Ryan Ellis left Game 5 and that could be a problem for Preds

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PITTSBURGH — The Nashville Predators’ defense has been the backbone of their team all season thanks to the NHL’s most dominant top-four.

The quartet of P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm have all logged more than 23 minutes of ice-time per game and helped dictate the pace of every game the Predators have played.

In their Game 5 loss on Thursday night they lost one of those players for most of the game.

Ellis played just 10:44 in the loss and did not record a shift after the 3:58 mark of the second period due to an undisclosed injury.

After the game coach Peter Laviolette was asked if it is a cause for concern, or if it was simply due to the situation (Nashville trailing by four goals early in the second period) and keeping him out as a cautionary measure.

He had no update.

“Yeah, honestly, I don’t have any details to share with you yet,” said Laviolette. “Not that I will.”

The good news for the Predators is they have two days to get ready for Game 6, but there should still be some concern about his availability. If he is unable to go that would be a pretty significant loss for Nashville.

Not only is Ellis one of its big-four on the blue line, he has had a breakout performance offensively with five goals and eight assists. He is currently the Predators’ third-leading scorer this postseason behind only Filip Forsberg and Josi.

The other concern is that Nashville has leaned heavily on that top-four group to play a significant portion of every game, limiting their third pairing of Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber to only 12 minutes per game. When they have played, they have struggled at times.

On Thursday, it was Irwin that took on an increased role in Ellis’ absence and he seemed to have some problems.

If Ellis can’t go, or is less than 100 percent, the Predators will just have to lean that much more on Subban, Josi and Ekholm on Sunday night.

Richardson’s OT goal gives Coyotes series win over Predators

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Brad Richardson‘s goal 5:27 into overtime gave the Coyotes a 4-3 win Friday, sending Nashville out of the Stanley Cup Qualifying Round in four games.

The series win is Arizona’s first since 2012 when they beat the Predators in five games to advance in the Second Round.

As they’ve done in the series, the Predators dug holes that led to opportunities for Arizona. Continued mistakes in the defensive zone not only hindered their ability to create scoring chances (won by the Coyotes 27-26 at 5-on-5), but led to goals against.

On Arizona’s first goal, Craig Smith‘s pass to Kyle Turris in order to exit their zone led to a turnover that ended up on Michael Grabner‘s stick. The forward then wristed a shot over Juuse Saros‘ glove for his second goal of the series.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Phil Kessel slapped home Arizona’s second tally thanks to a poor pass from Saros to Roman Josi.

The Predators didn’t go down without a fight. Matt Duchene and Viktor Arvidsson tied the game in the second with goals four minutes apart. Jordan Oesterle looked to have put the Coyotes ahead for good, but a fantastic combination between Ryan Ellis and Filip Forsberg forced overtime with 31.9 seconds left.

Extra hockey didn’t last long with Richardson’s putting home his own rebound on the doorstep.

Darcy Kuemper (.954 even strength save percentage in the series) was once again solid in net for the Coyotes. He made 49 saves in Game 4, the third time in the series he’s had to stop 40-plus shots.

Arizona will face either the Avalanche or Golden Knights in the First Round, which will begin next week.

(6) Nashville Predators vs. (11) Arizona Coyotes (ARZ wins series 3-1)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Coyotes 4, Predators 3 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Predators 4, Coyotes 2 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Coyotes 4, Predators 1 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Coyotes 4, Predators 3 (OT)

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Canadiens-Penguins stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers

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NBC’s coverage of the NHL’s Return to Play continues with Friday’s Stanley Cup Qualifier matchup between the Canadiens and Penguins. Coverage begins at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Canadiens-Penguins Game 4 stream at 4 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Jeff Petry scored from a sharp angle by banking it off Matt Murray’s helmet early in the third period, which proved to be the game-winner once again in this series for the Habs. Petry became the seventh defenseman in NHL history – and fourth in the modern era (since 1943-44) – to score two game-winning goals through his team’s first three contests in a postseason.

The Penguins have now lost eight of their last nine playoff games dating back to the 2018 Second Round.

Tristan Jarry will replace Matt Murray in goal for Game 4.

Although the Habs netminder allowed more than two goals for the first time this series, Carey Price had another solid performance in net, turning aside 30 of 33 shots faced. When the Habs tied the game in the second and then took the lead in the third, Price elevated his game to help preserve the win.

