Times are tough for the Tampa Bay Lightning of late. Over their last 10 games, they’re just 2-8-0 and when it seems more games than not are worth three points, coming up with just four points in 10 games is bad news.
The Lightning are seven points back of Winnipeg for eighth place in the Eastern Conference and eight points behind Southeast Division leading Carolina. As Steven Stamkos tells Erik Erlendsson of The Tampa Tribune, their game tonight against the Hurricanes is a virtual must-win game.
“We are not in a position to think otherwise right now; we have to get points and that’s the only way we are going to give ourselves a chance to climb back into the race,” center Steven Stamkos said.
“It’s tough and it’s frustrating, but there are no other options. We have to find ways to win games, at least get a point in games where things are not going as well as you want.”
Tampa Bay has 21 games left in the season and while that sounds like a lot of time to make up ground, there are those pesky three-point games to contend with from everyone else ahead of them. It’s make it or break it time now.
NHL Bubble Wrap: Stunning Game 3 upsets for Penguins, Oilers, and more
There were some serious NHL Game 3 upsets, and even the way the upsets happened must have been extra-upsetting for the favorites.
It wasn’t always pretty, but the Panthers live to fight another day.
Breaking the underdog trend, powerful round-robin teams the Avalanche and Lightning won. (Then again, the Presidents’ Trophy winners won’t be the East’s top seed, so maybe that underdog trend still tracks …)
For the first time in more than four years, the Panthers won a playoff game. They avoided being swept by the Islanders in the process, riding some quick strikes in the third period. Florida protected Sergei Bobrovsky reasonably well, and may feel a little more confident after Wednesday. Of course, it would help if Jonathan Huberdeau can play in Game 4 after being shaken up by a collision with a Panthers teammate.
Despite carrying much of the play — especially when the “JOFA” line of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson were on — the Predators could only beat Darcy Kuemper once. Kuemper bounced back from a bumpy Game 2 to hold down the fort for Arizona. Taylor Hall ended up scoring the insurance goal and added an assist to give the Coyotes a chance to advance in Game 4.
After losing their first two games of the Eastern Conference Round Robin, the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Bruins won’t be able to secure the top seed in their conference. Tough break for the only NHL team to reach 100 standings points, but that’s the nature of the beast as COVID-19 disrupts both life and sports. The Lightning, meanwhile, won their first two of three round-robin games, so they have a strong chance to take the top seed.
Following a buzzer-beater win against the defending champion Blues, the Avalanche didn’t leave their second round-robin game to chance. Cale Makar kicked off the scoring with a power-play goal 3:19 into the game, and the Avalanche never really looked back. So far, the Avalanche look as speedy and scary as hockey diehards were hoping.
This time around, this wasn’t about Carey Price standing on his head (or nearly doing so). In a dramatic affair, the Penguins built a 3-1 lead early in the second period. That lead, and the Penguins themselves, would absolutely fall apart. The Canadiens surged back to win Game 3, and did so convincingly. Yeah, wow.
The Oilers and Blackhawks raise that “Yeah, wow” to … I don’t know, a “Super wowzers?” Wednesday featured some lower seeds stunning favorites, and while the Penguins carry far more clout than the Oilers, Edmonton still lost in a more staggering way. In another game of swings, Connor McDavid gave the Oilers a 3-2 lead in the dying seconds of the second period. The Oilers protected that lead for a decent portion of the third, until it all fell apart with two late Blackhawks goals. Just like that, Edmonton is on the brink of elimination. Hockey can be pretty wild, gang.
Tampa Bay Lightning (2-0-0, 4 points)
Philadelphia Flyers (1-0-0, 2 points)
Washington Capitals (0-0-1, 1 point)
Boston Bruins (0-2-0, 0 points)
Western Conference Round Robin Standings
Colorado Avalanche (2-0-0, 4 points)
Vegas Golden Knights (1-0-0, 2 points)
St. Louis Blues (0-1-0, 0 points)
Dallas Stars (0-2-0, 0 points)
NHL’s Three Stars from Wednesday
1. Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes
As Wednesday went along, NHL Game 3 upsets became a pattern, and the results became increasingly shocking. A higher seed Predators team falling to the Coyotes feels less jarring when you compare it to the other stunning NHL Game 3 upsets of the day.
Still, this was the standout effort.
Kuemper helped the Coyotes author a familiar version of this one, an upset far more typical than the Blackhawks and Canadiens more or less matching the Oilers and Penguins respectively. In the case of the Coyotes beating the Predators, much of the result had to do with a goalie standing on his head.
After a tough Game 2, Kuemper stopped 39 out of 40 shots to snare Game 3 from the Predators. Kuemper’s best work came early, as the Coyotes took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission despite Nashville managing a 19-9 SOG advantage.
