NHL Bubble Wrap: Lightning eliminate Bruins to advance; Avalanche squash Stars

NHL Bubble Wrap: Lightning bounce Bruins to advance; Avalanche squash Stars
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  • The Presidents’ Trophy-winning Bruins have been eliminated. They certainly went out with a fight, although falling in five games still stings.
  • Both the Avalanche and Stars surprised people with their Game 5 goalie choices.
  • Yes, the Lightning advanced, but Nikita Kucherov‘s injury makes them vulnerable, and they have to root for the Flyers for at least a game or two to buy some time to heal.
  • Scores for Game 5 of Bruins – Lightning, Stars – Avalanche

    Lightning 3, Bruins 2 [2 OT] (TBL wins series 4-1)

    Yes, getting eliminated in five games hurts, and the Bruins can’t be happy with the way their season ended in the Second Round. But it must be said that this was pretty tight series. While the Lightning won four games in a row to advance to the 2020 Eastern Conference Final, Tampa Bay needed two wins in OT. The Bruins carried significant chunks of the play in Game 5, but the Lightning advanced. It could be crucial that Tampa Bay ended this here, as a Kucherov injury looms large. We’ll get to the main reason they won Game 5 in the three stars section, by the way …

    Avalanche 6, Stars 3 (DAL leads series 3-2)

    With their season on the line, the Avalanche absolutely stormed out of the gate to make Ben Bishop‘s return to playoff action as short as it was surprising. By scoring four goals during a dizzying 2:36 span, the Avalanche fell a second short of tying the NHL record for the fastest four goals in NHL playoff history. The Avalanche managed a 5-0 lead through the first period, and really just needed to coast from there. It made for a busy first career playoff win for journeyman goalie Michael Hutchinson, as the Stars carried the play when the game was lopsided. There was plenty of nastiness in this one, so it will be interesting to see what carries over to Game 6 on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN (livestream).

    [NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    NHL Three Stars: Monday’s 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs games

    1. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

    Once Kucherov went down with an injury that Tampa Bay has to hope isn’t major, the Lightning only had 10 forwards to go with seven defensemen. That might explain why certain stretches were rather lopsided, as the Bruins pushed hard. That said, they couldn’t muster much against the Lightning at even-strength in this series. Beyond David Pastrnak‘s power-play goal, David Krejci sent Game 5 to OT on a pretty random bounce. Frankly, that’s just what you were going to get against Vasilevskiy. He made 45 saves to close out this series. So far during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Vasilevskiy boasts a .931 save percentage through 13 games. Perhaps he’ll be worth that $9.5M cap hit going forward, after all?

    2. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning

    As much as people focus on that Blue Jackets sweep, the Lightning have put together plenty of deep playoff runs with Victor Hedman among their most important contributors. Yet, through two rounds, Hedman set new career-highs with goals (five) and game-winners (two) during a single postseason run. Overall, Hedman provided a … Hedman-sized effort in Game 5: that overtime game-winner, an assist, a +3 rating, and 38:25 TOI. On that note, a longer rest might not just be nice for Kucherov healing, but also resting the likes of Hedman. With the injuries pile up, the Lightning are going to need even more from their remaining top stars.

    3. Andre Burakovsky, Colorado Avalanche

    Goals sometimes felt like miracles in that tight East series, while Stars – Avs has been about as orderly as a destruction derby. While the Avalanche won Game 5 thanks to a first period onslaught, Burakovsky helped to keep it that way. The second of Burakovsky’s two goals was quite important, as the Stars were showing life by reducing Colorado’s lead to 5-2. Once Burakovsky made it 6-2, it was clinical. Burakovsky generated three points (2G, 1A) as Colorado’s supporting cast has come alive lately. With the way things are going in this Second Round series, Burakovsky might need to author another big game or two for the Avs to continue their comeback push.

