Stanley Cup Playoffs Daily: Lightning, Penguins pushed to the brink

NHL

Look, we know what many of you were up to last night. Arya. Daenerys. Viserion. Winterfell.

So as a public service, here’s what happened in the NHL last night (check out replays of every playoff game on ESPN+), and what to watch for tonight, in the latest edition of ESPN Stanley Cup Playoffs Daily:

Jump ahead: Last night’s games | Three Stars
Play of the night | Today’s games | Social post of the day


About last night…

Game 3: New York Islanders 4, Pittsburgh Penguins 1 (Islanders lead series, 3-0). The Islanders have a formula for this series, and it’s a formula that’s pushed the Penguins to the brink of elimination. It begins with a style of play that’s not winning any beauty contests, but is effective; as Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said, “there’s not a lot of risk associated with the Islanders.” That manifested in yet another sterling defensive effort, as Robin Lehner stopped 25 shots and Penguins star Sidney Crosby was held off the score sheet for the third straight game (and was a minus-3). It continues with perhaps the most opportunistic offense in the playoffs, crushing the momentum of the Penguins at every turn. To wit: The Penguins took a 1-0 lead at 12:54 of the first period; by the 14:24 mark, the Islanders had goals from Jordan Eberle and Brock Nelson (62 seconds apart) to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. On Tuesday, they’ll attempt to do to Crosby what no team in the NHL has done to him: Sweep him in the first round.

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Jordan Eberle and Brock Nelson find the net for New York on the way to the Islanders’ 4-1 victory.

Game 3: Columbus Blue Jackets 3, Tampa Bay Lightning 1 (Blue Jackets lead series, 3-0). Here’s a quick history lesson about this series. It’s the first time the Jackets have won three games in the same postseason. It’s the first time the 2018-19 Lightning failed to score multiple goals in consecutive games. It’s the fifth time in the 100-plus years of NHL postseason competition that a team that led the regular season in points found itself down 0-3 in a first-round playoff series, the last one being the 2012 Vancouver Canucks, who lost in five games to the Los Angeles Kings. In fact, none of these previous four teams rallied to win their series. The Lightning were without Victor Hedman (injured), Nikita Kucherov (suspended) and Steven Stamkos‘s offensive impact (invisible). They finally looked like themselves during a flurry of offensive chances in the third period, but Sergei Bobrovsky passed the test with 30 saves. With another power-play goal, the Jackets are now 4-for-8 for the series; the Lightning, who had the best power play and kill in the regular season, are 0-for-5 and didn’t have a man advantage in Game 3.

Game 3: Winnipeg Jets 6, St. Louis Blues 3 (Blues lead series, 2-1). The Jets relocated their offense in a must-win Game 3, scoring in bunches against rookie goalie Jordan Binnington (23 saves) and the Blues. Kevin Hayes, Patrik Laine (his third goal) and Kyle Connor scored in the second period just 4:01 apart to make it 3-1. After Vladimir Tarasenko scored his first of the playoffs to cut the lead, Brandon Tanev and Dustin Byfuglien scored goals 3:41 apart to all but put the game away. Kudos to Paul Maurice for his line tinkering, including a reunion of the TLC line of Tavev, Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp. Binnington, meanwhile, hadn’t given up more than four goals in a game this season until this tilt. All eyes will be on the rookie to see how he responds in Game 4.

Game 3: Vegas Golden Knights 6, San Jose Sharks 3 (Knights lead series, 2-1). The other day, coach Gerard Gallant was asked about his second line of Paul Stastny, Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty. “When did you declare them our second line?” he asked, earning chuckles. Since Stone arrived at the trade deadline, few trios in the NHL have matched the firepower of this Vegas line, and they owned Game 3: Stone had a hat trick and two assists, Stastny had two goals and three assists and Pacioretty had a goal and an assist. The line gave the Knights a lead just 16 seconds into the game, and a 4-1 lead after two periods. Neither Marc-Andre Fleury nor Martin Jones put up good numbers in the game — a brutally physical affair between these newly minted rivals — but Jones followed being pulled in Game 2 with an .850 save percentage in Game 3. Not great.

