Six games were on the slate for Friday and in every matchup there was a team facing elimination from the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
The New York Islanders, Arizona Coyotes, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks advanced to the next round of the postseason with Game 4 wins in their best-of-five series. Those victories knocked out the Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers and Minnesota Wild from the postseason picture. They will join the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets in the Alexis Lafreniere sweepstakes at Monday’s Phase 2 2020 NHL Draft Lottery.
The Penguins and Oilers ranked seventh (.623) and 12th (.585) overall in points percentage, respectively, at the time of the pause of the 2019-20 season. However, they were both eliminated by the No. 12 seeds in each conference, as the Canadiens and Blackhawks orchestrated surprising series victories. Arizona was the No. 11 seed in the Western Conference with a .529 points percentage, but that didn’t stop them from upsetting the Predators (.565 points percentage) in the qualifying round.
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The Toronto Maple Leafs were the only team that managed to force Game 5 with a stunning comeback win in overtime over Columbus. The winner of the series will be determined on Sunday night.
NY ISLANDERS 5 FLORIDA 1 (Islanders win series 3-1)
The New York Islanders knocked the Florida Panthers out of the playoffs in Game 4 on Friday. The Islanders failed to complete the sweep on Wednesday, but turned in a dominant effort to advance in the Stanley Cup tournament and send the Panthers packing.
Anthony Beauvillier scored the first two goals of the contest and he’s second marker held up as the game winner. He was the best skater for the Islanders in the qualifying round, while leading the team with five points. Beauvillier was also tied for the club lead with three goals.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau also scored his third goal of the series when he sealed the win with an empty-netter.
Semyon Varlamov stopped 24 of 25 shots in the win. He finished the Stanley Cup Qualifiers with a 1.76 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in four games.
Mike Hoffman was Florida’s most productive player in the series. He led the team with three goals and five points. Hoffman finished the qualifying round with a three-game goal spree. He is eligible for unrestricted free agency.
Sergei Bobrovsky ended up with a 3.07 goals-against average and .901 save percentage in four games. That’s not the game-changer in the crease that Florida was hoping for when the organization paid big bucks for him last summer.
The Islanders will play against the winner of Sunday’s round-robin contest between Washington and Boston in the next round.
NASHVILLE 3 ARIZONA 4 (OT) (Coyotes win series 3-1)
Brad Richardson scored the overtime - and series - winner at the 5:27 mark of the first extra period to move the Coyotes into the next round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and put the Predators out of the Edmonton bubble.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson registered two assists in Friday’s win. He had the primary helper on goals by Michael Grabner and Jordan Oesterle, who became the fifth Coyotes player to score his first career playoff goal in the series.
Phil Kessel also got his first goal of the series in Game 4. He also chipped in three assists and 10 shots on target in the series.
Darcy Kuemper stopped a whopping 49 shots in the contest. He faced 40 or more shots in three of the four games. Oddly enough, the only match when the Predators had less than that (28 shots in Game 2), he surrendered four goals and lost.
Filip Forsberg generated one goal and one assist in the contest. He potted the game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation, but that didn’t deter the Coyotes.
Matt Duchene got his first goal of the series when Nashville had a power play in the second period. He had two points in four playoff outings. Duchene replaced Viktor Arvidsson on the top line after the latter left Friday’s game due to an injury. Arvidsson, who had Nashville’s other goal in the loss, exited after the second period after he was struck by the puck in the midsection.
Juuse Saros started all four games for the Predators in the series. He posted a 3.22 goals-against average and .895 save percentage.
Arizona will play against the loser of Saturday’s Vegas-Colorado round-robin contest in the next round of the postseason.
PITTSBURGH 0 MONTREAL 2 (Canadiens win series 3-1)
The Canadiens posted a shutout win in Game 4 to send the Penguins packing from the Toronto bubble on Friday. Carey Price turned aside all 22 shots he faced for his sixth career goose egg in the postseason. He concluded the series with a 1.67 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.
Evgeni Malkin didn’t score a goal in four games against the Canadiens, but he led the Penguins with 21 shots on target in the series. He contributed just one assist.
Sidney Crosby turned 33 years of age on Friday, but it wasn’t a very happy birthday for the Penguins captain. Still, he co-led the team with two goals and three points in the series.
Artturi Lehkonen tallied the first goal of the match at the 15:49 mark of the third period and it ended up being the game winner. It was a fairly low-event contest prior to the third frame when it livened up a bit.
Shea Weber, who was a workhorse in the series, scored an empty-netter to seal Montreal’s win. He averaged 25:53 of ice time per match, while posting two goals and two assists.
Montreal will play against the winner of Saturday’s round-robin match between Tampa Bay and Philadelphia in the next round.
EDMONTON 2 CHICAGO 3 (Blackhawks win series 3-1)
The Blackhawks pulled off the second stunning upset of the day with a win over the Oilers.
Connor McDavid picked up his second assist of the contest on a goal by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the second period to even the score at 2-2 heading to the third frame. McDavid amassed nine points, including five goals, in the series, while Nugent-Hopkins collected eight points, including six assists in four games.
Mikko Koskinen made 26 saves in the match, but allowed a goal to Dominik Kubalik at 8:30 of the third period. That stood up as the game winner. Koskinen didn’t help Edmonton’s late push to tie it when he contributed to a too many men on the ice penalty at the 17:57 mark. He was coming out for an extra attacker, but stopped and Oilers were called for the infraction.
Corey Crawford was superb at the other end of the ice, while stopping 43 of 45 shots. It wasn’t a pretty series for him overall, with a 3.75 GAA and .891 save percentage, but he saved his best for last and it helped Chicago to advance.
The Blackhawks will face the winner of the Vegas-Colorado game in the next round of the postseason.
TORONTO 4 COLUMBUS 3 (OT) (Series tied 2-2)
The Blue Jackets rallied from three goals down to win Game 3 by a score of 4-3 in overtime on Thursday and a night later the Maple Leafs returned the favor. Toronto became the third team in NHL history to win a postseason game by overcoming a three-goal deficit in the final four minutes of regulation and the first team to accomplish that feat after losing their previous game (regular season or playoffs) by surrendering a lead of three-plus goals.
Auston Matthews had a big night with one goal and two assists in the victory. He scored the game winner at the 13:10 mark of the first overtime period on a Leafs power play after he set up John Tavares and Zach Hyman, who scored the game-tying goal with a little over 22 seconds remaining.
William Nylander got the ball rolling when he jammed the puck into the net at 16:03 of the third period. Mitch Marner collected three assists in the contest, while Hyman, Tavares and Nylander posted two-point efforts.
Frederik Andersen stopped 36 of 39 shots in the victory.
Elvis Merzlikins got the nod for Columbus following his relief win in Game 3 and he was busy while facing 53 shots. However, he was on the losing end after Columbus’ late-game collapse.
Columbus was missing Zach Werenski for most of the third period and he didn’t play in overtime either. There was no update on his status following the match.
A series-deciding Game 5 between the two teams will take place on Sunday night.
VANCOUVER 5 MINNESOTA 4 (OT) (Canucks win series 3-1)
The Wild opened the scoring just before the three-minute mark of the first period when Luke Kunin scored on the power play. It was his second goal of the series.
The teams continued to trade goals in the second when Joel Eriksson Ek scored and Brandon Sutter replied for Vancouver less than two minutes later and then Quinn Hughes’ first career playoff goal evened the score at 3-3.
Nico Sturm joined the first playoff goal party in the final minute of the second period when he gave the Wild the lead again. It was also his first goal at the NHL level.
The Canucks will play against the loser of Sunday’s match between St. Louis and Dallas in the next round.