Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Kings can move into second in Pacific with win

Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2022 NHL postseason. There are 19 days left in the regular season, and the races in each of the four divisions are tight. The top three teams in each of the four divisions and the next two highest-place finishers in each conference reach the playoffs.

Here is a look at the NHL standings and everything else that could impact the playoff picture:

On Tap

There are three games on the schedule Wednesday, all with playoff implications:

New York Rangers at Philadelphia Flyers (7 p.m. ET; TNT, NHL LIVE)

The Rangers can move within two points of the Carolina Hurricanes for first place in the Metropolitan Division after losing to them 4-2 on Tuesday. Rangers forward Chris Kreider has 50 goals, third in the NHL behind Auston Matthews (58) of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Leon Draisaitl (51) of the Edmonton Oilers, including three in his past two games. Andrew Copp has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 11 games since the Rangers acquired the forward in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets on March 21. The Flyers lost 9-2 to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday, are 2-7-0 in their past nine games and have been eliminated from playoff contention.

Montreal Canadiens at Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m. ET; SN, BSOH, RDS, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)

The Blue Jackets, 2-5-3 in their past 10, will be eliminated from playoff contention if they do not defeat the Canadiens in regulation. Cole Caufield has scored 30 points (17 goals, 13 assists) in 28 games since the Canadiens hired Martin St. Louis as coach Feb. 9, after scoring eight points (one goal, seven assists) in 30 games beforehand. Montreal is 12-12-4 under St. Louis but 2-5-1 in its past eight games and has been eliminated from playoff contention.

Los Angeles Kings at Colorado Avalanche (9:30 p.m. ET; TNT, TVAS, NHL LIVE)

The Avalanche have a chance to extend their winning streak to seven games, set a franchise record with their 53rd win of the season and reclaim the lead in the Presidents’ Trophy race. With 110 points, they are tied with the Florida Panthers atop the NHL standings and have an 11-point lead over the Calgary Flames in the Western Conference. The Kings can tie the Edmonton Oilers for second in the Pacific Division and pad their cushion over the Vegas Golden Knights, who are fourth in the Pacific, three points behind. Los Angeles had lost three in a row in regulation before defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 on Tuesday.

If playoffs started Wednesday

Here is a look at the matchups for the first round as they stand entering games Wednesday:

Eastern Conference

(1A) Florida Panthers vs. (WC2) Washington Capitals

(1M) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (WC1) Boston Bruins

(2A) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (3A) Tampa Bay Lightning

(2M) New York Rangers vs. (3M) Pittsburgh Penguins

Western Conference

(1C) Colorado Avalanche vs. (WC2) Dallas Stars

(1P) Calgary Flames vs. (WC1) Nashville Predators

(2C) Minnesota Wild vs. (3C) St. Louis Blues

(2P) Edmonton Oilers vs. (3P) Los Angeles Kings

About last night

There were 14 games Tuesday, 12 with playoff implications:

St. Louis Blues 4, Boston Bruins 2: The Blues extended their point streak to nine games (8-0-1) and remained tied for second place in the Central Division with the Minnesota Wild. The Bruins lost for the third time in four games (1-3-0) and remained one point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for third in the Atlantic Division. Boston holds the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. Torey Krug had a goal and an assist for St. Louis in his first game in Boston since leaving as a free agent Oct. 9, 2020. 

Buffalo Sabres 5, Toronto Maple Leafs 2: The Maple Leafs lost in regulation for the first time in nine games (7-1-1) and failed to pad their four-point lead on the Lightning for second in the Atlantic. Auston Matthews didn’t score a point for Toronto for the first time in 17 games after scoring 31 points (21 goals, 10 assists) during a 16-game point streak. Owen Power, the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, was plus-2 in 19:28 of ice time in his NHL debut for Buffalo, which has been eliminated from playoff contention.

