Series tied 1-1
The Chicago Blackhawks found themselves on the fortunate side of a pair of coach’s challenges en route to evening their first-round series with the St. Louis Blues at one victory apiece. The Blackhawks hope their good fortune travels up Interstate 55 to the United Center on Sunday afternoon as the bitter Central Division rivals play Game 3 of their set.
“When you play the defending Cup champions, you’re going to have to fight through a lot of stuff,” St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said following a 3-2 setback on Friday. “Calls aren’t going to go your way, you’re not going to get the officiating you want. It’s always going to seem like it’s one-sided. Big deal, fight through it.” Vladimir Tarasenko scored his 11th career playoff goal and seventh in his past eight games to open the scoring, but his apparent second tally of the game midway into the third period was overturned by an offside call. St. Louis’ troubles continued 3 1/2 minutes later as Andrew Shaw’s tally was upheld by review in Toronto and again following a coach’s challenge for goaltender interference. The Blues failed to recover from the momentum shift and suffered the loss as the series heads to the United Center, which they have lost three straight playoff games.
TV: 3 p.m. ET, NBC, TVAS, SN
ABOUT THE BLUES: While Hitchcock’s comments received plenty of airtime, center Paul Stastny told reporters on Saturday that the team has moved on from the result. “If you worry too much about it, those are the teams that will be unsuccessful and kind of use that as an excuse,” Stastny told reporters. “It’s early in the series. It’s frustrating, yeah, but I think once we woke up this morning, we already forgot about it and we’re focused on (Sunday).” Captain David Backes scored in overtime of the series opener and had an assist on Friday to extend his point streak to six games (three goals, five assists).
ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS: Stud defenseman Duncan Keith returned with a flourish from his six-game suspension, collecting a goal and an assist on Friday while logging one second short of 31 minutes of ice time. “He’s a horse back there, so useful in all areas and he’s a threat in a lot of different ways,” coach Joel Quenneville told CSN Chicago. The same can be said for captain Jonathan Toews, who has recorded a team-high 11 shots and won 27-of-47 faceoffs (57.4 percent).
* Blues are 13-3 in their last 16 road games.
* Blackhawks are 9-3 in their last 12 Conference Quarterfinals games.
* Over is 8-1-2 in Blues last 11 games playing on one days rest.
* Over is 10-2-6 in Blackhawks last 18 games playing on one days rest.
Tampa Bay Lightning at Detroit Red Wings (A: +109, H: -120, O/U: 5)
Lightning lead series 2-0
The Detroit Red Wings have not found the answer to slowing down Tyler Johnson in the playoffs over the last two seasons and are running out of time as they host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday for Game 3 of their first-round series. Johnson scored six times in last year’s seven-game battle and has a pair of goals to go with four assists in two victories to open the postseason in 2016.
Lightning center Brian Boyle told reporters after Friday’s 5-2 victory in Game 2 that Johnson “has found another gear. He’s flying out there.” Johnson, along with linemates Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn, have combined for 15 points in the first two games and Detroit forward Dylan Larkin told reporters: “They’re opportunistic. … They get a lot of free space and you have to back check hard and play the body a little more. We’re not making it hard enough on them.” The Red Wings are also 1-for-10 on the power play and continue to give up too many Grade A chances at even strength. “We’re going to make some mistakes, that’s the reality of life,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill told reporters. “But we’ve had opportunities in the last two games to win the hockey game and we didn’t win it.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, CNBC, CBC, TVAS, FSN Detroit, FSN Sun (Tampa Bay)
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING: Johnson’s four points Friday tied a single-game franchise record in the playoffs set by Vincent Lecavalier in 2011, and Ryan Callahan told reporters: “He likes this time of year and he’s showing it.” The defense pairing of Braydon Coburn and Nikita Nesterov have raised their games, combining for three assists and a plus-5 rating in front of goaltender Ben Bishop (64 saves, 68 shots). Versatile forward J.T. Brown suffered an upper-body injury in Game 2 and is out indefinitely.
ABOUT THE RED WINGS: Larkin responded after a quiet Game 1 with his first playoff goal and three hits Friday while veterans Pavel Datsyuk (eight shots) and captain Henrik Zetterberg (three) are looking for their first point. The Red Wings’ defense has recorded six of their 11 points in the first two games, led by Mike Green with a goal and an assist. Goalie Jimmy Howard has allowed seven goals on 64 shots and Blashill told reporters any decisions on lineup changes would be decided Sunday.
* Home team is 7-0 in the last seven meetings.
* Red Wings are 0-6 in their last six versus a team with a winning record.
* Under is 4-1-1 in the last six meetings in Detroit.
* Over is 8-1-1 in Lightning last 10 games following a win.
