NHL Playoff Buzzer: Fleury shines on lopsided Saturday of action

NHL Playoff Buzzer: Fleury shines on lopsided Saturday of action
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  • This time, the Lightning were able to protect a multi-goal lead, and the Panthers are in trouble.
  • The Islanders looked dominant in tying their NHL playoff series with the Penguins.
  • The Maple Leafs managed without John Tavares, turning to another star to beat the Canadiens.
  • After Game 4, the Golden Knights have the Wild on the brink of elimination.
  • Get ready for four more NHL playoff games on Sunday.

Game 4: Lightning 6, Panthers 2 (TBL leads series 3-1)

No matter who the Panthers roll with in net, they really haven’t been able to slow the Lightning. Even in the one game the Panthers won, it was mostly about out-scoring the Lightning. In this case, maybe Tampa Bay learned some lessons from squandering a Game 3 lead, as there was really no mistake about it on one of Saturday’s one-sided NHL playoff games.

(Oh, and yes, there was some nastiness in Lightning – Panthers Game 4. We’ll need to wait and see if Nikita Kucherov and/or Mikhail Sergachev suffering lingering effects from late physicality.)

Game 4: Islanders 4, Penguins 1 (Series tied 2-2)

You know, the Islanders have been mixing their goalies in and out in a way not that unlike the Panthers. The difference is that the Isles have been giving their netminders quite a bit more help. Ilya Sorokin was sharp against the Penguins, and the Islanders dominated Game 4 to tie their series 2-2. This was the sort of loud, impressive performance Islanders fans were hoping for at Nassau Coliseum.

Game 2: Maple Leafs 5, Canadiens 1 (Series tied 1-1)

After the shock of seeing John Tavares suffering that scary injury in Game 1, the Maple Leafs bounced back to beat the Canadiens in Game 2. This was a pretty even contest for the first 20 minutes, and then Montreal started taking penalties, and Toronto made them pay. The series will now shift to Montreal with the Habs and Buds tied 1-1.

Game 4: Golden Knights 4, Wild 0 (VGK leads series 3-1)

The winning goalies made sure that Saturday’s NHL playoff games weren’t close. Andrei Vasilevskiy remains red hot, and Ilya Sorokin was sharp. But Marc-Andre Fleury has a claim for hottest goalie in the world right now — he’s even been brilliant in defeat. Between Fleury’s brilliance and some lethal transition work, the Golden Knights beat the Wild 4-0 in Game 4, taking a 3-1 series lead.

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

Three Stars for NHL playoff action on Saturday

1. Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights

Seriously, Fleury was incredible for the Golden Knights vs. the Wild in Game 4.

The Wild carried significant chunks of the action in Game 4, generating a 35-18 shots on goal advantage over the Golden Knights. While some of that boils down to “score effects,” (13-4 SOG in the third period, when Vegas was up 3-0 then 4-0), that’s still a lot of pressure on “The Flower.”

Fleury was game for all of it, and now Minnesota is on the brink of elimination.

Yes, it’s still wild that the Golden Knights were this close to trading Fleury, and under ideal circumstances might have rolled with Robin Lehner. Goalies: they’re unpredictable. Come to think of it, you can say the same of NHL playoff hockey.

2. Take your pick: Nikita Kucherov or Alex Killorn, Tampa Bay Lightning

Both Killorn and Kucherov generated four points apiece as the Lightning rolled over the Panthers in Game 4.

In Killorn’s case, he scored two goals and two assists. Kucherov, meanwhile, generated a goal and three assists.

Kucherov continues to make it look easy to just jump from surgery rehab to the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. With four points in Game 4, Kucherov now has nine in four playoff contests (3G, 6A). He generated four points in just 14:31 TOI, as Kucherov left after a slash by Anthony Duclair. Again, Jon Cooper didn’t provide much insight about the availability of Kucherov or Sergachev going forward.

Looking at the score, you might be tempted to bury the Panthers’ effort vs. the Lightning in Game 4. They at least made Andrei Vasilevskiy earn his 39-save win. Through the first 40 minutes, the Panthers fired 34 SOG. Ultimately, the Panthers could only beat Vasilevskiy on the power play, and Tampa Bay won. Some might lean on Vasilevskiy as the Lightning’s top star on Saturday for those reasons.

3. Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

It’s safe to assume that Matthews ranked among the Maple Leafs shaken up by John Tavares’ injury. The effort was still there from Matthews in Game 1, though. Just look at the eight shots on goal.

When you’re firing away at that many chances, and you’re as talented as Matthews, you’ll probably break through at some point. For Matthews, Canadiens – Maple Leafs Game 2 represented that point — starting in the second period.

Matthews scored his first goal of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, a tally that would end up being the GWG. He added two more assists, giving him three points overall.

(Ilya Sorokin’s a fine choice as an honorable mention. He only allowed one goal by the Penguins, making 29 saves.)

[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Stat of Saturday in the NHL: Fleury moves up playoff shutout rankings

  • Marc-Andre Fleury’s 35-save shutout is the 16th playoff shutout of his NHL career. That ties Fleury with Curtis Joseph for third all-time. Martin Brodeur holds the record with 24 playoff shutouts, while Patrick Roy ranks second with 23.

SUNDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 4: Hurricanes at Predators (CAR leads 2-1), 2:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 4: Avalanche at Blues (COL leads 3-0), 5 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 5: Bruins at Capitals (BOS leads 3-1), 7 p.m. ET – USA Network (livestream)
Game 3: Oilers at Jets (WPG leads 2-0), 7:30 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.

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