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NHL Bubble Wrap: Unlikely heroes emerge; Avs, Lightning, Bruins advance

  • The Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins win their rematch series, while the Montreal Canadiens push their series to a sixth game.
  • The Colorado Avalanche completely dominated the Arizona Coyotes again.
  • The Vancouver Canucks push the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues to the brink of elimination.

Tampa Bay Lightning 5, Columbus Blue Jackets 4 (OT) (Lightning win series 4-1)

There was no First Round upset in this matchup this season. The Lightning took care of business and made up for their opening round exit a year by eliminating the Blue Jackets on Wednesday afternoon with a 5-4 overtime. They did not play their best game and had to overcome a two-goal third period deficit, but they scored three unanswered goals (including a game-tying goal from Anthony Cirelli with less than two minutes to play) to move on to the Second Round. Brayden Point had another huge game with three points, including his second overtime winner of the series.

Boston Bruins 2, Carolina Hurricanes 1 (Bruins win series 4-1)

For the second year in a row the Bruins eliminated the Hurricanes from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, winning eight of the nine playoff games over that stretch. A year ago it was in the Eastern Conference Final, this time in the First Round. The Bruins scored a pair of power play goals just five minutes apart late in the second period (David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron) and it was just enough offense to get the win. It is a tough result for the Hurricanes who were in complete control of Game 4 of the series going into the third period and looked to be in a position to even the series. But a third period collapse put them into a 3-1 series hole and they were unable to break through on Wednesday offensively.

Colorado Avalanche 7,  Arizona Coyotes 1 (Avalanche win series 4-1)

What can you really say about this? This series was a mismatch on paper and it was somehow an even bigger one on the ice. The Avalanche won Games 4 and 5 of the series by matching 7-1 margins with both games being even more one-sided than the final scores would indicate. Nathan MacKinnon was unstoppable in this game and Nazem Kadri continued to show why he was a huge addition for an Avalanche team that looks like an absolute force right now.

Montreal Canadiens 5, Philadelphia Flyers 3 (Flyers lead series 3-2)

This game had a little bit of everything. Fights, questionable hits, a disallowed goal on an offside review, a coach changing his mind on benching his goalie, the two teams exchanging goals just 12 seconds apart, and Joel Armia scoring two goals to help the Canadiens force a Game 6 against the Flyers.

Vancouver Canucks 4, St. Louis Blues 3 (Canucks lead series 3-2)

After losing back-to-back games the Canucks found themselves with a 3-1 second period deficit against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues. Their response: Three consecutive goals to take a 4-3 lead that they would hold on to for a pivotal Game 5 win, pushing the Blues to the brink of elimination on Friday night. Tyler Motte was the big hero in this game for the Canucks with a pair of goals.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Joel Armia, Montreal Canadiens. A lot of people came through for the Canadiens on Wednesday night, including Brendan Gallagher, Nick Suzuki, and Carey Price. But Armia was the big star in the win with a pair of goals, including a shorthanded tally to open the scoring early in the game and a big game-tying goal in the second period to serve as a perfect response to the Flyers’ two power play goals that could have swung the game in their favor.

2. Tyler Motte, Vancouver Canucks. Entering play on Wednesday Motte had scored just four goals (all in the regular season) in 42 games (regular season and playoffs combined) this season. He scored two goals on Wednesday, including an incredible shorthanded tally (see it below) to open the scoring. You can not expect offense like this from your depth players every night, but you also can not win the Stanley Cup (or get close to it) without games like this from them. 

3. Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning. Point was one of the many Lightning players that was a massive disappointing in the 2019 playoffs in their four-game loss to the Blue Jackets. Like many of the others he bounced back in a huge way in the First Round this season. With his three-point game on Wednesday, he finished with seven points (five goals, two assists) in the five-game series and scored a pair of overtime goals. He scored the winner in the fifth overtime of Game 1 to open the series, then clinched the series with his Game 5 winner on Wednesday.

Highlights of the Night

Point sends the Lightning to the Second Round with another overtime winner.

Motte’s first goal of the game was an absolutely sensational shorthanded tally in the first period.

One of the many insane sequences in the Canadiens-Flyers game was this stretch in the second period where the two teams exchanged goals just 12 seconds apart. Nick Suzuki’s goal, the game-winner for Montreal, was a beauty.