Through three games this series, Price has a .937 SV% and a 2.19 GAA.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

WHAT: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens
WHERE: Scotiabank Arena – Toronto
WHEN: Friday, August 7, 4 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
ON THE CALL: Gord Miller, Mike Milbury, Brian Boucher
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Canadiens-Penguins stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

(5) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (12) Montreal Canadiens (MTL leads 2-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Canadiens 3, Penguins 2 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Penguins 3, Canadiens 1 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Canadiens 4, Penguins 3 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Penguins vs. Canadiens, 4 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Saturday, Aug. 8: Canadiens vs. Penguins* if necessary

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

Barzal, Beauvillier help Islanders eliminate Panthers

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The Panthers had no answers for Anthony Beauvillier and Mathew Barzal in Game 4. The Islanders duo combined for three of their five goals during a 5-1 series-clinching win.

The 23-year-old Beauvillier put Florida on their heels midway through the first period with a pair of goals 3:38 apart. He surprised Sergei Bobrovsky on his first goal, whipping a backhand from just below the circle towards the unsuspecting netminder.

“Mistakes is mistakes,” Bobrovsky said. “It’s a game of mistakes.”

Beauvillier, who finished the series with three goals and five points, doubled the lead minutes later when he connected with a fantastic saucer pass from Barzal.

“I just think right now that Beau is enjoying playing good hockey and he’s getting rewarded for it with production,” said Islanders head coach Barry Trotz. “He is skating on the puck, he’s working, he’s just focused on his job in that moment.”

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The Panthers would get one back late in the first, but Brock Nelson answered midway through the second. Not long after the Islanders reinstated their two-goal lead, Aleksander Barkov had a great chance to cut the lead to one, but Ryan Pulock had other ideas.

“You look back on it, it should’ve been a goal 10 times out of 10,” Barkov said afterward.

Semyon Varlamov bounced back from a Game 3 defeat to stop 24 out of 25 shots faced.

New York has won a postseason series for a second straight year, and it’s only their third series victory since 1992-93. Who they will play in the First Round next week is still up in the air, but it will be one of Tampa, Philadelphia, Washington, or Boston.

The loss extends the Panthers’ postseason woes. Florida has not won a playoff series since their 1995-96 run to the Stanley Cup Final. It’s the longest active drought in the NHL.

(7) New York Islanders vs. (10) Florida Panthers (NYI win series 3-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Islanders 2, Panthers 1 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Islanders 4, Panthers 2 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Panthers 3, Islanders 2 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Islanders 5, Panthers 1

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Not just Price is right: Canadiens have Penguins on brink

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It seemed like any hope the Montreal Canadiens had of beating the Pittsburgh Penguins rested on the shoulders of goaltender Carey Price.

Price has shouldered a big load in net, but he’s not the only reason the high-powered Penguins are on the brink of elimination, down 2-1 in the best-of-five qualifying round series. Montreal has held star Russian center Evgeni Malkin to zero even-strength points with one power-play assist through three games and can knock out Pittsburgh with one more victory in Game 4 Friday (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream).

“Pricey’s been really solid: He’s making some key saves for us,” center Phillip Danault said. “But yeah, he’s not alone in this and it’s important for him to know. We show some character, we go toe to toe. We embrace the challenge.”

The Eastern Conference’s 12th (and lowest) seed has shut down the NHL’s best team that didn’t get the luxury of a bye into the traditional first round of the playoffs. Beyond Price’s 104 saves on 111 shots to match the lofty expectations for his game, the Canadiens have held the Penguins to three power-play goals in 15 chances and bottled up an opponent that won the Stanley Cup twice in the previous four seasons.

Two-time playoff MVP Sidney Crosby has scored twice and added an assist, though Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust are also tied with him for the most points on the Penguins with three. The team defense in front of Price has been suffocating and explains why the Canadiens are a win away from advancing.

“We’re definitely aware when Malkin’s on the ice or Crosby’s on the ice and we try and limit their chances and take their space away as quick as possible,” Montreal defenseman Ben Chiarot said. “But they’re world-class players and they’re going to get their opportunities, and that’s when Carey steps in and does what he’s been doing for us. It’s five of us out there working together, playing defense and we’re just trying to keep it as tight as possible when those guys are on the ice.”