You can definitely ding Weber a bit when he might have let up a bit during a delayed penalty, which would have been called on him if Patric Hornqvist didn’t bury a beautiful assist by Evgeni Malkin. But, overall, Weber was fantastic in Montreal’s flabbergasting 4-3 win against the Penguins. Along with scoring one goal and two assists for three points, Weber was stout defensively. That included two goals for and zero against at even-strength. Weber likely played a prominent role in the Habs making sure the Penguins’ third-period comeback attempt was generally, shockingly feeble.
If you feel like Jonathan Toews should get the nod, that’s understandable. Toews scored two goals, and played a big role in the Blackhawks’ win. (So did a torrent of deflections, but still, Toews was great.)
Toews will feel fine taking the win and being a victory away from the formal 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Yet, Leon Draisaitl looked like the 2020 Art Ross winner out there. Draisaitl factored into all three Oilers goals (two goals, one assist) and carried the sort of underlying stats he doesn’t always generate.
Hockey Twitter might want to “free Connor McDavid,” but some sympathy should be saved for Draisaitl, too.
2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers — top highlights from Monday
Honestly? It’s probably wise to plunk down those Oilers – Blackhawks highlights, wholesale:
If you need a single highlight, the decisive goal from Predators – Coyotes could do the trick. Derek Stepan made a fantastic pass, then Conor Garland completed the highlight-reel-game-winner by stupefying the Predators:
What a fabulous, unexpected breakout season from Garland …
By grabbing an assist in Game 3, Sidney Crosby broke a tie with Doug Gilmour and Joe Sakic for eighth all-time in scoring with his 190th playoff point. Telling him that after Game 3 would probably mainly earn you a frown, though.
Jeff Petry already has two postseason game-winning goals for the Canadiens. Via NHL PR, he’s the sixth Canadiens defenseman to generate at least two in a single playoff run.
For much of Blackhawks – Oilers Game 3, it seemed like the story would be Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl using their star power to overcome Edmonton’s sloppiness, and Chicago’s veteran savvy. Instead, the old dog still has tricks, and Chicago’s magic stunned Edmonton. The Blackhawks shocked the Oilers with a late surge to win Game 3 by a score of 4-3, and push Edmonton to the brink of elimination via Chicago’s 2-1 series lead.
McDavid and Draisaitl not enough for Oilers vs. Blackhawks in Game 3
Yes, you could throw the word “sloppy” around for every game in this Blackhawks – Oilers series so far, but Edmonton teetered on the edge of self-destruction early in Game 3. Then, after seemingly righting the ship, the Oilers instead saw it sink in a shocking stretch.
From late in the first period to early in the second, the Oilers kept going to the penalty box. Edmonton took four straight penalties, and five of six, during a span that could have derailed them. In particular, Kailer Yamamoto made some potentially lethal unforced errors.
But Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were there to bail their teammates out.
Draisaitl scored Edmonton’s first two goals, helping the Oilers stay in the portions of Game 3 where the Blackhawks seemed primed to pull away.
Then, after Alex DeBrincat bafflingly received an additional penalty after a scrum with Matt Benning, McDavid scored a huge 3-2 goal in the dying seconds of the second period.
For a significant stretch in the ensuing third period, it seemed like the Oilers might actually protect a lead. There was the impression that, for once, this series wouldn’t be about merely “outscoring your problems.”
Toews, Blackhawks win Game 3 with late goals
To start the last collapse, the Blackhawks made it 3-3 with less than six minutes remaining in the third period when Matthew Highmore tipped a hard Slater Koekkoek shot. Then, with 1:16 left, Jonathan Toews was credited with a shocking 4-3 goal when a puck deflected off of the stick of Oilers defenseman Ethan Bear and past goalie Mikko Koskinen.
(Even if Toews might have been lucky to get credit for the game-winner, the Blackhawks captain was a beast in Game 3. He finished with two goals, and Toews came close to scoring on other opportunities. In other words, the star power isn’t just on Edmonton’s side.)
It was stunning enough for the Oilers to see the Blackhawks potentially push Game 3 into overtime. Obviously, they didn’t even make it that far. Just like that, the Oilers’ season is on the line.
If Ennis is out, consider that a tough injury loss stacked upon the Oilers’ gut-punch Game 3 defeat. In Game 4 on Friday, the Blackhawks get a chance to deal the final blow to a season that at times seemed special for the Oilers.
If patterns hold, the Oilers will once again call upon McDavid and Draisaitl — while Toews and the Blackhawks are sure to make things interesting.
(5) Edmonton Oilers vs. (12) Chicago Blackhawks (CHI leads series 2-1)
Friday, Aug. 7: Oilers vs. Blackhawks, 6:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN Saturday, Aug. 8: Blackhawks vs. Oilers (if necessary), TBD
The Canadiens keep giving the Penguins all they can handle, and in Game 3, Pittsburgh couldn’t merely shake their heads and shrug their shoulders at a dominant Carey Price. Instead, after squandering a 3-1 lead, the Penguins must look inward, and get things together quickly, as the Canadiens lead the series 2-1 following a 4-3 win in Game 3.
