Five things to know about the National Hockey League playoffs

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One Canadian team is just a win away from advancing to the second round. For another, it's one loss and they're out.

Here are five things to know as we head into Wednesday's post-season action:

WHEN SPEZZA SPEAKS

Down 2-0 after a horrible first period, Maple Leafs veteran Jason Spezza spoke up.

After Toronto's 4-3 win over the Lightning, John Tavares, Auston Matthews and William Nylander all praised the 38-year-old Spezza, saying his words during the first intermission hit home.

The Leafs were outshot 14-4 in the first period, frustrating the Scotiabank Arena crowd so much, they chanted "Shoot the puck! Shoot the puck!"

Nylander said Spezza's message was simple: Toronto's early effort wasn't good enough.

The win gave the Leafs a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven series.

COVID CONTINUES

More than two seasons in and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to knock players out of lineups. Boston Bruins defenceman Charlie McAvoy made a surprise return in Tuesday night's 5-1 loss to Carolina after missing a game due to COVID-19 protocols.

McAvoy played in Game 3 but was a late scratch for Sunday's Game 4. He took a private flight to North Carolina in time for Tuesday's game.

The NHL stopped testing those without symptoms at the All-Star break, except when necessary for crossing the U.S.-Canada border.

McAvoy told reporters he was indeed sick.

EDMONTON ON THE BRINK

Three goals in the third period wasn't enough for the Edmonton Oilers. And now they're one loss away from their season being over. The Oilers twice rallied from two-goal deficits and tied the game in the third period. But it was wiped away in a flash when Adrian Kempe scored 1:12 into overtime to give the L.A. Kings a 5-4 win.

The Oilers need a victory in Game 6 on Thursday to stave off elimination.

PRESIDENTIAL STRUGGLES

It took overtime for the Presidents' Trophy-winning Florida Panthers to beat Washington 3-2, keeping the NHL's best regular-season team from facing elimination.

The series is tied at two wins a piece.

The Panthers went into the playoffs as a favourite to win it all, but have struggled against the Capitals, and were just two minutes away from facing the prospect of getting knocked out at home before Sam Reinhart tied it in regulation. Carter Verhaeghe scored his second of the game in overtime.

HAPPY HOMECOMING

The Calgary Flames hope to ride some momentum back home at the Saddledome for Game 5 of their series against the Dallas Stars.

After the Flames, the pre-series favourites, scored a meagre three goals combined through the first three games, they rolled to a 4-1 win on Sunday to even the series up at 2-2.

A win Wednesday at home would send the Flames back to Dallas with the chance to clinch the series in Game 6 on Friday.

When a best-of-seven series is tied 2-2, the winner of Game 5 holds an all-time series record of 219-58.

The Flames went 25-9-7 at home in the regular season.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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