Factoids

  • Nathan MacKinnon extended his postseason point streak to eight consecutive games. [NHL PR]
  • Carey Price won his seventh career game when facing elimination, the most in Montreal Canadiens franchise history. [NHL PR]
  • If it is a big game you can bet that David Krejci is going to make an impact for the Bruins. [NHL PR]

Thursday Schedule

Game 5: Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN (Islanders lead series 3-1)
Game 6: Dallas Stars vs. Calgary Flames, 10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN (Stars lead series 3-2)

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule

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.

Lightning-Stars stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final

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NBC’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Friday’s Stanley Cup Final matchup between the Lightning and Stars. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. Watch the Lightning-Stars stream on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Boosted by the long-awaited and “inspirational” return of Steven Stamkos, the Tampa Bay Lightning got goals from all three of their first-line forwards, their top defenseman and their captain in a threee-goal win to move within two wins of the franchise’s second Stanley Cup. For the second straight game, Tampa jumped out to a multi-goal first-period lead before the Stars got on the board. The Dallas Stars cut the deficit to one entering the second period, but the middle frame was all Lightning, outscoring Dallas 3-0 in large part thanks to a 21-4 shot differential.

After Game 2, Kevin Shattenkirk said, “when we play our best game it’s hard for teams to win.” In Game 3, Tampa played one of its best games this postseason, getting major contributions from its usual suspects in the top line trio and Hedman and also a quantifiable (one goal from Stamkos) and unquantifiable lift from the return of its captain.

The top line of Palat, Point and Kucherov carried the day once again, combining for three goals and six points in Game 3, their second straight game with four-plus points. Point leads all players this postseason with 11 goals and with Palat and Hedman also reaching double-digit goals in Game 3, the trio make Tampa the first team in a decade to have three players with 10-plus goals in the same postseason.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Tyler Seguin has struggled mightily in the 2020 playoffs. The 28-year-old has now gone 12 consecutive games without a goal and has just one assist over that span (which was six games ago). His last goal came in Game 3 of the Second Round vs. Colorado

Along with Seguin, some of Dallas’ other forwards have been quiet recently as well:

Jamie Benn: Zero points this series after ending West Final on a three-game goal streak
Denis Gurianov: Zero points, three shots this series (OT goal and assist in series-clincher vs. Vegas)
Alex Radulov: Zero goals, three assists this series

Tampa can become the first team in the NHL expansion era (1967-present) to win the Stanley Cup the season after being swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

WHAT: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Friday, September 25, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
ON THE CALL: Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, Brian Boucher
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Lightning-Stars stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 2-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

Lightning vs. Stars: 3 keys to Game 4 of Stanley Cup Final

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After winning Games 2 and 3 earlier this week, the Tampa Bay Lightning have an opportunity to grab full control of the Stanley Cup Final against the Dallas Stars on Friday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC; livestream).

Captain Steven Stamkos will miss his third game of the series, but the Lightning still have their top-line and a roster full of All-Stars to help make up for his absence.

The Stars, meanwhile, have to hope that their top line can rediscover its scoring touch before the series starts to slip away from them.

Now let’s get you ready for Game 4 by taking a look at three keys to the game.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

1. Stars have to stay disciplined

One of the biggest issues the Stars have had so far in this series is they have not only allowed themselves to get into some early penalty trouble over the past two games, but they have also allowed the Lightning’s power play to start clicking again.

With all of that talent they have on the ice you had to know it was only a matter of time until they broke out of that slump, and they have in a big way in Games 2 and 3 with three power play goals.

The power play unit helped jumpstart the Lightning’s Game 2 win early in the first period, and then took away any momentum the Stars had began to build in Game 3 when Jason Dickinson cut two-goal deficit in half.

Now that the Lightning power play is starting to find its game again there is really only one surefire way to shut it down.

Keep it off the ice entirely.

2. Two top lines going in two different directions

On one side you have the Lightning top line of Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Ondrej Palat continuing to dominate.

The trio has already combined for five goals in the first three games of the series, while Kucherov and Point have been separating themselves as Conn Smythe contenders all postseason. It is not just the goal-scoring that sticks out about them, either. The line is just an offensive steamroller that crushing everything that dares to get in its way.

Kucherov has been especially dominant this postseason with an unmatched consistency that is helping him redeem himself after a forgettable 2019 postseason.

On the other side, Dallas’ top line of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov has yet to score a single goal in this series, and it sounds like coach Rick Bowness is at least considering the idea of maybe splitting them up in Game 4 on Friday. Whether he splits them up or keeps them together, the Stars have to figure out a way to get their big-three going to at least try and match up with Tampa Bay’s top line.

