Pierre-Luc Dubois

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NHL Bubble Wrap: Korpisalo, Heiskanen dominate; Golden Knights take control

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Columbus Blue Jackets 3, Tampa Bay Lightning 1 (Series tied 1-1)

Alexander Wennberg scored a highlight reel goal, Pierre-Luc Dubois had another big game with a pair of assists, and Joonas Korpisalo continued his magical postseason run as the Blue Jackets evened their First Round series with Tampa Bay in a 3-1 win. This was a great bounce back game for the Blue Jackets after losing that five overtime game earlier this week. It would have been easy for them to have nothing left, but they did what they have done all season and simply found a way to get it done.

Vegas Golden Knights 4, Chicago Blackhawks 3 (Vegas leads series 2-0)

The Golden Knights are 5-0 this postseason and new starting goalie Robin Lehner is 7-0 since joining the team at the trade deadline. Reilly Smith scored the game-winning goal in overtime to help the Golden Knights take a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Blackhawks. Vegas is looking like a force right now in the Western Conference and is 16-2-0 in its past 18 games dating back to the regular season.

Carolina Hurricanes 3, Boston Bruins 2 (Series tied 1-1)

Dougie Hamilton scored the game-winning goal against his former team late in the third period to help the Hurricanes even their first round series. Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen also continued their great postseason performances with goals, while James Reimer played great in goal to get the win. The big story in this one, though, was the fact superstar Boston winger David Pastrnak did not play. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said after the game he will probably be a game-time decision for Game 3 on Saturday afternoon.

Dallas Stars 5, Calgary Flames 4 (Series tied 1-1)

This was probably the wildest game of the day. Jamie Oleksiak‘s game-winning goal with 39 seconds to play in regulation helped the Stars pick up a 5-4 win to even the series. That goal came just after the Stars had allowed a two-goal lead to slip away late in the third period. Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk was injured in this game after being sandwiched by Jamie Benn and Oleksiak early in the third period.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets. He is quickly becoming the story of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. After taking the tough-luck loss in a record-setting performance in Game 1, Korpisalo came back on Thursday and stopped 35 out of 36 shots in Columbus’ 3-1 win over the Lightning. In his six appearances so far this postseason he has a .962 save percentage.

2. Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars. The best player on the ice in the Stars’ big win. He scored a pair of goals, while the Stars held a commanding edge in shot attempts (19-10), shots on goal (14-5), and goals (3-0) in his 20 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time. The type of performance you want from a top defenseman in a playoff game. Games like this are why he seems to have a Norris Trophy in his future.

3. Reilly Smith, Vegas Golden Knights. Smith was outstanding for the Golden Knights with an assist, five shots on goal, and the game-winning goal in overtime. He was one of their expansion draft steals and been one of their best players from the very beginning. He has been outstanding this postseason and already has seven points in their first five playoff games.

Highlights of the Night

This is the goal of the day to help the Blue Jackets put the game away against Tampa Bay.

It came in a losing effort, but Patrick Kane had a huge day for the Blackhawks with three assists including this insane pass to set up Dylan Strome late in the second period to tie the game.

Smith gives the Golden Knights the 2-0 series lead with this overtime goal.

Oleksiak finishes a beautiful pass from Corey Perry to give the Stars the Game 2 win.

Factoids

  • Kirby Dach became just the sixth teenager to score a playoff goal for the Chicago Blackhawks in franchise history. [NHL PR]
  • No goalie in NHL history has made more saves in the first two games of a playoff series than Korpisalo has for Columbus. [Sportsnet Stats]
  • Heiskanen is the fourth-youngest defenseman in NHL history to have a multiple goal Stanley Cup Playoff game. [NHL PR]

Friday Schedule

Game 2: Colorado Avalanche vs. Arizona Coyotes, 2 p.m. ET (Avalanche lead series 1-0)
Game 2: Philadelphia Flyers vs. Montreal Canadiens, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN (Flyers lead series 1-0)
Game 2: St. Louis Blues vs. Vancouver Canucks, 6:30 p.m. ET (Canucks lead series 1-0)
Game 2: Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN (Islanders lead series 1-0)
Game 3: Calgary Flames vs. Dallas Stars, 10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN (Series tied 1-1)

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.