    Highlights from Game 5 of Bruins – Lightning and Stars – Avalanche

    Watch out the Lightning eliminated the Bruins in Game 5, thus advancing to the 2020 Eastern Conference Final:

    The Avalanche ran away with Game 5 early on against the Stars:

    TUESDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
    Game 5: Islanders vs. Flyers (NYI lead 3-1) – 7 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
    Game 5: Canucks vs. Golden Knights (VGK leads 3-1) – 9:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)

    PHT’s 2020 Second Round previews
    Bruins vs. Lightning
    Flyers vs. Islanders
    Stars vs. Avalanche
    Golden Knights vs. Canucks
    PHT predictions

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    Thompson nets 4 in 1st, 5 overall, as Buffalo tops Columbus

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    Russell LaBounty/USA TODAY Sports
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    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tage Thompson matched an NHL record by scoring four times in the first period and finished with five goals and an assist as the Buffalo Sabres won their third straight road game, 9-4 over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.

    Thompson is the second U.S.-born player to score five goals in a game. He is the fourth player in NHL history to record four goals in the first period of a regular-season game, joining Peter Bondra (1994), Grant Mulvey (1982) and Joe Malone (1921). He is also the fourth active player to score five goals in a game, joining Timo Meier (Jan. 17, 2022), Mika Zibanejad (March 5, 2020) and Patrik Laine (Nov. 24, 2018).

    “It’s definitely a rewarding feeling,” Thompson said. “You’ve spent a lot of years working to get to this point and to be rewarded for it is a pretty good feeling and it just leaves you hungrier.”

    Thompson’s outburst helped Buffalo score six times in the first 16:40.

    “That was an amazing performance by Tage, and really, the whole group set the table,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “I thought the energy, the collective effort, the focus to start was really good and enabled that to happen.”

    Alex Tuch had a goal and three assists, Dylan Cozens added a power-play goal and two assists and Rasmus Dahlin finished with a goal and two assists. Peyton Krebs also scored. Jeff Skinner picked up four assists and Jacob Bryson had two. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 20 shots.

    Patrik Laine and Gustav Nyquist each scored twice for Columbus.

    Joonas Korpisalo stopped two shots before being pulled in the first in favor of Elvis Merzlikins, who stopped 15 shots through the second period. Korpisalo returned in the third and finished with six saves.

    Columbus has lost six straight home games and five of its last six overall.

    “We didn’t have an answer for that one line,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “Tage Thompson just tore us up tonight.”

    Buffalo dominated from the puck drop, scoring four goals on its first six shots.

    Cozens put the Sabres on the board at 3:21 of the first, 53 seconds into a Blue Jackets penalty, and Thompson made it 2-0 just 2:09 later. Dahlin scored Buffalo’s third goal at 7:28 of the first, driving Korpisalo from the net in favor of Merzlikins, who gave up Buffalo goal No. 4 to Thompson 32 seconds later.

    Thompson’s third career hat trick and second of the season came on a power-play goal at 12:22 of the first. He followed with his fourth goal, also on the power play, at 16:40.

    Columbus scored two goals in just over a minute, with Laine at 10:49 and Nyquist at 12:04, before Buffalo reeled off three straight in just over three minutes to end the period, including Thompson’s fifth, and goals by Krebs and Tuch.

    Laine and Nyquist scored in the third period for Columbus.

    STREAKING

    Cozens has 12 points in his last five games and is riding a career-best, five-game point streak. Thompson has eight goals and five assists in his last five games and 10 multi-point games. Dahlin has a five-game point and assist streak, and Gaudreau stretched his points streak to six games.

    NOTES: The Sabres joined the Kraken as the second team this season to score nine goals in a game. … Thompson is the second player in Buffalo history to have five goals in a game, joining Dave Andreychuk, who had five goals and an assist on Feb. 6, 1986.

    UP NEXT

    Buffalo: Hosts Pittsburgh on Friday.

    Columbus: Hosts Calgary on Friday.

