NHL Playoff Buzzer: MacKinnon mania, double OT, more from Wednesday

NHL Playoff Buzzer: MacKinnon mania, double OT, more from Wednesday
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  • So, OT in every Bruins – Capitals playoff game so far wasn’t enough for you? “Fine,” the Bruins and Capitals said, “We’ll do DOUBLE OT in Game 3.”
  • Despite receiving seven power-play opportunities, the Predators couldn’t score a single goal against the Hurricanes in Game 2. Ouch.
  • The Jets and Oilers kicked off their series with a close Game 1 that didn’t look close. (You’ll see if you scroll a bit.)
  • Game 2 of Avalanche – Blues, though? Not too close, then scandalous and close. Then empty-netters.
  • Get ready for four more NHL playoff games on Thursday.

Game 3: Bruins 3, Capitals 2 [2 OT] (BOS leads series 2-1)

Apparently it can’t ever be easy between the Bruins and Capitals. A single OT wasn’t enough in Game 3, as Craig Smith scored a double OT goal to give the Bruins a 2-1 series lead over the Capitals. Each team went 1-for-5 on the power play in a game that got testy, and as this series continues to be excruciatingly tight.

Game 2: Hurricanes 3, Predators 0 (CAR leads series 2-0)

Simply put, a pathetic performance from the Predators’ power play. They failed to score a single goal on seven power-play opportunities, while the Hurricanes went 1-for-3 on theirs. Honestly, Sebastian Aho arguably produced more chances during Predators power plays. It was that bad. Considering that letdown on special teams, the Predators were fortunate to be in most of Game 2 vs. the Hurricanes, but they couldn’t get the job done. They need to find some answers as that series shifts to Nashville.

Game 1: Jets 4, Oilers 1 (WIN 1-0)

Now, you might see that 4-1 score and question how Game 1 was close between the Jets and Oilers. Ah, young grasshopper, the answer is: empty-netters. The Jets piled two of them on to inflate the score. Credit Winnipeg for giving the dangerous Edmonton attack little time to add drama, but this was mostly a narrow win. That said, a shorthanded Jets team bottling Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl (zero points apiece) is impressive no matter how you slice it.

Game 2: Avalanche 6, Blues 3 (COL leads 2-0)

If you turned off Game 2 of Avalanche – Blues after Colorado went up 3-0, then you missed quite a bit. St. Louis chipped away at that lead, making things interesting on a major power play opportunity after Nazem Kadri was ejected for a bad hit on Justin Faulk. Colorado limited the damage of that five-minute opportunity to a goal, but it was then 3-2. Then the two teams traded goals, the Avalanche added two empty-netters, and won. Things escalated to the point where it’s fair to wonder how the rest of that First Round series might go. But it seems clear that Nazem Kadri won’t play in Blues – Avalanche Game 3, and might sit even more games with another playoff suspension.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 First Round schedule, TV info]

Three Stars for NHL playoff action on Wednesday

1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche

It’s too early to etch Nathan MacKinnon’s name on the 2021 Conn Smythe Trophy. Yet, if the Avalanche can justify their status as favorites and win their first Stanley Cup since the Joe Sakic – Peter Forsberg – Patrick Roy days, then MacKinnon might have some hardware to add.

In Game 1, MacKinnon generated three points. He was even deadlier in Game 2, scoring four points vs. the Blues (MacKinnon had a hat trick and an assist).

There are times when the Avalanche seem capable of scoring at will, and there were stretches where they seemed to slow down ever so slightly in Game 2 vs. the Blues. It kind of makes you wonder what Colorado’s capable of against an opponent truly equipped to trade chances.

It’s unclear if the Blues have any real answer for MacKinnon. To be fair, who does?

2. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets

Maybe the Oilers would respond: the answer for Nathan MacKinnon is even more offense from Connor McDavid?

Well, in Game 1 of Jets – Oilers, that wasn’t the case. McDavid and Leon Draisaitl couldn’t collect a single point, and Connor Hellebuyck played a prominent role in making it that way. For those who groan at “Connor vs. Connor,” well … that was kind of a story here.

The Jets were able to sneak past the Oilers in Game 1 thanks largely to Hellebuyck and his 32 saves. No doubt, Winnipeg as a whole deserves credit for at least limiting the damage McDavid and Draisaitl could create.

Doing that night-in, and night-out won’t be easy. It might not even be possible. But now the Jets merely need to win three of their next six games to advance beyond this First Round series. Most would bet that, if they do that, Hellebuyck would play a featured role.

That said, it’s difficult to say if Hellebuyck + the Jets had a better night than …

3. Alex Nedeljkovic and the Carolina Hurricanes penalty kill

For the first time in his NHL career, Alex Nedeljkovic generated a playoff shutout. He earned it, too, making 32 saves to get that shutout.

That said, it’s important to give the Hurricanes credit as a team — especially on the penalty kill. The Hurricanes scored a goal on one of three power plays, while the Predators received seven power-play opportunities in Game 2.

It was a joint effort: the Hurricanes kept the Predators from getting many dangerous chances in Game 2, and Nedeljkovic did the rest.

Aho scored two goals on the night, but one was an empty-netter, so he falls short of being one of Wednesday’s three stars from playoff action.

[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Stats of the night for Wednesday in the NHL

  • Alex Nedeljkovic became the second rookie Hurricanes goalie to collect a playoff hat trick.
  • This marked Nathan MacKinnon’s first playoff hat trick, but he’s generated 3+ points in playoff games on nine occasions. Sportsnet stats notes that MacKinnon’s nine leaves him second since 2014, behind only Nikita Kucherov (12). Not too shabby, being that this was MacKinnon’s 42 playoff game during that span (and for his career).

2021 NHL Draft Lottery set; some 2021 NHL Awards official

  • Check out the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery odds (Buffalo Sabres have the best chance at the top pick).
  • With the 2020-21 regular season officially over, the Art Ross goes to Connor McDavid, while Auston Matthews won the Maurice Richard Trophy. As obvious as that is, this post provides some interesting context regarding their accomplishments.

THURSDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 3: Panthers at Lightning (TB leads 2-0), 6:30 p.m. ET – CNBC (livestream)
Game 3: Penguins at Islanders (Series tied 1-1), 7 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 1: Canadiens at Maple Leafs, 7:30 p.m. ET (NHL Network)
Game 3: Golden Knights at Wild (Series tied 1-1), 9:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.