Korpisalo, Wennberg help Blue Jackets even series with Lightning

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The Blue Jackets evened their First Round series with the Lightning thanks to goals from Oliver Bjorkstrand and Alexander Wennberg, and another great performance from goaltender Joonas Korpisalo.

After their five-overtime defeat Tuesday, the Blue Jackets looked plenty fresh in Game 2. It was Tampa who got on the board first with a Nikita Kucherov goal 5:24 into the game, but that was all the Lightning would get. Korpisalo followed up his 85-save performance with 36 stops Thursday afternoon.

Ryan Murray tied the game seven minutes after Kucherov’s goal, and then Oliver Bjorkstrand and Pierre-Luc Dubois hooked up on a power play goal for a 2-1 Columbus lead.

With Erik Cernak sitting in the box, the Blue Jackets power play wasted no time cashing in. Bjorkstrand was left unattended by the Tampa penalty kill, so when Alexandre Texier cycled the puck to Dubois behind the net, Bjorkstrand was wide open for a one-timer.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The Lightning kept pushing for an equalizer, winning the possession game and dominating the front of the net. But Korpisalo was there every time. A pair of power plays, including one late in the third period, also didn’t amount to anything.

Tampa’s failure while pushing for an equalizer led to the stunning solo effort from Wennberg, who delivered the game-breaker with 8:33 to go after dancing around Kevin Shattenkirk.

“It’s not often it works that great,” Wennberg said of the move. “I’m happy it did this one time.”

Through six games, Korpisalo has a .965 even strength percentage and has now stopped 154 of the last 158 shots he’s faced. There’s no one even close to him in the early Conn Smythe Trophy hunt.

Game 3 is Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 7 Columbus Blue Jackets (Series tied 1-1)

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Lightning 3, Blue Jackets 2 (5OT) (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Blue Jackets 3, Lightning 1
Saturday, Aug. 15: Tampa Bay at Columbus, 7:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Monday, Aug. 17: Tampa Bay at Columbus, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Wednesday, Aug. 19: Columbus at Tampa Bay – TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: Tampa Bay at Columbus – TBD
*Saturday, Aug. 22: Columbus at Tampa Bay – TBD

*if necessary

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule

————

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.

Blue Jackets-Lightning stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup First Round

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Thursday’s First Round matchup between the Blue Jackets and Lightning. Coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Blue Jackets-Lightning stream on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Game 1’s five-overtime thriller went down as the second-longest game in the modern era, and the fourth-longest game in NHL history (150:27 total game time). After Yanni Gourde tied things up at 2-2 just 23 seconds into the third period, it took over 110 minutes before Brayden Point beat Joonas Korpisalo midway through the fifth overtime.

Point’s 5OT winner was his second goal of the game – he also scored Tampa’s first goal, 6:27 into the game. There were 144 minutes of game play between Point’s two goals.

Last season, Columbus became the first team in NHL history to sweep a Presidents’ Trophy winner in the opening round when they beat Tampa Bay in four games in the First Round. In last year’s Game 1, Tampa led 3-0 in the first period before the Blue Jackets stormed back, scoring four unanswered goals (three in the 3rd period) to win. This year’s Game 1 went much differently for Tampa Bay, who persevered through Korpisalo’s 85 saves to win.

WHAT: Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
WHERE: Scotiabank Arena – Toronto
WHEN: Thursday, August 13, 3 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
ON THE CALL: Gord Miller, Mike Milbury, Brian Boucher
HOW TO WATCH: You can watch the Blue Jackets-Lightning stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 7 Columbus Blue Jackets (TB leads 1-0)

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Lighting 3, Blue Jackets 2 (5OT) (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Columbus at Tampa Bay, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Saturday, Aug. 15: Tampa Bay at Columbus, 7:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Monday, Aug. 17: Tampa Bay at Columbus, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Columbus at Tampa Bay – TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: Tampa Bay at Columbus – TBD
*Saturday, Aug. 22: Columbus at Tampa Bay – TBD

*if necessary

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule

Lightning vs. Blue Jackets: 5 things to know about their First Round series

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The First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs begins August 11. Before the NHL postseason resumes play, PHT will preview each of the eight opening round matchups, including Lightning-Blue Jackets

1. Lightning get their chance at redemption

Depending on your outlook this is either the perfect matchup for the Lightning or some kind of cruel joke that will only further their postseason frustration.

