Five things to know about the NHL playoffs
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers both have a shot to win their respective opening-round NHL playoff series tonight, but both Canadian squads will have to do it on the road -- or return home for pressure-packed Game 7s.
The Leafs play the Tampa Bay Lightning, who extended their playoff lives with a 4-2 win Thursday in Toronto. The Oilers, who trounced the visiting Kings 6-3 on Tuesday for their second straight win in the series, are hoping three days off between games doesn't disrupt their momentum.
Here are five things to know about the NHL playoffs:
UNDERDOG PANTHERS FORCE GAME 7
The Boston Bruins, who rolled through the regular season with a record-setting 65 wins and 135 points, seemed to have the Florida Panthers flat on the mat after four games with a 3-1 series lead.
But the underdog Panthers fuelled by Matthew Tkachuk's tenacity — he's a gamer, says Florida coach Paul Maurice — have battled back to face a winner-take-all Game 7 showdown on Sunday in Boston.
Tkachuk scored twice and added an assist as the Panthers recorded a 7-5 win last night over a sloppy Boston team that looked nothing like a Presidents' Trophy winner, despite scoring three power-play goals and one short-handed tally.
Tkachuk predicted after the Panthers beat the host Bruins 4-3 in overtime in Game 5 that there would be a Game 7 and that all the pressure would be on the home team to not choke.
KRAKEN UNABLE TO BURY AVALANCHE
The Seattle Kraken were aiming to make NHL playoff history last night at Climate Pledge Arena with a shot to eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.
Now, they'll have to win a Game 7 in Denver on Sunday to avoid becoming history.
The Avalanche scored two unanswered goals in the second period and hung on for a 4-1 road victory last night to tie the series against the second-year Kraken 3-3.
The Avalanche avoided joining the New York Islanders and Minnesota Wild, who both lost must-win games on home ice last night, and the Winnipeg Jets who were eliminated Thursday, and are all now spectators for the remainder of the Cup chase.
CAN LEAFS BUMP OFF BOLTS?
The Toronto Maple Leafs insist they have a good vibe going into tonight's Game 6 at Amalie Arena, despite losing Game 5 at home. Coach Sheldon Keefe doesn't care about the past or those who suggest the Lightning might now have the psychological edge given their opponent's post-season failures dating back to 2004.
The Leafs dropped to 0-10 with the chance to send a team home for the summer in the Auston Matthews-Mitch Marner era when the Lightning earned a 4-2 victory on Thursday that forced tonight's Game 6.
Tampa coach Jon Cooper, all too aware of the Leafs' reputation and nervous fan base, told reporters in Toronto that he looked very forward to seeing everyone for Game 7.
RANGERS HAVING DEVIL OF A TIME
The New York Rangers stocked up on offensive talent ahead of the NHL trade deadline, getting veteran snipers Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko in separate deals. Coach Gerard Gallant figured the Blueshirts' defence and goaltending were solid.
The Rangers won Games 1 and 2 on the road in their series against the speedy New Jersey Devils, both by 5-1 scores. Then, for some unknown reason -- and the excellent play of Devils netminder Akira Schmid -- the offence dried up as the Rangers dropped three in a row.
The Rangers, one win away from elimination, are scrambling lines, players and strategies to stay alive tonight at Madison Square Garden. The Devils are aiming to advance to the second round for the first time since reaching the Stanley Cup final in 2012.
GOLDEN KNIGHTS AWAIT NEXT DUEL
Winnipeg Jets' bench boss Rick Bowness made an exception to the 'what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas' rule when he blasted his team's lack of pushback in bowing out to the Golden Knights in five games.
While Bowness stewed in the Entertainment Capital of the World after Thursday's season-ending 4-1 loss, the Golden Knights were pumped and already looking ahead to their next series against the winner of the Kings-Oilers' series.
The Golden Knights finished two points ahead of the Oilers and six ahead of the Kings in clinching the Pacific Division crown this season.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 29, 2023.
The Canadian Press