    Ovechkin, Strome lead Capitals past struggling Flyers 4-1

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    Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports
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    PHILADELPHIA — Alex Ovechkin scored two empty-net goals, Dylan Strome had a goal and an assist and the Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on Wednesday night.

    T.J. Oshie also scored for the Capitals, who finished 3-3 on a six-game trip. Charlie Lindgren made 29 saves.

    Kevin Hayes scored for Philadelphia, which has lost 13 of 15 games. Carter Hart made 23 stops.

    Strome broke a 1-all tie with 10:41 remaining when he deflected John Carlson‘s shot from long range past Hart.

    Hayes had a golden opportunity to tie it on a Philadelphia power play, but Lindgren made a great right pad save on a try from close range with 8:20 remaining.

    Ovechkin iced it, scoring into an empty net with 1:35 left and adding another empty-netter with 8.2 seconds left for his 15th of the season. Ovechkin has 795 career goals, good for third all-time. He is six goals away from tying Gordie Howe for second place. Wayne Gretzky, with 894 goals, tops the list.

    Hayes scored his ninth goal of the season for his team-leading 28th point with 4:14 left in the first period to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Hayes rushed to the bench after breaking his stick on a slap shot attempt, and scored on a wrist shot from the high slot with his new stick.

    The Flyers had a power-play goal for the third straight game and have four overall in that stretch. Philadelphia, which began play ranked 30th in the NHL in scoring on the man advantage, now has converted 16.7% (14 of 84) of its chances.

    Oshie tied it 3:51 into the second on the Capitals’ fourth power play as the Flyers continued to take sloppy penalties. This time, James van Riemsdyk committed Philadelphia’s third tripping minor of the game. Oshie made them pay with his fifth goal of the season when he finished a nifty passing sequence with Strome and Evgeny Kuznetsov with a perfectly placed one-timer over Hart’s left shoulder.

    NOTES: Van Riemsdyk returned after missing the last 20 games due to a broken right index finger. . Flyers forward Tanner Laczynski was placed on injured reserve after departing midway through the third period of Monday’s 5-3 win over Colorado with what looked like an injury to his left leg. . Washington was without several injured players, including starting goalie Darcy Kuemper (upper body). Kuemper was with the team, but missed his second in a row. . Carlson had two assists. . Philadelphia’s Cam Atkinson, out all season with an upper body injury, has been practicing and is close to returning.

    UP NEXT

    Capitals: Host Seattle on Friday night.

    Flyers: Open four-game trip at Vegas on Friday night.

    Penguins prospect Sam Poulin taking leave of absence

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    PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins forward prospect Sam Poulin is taking a leave of absence from the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

    Penguins general manager Ron Hextall announced on Wednesday that the 21-year-old Poulin, Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in the 2019 draft, is stepping away due to “personal reasons.”

    “The Penguins support Sam’s decision to take time away from hockey to focus on himself,” Hextall said in a release. “As with all of our players, our priority is them as individuals first. We look forward to having him back with the team when he is ready.”

    Hextall said Poulin will return home to Quebec and continue to work out on his own.

    Poulin made his NHL debut in October and had one assist in three games before heading back to the AHL. Poulin had four goals in 13 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at the time of his decision.

    Nathan MacKinnon sidelined about a month with upper-body injury

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    DENVER — The injury-riddled Colorado Avalanche will be without leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon for about a month after he suffered an upper-body injury in a loss to Philadelphia.

    The team announced the news on social media.

    MacKinnon has eight goals and 26 assists for a team-best 34 points this season for the defending Stanley Cup champions. He joins a long list of banged-up players, including Valeri Nichushkin, Evan Rodrigues, Bowen Byram, Kurtis MacDermid, Josh Manson, Darren Helm and captain Gabriel Landeskog. Forward Artturi Lehkonen also missed the game in Philadelphia.

    The 27-year-old MacKinnon signed an eight-year extension in August. He was coming off a postseason in which he tied for the league lead with 13 goals, helping the Avalanche raise their third Stanley Cup in franchise history.