Florida Panthers 3, Anaheim Ducks 2 (OT): The Panthers won their eighth straight game and extended their lead in the Atlantic to 10 points over the second-place Maple Leafs when Jonathan Huberdeau scored at 3:41 of overtime. They have 11 OT wins, one short of the NHL record. Anthony Duclair scored twice for Florida. John Gibson set an Anaheim record with 52 saves but lost his 13th straight start (0-10-3). The Ducks have been eliminated from playoff contention.

Carolina Hurricanes 4, New York Rangers 2: The Hurricanes extended their Metropolitan Division lead to four points over the second-place Rangers. The top line of Sebastian Aho (one goal, two assists), Seth Jarvis (one goal, one assist) and Andrei Svechnikov (one goal, one assist) combined for seven points, and Frederik Andersen made 28 saves for Carolina, which won for the third time in four games (3-1-0). Chris Kreider scored his 50th goal of the season for the Rangers, who lost for the first time in four games.

Washington Capitals 9, Philadelphia Flyers 2: The Capitals moved within three points of the Pittsburgh Penguins for third in the Metro and three points of the Bruins for the first wild card into the playoffs from the East with their fourth straight win. Alex Ovechkin scored his 46th goal of the season for Washington. The Flyers have been eliminated from playoff contention.

New York Islanders 5, Pittsburgh Penguins 4 (SO): The Penguins moved within five points of the Rangers for second place in the Metro by earning a point with a shootout loss, though they lost for the fifth time in six games (1-4-1). Jake Guentzel had two goals and an assist for Pittsburgh. Zach Parise and Josh Bailey each scored twice and Ilya Sorokin made an NHL career high 43 saves for the Islanders, who remained 15 points behind the Capitals for the second wild card from the East.

Minnesota Wild 5, Edmonton Oilers 1: The Wild remained tied for second in the Central with the Blues, and the Oilers had their cushion over the Los Angeles Kings for second in the Pacific Division drop to two points. Kevin Fiala and Ryan Hartman each scored twice for Minnesota, which is 11-1-2 in its past 14 games. Leon Draisaitl scored his NHL career high 51st goal for Edmonton, which has lost two straight (0-1-1).

Nashville Predators 1, San Jose Sharks 0: The Predators remained one point ahead of the Dallas Stars for the first wild card from the West when Ryan Johansen scored with 1:42 left in overtime. Juuse Saros made 25 saves for his fourth shutout of the season. Kaapo Kahkonen made 40 saves for the Sharks, who have lost seven straight (0-5-2) and are 20 points behind the Stars for the second wild card.

Los Angeles Kings 5, Chicago Blackhawks 2: The Kings moved within two points of the Oilers for second in the Pacific. Blake Lizotte scored two goals for Los Angeles, which had lost three in a row in regulation. Chicago has lost eight straight (0-6-2) and been eliminated from playoff contention.

Calgary Flames 5, Seattle Kraken 3: The Flames extended their lead to nine points in the Pacific over the Oilers by rallying from down 3-1 in the third period and winning their fifth straight. Matthew Tkachuk had a hat trick for Calgary. Matty Beniers, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, had an assist in 17:10 of ice time in his NHL debut for Seattle, which has been eliminated from playoff contention.

Dallas Stars 1, Tampa Bay Lightning 0: The Stars padded their cushion to three points over the Vegas Golden Knights for the second wild card from the West and remained one point behind the Predators for the first wild card. Roope Hintz scored and Scott Wedgewood made 24 saves for Dallas, which is 6-2-1 in its past nine games. Tampa Bay is 1-3-2 in its past six and remained third in the Atlantic, four points behind Toronto for second and one point ahead of Boston.

Vancouver Canucks 5, Vegas Golden Knights 4 (OT): The Golden Knights fell three points behind the Kings for third in the Pacific and three points behind the Stars for the second wild card from the West. Shea Theodore helped Vegas earn a point by tying the game 4-4 with 42 seconds left in the third period, but Quinn Hughees scored 51 seconds into overtime for Vancouver. Vegas is 6-1-1 in its past eight games, with the two losses to Vancouver, which is six points behind Dallas. Golden Knights captain Mark Stone returned after missing 26 games with a back injury and was minus-1 with three shots on goal in 17:17 of ice time.

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