NHL Playoffs Daily: Who else will go up 2-0 today?


For many series, this is a critical juncture: Teams with a 2-0 lead in a seven-game playoff series are 324-51 (86.4 percent) in those series.

The Vegas Golden Knights are already there. Four more teams — the Colorado Avalanche, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders and Vancouver Canucks — have a chance to join them today.

Check out the ESPN Stanley Cup Playoffs Daily every day of the postseason until the Cup is handed out in October.

Today’s games

All times Eastern.

Game 2: No. 2 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 11 Arizona Coyotes (COL leads 1-0) | 2 p.m.

As Coyotes star Taylor Hall said, “We know that once we get in our end, we’re going to play solid defense and we have a great goalie back there. But can we force them to play on their heels a little bit?” That’s the key for Game 2, as Arizona tries to generate offense and not waste another great goaltending performance from Darcy Kuemper.

Game 2: No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 12 Montreal Canadiens (PHI leads 1-0) | 3 p.m.

With Claude Julien off the Canadiens’ bench after experiencing chest pains on Wednesday night — GM Marc Bergevin said “we don’t expect him to be back with us until the end of this series” — the team is in the hands of assistants Kirk Muller, Dominique Ducharme and Luke Richardson. “We’ll definitely miss Claude, but we have three instructors who have experience as head coaches. Kirk in Carolina, Luke in Binghamton and Dom at the World Junior Championship. So we have some experienced guys who are going to work together and honestly I think we’re ready,” said Bergevin.

Game 2: No. 4 St. Louis Blues vs. No. 7 Vancouver Canucks (VAN leads 1-0) | 6:30 p.m.

The Blues won the Stanley Cup last season doing what they’re going to have do in Game 2: Putting a loss behind them, and grinding away at their opponent. “In the playoffs, you’ve got to move on from things. You can’t dwell on a loss or think about a win too much. You’ve got to move on,” coach Craig Berube said. Please recall goalie Jordan Binnington was 8-2 with a 1.78 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage following a loss in the 2019 postseason. He needs to be better in Game 2 for St. Louis.

Game 2: No. 3 Washington Capitals vs. No. 7 New York Islanders (NYI leads 1-0) | 8 p.m.

The Capitals will be without Nicklas Backstrom, who is in the concussion protocol after a Game 1 hit by Anders Lee; a hit that was called “predatory” by coach Todd Reirden. Fortunately, center Lars Eller is back for Washington following the birth of his son, having quarantined for four days at the hotel. Backstrom is a big loss, but the Capitals did win three of four games they played without their top center en route to winning the Stanley Cup in 2018.

Game 3: No. 3 Dallas Stars vs. No. 8 Calgary Flames (Tied 1-1) | 10:30 p.m.

Losing a game late like the Flames did in Game 2 could be emotionally crushing, but captain Mark Giordano said coming back to play 24 hours later is exactly what they need. “It’s great, because we play tomorrow. It was 4-4 with a minute left. Didn’t go our way at the end, and we get to play tomorrow,” he said.

Question of the day: Are the NHL’s empty arena games ‘dull?’

The intensity of the Hurricanes vs. Bruins Game 2 made it look like a playoff game. Despite playing in two empty arenas, the NHL is pumping so much sound into the buildings that it sounds like a playoff game. But Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask says it feels more like an exhibition game.

“To be honest with you, it doesn’t really feel like playoff hockey out there. There are no fans, so it’s kind of like playing an exhibition game,” said Rask.

He expanded on the thought: “You’re trying to play as hard as you can. Obviously, you’re playing a best-of-seven series so there’s going to be some battles going on and whatnot. But when you play at your home rink, you play at an away rink, and there’s fans cheering for you or against you … that creates another buzz around the series. There’s none of that, so it just feels dull at times,” he said. “There might be five minutes and it’s just coast-to-coast hockey and there’s no atmosphere. It just feels like an exhibition game.”

While some players have pointed out how different the atmosphere feels, Rask is the first to outright call it “dull.”

Bet of the day

Dallas over Calgary (-107, money line). The Stars were 7-3-2 in the second half of back-to-back games this season averaging 3.25 goals per game, compared to 2.58 overall. The Flames were 5-4 and averaged 2.44 goals, compared to 2.91 overall. Check back on the money line later for value, but we like the Stars here.

