangers forward Rick Nash will be an interesting player to watch tonight. He has no points despite 11 shots on goal in this series and, at the age of 28, the superstar is still looking for his first playoff win.

Game 4: Detroit Red Wings host Anaheim Ducks (8:00 p.m. ET, CNBC)
Ducks lead series 2-1

The Ducks put the pressure on the Red Wings with their commanding 4-0 victory in Game 2.

“We feel we can be better,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said in a Detroit News report. “The whole thing with (playoff) series is about mental toughness, they’re battles of will.”

The Red Wings have lost a number of key veterans over the last couple of years and that might have taken its toll on them in that regard.

One player to watch is Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg. He played a huge role in Detroit’s final push for a playoff spot, but has just one assist in three playoff games.

Game 4: Los Angeles Kings host St. Louis Blues (10:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Blues lead series 2-1

The defending Stanley Cup champion Kings put themselves back in this series with a 1-0 victory on Saturday.

These have been goaltending and defensive battles, with the two teams combining for just seven goals over three games. All of the contests in this series have been decided by just one goal.

“I don’t think either team has had much momentum in this series,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter told LA Kings Insider. He added, “The players are confident on both teams, so you just kind of go shift-to-shift.”

It’s worth noting that in this defensive series, the Kings top goal scorer and points leaders, Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar respectively, have combined for just one point — an assist — through three playoff games.

NBC and NBCSN have you covered for Hockey Day in America

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With two games on NBC and then two more on NBCSN, your Sunday should be jam-packed with Hockey Day in America action. A look at the hockey hotbed of Warroad, Minnesota adds a delectable cherry on top, too.

If you need a guide to this party of pucks and patriotism, look no further than this post.

Washington Capitals at New York Rangers, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC

John Carlson, T.J. Oshie and the dominant Capitals take on Ryan McDonagh and the Blueshirts. The Metropolitan Division represents some of the NHL’s upper crust, so don’t be fooled by the Rangers being the first wild card while the Caps are tops in the East; both of these teams can go. Kenny Albert and Brian Boucher will be there to call the action.

MORE: For Oshie, ties to Warroad run deep

Detroit Red Wings at Pittsburgh Penguins, 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC

Mike “Doc” Emrick and Eddie Olczyk will be in the booth for this battle between teams that met in back-to-back Stanley Cup Final series in 2008 and 2009. Along with usual suspects like Sidney Crosby and Henrik Zetterberg, these teams feature American scorers such as Dylan Larkin and, of course, Phil Kessel.

Chicago Blackhawks at Buffalo Sabres, 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN

The action shifts to NBCSN as Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks hope to teach Jack Eichel and the upstart Sabres a lesson or two. The Blackhawks are in playoff position, as usual, while Buffalo is rallying to try to make a push of its own. Gord Miller and Joe Micheletti will be your guides.

MORE: Islanders forward Brock Nelson’s journey from Warroad to the NHL

Boston Bruins at San Jose Sharks, 8:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Hockey Day in America’s coverage closes off with this matchup between David Backes‘ Bruins and Joe Pavelski‘s Sharks. Randy Hahn, Andy Brickley and Bret Hedican will take you through this match between the Pacific Division’s top team and a Bruins team fighting to stick in the East playoff picture.

Barkov’s beautiful goal pushes Panthers into playoff position

SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 26: Aleksander Barkov #16 of the Florida Panthers circles the net with the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the BB&T Center on November 26, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Blue Jackets 2-1 in a shoot out. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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The Florida Panthers just won’t be denied as they end the night in the East’s top eight.

It’s fitting, then, that Aleksander Barkov wouldn’t be denied on his game-winner against Los Angeles on Saturday.

Barkov bursts beyond multiple Kings, fights off what would have been an obstruction penalty and then beats Peter Budaj by the narrowest of margins to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead 15 seconds into the third period. They would never relinquish that edge to Los Angeles, winning their fourth game in a row.

In the process, the Panthers – a team that seemed to be fledgling when it fired Gerard Gallant – now find themselves in the East’s top eight. Heck, they’re actually above the wild card fray by a hair.

Before we get to that … just bask in the glow of this Barkov goal:

Again, it was such a small window to beat Budaj, too:

(If the Panthers’ place in the standings doesn’t sway you into taking them seriously, maybe note plays like that and the fact that Barkov has 20 points in his last 17 games.)

OK, so with this win, the Panthers did some serious leapfrogging. They now rank third in the Atlantic Division (thanks to a game in hand on Boston) and have more points than Toronto as far as wild card concerns go, anyway.

Atlantic Division rankings

1. Canadiens – 70 points in 59 games
2. Senators – 68 points in 56 games
3. Panthers – 64 points in 57 games

Bruins – 64 in 58
Maple Leafs – 63 in 47
Sabres – 62 in 59
Lightning – 58 in 57
Red Wings – 56 in 58

From a wild card perspective

Third in Atlantic – Panthers – 64 points in 57 games
Second wild card – Bruins – 64 in 58

Maple Leafs – 63 in 47
Islanders – 62 in 57
Sabres – 62 in 59
Flyers – 61 in 58
Devils – 60 in 58
Lightning – 58 in 57
Hurricanes – 56 in 54
Red Wings – 56 in 58

Everything’s so close that the Panthers can’t pop champagne bottles, but they’re also very much in control over their hopes. While it never hurts to see your competitors stumble, the Panthers can take care of business. They “control their own destiny,” to use silly sports parlance.

And considering how they’ve been playing lately, they might be as tough to handle in the playoffs as Barkov was to stop on that outstanding 3-2 goal.

Stars made Dave Strader’s return to the booth special

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It was a special night as the Dallas Stars beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in overtime, but the most memorable moment wasn’t the win or Antoine Roussel‘s hat trick.

Instead, it was how the team embraced Dave Strader’s return to the broadcasting booth as he continues to fight cancer.

Don’t be ashamed if his comments to the Dallas Morning News leave you emotional:

“This is the first time, to be honest with you, that for four hours I didn’t feel like I was sick at all,” Strader said after the game. “Maybe it was the adrenaline high, but I really, really feel great right now.”

Again, the team really did some great things to welcome him back, but the highlight was saluting him after the game. Incredible stuff.

“What a gesture by the boys … meant so much to me and my wife! Thank you.” Strader tweeted after the game.

As this post notes, Strader is expected to do play-by-play for four more Stars games.

Add allowing center-ice goal to Brian Elliott’s rough season

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So far, there’s just one goal in tonight’s Calgary Flames – Vancouver Canucks game. And it wasn’t a good one.

The Canucks couldn’t manage a shot on goal for more than half of the first period, maybe putting Brian Elliott to sleep … as Alexander Edler scored the 1-0 goal from center ice on Vancouver’s first shot that actually got on net. Ouch.

It’s already been a tough season for Brian Elliott, who came into Saturday with an .898 save percentage.

Elliott was perfect through the rest of the first two periods, so we’ll see if Calgary can overcome that gaffe.

Update: The Canucks ended up winning 2-1 in overtime. Ryan Miller was the better of the two goalies in this one.