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NHL Roundup: Canadiens stun Penguins with complete defensive effort

Arun Srinivasan and Kyle Cantlon
·7-min read

We’re back! The NHL continues the 2019-20 playoff qualifiers after a four-month break and we’ll be here to capture all the action from every game.

Follow along here as Yahoo Sports NHL editors Arun Srinivasan and Kyle Cantlon keep you posted on the key storylines, highlights, major injuries and anything else you need to know.

Maple Leafs stage furious comeback to defeat Blue Jackets in OT

It has become a popular axiom that a three-goal lead is the most dangerous lead in sports, something that has certainly held true for this iteration of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

With just under four minutes remaining, the Blue Jackets held a commanding 3-0 lead, appearing certain to eliminate the Maple Leafs in crushing fashion.

Related: Maple Leafs stage furious comeback with 3 goals in 3 minutes, defeat Blue Jackets in OT

Cue the comeback.

William Nylander scored with three minutes and 55 seconds remaining, then John Tavares scored his second goal of the series 51 seconds later. From the brink of elimination, back to a series again, in the blink of an eye.

Toronto continued to pressure Columbus relentlessly and during a frantic sequence, Auston Matthews found Zach Hyman with a cross-ice feed, and the Leafs’ puck-retrieval specialist buried it to tie the game with 23 seconds left.

Matthews, who has been far and away the best player for the Maple Leafs throughout the season and series, shone brightest once again, depositing the overtime winner. Here’s the goal, one that Maple Leafs fans and detractors alike won’t forget soon.

Blackhawks stun Oilers as second 12-seed moves on

Both No. 5 seeds are officially donezo as the Blackhawks completed the second big-time series upset of day — hanging on to drop the Oilers 3-2.

Fittingly, it was rookie Dominik Kubalik — who destroyed Edmonton with five points in Game 1— delivering the dagger, dropping to one knee and snapping a Jonathan Toews feed home from the bottom of the left circle:

The Oilers once again drew first blood early, with Josh Archibald wacking in an absurd Connor McDavid no-look helper.

Unfortunately, that was the Oilers peaking just a little too early as Matthew Highmore and Brandon Saad each converted for the Blackhawks before the end of the frame. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins added the other for the Oilers, who should be staring down a Game 5 if not for the heroics of the goaltender across them.

Corey Crawford was his solid, sometimes spectacular self once again, stopping 43 of 45 Edmonton shots.

Canadiens upset Penguins with complete defensive effort

TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 07:  Shea Weber #6 of the Montreal Canadiens is congratulated by teammates after he scored an empty net goal in the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Qualification Round prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 07, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

On March 12, the Montreal Canadiens had a 0.1 percent chance of making the playoffs. Those odds clearly changed when the playoff field expanded to 24 teams, but either way, the Canadiens really shouldn’t have been here.

And yet, it’s the Canadiens who are advancing to the next round after defeating the heavily favoured Pittsburgh Penguins 2-0 on Friday.

Conventional wisdom dictated that if the Canadiens were to have any chance of upsetting the Penguins, Carey Price would have to return to the form that once made him the unquestioned best goaltender in the world. Price was outstanding throughout the series with Friday’s shutout capping off his best work in years, but it would be incorrect to say that he didn’t benefit from a complete defensive effort.

Jeff Petry was the hero in Games 1 and 3, and logged a team-high 24:42 of ice time during Friday’s victory, neutralizing the Penguins’ potent attack. We’re still in the early stages of the playoffs but few players have improved their stock more than Petry during the first week of action.

Shea Weber often gets the vast majority of popular attention but his partner Ben Chiarot played 22:34 in Friday’s win and was a mistake-free presence on the blue line for large stretches of the series, proving that the Canadiens can rely on their top three defencemen to log heavy minutes, as the team’s trust in Victor Mete continues to fluctuate.

Price is back in top form, but he’s getting help on the back end. Like most things from March, throw those initial odds out the window, the Canadiens seem ready for the dance — projections be damned.

Darcy Kuemper flirts with ‘elite’ status as Yotes eliminate Preds

The Arizona Coyotes — on the heels of Darcy Kuemper’s astonishing 49-save performance — won their first postseason series in over eight years after knocking off the Nashville Predators in overtime in Game 4.

Aside from Kuemper, it was fourth-liner Brad Richardson playing hero for Arizona in this one, potting the overtime winner in typical journeyman fashion.

The ol’ pinball special:

Michael Grabner, Phil Kessel and Jordan Oesterle also tallied for the Coyotes, but it was Arizona’s tender who almost single-handedly muscled out the victory in both this game and the series as a whole. Through the first three contests, Kuemper turned away 103 of the 11 pucks he faced for a .928 save percentage.

Through regulation in Game 4, Nashville held a 48-31 edge in shots, an 80-60 advantage in attempts, and needed a dying-seconds Filip Forsberg goal just to force this one to OT.

In the extra frame, Kuemper just kept stymying Preds shooters at a fierce pace:

The Coyotes will square off against either Colorado or Vegas in the round of 16.

Beauvillier leads Islanders’ offensive explosion, Panthers eliminated

TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 07:  Brock Nelson #29 of the New York Islanders is congratulated by teammates Derick Brassard #10,Devon Toews #25,Josh Bailey #12 and Anthony Beauvillier #18 after Nelson scored in the second period against the Florida Panthers in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Qualification Round prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 07, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)
The New York Islanders made quick work of the Florida Panthers, advancing to the next round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

It’s safe to say the New York Islanders aren’t characterized by bouts of offensive flair. In fact, of the 24 teams invited back to resume the 2019-20 season, only the Blue Jackets (180) scored fewer goals than the Islanders (192) during the regular season.

Through a week of action, it’s been difficult to find predictive trends from the regular season holding up, and Friday proved no different as Anthony Beauvillier opened the scoring with two consecutive goals, Mat Barzal added a breakaway marker, and the Islanders routed the Florida Panthers 5-1 in a dominant win to advance to the round of 16.

Beauvillier’s first goal is noteworthy as it perfectly captures Sergei Bobrovsky’s underwhelming first season with the Panthers. Standing unmarked near the side of the net, Beauvillier floated a backhand towards the net, banking it off the unsuspecting Bobrovsky’s skates and in. It’s a brutal goal to allow and after signing Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70-million contract, a deal that was perhaps expected to age badly towards the end, the Panthers have to be wildly disappointed about their lack of return on investment in Year 1.

It wouldn’t be Barry Trotz’s Islanders without a commitment to defense and Ryan Pulock, who has quietly been one of the best players of the opening week, robbed Aleksander Barkov of a surefire goal.

Breakaways are always pretty too, as Barzal effectively killed off the Panthers’ season with this slick finish.

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