Florida Panthers at New York Islanders (A: +106, H: -117, O/U: 5)
Series tied 1-1
Postseason hockey will be on display for the first time at Barclays Center as the New York Islanders look to get the upper hand in the first-round series on Sunday when they host the Florida Panthers in Game 3. The Islanders split a pair of encounters with Atlantic Division-champion Florida in Brooklyn this season en route to posting a 25-11-5 mark at their new home.
“We know what kind of environment our fans can create and we’re counting on them and we want to feed off them,” said New York captain John Tavares, who has scored a goal in six straight contests and has two tallies and two assists in the first two contests of this series. Tavares ended Roberto Luongo’s shutout bid late in the third period of Friday’s 3-1 setback, with the veteran goaltender recording 41 saves to snap a personal seven-game losing skid in the postseason. Reilly Smith continued his stellar series by joining Nick Bjugstad and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov with a goal and an assist in Game 2. “It seems like the puck is following me around a little bit,” Smith told the Miami Herald of the five points he’s record in the series, matching the sum total of his previous 12 playoff games.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, SN, TVAS2, FSN Florida, MSG-Plus (New York)
ABOUT THE PANTHERS: Veteran Jaromir Jagr may have lost a tooth during Game 2, but he was unable to gain a goal as Florida’s leading scorer has gone 33 consecutive postseason games without a tally. “Maybe it will bring me luck,” Jagr told the Miami Herald of the lost tooth as he’s looking for his first playoff goal since scoring in Game 2 of Philadelphia’s first-round series against Pittsburgh in 2012. Linemates Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau have yet to score in the series, but the former has a team high-tying 10 shots on goal while the latter has nine.
ABOUT THE ISLANDERS: Defenseman Nick Leddy saw plenty of positives in his team despite the outcome of Friday’s contest, his assist on Tavares’ tally notwithstanding. “Our breakouts were good and we turned it on them (on Friday),” Leddy told Newsday. “We got pucks in deep, we worked their (defense). We’re doing the things we did at the end of the regular season, playing how we need to play.” Coach Jack Capuano had a harsher assessment of the game, going so far as to say that the team left Thomas Greiss “out to dry” on Florida’s first two tallies.
* Panthers are 5-1 in their last six games playing on one days rest.
* Panthers are 5-2 in the last seven meetings.
* Over is 5-1-1 in Islanders last seven overall.
* Over is 5-0-1 in the last six meetings in New York.
Nashville Predators at Anaheim Ducks (A: +144, H: -160, O/U: 5)
Predators lead series 1-0
Having wrested away home ice with a hard-fought victory in Game 1, the visiting Nashville Predators can put the Anaheim Ducks on the ropes when the teams continue their Western Conference first-round series Sunday night. Filip Forsberg’s third-period goal off a fluke deflection proved to be the difference in Nashville’s 3-2 victory on Friday night.
The Predators have a chance to take command of the series with a second straight victory on the road but coach Peter Laviolette does not want his team looking ahead. “We’ll have our work cut out for us in Game 2,” Laviolette said. “To get off to the right start is a good thing. There’s so much hockey left to be played.” Anaheim, which clinched the Pacific Division title and No. 2 seed on the final day of the regular season, has not lost back-to-back home games since Nov. 11-13 and last faced the Predators on Nov. 17 prior to the series opener. “The one thing, when you haven’t seen a team since November and you get to see them now, at least you know what you’re up against,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We’ll reset and hopefully come out and play an awful lot better Sunday.”
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TVAS, Sportsnet, FSN Tennessee (Nashville), FSN West (Anaheim)
ABOUT THE PREDATORS: James Neal, who netted 31 goals during the regular season, scored 35 seconds into Game 1 and never slowed down, registering a game-high nine shots to help Nashville to a 33-29 edge. “For us, we just want to be in the offensive zone getting looks and I think we did that,” said Neal, who lauded linemate Ryan Johansen for his success. “He was making great plays. I like the way his game was. He gave me some great chances. I like the way our line played the first game.” Colin Wilson, who set a franchise record with five goals in a playoff series a year ago but scored only six times in the regular season, continued his postseason magic with a tally in Game 1.
ABOUT THE DUCKS: Boudreau declined to announce his starter in net for Game 2 – “I don’t want to talk about my goalies” – after John Gibson (30 saves) got the nod in the opener, getting victimized by a one-handed redirection by Wilson and Forsberg’s tally that went off the skate of Ducks defenseman Shea Theodore. Fellow blue-liner Josh Manson (head/upper body) was knocked out of the game after absorbing a thunderous hit from Forsberg in the first period, leaving his status unknown for Game 2. Defenseman Kevin Bieksa, sidelined since March 24 due to an upper-body injury, was on the ice during Saturday’s optional skate and is “eligible to play” if Manson is unable to go, according to Boudreau.
* Home team is 4-1 in the last five meetings.
* Ducks are 6-1 in their last seven Conference Quarterfinals games.
* Over is 17-4-5 in the last 26 meetings.
* Over is 5-0-1 in the last six meetings in Anaheim.