Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers (A: -171, H: +156, O/U: 5)
Capitals lead series 3-2
With little margin for error, Michal Neuvirth has been nearly perfect in helping his current team claw back in its first-round series against his former one. Neuvirth looks to help the upstart Philadelphia Flyers even their set with the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon when the Metropolitan Division rivals play Game 6 in the City of Brotherly Love.
Neuvirth replaced an ineffective Steve Mason and made 31 saves in a 2-1 victory on Wednesday before turning aside all 44 shots he faced two nights later for his second career postseason shutout in a 2-0 win. “I like to face a lot of shots. It keeps me in the game,” the 28-year-old Neuvirth said after his team was outshot by a 4-to-1 margin (44-11). Braden Holtby made 10 saves, but saw fourth-liner Ryan White receive credit for the Flyers’ first goal after the puck caromed off the skate of Washington defenseman Taylor Chorney before Chris VandeVelde sealed the win with an empty-net tally. “We put a lot of pucks on net and didn’t get any to trickle through,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. “We have to hope the goalie over there cools off and some of those (shots) find a way in.”
TV: Noon ET, NBC, CBC, TVAS
PROBABLE GOALIES: Capitals – B. Holtby (0.924%), Flyers – M. Neuvirth (0.929%).
ABOUT THE CAPITALS (59-20-8, 34-36 O/U): Washington’s disappointing postseason performances are well documented, so much so that Barry Trotz feels he’s on the defensive even though he’s only been the club’s coach for one month shy of two years. “Everybody talks about all the past, the past, the past,” Trotz said. “The only pressure that we’ll have is on ourselves. We’ve got to go into Philadelphia and we’ve got to play really well and get a win there. If we don’t accomplish that, then it will go to Game 7 (on Wednesday).” The Capitals have won just one of their past nine opportunities to close out a playoff series – with a 1-6 mark under Trotz.
ABOUT THE FLYERS (43-30-14, 33-33 O/U): Citing his team’s “bend but don’t break” mindset, rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere was quick to look for positives after seeing the ice tilted for much of Friday’s contest. “Game 6 is back in our place, and we have a lot of confidence going forward with our group,” Gostisbehere told Philly.com. “It doesn’t go by shots. It goes by goals.” Philadelphia has mustered just six of those and Gostisbehere’s goal in Game 4 is the team’s lone score on the power play in 21 chances.
* Home team is 5-2 in the last seven meetings.
* Capitals are 3-9 in the last 12 meetings in Philadelphia.
* Under is 4-1-2 in the last seven meetings.
* Over is 22-8 in the last 30 meetings in Philadelphia.
Dallas Stars at Minnesota Wild (A: -125, H: +113, O/U: 5)
Stars lead series 3-2
The Minnesota Wild seemingly have been on their heels throughout the first round of the playoffs, but they have a chance to knot up their postseason series when they host the Dallas Stars for Sunday afternoon’s Game 6. Minnesota has clawed back from a 2-0 series deficit and staved off elimination with a 5-4 overtime win at Dallas on Friday night.
The Stars were just over three minutes from winning their first postseason series since 2008 when the Wild tied it on a goal by captain Mikko Koivu, who also delivered the game-winning tally in overtime to send the series back to Minnesota. “We will work to use the crowd and work hard to give them a good game in Game 6,” Wild netminder Devan Dubnyk said. “We love playing in our barn and have a great feeling about it. That was the next step for us.” Dallas coach Lindy Ruff did not have much to complain about, saying: “I think our team played our best game.” The Stars have won four of five meetings in Minnesota this season – all by one goal and three in overtime.