Canadiens take 2-1 series lead against Penguins after a Game 3 of twists and turns
If you enjoy twists and turns — and maybe chaos? — then Penguins – Canadiens Game 3 was your tonic.
To start things, Shea Weber showed some aggression to give the Canadiens a 1-0 lead. Special teams worked out well for the Penguins early, as Pittsburgh not only killed a delay of game penalty from challenging that Weber goal, but also caught the Habs flat-footed.
Once Teddy Blueger made it 3-1 early in the second period, the Penguins looked like they might be headed toward a big, authoritative win.
Maybe it would have stayed that way in a less dramatic contest, but not Game 3 of Penguins – Canadiens. Maybe a hard, un-penalized hit by Brandon Tanev on Jack Evans gave the Habs the righteous anger to rally:
Or maybe the Canadiens merely took advantage of some sloppiness from the Penguins, from Matt Murray to Jack Johnson. Either way, the Canadiens stunned the Penguins with two quick second-period goals to enter the intermission 3-3, and then Jeff Petry scored yet another huge goal in this best-of-five series.
Even with a late power-play opportunity, the Penguins couldn’t get much going once they fell behind 4-3.
Tough Game 3 for Penguins defense; Murray struggles vs. Canadiens
So, again, the main story doesn’t boil down to the Penguins vs. Carey Price, but that doesn’t mean goalies weren’t a talking point in Game 3. To be more exact, the Penguins might need to wonder a bit about Matt Murray.
Earlier in the Penguins – Canadiens series, it seemed like Matt Murray shook off some of his profound struggles from 2019-20. Mike Sullivan or others have more reason to worry about Murray after Game 3, though. Goals like another big Jeff Petry tally will leave people wondering if the Penguins might be wise to turn to Tristan Jarry now that they’re on the brink of elimination.
It wasn’t all on Murray, mind you. Other Penguins struggled, including polarizing defenseman Jack Johnson.
jack johnson’s game score tonight was -3.4 which is Not Good (third worst game of the playoffs so far)
While Weber got caught on that Malkin-to-Hornqvist goal, he enjoyed one of the best performances of any Canadiens player, collecting a goal and two assists. But Game 3 was very much a team effort, and team win, for the Canadiens against the Penguins.
The Canadiens generally acquitted themselves very well against the Penguins at even-strength. Two of the Penguins’ three goals came on the power play, while the Canadiens scored all four of their Game 3 goals at even-strength. Plenty of storylines will revolve around the 12th-seed Canadiens being underdogs pushing the Penguins, and understandably so. But the Habs haven’t always played like traditional underdogs. At times during Game 3, they absolutely outplayed the Penguins.
For better or worse, this isn’t one of the recent back-to-back game situations, so the Penguins get until Friday to shake off the shock of this Game 3 loss to the Canadiens. They might need that time to find some answers against the Habs, too.
(5) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (12) Montreal Canadiens (MTL leads series 2-1)
Friday, Aug. 7: Penguins vs. Canadiens, 4 p.m. ET – NBCSN Saturday, Aug. 8: Canadiens vs. Penguins*
NBC’s coverage of the NHL’s Return to Play continues with Wednesday’s Stanley Cup Qualifier matchup between the Blackhawks and Oilers. Coverage begins at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Blackhawks-Oilers Game 3 stream at 10:30 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
Connor McDavid scored his first career playoff hat trick, including two goals in the game’s opening five minutes, to lead the Oilers to a 6-3 win over Chicago in Game 2. McDavid scored with all three of his shots on goal. Edmonton scored twice in each period and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had three assists to even up the series.
After finishing the regular season with the league’s best power play (29.5%), the Oilers have continued to impress on the man advantage. Connor McDavid scored on the power play in Game 2 to take their PP up to 44.4% in this series (4/9).
Even without fans, the Oilers continued to sell raffle tickets for their 50/50 draw. In Game 2, the total pot grew to more than $3.2 million, reportedly a new world record for a raffle. One lucky fan took home the jackpot of $1,629,722.50.
WHAT: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Edmonton Oilers WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton WHEN: Wednesday, August 5, 10:30 p.m. ET TV: NBCSN ON THE CALL: Brendan Burke, AJ Mleczko, Pierre McGuire LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Blackhawks-Oilers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.
(5) Edmonton Oilers vs. (12) Chicago Blackhawks (Series tied 1-1)
Saturday, Aug. 1: Blackhawks 6, Oilers 4 (recap) Monday, Aug. 3: Oilers 6, Blackhawks 3 (recap) Wednesday, Aug. 5: Oilers vs. Blackhawks, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN (Livestream) Friday, Aug. 7: Oilers vs. Blackhawks, 6:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN Saturday, Aug. 8: Blackhawks vs. Oilers*, TBD