A year ago the Lightning were the best team in the NHL, steamrolling the league on their way to a record-tying 62-win regular season that made them the clear Stanley Cup favorites entering the playoffs.

They responded by losing four consecutive games to the No. 8 seed Blue Jackets in what was one of the most stunning postseason upsets in recent memory. Even though this particular Tampa Bay core has yet to win a championship, they have not been total failures in the playoffs. They have consistently been one of the final four teams standing in the playoffs and have always been right on the verge of winning a championship only to let it slip right through their fingers. But last year’s postseason showing was an emphatic failure that is still kind of hard to believe.

Now they have a chance at redemption with a rematch against Columbus.

Make no mistake, the pressure is all on Tampa Bay in this series. This is still a team that is expected to win a championship and is the superior roster on paper. But as the Blue Jackets have shown over the past two years none of that really matters when it comes to their early postseason matchups.

2. The health of Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman could be huge factor for Lightning

There are so many factors that go into winning a championship. Talent. Luck. Getting the right matchups. And, of course, health. That could be the biggest concern for the Lightning at the start of this series as the status of Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman remains uncertain. Stamkos has not played in a game since Feb. 25, while Hedman was injured in the Round-Robin phase of the return to play.

Stamkos is an elite player and obviously makes the Lightning offense significantly more dangerous when he is in the lineup, but they have enough scoring depth up front that they could probably get through this series without him.

Hedman is an entirely different story, though.

Without Stamkos they have other top-line players that can carry the offense. They do not have another Hedman on their blue line. For as good as Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Andrei Vasilevskiy may be, Hedman is the engine that drives this machine. He plays huge minutes, he is a force at both ends of the ice, and is one of the league’s best all-around players. There is a noticeable difference in Tampa Bay’s play when he is not there.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

3. Don’t sleep on the Blue Jackets

Even after their offseason free agency exodus that saw Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel leave town, there was still a lot of reason for optimism with this team. It is still a team capable of doing some damage. There is talent here, and in a lot of the right areas.

Let’s start with the strength of the roster and look at their blue line where they boast one of the league’s top defense pairings in Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. Individually each one is a bonafide top-pairing defender, but when you put them together it creates one of the most dynamic and productive duos in the NHL. Including the best-of-five series against Toronto, the Blue Jackets outscored teams by a 40-22 margin this season (it was 5-1 against Toronto) when they were on the ice together during 5-on-5 play. They can dominate a game.

At forward, Cam Atkinson has been one of the league’s most overlooked goal-scorers for several years. Since the start of the 2015-16 season his 139 regular season goals places him 25th in the entire league, sandwiched directly between Filip Forsberg and Patrik Laine. He had a quiet regular season, but had a big qualifying round performance against Toronto.

Then there is Pierre-Luc Dubois, Columbus’ hero from Game 3 against Toronto and one of their most promising youngplayers. He just turned 22 years old a little more than a month ago and is already blossoming into a top-line, two-way center. He is already a tank of a forward and is just now entering his prime years in the league.

4. Another big moment for Joonas Korpisalo

There was no bigger question mark in Columbus at the start of the season than goaltending. They had just lost what was one of the league’s best goalies (a two-time Vezina Trophy winner) and were replacing him with two unproven starters in Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins.

It would be an understatement to say they both exceeded expectations this season.

While the Blue Jackets are a stingy team defensively and boast an elite top-pairing, goaltending still played a crucial role in the team’s ability to stay in the playoff hunt and get through Toronto in the qualifying round. Even though Korpisalo was briefly sat down against the Maple Leafs he still finished the series with a .956 save percentage and two shutouts, including the deciding Game 5 series clincher. They may need him to be even better against Tampa Bay.

What makes his play even more important is they may not have Merzlikins to turn to if needed. He was injured in the Toronto series and it is not yet known how long he will be sidelined.

5. Prediction: Lightning in 6 games

The Blue Jackets are a good team, and were a great story this season to overcome all of the free agent departures and the injuries that could have sunk them even lower. But Tampa Bay is not going to let this happen again. They will find a way, get their redemption, and maybe start their run toward the championship that keeps eluding them.

