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NHL Bubble Wrap: Kubalik, Price, and Slavin star in NHL’s playoff opener

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  • The NHL’s 2019-20 postseason kicked off on Saturday with five games.
  • The Jets lost two key forwards to injury.
  • The Penguins and Canadiens played the first overtime game of the postseason in a game that featured a great goaltending performance, two penalty shots, and a slick winner from an unlikely source.

Carolina Hurricanes 3, New York Rangers 2 (Hurricanes lead series 1-0)

Henrik Lundqvist did everything he could for the Rangers on Saturday afternoon but it was not enough in their Game 1 loss to the Hurricanes. After being relegated to third goalie duty for much of the second half of the season, Lundqvist got the surprise start on Saturday when Igor Shesterkin was deemed “unfit to play.” The Hurricanes pounced all over a sluggish Rangers team early in the game and jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the Rangers finally started to get going. Jaccob Slavin and Sebastian Aho each had a goal and an assist for the Hurricanes in the win, while Martin Necas‘ goal midway through the third period proved to be the winner.

Chicago Blackhawks 6, Edmonton Oilers 4 (Blackhawks lead series 1-0)

Wow was this ugly for the Oilers. Do not let the reasonably close final score fool you into thinking this was anything other than a complete meltdown from the start for Edmonton. Starting goalie Mike Smith was pulled after giving up five goals while playing behind a porous defense that did not have an answer for Dominik Kubalik, Jonathan Toews, and the rest of the Blackhawks. Chicago snuck into the qualifier round as the 12th team in the West and based on the first game it could not have been given a better matchup. The Oilers may have two elite, MVP caliber players in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but the rest of the roster remains badly flawed.

New York Islanders 2, Florida Panthers 1 (Islanders lead series 1-0)

The big story to come out of this one is the Islanders losing defenseman Johnny Boychuk after he was on the receiving end of a huge hit from Mike Matheson. Boychuck did not return, and there was no immediate update on his status from the team after the game. You can be sure the NHL is looking at the hit for potential supplemental discipline (Matheson was initially given a five-minute major, but it was reduced to two minutes after review). The Islanders scored on the ensuing power play when Anthony Beauvillier scored to give them a 2-0 lead. That goal would prove to be the game-winning goal.

Montreal Canadiens 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 2 (Canadiens lead series 1-0)

The Canadiens stunned the Penguins in Game 1 thanks to a 39-save effort from Carey Price, some big goals from Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki, and an overtime winner from defenseman Jeff Petry. The Penguins’ power play let them down in a big way by going 1-for-7 on the night, including a missed opportunity on an extended 5-on-3 and an overtime power play. Conor Sheary also missed a penalty shot with three minutes to play in regulation.

Calgary Flames 4, Winnipeg Jets 1 (Flames lead series 1-0)

This was a brutal game for the Jets. Not only did they lose their opening game, but they also lost two of their best forwards to injury as Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine were both injured. Scheifele’s injury appears to be the most serious after he was kicked in the back of the leg by Matthew Tkachuk early in the first period and was unable to put any weight on his left leg. Jets coach Paul Maurice felt it was an intentional, dirty play. This is sure to be the storyline of this series. As for the Flames, after not scoring a goal in each of his past two playoff appearances Johnny Gaudreau found the back of the net while Andrew Mangiapane recorded a pair of points in the win.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Dominik Kubalik, Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks may have had a miserable regular season, but they have a chance to make some noise in the playoffs thanks in part to a very favorable qualifying round matchup against a very flawed Oilers team. Kubalik was the big star on Saturday in their 6-4 win thanks to a five point effort in his playoff debut. He was one of the bright spots for the Blackhawks during the regular season, coming out of nowhere to be a finalist for the rookie of the year award.

2. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens. Price stopped 39 shots in Montreal’s Game 1 win over Pittsburgh, and while all of those saves were important he played some of his best hockey in the first 10 minutes of the first period. It was at that point that the Penguins carried the play and recorded 10 of the game’s first 12 shots but were unable to get one by Price. That helped set the tone for Montreal’s win. If the Canadiens are going to advance they are going to need more efforts like this from their franchise goalie.

3. Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes. The bad news for the Hurricanes is they did not have Dougie Hamilton for Game 1 of their series against the Rangers. The good news? Even without him they still have a bonafide top-pairing defender on their roster in Slavin, and he was a force on Saturday. He played a game-high 24 minutes for the Hurricanes in their 3-2 win over the Rangers, scoring a goal (the first goal just one minute into the game), adding an assist, and playing his usual rock-solid game defensively.

Highlights of the night

Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba kicked off the postseason with a powerful speech against racism.

“Hockey is a great game. But it could be a whole lot greater. And it starts with all of us.”

The first overtime goal of the 2020 postseason belongs to Jeff Petry and it was a beauty.

Factoids

  • The Penguins-Canadiens game was just the second Stanley Cup Playoff game (and first since 1923) to feature two penalty shots. [NHL PR]
  • Kubalik is the first rookie in NHL history to record five points in their postseason debut. [NHL PR]
  • After scoring in his regular season debut with the team, Jean-Gabriel Pageau added a goal in his first playoff game with the New York Islanders. [NHL PR]

Sunday’s schedule

Game 1: Arizona Coyotes vs. Nashville Predators (2 p.m. ET, USA)
Round-Robin: Boston Bruins vs. Philadelphia Flyers (3 p.m. ET, NBC)
Round-Robin: St. Louis Blues vs. Colorado Avalanche (6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Game 1: Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (joined in progress 9 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Game 1: Minnesota Wild vs. Vancouver Canucks (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Maple Leafs’ Muzzin out for rest of series vs. Blue Jackets

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There’s some good news for Jake Muzzin.

The defenseman has left a local Toronto hotel after leaving Game 2 on a stretcher following a collision late in the third period. Muzzin was cross-checked by Columbus forward Pierre-Luc Dubois and sent off-balance, causing his head to collide with Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s knee.

According to the Maple Leafs, Muzzin will miss the rest of the series and remain in quarantine until he’s ready to return.

“No question, seeing one of your teammates go down, especially a guy like ‘Muzz,’ you know the type of warrior he is.” said Maple Leafs captain John Tavares. “I think what he brings to our team is unmeasurable, obviously very tough. All signs are very positive being around him, and nice to close it out for him. But certainly tough to see, especially just how much we love that guy.”

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

When Muzzin is ready to return, the Toronto Hub Medical Director will decide quarantine/testing protocols before he’s allowed to practice and play again.

“He does a big part for this team, penalty kill, even strength against the best players against the other team,” said Mitch Marner said. “He really does mean a lot to us. So being beside when he did go down and stayed down, obviously it’s a little worrisome. And when you see the stretcher come out, a lot of things run through your mind. We’re all on his side and all praying for him. We just want to make sure that when he does come back he’s 100 percent, and there’s a lot bigger things than hockey.”

The series is tied 1-1 with Game 3 Thursday night (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

(8) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (9) Columbus Blue Jackets (Series tied 1-1)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Blue Jackets 2, Maple Leafs 0 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Maple Leafs 3, Blue Jackets 0 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6: Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Friday, Aug. 7: Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets*, TBD
Sunday, Aug. 9: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs*, TBD

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.

Aye Captains: Crosby, McDavid provide Penguins, Oilers spark

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TORONTO (AP) — The C’s have it: Crosby and Connor, that is.

It didn’t take long for the two captains – Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid – to make their presence felt three days into the NHL’s expanded playoffs.

With each of their teams facing 1-0 deficits, and both to their respective conference’s 12th- and last-seeded opponents no less, Crosby and McDavid provided much-needed sparks to even their best-of-five preliminary round elimination series, which resume Wednesday.