About last night…

Columbus Blue Jackets 3, Tampa Bay Lightning 1 (Tied 1-1)

After the five-overtime classic in Game 1, the Jackets looked like they could skate another five extra sessions in Game 2. They outworked the Lightning, as Ryan Murray and Oliver Bjorkstrand scored in the first period to answer the Lightning’s opening goal. Joonas Korpisalo did the rest, with 36 saves. “We kind of clogged up our D-zone. Whenever there seemed to be a miscue or something happened, someone was right there to block it with a good stick or something like that. Korpi had some big saves. It was huge to see the guys play like that,” said Murray. Full recap.

Vegas Golden Knights 4, Chicago Blackhawks 3 (OT) (VGK leads 2-0)

Reilly Smith scored 7:13 into overtime on a perfect feed from linemate Paul Stastny, as the Golden Knights survived a desperate performance from the Blackhawks to take a 2-0 series lead. Smith earlier assisted on Stastny’s opening goal. Patrick Kane had three points in the loss. Vegas was without forward Max Pacioretty (unfit to play). Full recap.



Reilly Smith converts in front of the net to break a 3-3 tie in overtime and give the Golden Knights a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Blackhawks.

Carolina Hurricanes 3, Boston Bruins 2 (Tied 1-1)

Dougie Hamilton scored the go-ahead goal at 8:30 of the third period and James Reimer made 33 saves as the Hurricanes won a battle with the Bruins and tied their series. “It was just one of those nights that I felt like good things were going to happen to us. Just the way our engagement, from the start of the game,” said Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour. Boston was without forward David Pastrnak (unfit to play). Full recap.

Dallas Stars 5, Calgary Flames 4 (Tied 1-1)

What many felt was going to be a snooze of a series is instead a brutally physical, occasionally controversial and offensively thrilling affair instead. Calgary erased a 4-2 lead in the third period, but Jamie Oleksiak scored the tie-breaking goal with 40 seconds left in regulation. Miro Heiskanen had two goals and Ben Bishop made 22 saves in his first appearance in the series. Point of concern for Calgary: Matthew Tkachuk left the game at 4:51 of the third period when he was sandwiched between Oleksiak and Jamie Benn. The team didn’t comment on his status for Friday night’s Game 3. Full recap.

Three Stars

1. Joonas Korpisalo, G, Columbus Blue Jackets

Another day, another first star for the Columbus goaltender, who made 36 saves to secure the win for the Jackets over Tampa Bay. “We all know in the dressing room that he is one of the best goalies in the NHL, and he’s feeling really good right now,” center Pierre-Luc Dubois said. “Every time we make a little mistake, he’s there to stop the puck, giving us confidence to try plays, and that’s all you can ask for a goalie. And since Game 1, since he started (the postseason), he’s been amazing for us.”

2. Reilly Smith, RW, Vegas Golden Knights

Smith is putting together a heck of a postseason so far. His OT goal was his third of the playoffs, to go along with four assists. “He’s not the biggest guy out there, but he’s hungry for the puck all the time. He makes these little plays all the time. He never quits on a play,” said Knights center Paul Stastny.

3. Miro Heiskanen, D, Dallas Stars

The Stars defenseman scored two goals, was a plus-3 and played a game high 25:20 in their win over Calgary. He’s the youngest defenseman in franchise history and fourth-youngest in NHL history to score multiple goals in a postseason game

Quote of the day

“It’s my grandma’s birthday today, so I think that one is for her.” — Carolina defenseman Dougie Hamilton on his game-winning goal.

Social post of the day

The Hurricanes continue their run as the postseason’s greatest team social media feed by tweeting the check that owner Tom Dundon cut to pay Rod Brind’Amour‘s fine for criticism of the referees in Game 1. The memo: “Fast pay makes fast friends.”

Controversy of the day

Andrew Mangiapane had this potential game-tying goal in the third period called back for a “distinct kicking motion” as his skate popped the puck into the Dallas net while falling. Calgary’s Mark Giordano noted the oddness of a “kicking motion” when a player is falling down, but said the ultimate decision was out of their hands.

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