TV: 3 p.m. ET, NBC, Sportsnet, TVAS
PROBABLE GOALIES: Stars – A. Niemi (0.904%), Wild D. Dubnyk (0.916%)
ABOUT THE STARS (53-24-10, 47-38 O/U): Ruff has juggled his goaltenders – who each registered 25 victories – throughout the season and the same has held true in the playoffs after Kari Lehtonen started the first three games of the series before Antti Niemi got the nod in Games 4 and 5. Ruff said he did not think the one day off between Games 4 and 5 was a factor in Niemi’s performance in Game 5 and expressed confidence in both of his netminders. “We’ll just evaluate and move on,” Ruff said. “We’ll just keep doing what we’ve done all year. We’re up 3-2, and they’ve both won us games in the playoffs.”
ABOUT THE WILD (40-36-11, 31-37 O/U): Koivu entered the series mired in a deep postseason rut, scoring twice in his previous 28 games, but he has already surpassed that total against the Stars with what proved to be the game-winner in Game 3 before his dramatic pair of tallies on Friday night. “Of course, it’s always nice to score,” Koivu said. “It’s more important in the bigger picture how you play individually and as a team. We’re doing a lot of good things. We’ve been playing better as the series goes on here, and that’s a good sign.” Forward Jordan Schroeder made his series debut in Game 5 and scored.
* Wild are 2-8 in their last 10 games overall.
* Stars are 4-1 in the last five meetings in Minnesota.
* Over is 5-0-1 in the last six meetings in Minnesota.
* Under is 3-0-1 in Wild last four after scoring five goals or more in their previous game.
Florida Panthers at New York Islanders (A: -105, H: -105, O/U 5)
Islanders lead series 3-2
The New York Islanders can advance in the playoffs for the first time in 23 years on Sunday when they host Game 6 of their first-round series with the Florida Panthers. The Islanders survived several anxious moments on Friday as Thomas Greiss (47 saves) denied Aleksander Barkov on a penalty shot in the first overtime before rookie Alan Quine’s one-timer beat Roberto Luongo exactly 16 minutes into the second extra session to secure the 2-1 win.
The back-and-forth series shifts to the Barclays Center, where New York posted an impressive 25-11-5 mark during the regular season before splitting Games 3 and 4 with Atlantic Division-champion Florida. The Islanders have won all six of their opportunities in franchise history when hosting a Game 6 with a chance to clinch a series. Although his team trails in the set, Panthers coach Gerard Gallant hasn’t had much issue with his team’s compete level in the series. “I can’t tell them to play much better,” Gallant told reporters. “They’re playing their game, they’re working hard and they’re competing. It’s not like we’re not playing well.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, SUN (Florida), MSG-Plus (New York)
PROBABLE GOALIES: Panthers – R. Luongo (0.922%), Islanders – T. Greiss (0.927%)
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (49-27-11, 35-34 O/U): Nick Bjugstad is listed as day-to-day after losing an edge and falling face-first into the boards early in the second overtime on Friday. “He got looked at (on Friday night), he got looked at (Saturday) morning like all the other players that are banged up, and then I’ll know from there,” Gallant told reporters of Bjugstad, whose four points (two goals, two assists) are second only to Reilly Smith (four goals, four assists). “But I haven’t been told he’s not (playing) and I haven’t been told he is.” Veteran Shawn Thornton and fellow forwards Quinton Howden and Gregg McKegg are candidates to play on Sunday should Bjugstad sit out.
ABOUT THE ISLANDERS (48-29-10, 36-43 O/U): Signed in the summer to be Jaroslav Halak’s backup, Greiss has loomed large as New York is in position to clinch its first postseason victory since it defeated Washington and Pittsburgh to advance to the 1993 Wales Conference final. The 30-year-old German has stopped 74-of-77 shots in the last two contests and yielded just 12 goals in the series. “I’m seeing pucks just fine,” said Greiss, who made a sparkling left pad save on Barkov’s penalty shot. “Couple other games, the puck bounces in.”
* Panthers are 5-2 in their last seven road games.
* Islanders are 4-1 in their last five games playing on one days rest.
* Over is 6-1-1 in the last eight meetings in New York.
* Over is 11-2-5 in Panthers last 18 games playing on one days rest.