First, it was Crosby giving the Penguins a lift by beating Carey Price on a partial break to open the scoring in a 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens in Toronto on Monday night.

A few hours later in the league’s other playoff hub city, Edmonton, Alberta, McDavid put on an eye-popping display – even by his standards – with his first three-goal playoff performance in a 6-3 win over Chicago.

”I’ve seen it for years with Sidney Crosby. I mean, he dictates the work ethic and pace of the game. Last night Connor was the guy to do that for us,” Oilers coach Dave Tippett said Tuesday.

”Connor’s not a big ‘Rah-rah’ guy, but he inspires players by how he plays,” he added. ”And last night, he certainly led the way for us, and the rest of our team followed suit.”

In Sid, the Penguins trust, veteran defenseman Kris Letang said.

”When Sid is leading your team, you know you’re in good hands,” Letang said. ”If it was not the case, right now we would be in trouble.”

The Penguins and the Oilers aren’t out of trouble just yet, given how only 15 of 83 NHL teams which lost Game 1 of a best-of-five series have gone on to advance.

Both teams are back in prime-time, with the Penguins facing Montreal (8 p.m. EDT, NBCSN), and Edmonton facing Chicago (10:30, NBCSN), while breathing just a little easier.

”He comes out and he’s flying like that the first couple of shifts, you want to follow right along,” Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said of McDavid. ”We know he can do that at any given moment. And for him to do that in a huge game like last night, it raises your energy level.”

Islanders-Panthers stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers

Islanders-Panthers stream
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NBCSN’s coverage of the NHL’s Return to Play continues with Wednesday’s Stanley Cup Qualifier matchup between the Islanders and Panthers. Coverage begins at 12 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Islanders-Panthers Game 3 stream at 12 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Florida opened the scoring, and led 2-1 midway through Game 2, but the Islanders scored three unanswered goals to put the Panthers on the verge of elimination.

“If there’s a team that’s able to do so, I think it’s us,” said Panthers forward Mike Hoffman on the Panthers’ chances of a series comeback.

After a difficult regular season, Sergei Bobrovsky hasn’t been able to deliver a win for Florida this postseason. He struggled in the exhibition game, allowing five goals to Tampa, and has come out on the losing end in both games this series. In Games 1 and 2, the goals that really seemed to change the momentum (Anthony Beauvillier’s game-winning goal in Game 1, Ryan Pulock’s game-tying goal in Game 2) were both scored five-hole from distance.

The Isles have been stingy defensively in their first two postseasons under the direction of Barry Trotz. They’ve now played 10 playoff games with him as coach, and allowed just 22 goals.

WHAT: New York Islanders vs. Florida Panthers
WHERE: Scotiabank Arena – Toronto
WHEN: Wednesday, August 5, 12 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
ON THE CALL: Mike Tirico, Keith Jones, Brian Boucher
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Islanders-Panthers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

(7) New York Islanders vs. (10) Florida Panthers (NYI leads series 2-0)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Islanders 2, Panthers 1 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Islanders 4, Panthers 2 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Islanders vs. Panthers, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Friday, Aug. 7: Islanders vs. Panthers*
Sunday, Aug. 9: Panthers vs. Islanders*

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

The Wraparound: Panthers keeping faith facing elimination

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2020 NHL Return to Play. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

• The NHL Bubble Wrap has your nightly roundup of all the postseason action.

James Reimer‘s goaltending and Sebastian Aho’s highlight-reel goal helped the Hurricanes complete the sweep of the Rangers.

• Here are the updated round-robin standings and scenarios as of Wednesday.

Facing elimination, Joel Quenneville isn’t learning towards making a change in goal for Game 3 (12 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream). “Very likely,” he said after Tuesdays’ loss to the Islanders about going back to Sergei Bobrovsky.

Bob was their big summer acquisition, a $10 million a season investment. Their season is on the line Wednesday and they’re going to ride with him. Chris Driedger played well in only 12 regular season appearances, but he’s inexperienced. Quenneville has never been one to have much confidence in throwing young players into the fire.

