Five things to know about the National Hockey League playoffs

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OK, we get it that mascots Hunter and Harvey couldn't sleep last night, and that one fan base loves to hear La Bamba while the other can't get enough country or Nickelback. And while we've appreciated hearing all about the rural charms of Vegreville and Vulcan leading up to the first playoff Battle of Alberta in 31 years, we shouldn't forget they played hockey on Tuesday in Sunrise and Denver.

Here are five things to know as we head into the second night of the second round of NHL playoffs:

ANDREI'S THE GIANT FOR TAMPA BAY

They had three power-play goals, a road win and a milestone moment on Tuesday for the coach, but all Lightning bench boss Jon Cooper could talk about was Andrei Vasilevskiy's 34-save performance in Tampa Bay's 4-1 win against the Florida Panthers in their series opener in Sunrise.

“Look at the saves he makes at the times we really need them,” Cooper said. “To me, that’s what great goaltenders do and they give you a chance to win a hockey game and that’s what our guy did again tonight.”

Over his last three games – all of them wins, including Game 7 in Toronto on Sunday – Vasilevskiy has stopped 94 of 99 shots.

Game 2 in the Battle of Florida is Thursday.

SUTTER MIGHT BE A TAD PUMPED UP

Outside of a few one-liner nuggets, Darryl Sutter has been a man of few words behind the microphone this season. But mention the Battle of Alberta, which opens tonight with the Edmonton Oilers playing in Calgary, and the Flames' coach lights up like a Stampede ferris wheel.

"Is it important? Damn right it's important. It's great for the league. It's great for Alberta, especially with what's gone on. COVID, oil and gas, livestock, agriculture, we've all got smoked here the last two years, right? It's good to see that energy, all that's positive and it's awesome," said Sutter.

BEWARE THE RALLYING RANGERS

New York might have an advantage in the pre-series scouting department against Carolina. The Hurricanes' roster is loaded with former Rangers. But the big thing might be the Rangers' ability to erase huge deficits.

The Rangers had 27 comeback wins during the regular season. They added to those totals against the Penguins, becoming the first team in NHL history to have three straight comeback wins in a series when facing elimination.

Game 1 in the Rangers-Hurricanes series is tonight in Raleigh, N.C.,

ALL EYES ON GOALIES

Despite losing 3-2 in overtime Tuesday, goaltender Jordan Binnington of the St. Louis Blues received a lot of love from reporters after his 51-save performance against the Colorado Avalanche. He got lucky too, as the Avs hit three posts and two crossbars in the second-round series opener before Josh Manson scored 8:02 into the extra period..

Overlooked in Colorado's overtime victory was that Colorado goalie Darcy Kuemper made 23 saves coming off a serious eye injury sustained in the Nashville series.

BEAT DOWN IN COWTOWN IGNITES OILERS

An embarrassing 9-5 loss to the Flames in Calgary on March 26 might have been the wake-up call the Edmonton Oilers needed to right their ship.

After that spanking the Oilers went on a 13-2-1 tear to close the regular season. They then rallied to beat the Los Angeles Kings in seven games in the first round.

The Calgary blowout was a look-in-the-mirror moment.

“It allowed the coaching staff to use it as a learning moment for our group,” said Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft. “For us, it was an opportunity to focus our group on the type of game we needed to play in order to have some success. And here we are.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2022

Gord Kurenoff, The Canadian Press

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