NHL playoffs: Kraken, Bruins, Hurricanes & Stars can advance
The defending champions are on the ropes, and the best team in the NHL has another chance to move on to the second round of the playoffs.
All four first-round series resuming Friday night feature a Game 6 with potential elimination. The most surprising team on the brink is Colorado, down 3-2 to the Kraken with the series going back to Seattle.
There are a pair of second chances in the East, with top-seeded Boston trying to put away Florida and Carolina looking to advance past the New York Islanders. Out West, Dallas is on the verge of knocking off Minnesota and moving on.
All eyes now are on the Avalanche, who are one loss away from being the first reigning Stanley Cup champion to lose to a team making its first playoff appearance in franchise history.
“With the culture we have here, belief is the biggest thing and that’s instilled from the top down, so that’s never going to go away,” veteran forward Andrew Cogliano said Thursday. "But I think we’re at a point now where action is much louder than words.”
It's time for action from the Bruins, too, after they missed their first chance to move past the Panthers, with an overtime loss Wednesday punctuated by uncharacteristic mistakes. As captain Patrice Bergeron said afterward, he and his teammates can't give an opportunistic opponent “freebies” as they did in Game 5 at home.
Game 6 is on the road at Florida, and the Bruins still have the series lead looking to be the 10th Presidents' Trophy winners in the past 11 years to win at least one series.
“I’m sure we’re going to come back with a real good, determined effort,” Boston coach Jim Montgomery said. “I have a lot of confidence in our team.”
Confidence isn't lacking for the Avalanche, either, especially after their Cup run a year ago. They'll also get a boost with the return of 2022 playoff MVP Cale Makar from a one-game suspension.
But much like Boston, the pressure is on Colorado.
“They’re playing loose, they’re confident,” coach Jared Bednar said of the Kraken. “Obviously the guys in their room are like, ‘Yeah, we want to win,’ but expectations are on our team."
HURRICANES at ISLANDERS, Carolina leads 3-2 (7 p.m. EDT, TBS)
The Hurricanes lost Game 5 at home despite outshooting the Islanders 36-22 and dictating for long stretches. Two Islanders goals came off Carolina turnovers, and the puck banked off Hurricanes star Sebastian Aho's face for another.
Otherwise, it might've been the team's best 5-on-5 game of the series.
"You feel like you played good enough to win, but the bounces didn’t quite go our way,” Hurricanes forward Seth Jarvis said. “But for us, even watching video you could tell, we played the way we want to play.”
Forward Jack Drury is out again after being knocked out of Game 4 on a hard hit into the boards, according to coach Rod Brind'Amour, who didn't rule out the possibility of going with Frederik Andersen in net after Antti Raanta started the first five games.
There are no questions about Ilya Sorokin being back in net for the Islanders after he made 34 saves to help New York win its first elimination game. Now comes another, this one with home-ice advantage and the chance to push the series to a Game 7 in Raleigh.
BRUINS at PANTHERS, Boston leads 3-2 (7:30 p.m., TNT)
The word that Florida coach Paul Maurice keeps using is freedom.
Yes, there’s an obvious pressure when facing elimination — which the Panthers were in Game 5 in Boston before winning 4-3 — but there's also much less from the outside going against the team that had the best regular season in NHL history.
“These are hard games for these guys to play,” Maurice said. “You just have to mentally process one, and fight, and that brings that freedom. That’s the exact word I used before that game. You want to play with a freedom.”
Sergei Bobrovsky looked like his best self, and a stop on a breakaway in the final second of regulation got Florida to overtime — on a night the Bruins outshot the NHL’s most-prolific shooting team in the regular season 47-25.
“The veteran players and also your highest-paid players, these are the games where the pressure has to be on their shoulders, and they have to rise to the occasion," Maurice said. "And he did. Everything that we could have hoped for from Sergei, he delivered.”
The Panthers have not won two elimination games in the same series, or the same playoffs, since 1996. They may or may not have Ryan Lomberg for their latest attempt, with Maurice calling the forward a game-time decision.
STARS at WILD, Dallas leads 3-2 (9:30 p.m., TBS)
Joe Pavelski could return for the Stars in their first chance to advance after missing the past four games in concussion protocol from a hit from Minnesota's Matt Dumba in the series opener.
Coach Peter DeBoer said Pavelski, at 38 the second-oldest player in the playoffs and a key leader for Dallas, was traveling to the Twin Cities after just about a full practice.
The Stars have survived so far without Pavelski, thanks to the production of center Roope Hintz, the leading scorer in the first round with 11 points, and goaltender Jake Oettinger, who stopped all 27 shots he faced Tuesday in Game 5 for the first shutout of this postseason.
Another win in his home state would vault the Stars into the second round and a matchup against either Colorado or Seattle.
“We have a great opportunity ahead of us,” said Oettinger, who has a .925 save percentage so far. “This is exactly where we want to be.”
AVALANCHE AT KRAKEN, Seattle leads 3-2 (10 p.m., TNT)
The Kraken are trying to treat the moment just as if it's any other situation. But players and coach Dave Hakstol know the gravity of the situation.
“We know what’s on the line, believe me,” Hakstol said. “We want to go home and play well and get the job done at home.”
The Kraken have put Nathan MacKinnon and the high-flying Avalanche on their heels by scoring first in all five games. The Avalanche would like to reverse that trend and send the series back to Denver for a Game 7 Sunday.
“We’ve got to have some desperation ... and just find a way,” forward Mikko Rantanen said.
AP Sports Writers Pat Graham, Tim Reynolds, Aaron Beard, Jimmy Golen, Stephen Hawkins and Dave Campbell contributed.
AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press