3. The Stars getting the Western Conference Final version of Anton Khudobin

I am not going to blame Khudobin for the past two games. It would be unfair, it would be insane, it would be wrong. The Stars have taken penalties, they have given up chances, they have had breakdowns in front of him, and there have been a couple of fluke goals that have been able to sneak behind him.

But, those same things happened in the Western Conference Final against the Vegas Golden Knights and the biggest reason the Stars were able to overcome them was the fact that Khudobin played at an incredibly high level for those five games. He matched that level in Game 1 against Tampa Bay as well.

Goaltending was always going to be the X-factor in this series, and Dallas’ best chance was going to sit with Khudobin playing the way he did in the previous round. So far, it has not happened. Nothing would get this series going back in Dallas’ favor faster than that.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 2-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

MORE: Conn Smythe Watch: Victor Hedman makes his move

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.

NHL schedule for 2020 Stanley Cup Final

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The Stanley Cup Playoffs continue on Saturday, Sept. 19 in the hub city of Edmonton. Now that we are through the conference finals, the full 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final schedule has been announced.  

The top four teams during the regular season in both conferences played a three-game round robin for seeding in the First Round. The eight winners of the best-of-5 Qualifying Round advanced to the First Round.  

Rogers Place in Edmonton will host 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final.  

Here is the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final schedule.

2020 STANLEY CUP FINAL (Rogers Place – Edmonton)

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 2-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

CONFERENCE FINAL RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Lightning beat Islanders (4-2)

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Stars beat Golden Knights (4-1)

***

SECOND ROUND RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Lightning beat Bruins (4-1)
Islanders beat Flyers (4-3)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Golden Knights beat Canucks (4-3)
Stars beat Avalanche (4-3)

***

NHL QUALIFYING ROUND / ROUND-ROBIN RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Philadelphia Flyers (3-0-0, 6 points)
Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1-0, 4 points)
Washington Capitals (1-1-1, 3 points)
Boston Bruins (0-3-0, 0 points)

Canadiens beat Penguins (3-1)
Hurricanes beat Rangers (3-0)
Islanders beat Panthers (3-1)
Blue Jackets beat Maple Leafs (3-2)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Vegas Golden Knights (3-0-0, 6 points)
Colorado Avalanche (2-1-0, 4 points)
Dallas Stars (1-2-0, 2 points)
St. Louis Blues (0-2-1, 1 point)

Blackhawks beat Oilers (3-1)
Coyotes beat Predators (3-1)
Canucks beat Wild (3-1)
Flames beat Jets (3-1)

***

FIRST ROUND RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Flyers beat Canadiens (4-2)
Lightning beat Blue Jackets (4-1)
Islanders beat Capitals (4-1)
Bruins beat Hurricanes (4-1)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Golden Knights beat Blackhawks (4-1)
Avalanche beat Coyotes (4-1)
Stars beat Flames (4-2)
Canucks beat Blues (4-2)

Canadiens re-sign Jeff Petry to 4-year, $25 million extension

Jeff Petry extension
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The Montreal Canadiens are making sure one of their most important defenders is going to be sticking around.

The team announced on Friday that it has re-signed Jeff Petry to a four-year, $25 million contract extension that will run through the end of the 2024-25 season.

That comes out to an annual salary cap hit of $6.25 million. Petry is currently entering the final year of a contract that pays him $5.5 million per season. He would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency after next season without a new contract.

He has been with the Canadiens since the middle of the 2014-15 season when he was acquired for two draft picks and become one of their best all-around players. It has turned out to be a wildly one-sided traded in the Canadiens’ favor. He is a possession-driving defenseman that can play a solid defensive game and also make a significant contribution offensively. He has scored at least 10 goals and 40 points in each of the past three seasons.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

It makes sense that the Canadiens would want to keep him around.

Just about the only risk here is age. Petry turns this December and will be 34 when the new contract actually kicks in. Right now Petry is without a question a $6.25 million dollar per year player, and he has not really shown any signs of an immediate decline. But will he still be that good of a player between the ages of 34 and 37?

Starting with the 2021-22 season the Canadiens will have $24.5 million in cap space going to the trio of Petry, Shea Weber, and Carey Price, all of whom will be over the age of 33. And that does not include the $4.6 million that then-33 Karl Alzner‘s contract has (assuming he is still on the team). That is a lot of money and a significant chunk of your salary cap space going to players that are closer to the end of their careers than their primes.

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.