Published April 19, 2017
After posting two of the top four records in the NHL in the regular season, the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets both need to find out a way to get a win on the road or their playoff runs will end almost as soon as they began.
The Blackhawks were shut out twice at home by Nashville and then blew a 2-0 lead in Game 3 to fall behind 3-0 in the series. Game 4 is Thursday night.
"We're in a tough spot and a place we don't want to be in, but we got a game," defenseman Brent Seabrook said. "We got to worry about one game and try to win one game."
The Blue Jackets have gotten one win so far after dropping the first three games to Pittsburgh. The Penguins don't want to give them any life.
"You have the opportunity to close it out, you want to make sure you do it," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "You could see the desperation in their game and saw the importance of that to be in our game as well."
The other two series Thursday night are much tighter with Edmonton-San Jose and Montreal-New York Rangers tied at two games apiece.
The Sharks evened their series with a 7-0 win at home but the Oilers are focused on the series score rather than the lopsided game.
"It's 2-2. To me, that's the only score that matters," forward Mark Letestu said. "We didn't play the way we wanted to — 7-0, nothing really went our way."
Some things to watch Thursday night:
Rangers at Canadiens, series tied 2-2 (7 p.m. ET, USA)
After the Rangers ended their six-game playoff losing streak at home with Tuesday's 2-1 win , the series shifts back to the Bell Centre.
"We played a better game," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "We were able to give ourselves an opportunity. It's a two out of three (series). That's what we wanted."
After the Rangers won, the Canadiens now have to make adjustments heading home.
While Alexander Radulov has two goals and four assists in the series, captain Max Pacioretty, who had 35 goals and 67 points in the regular season, has only one assist in the first four games for the Canadiens.
Blue Jackets at Penguins, Pittsburgh leads 3-1 (7 p.m., NHL Network)
The defending Stanley Cup champions are hoping a better start will help them finish off Columbus.
The Blue Jackets have outscored the Penguins 5-2 in the first period over the course of the series, including building two-goal leads in both Game 3 and Game 4. Pittsburgh managed to rally and win Game 3 in overtime but couldn't quite get there in a 5-4 loss in Game 4 as Columbus extended its season.
Taking that final step has been a difficult process during the Crosby era in Pittsburgh. While the Penguins have won a pair of Cups during the two-time MVP's tenure, they are just 15-13 in games in which they can eliminate the opponent. Not playing catch-up in the second period would help.
"It's about being ready from the drop of the puck," coach Mike Sullivan said. "It's about the mindset. It's not a wait-and-see approach. We've got to be ready to dictate the terms from the very first puck drop."
Blackhawks at Predators, Nashville leads 3-0 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
The Predators have been led so far this series by their top line of Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg.
Johansen leads the series with five points (one goal, one assist), while Forsberg has scored twice and Arvidsson once through three games. The Blackhawks as a team have scored just twice all series.
"They've got a lot of confidence right now," Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith said. "They've all scored goals in this series."
Nashville isn't overconfident, knowing that the core of this Blackhawks team has won three Stanley Cups in the past seven seasons and won't go out easily.
Sharks at Oilers, series tied 2-2 (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
After San Jose broke through for seven goals in Game 4, the questions are now about what's wrong with Edmonton's offense.
The high-flying Oilers have been held to just five goals through four games with only two coming at even strength. NHL scoring leader Connor McDavid has no points at even strength and no points at all the past two games when he was matched up almost exclusively with San Jose's shutdown defensive pair of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun.
"To contain a guy like that is pretty tough," Sharks center Logan Couture said. "We know that he will get his chances. He's going to create some stuff out there with the puck. We just have to buckle down when he's on the ice."
McDavid needs some help. Edmonton's Leon Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Patrick Maroon have been held to a single assist after combining for 94 goals 213 points in the regular season.
AP Sports Writers Simmi Buttar, Will Graves and Teresa Walker contributed to this report.
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