Beyond the goals allowed, the goals for haven’t been helping. Florida has just two even strength goals in two games. There’s also the discipline problem as the Panthers have handed New York 12 power plays, allowing three extra man goals.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Florida isn’t looking past Game 3, knowing there’s plenty of work to be done.

“This is the best time of my life,” said captain Aleksander Barkov. “You get to play playoff games. Our whole team is here. We want to win. We want to play our best game. Obviously, our last two games are not our best. We can do a lot better. We’re going to do a lot better in the next game.

“If I’m disappointed in being here? No. This is a great chance for us. I’ve seen so many teams coming back from 3-0, 2-0, 3-1. It’s not over until …”

“The fat lady sings,” chimed in teammate Keith Yandle.

NHL GAMES TODAY

Game 3: Predators vs. Coyotes, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; live look-in stream – (Series tied 1-1): A short memory is what Rick Tocchet is pounding home to his players. “We’ll move by this [loss to Nashville] in about two minutes,” he said after the Predators evened the series with a Game 2 win. Getting clean shots through on goal will be one of Arizona’s keys. They sent 26 Juuse Saros‘ way Tuesday, but Nashville blocked 21 shots.

Round-robin: Lightning vs. Bruins, 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream: At the end of every round this postseason, teams will be re-seeded – so round robin standings are critical. If Boston loses, the Presidents’ Trophy winners would no longer have a shot at the first seed in the East. Tuukka Rask, who has been dealing with a fractured finger on his glove hand, is expected to start. Lightning captain Steven Stamkos did not take line rushes with the team on Tuesday and has been ruled out.

Round-robin: Avalanche vs. Stars, 6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; live look-in stream: How do you top a buzzer beater? Colorado is going to try. As they look to try and claim the West’s top seed, the Avs take on a Dallas team eager to forget about Monday’s third-period collapse to Vegas. Jared Bednar has no named starting goalie, but Pavel Francouz is expected to play.

Game 3: Penguins vs. Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream – (Series tied 1-1): Sidney Crosby has two goals in this series, scoring in each of the first two games. With his goal in Game 2, Crosby tied Gordie Howe for 18th all-time with 68 playoff goals. The only active player with more postseason goals is Crosby’s teammate, Patrick Marleau. The goal also gave Crosby 188 career playoff points, tying Joe Sakic and Doug Gilmour for eighth-most in history.

Game 3: Oilers vs. Blackhawks, 10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream – (Series tied 1-1): Many expected this to be a high-scoring series, and it hasn’t disappointed. Nineteen goals have been scored through two games, with the winning team scoring six goals in each game. The big names on both teams have impressed, including Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who both have six points after consecutive three-point performances. Patrick Kane has three points in the series (1G-2A).

THURSDAY‘S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 3: Wild vs. Canucks, 2:30 p.m. ET – live look-in NBCSN
Round-robin: Flyers vs. Capitals, 4 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Round-robin: Blues vs. Golden Knights, 6:30 p.m. ET – live look-in NBCSN
Game 3: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Game 4: Jets vs. Flames, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN

Round-robin standings (ties broken by regular-season points percentage)

EAST
Lightning – 2 pts. (.657)
Flyers – 2 pts. (.645)
Capitals – 1 pts. (.652)
Bruins – 0 pts. (.714)

WEST
Avalanche – 2 pts. (.657)
Golden Knights – 2 pts. (.606)
Blues – 0 pts (.662)
Stars – 0 pts. (.594)

PHT’s 2020 Stanley Cup playoff previews
Eastern Conference top seed round-robin preview
Penguins vs. Canadiens
Rangers vs. Hurricanes
Islanders vs. Panthers
Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets

Western Conference top seed round-robin preview
Jets vs. Flames
Oilers vs. Blackhawks
Predators vs. Coyotes
Wild vs. Canucks