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Paul Stastny slaps in two goals during the Golden Knights’ 6-3 over the Sharks in Game 3.

Three Stars

1. Mark Stone, Vegas Golden Knights. His hat trick was the first of the 2019 playoffs, the first in Golden Knights’ postseason history and his first in the past 414 regular-season or postseason games. He was absolutely incredible, with his usual defensive panache (four takeaways) and his underrated playmaking (like his feed to set up Stastny’s goal) also grabbing the spotlight.

2. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets. He didn’t have much action for about 40 minutes, but Bob was the difference in the third period when Tampa found its offense, stopping 16 of 17 shots. “We have a really good goalie. I thought he stood really big in those 10-12 minutes there when they cranked it up,” said coach John Tortorella.

3. Robin Lehner, New York Islanders. Like Bobrovsky, the beneficiary of the great defense being played in front of him, but he also did some heavy lifting in stopping all 18 shots he faced after the first period. One of the best stories of the postseason adds another chapter.

Play of the Night

While we’d normally showcase some display of offensive artistry, an athletic save or a quirky play in this space, the play of the night had to be the boiling over of the Evander Kane vs. Ryan Reaves feud in a late-game fight. While Kane sought to show the Sharks won’t go down without a fight, that vibe was counteracted by the T-Mobile Arena game operations crew playing “Baby Shark (Do Do Do Do Do)” after it was over. Which was savage.

Dud of the Night

Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby. With their teams in critical Game 3 battles, neither of these superstars posted a point on Sunday, remaining 0-for-the-playoffs. The Lightning needed something from their captain with Nikita Kucherov suspended and Victor Hedman out with an injury, but he was a minus-2 with no shots on goal. Crosby had three shots in goal … and was a minus-3 in the Islanders’ win.

What’s on the schedule

Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs, Game 3, 7 p.m. ET. Series tied, 1-1.

The Leafs should learn the fate of center Nazem Kadri before the game, as he appears in person before the NHL Department of Player Safety to answer for his hit on Jake DeBrusk in Game 2. DeBrusk and defenseman Torey Krug are “day to day” according to the team.

Washington Capitals at Carolina Hurricanes, Game 3, 7 p.m. ET. Capitals lead 2-0.

The “Bunch of Jerks” return to Raleigh for the first playoff home game for the Hurricanes since May 26, 2009. To put that in perspective: Their last home game was played three days before Pixar’s “UP” debuted in theaters. It sounds like that despite two straight losses, coach Rod Brind’Amour intends to stick with goalie Petr Mrazek.

Nashville Predators at Dallas Stars, Game 3, 9:30 p.m. ET. Series tied 1-1.

Craig Smith‘s OT goal in Game 2 evened this series, in what coach Peter Laviolette called a more “complete” game for the Preds than Game 1. The Stars gave up 43 shots in Game 2, and only generated 23 for the game — including 14 at even strength. They need to make greater use of their opportunities.

Calgary Flames at Colorado Avalanche, Game 3, 10 p.m. ET. Series tied, 1-1.

UMass star Cale Makar quickly signed with the Avalanche after his college season ended; will we see the outstanding young defenseman in Game 3? The underdog Avs knotted the series in overtime in Game 2. The Flames are looking for a faster start and to “be the more desperate team” in Game 3, according to coach Bill Peters. He also feels that going on the road will be healthy for his younger players: “It might be a little easier for the younger players to go on the road and play and not worry about entertainment value,” he said.

Social post of the day

The Golden Knights did a very Vegas thing before Game 3, having couples get married or renew their vows in front of the arena. They promised to give each other, ahem, a “Fleury” of kisses.

Quotable

“Honestly, I thought I barely touched him. He came right back. It’s just one of those plays. I think my son hits me like that six times a day, it’s just a weird position he put himself in. That’s all.” — San Jose Sharks star Joe Thornton on his hit to the head of Tomas Nosek that earned him a two-minute minor for checking to the head. Could it earn something more from the NHL Department of Player Safety? (Via Sin Bin)

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