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The only division winner who is running away with things are the Colorado Avalanche who lead their best-of-seven series against Nashville by a 3-0 count. Otherwise, it has been very bad for the division winners as the Florida Panthers trail the Washington Capitals 2-1, the Carolina Hurricanes are even with Boston at 2-2 while the Calgary Flames are trailing the Dallas Stars 2-1 with Game 4 on Monday.
That’s the beauty of the first round as no team has an easy time of things ever. Even the Avalanche who are up 3-0, may not have their starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper available as he was struck in the eye. While the preliminary reports state that Kuemper is fine and is not experiencing any vision problems, he may miss Monday’s tilt in Game 4 against Nashville. Coach Jared Bednar said that Kuemper is a possibility to start although having a stranglehold on the series should allow the Avalanche to be cautious with their top netminder.
BOSTON 5 CAROLINA 2 (Best-of-seven series tied 2-2)
It was Carolina who took the early 1-0 lead as Brett Pesce scored his first of the season but Patrice Bergeron evened the count at 1 with his third of the playoffs.
The second period saw each team score once as well as Jordan Staal for the Hurricanes and Jake DeBrusk on the power play, scored for Boston. Staal’s goal came at the 33 second mark while DeBrusk scored with 1:16 left in the period.
The Bruins scored all three goals in the third as Marchand scored twice and they sandwiched a David Pastrnak goal.
Antti Raanta returned to action for Game 4 after missing all of Game 3 as he was injured in Game 2 after 7:47 with an upper-body injury as he was hit by Pastrnak. Raanta is 1-1 with a 2.41 GAA and a .928 save percentage after stopping 23-of-27 shots.
The Bruins received some bad news before the game as Charlie McAvoy tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to miss the contest. There is no timetable for his return.
Pastrnak had six shots on net.
ST. LOUIS 5 MINNESOTA 2 (Best-of-seven series tied 2-2)
Jordan Binnington picked up his first playoff win since winning the Stanley Cup in 2019 as he stopped 28 shots in leading the St. Louis Blues to a 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild. Binnington picked up the start after Ville Husso lost two in a row after a Game 1 win.
Binnington beat the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final but had lost nine straight games in the post-season since then, before Sunday’s gem.
St. Louis came out flying in the first period, outshooting the Wild 18-5 but it was 1-1 after one as Jordan Kyrou scored his first of two but the great Kirill Kaprizov tied it up with his fifth goal in four games.
The second period saw the Blues score the only two goals even though they were outshot 13-7 by Minnesota.
Rookie Matthew Boldy scored his first career playoff goal to cut the lead to 3-2 at the 2:39 mark of the third.
David Perron scored his fifth of the series and second of the game with 1:58 left in the contest into the empty net and Ryan O’Reilly scored on the power play with a minute to go to beat the Wild.
O’Reilly had two assists in addition to his goal and was a plus-three.
Kaprizov had six shots on goal.
Marco Scandella suffered a lower-body injury after playing just 1:34 in the first period and did not return. Scandella had the same injury at the end of the season which forced him to miss the first two games in Minnesota.
TAMPA BAY 7 TORONTO 3 (Best-of-seven series tied 2-2)
The Tampa Bay Lightning scored three times in the first 7:58 of Game 4 as they are going back to Toronto for Game 5, tied at two games apiece.
It was a great effort by the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions as they flexed their muscles and showed the rest of the NHL they were not done in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Steven Stamkos opened the scoring with his first against the Maple Leafs, while Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Pat Maroon also scored their first of the series.
The Lightning did not let up in the second as Ross Colton and Corey Perry each picked up their second of the playoffs, chasing Jack Campbell from the Toronto net.
Campbell gave up five goals on 16 shots before coach Sheldon Keefe decided the game was a lost cause and pulled him to keep him fresher for Game 5 Tuesday in Toronto. Erik Kallgren took over and did not allow a goal on 10 shots the rest of the way. Campbell is 2-2 in the series with a 3.53 GAA and a .889 save percentage.
The Leafs tried to make the game of it in the third as William Nylander scored a pair to make it 5-2.
Ondrej Palat scored into the empty net with 5:20 remaining before Jake Muzzin with his second of the playoffs, made it 6-3. Ross Colton with his second of the night and third of the series, also scored into the empty net.
Andrei Vasilevskiy needed to make only 22 saves for the win. The Tampa Bay goalie is 2-2 with a 3.54 GAA and a .888 save percentage.
Brandon Hagel and Nikita Kucherov each had two assists.
Ilya Lyubushkin had eight hits.
T.J. Brodie had five blocked shots.
Victor Hedman was a plus-four while Morgan Rielly was a minus-four.
Hagel and Pierre Engvall each picked up a misconduct with 41 seconds left in the game. Engvall also had a minor earlier in the game to give him 12 penalty minutes.
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LOS ANGELES 4 EDMONTON 0 (Best-of-seven series tied 2-2)
Jonathan Quick made amends from a terrible Game 3 when he gave up four goals on 17 shots before he was pulled and stopped all 31 shots as the Los Angeles Kings shut out the Edmonton Oilers 4-0.
Shutting down the Oilers dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl is never easy but the Kings and Quick managed to do so Sunday night as the Kings evened their series with Edmonton at two games each with Game 5 back in Edmonton Tuesday.
The Kings scored twice in the first period as Trevor Moore with his second of the series, and defenseman Troy Stecher with his first gave the Kings a 2-0 lead heading into the second. The Kings outshot Edmonton 20-10 in a wild opening period.
There was no scoring in the second as the Kings kept up their play, outshooting the Oilers 14-8.
Carl Grundstrom scored his first two goals of the series in the final period after assisting on Moore’s opening goal.
Quick is 2-2 with a 3.75 GAA and a .894 save percentage after the shutout.
Mike Smith was in goal for Edmonton and faced an onslaught of shots as the Kings threw everything but the kitchen sink at him. Smith stopped 42-of-45 shots and is 2-2 with a 2.27 GAA and a .942 save percentage.
Things got a bit rough after the Grundstrom’s first goal in the third as Evander Kane and Alexander Edler each picked up misconducts while Moore and Darnell Nurse picked up minors and misconducts with only 3:11 left. Then Lizotte and Cody Ceci had misconducts just 17 seconds later as the referees called a total of 84 penalty minutes with 70 coming in the final period.
Lizotte had eight shots on goal.
Brad Marchand – 2
Jordan Kyrou – 2
David Perron – 2
William Nylander – 2
Ross Colton – 2
Carl Grundstrom – 2
Brad Marchand – 3
Patrice Bergeron – 2
Charlie Coyle – 2
Ryan O’Reilly – 2
Nikita Kucherov – 2
Brandon Hagel – 2
Shots on Goal
Blake Lizotte – 8
David Pastrnak – 6
Kirill Kaprizov – 6
Ilya Lyubushkin – 8
Connor Clifton – 6
Pierre Engvall – 12
Darnell Nurse – 12
Trevor Moore – 12
Cody Ceci – 10
Blake Lizotte – 10
Alexander Edler – 10
Evander Kane – 10
Brandon Hagel – 10
Ondrej Kase – 6
Kevin Fiala – 6