No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 7 Columbus Blue Jackets

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Columbus at Tampa Bay, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Thursday, Aug. 13: Columbus at Tampa Bay, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Saturday, Aug. 15: Tampa Bay at Columbus, 7:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Monday, Aug. 17: Tampa Bay at Columbus, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Columbus at Tampa Bay – TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: Tampa Bay at Columbus – TBD
*Saturday, Aug. 22: Columbus at Tampa Bay – TBD

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.

Conn Smythe Watch: Korpisalo, Aho leading entering First Round

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With the Stanley Cup Qualifying Round and Round-Robin phase of the NHL’s 2019-20 season restart in the books, we have our 16-team playoff field officially set.

Because of the unusual circumstances around the postseason this year, we also have a head start on the race for the 2020 Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Let’s take a quick look at how that race is already starting to unfold.

We will update this on a weekly basis throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

A couple of surprising goalies find themselves near the top of the list after they helped their teams pull off a couple of upsets, while some of the games brightest young stars are beginning to make names for themselves.

There are also a couple of seasoned veterans showing they can still help carry their teams.

The Early Favorites

1. Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets. He got benched in one game, did not start another, and is STILL at the top of the list. That is how good he was in his other starts to help shut down the Maple Leafs. He posted a .956 save percentage in the series and recorded two shutouts, including the series-clinching Game 5 win. Goaltending was always going to make or break the Blue Jackets’ season, and their duo has been better than anyone could have possibly anticipated. It has continued in the playoffs.

2. Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes. Just a completely dominant showing by Aho in the qualifying round against the Rangers. He finished with eight points in the three games and is the cornerstone piece of the Hurricanes organization. Another deep run by the Hurricanes could take him from “underrated star” to “superstar” status.

3. Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes. Kuemper has proven to be a steal for the Coyotes since they acquired him two years ago, and he was the biggest reason they were able to get through the Predators in the qualifying round. They are going to need an even bigger effort from him to get through Colorado.

4. Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks. What a qualifying round series he had for the Canucks. He is a key part of their young core — perhaps the most important part given his position and minutes — and was the best player on the team against Minnesota. He played massive minutes, helped the Canucks dominate possession when he was on the ice, and was the team’s leading point-producer against the Wild.

5. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens. The recipe for Montreal having success in the playoffs always revolved around Price channeling the 2014-15 version of himself. He was great against Pittsburgh and a huge part of the Canadiens’ upset win. The only reason he is not higher is because the Montreal team in front of him did such a great job shutting down the Penguins and rendering their offense useless throughout Games 3 and 4 of the series.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

6. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks. In some ways the series against Edmonton was a vintage Toews performance. He schooled some players defensively, scored big goals, and played a huge role in the Blackhawks winning. His offensive game has really rebounded the past two years and it was great against the Oilers.

7. Dominik Kubalik, Chicago Blackhawks. The second rookie to make our list, Kubalik started the Edmonton series with a five-point game, then finished it by scoring the game-winning goal in the series-clinching win. He has been an outstanding addition to the top of the Blackhawks lineup and a much-needed impact player.

8. Cam Talbot, Calgary Flames. It was always assumed that a goalie was going to significantly impact the Jets-Flames series. That is exactly what happened. It just was not the goalie everyone expected. It was Talbot, and not Vezina Trophy finalist Connor Hellebuyck, that ended up dominating the series as the Flames’ starter posted a .945 save percentage in the four games.

9. Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina Hurricanes. The Rangers had no answer for Svechnikov and Aho in their qualifying round series, and they are going to be a thorn in the side of the league for the foreseeable future.

10. Scott Laughton, Philadelphia Flyers. Probably the biggest surprise name on the list so far, and the only player that played in the Round-Robin phase. Laughton was the surprise star for the Flyers as they rolled through the round-robin to claim the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference. If they get this type of depth scoring they are going to be a force to deal with in the playoffs.

Honorable mentions: Pierre-Luc Dubois (Blue Jackets), Nathan MacKinnon (Avalanche), Sean Monathan (Flames), Mark Stone (Golden Knights), Anthony Beauvillier (Islanders)

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.