NHL·NHL PLAYOFF ROUNDUP

Heinen's goal ignites late surge as Penguins top Rangers, take series lead

Danton Heinen's first playoff goal in three years just past the midway point of the third period broke a tie to lift the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 7-4 victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday night to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round Eastern Conference series.

Avs push Preds to brink of elimination; Capitals take 2-1 series lead over Panthers

Penguins' Danton Heinen (43) shoots the puck past New York goalie Alexandar Georgiev during the third period of Pittsburgh's 7-4 home win over the Rangers in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series on Saturday night. (Gene J. Puskar/The Associated Press)

Danton Heinen's first playoff goal in three years just past the midway point of the third period broke a tie to lift the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 7-4 victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday night to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round Eastern Conference series.

Pittsburgh blew a three-goal first-period lead but recovered behind the play of third-string goaltender Louis Domingue and Heinen, who jumped on a loose puck near the New York goal line and flicked a shot by Alexandar Georgiev 11:02 into the third to put the Penguins in front to stay.

Game 4 is Monday night in Pittsburgh.

Evan Rodrigues had two goals and assisted on another for the Penguins, who won despite any member of the top line of Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust not recording a point until Guentzel's empty-netter with 2:14 to play sealed it. Jeff Carter also scored twice for the Penguins while Brock McGinn started the scoring on a wild night with his first goal of the playoffs.

Domingue made 32 saves and even recorded an assist in his second playoff start. The 30-year-old journeyman put together a flurry of stops early in the third period with the Penguins on the penalty kill to set the stage for Heinen's heroics.

Kaapo Kakko, Frank Vatrano, Artemi Panarin and Andrew Copp scored for the Rangers. Georgiev finished with 19 saves on 20 shots after taking over for Vezina Trophy-favorite Igor Shesterkin, who was chased after allowing four goals in the first period.

The Penguins sent Shesterkin to the bench with a dazzling first period in which they erupted for four goals — two by Rodrigues — only to promptly squander it with a second-period meltdown culminated by a turnover by defenceman Kris Letang that led directly to Copp's short-handed tally that tied it at 4.

The Penguins earned a split in New York to start the series by relying on the top line of Crosby, Guentzel and Rust to do most of the heavy lifting. The trio scored five of Pittsburgh's six goals at Madison Square Garden, the other provided by Evgeni Malkin's game-winner in triple overtime in the opener.

Avalanche take 3-0 series lead against Predators

Gabriel Landeskog scored twice in the second period, and the top-seeded Colorado Avalanche beat the Nashville Predators 7-3 Saturday for a commanding 3-0 lead in their first-round Western Conference series.

Landeskog also had two assists. Nazem Kadri and Devon Toews each added a goal and an assist, and Artturi Lehkonen and Nathan MacKinnon scored a power-play goal apiece as Colorado went 4-for-5 on the man advantage to push Nashville to the brink of elimination. Cale Makar had three assists.

Valeri Nichushkin added an empty-net goal with 2:46 left. The Avs had a couple missed opportunities once Nashville pulled goalie Connor Ingram with more than four minutes remaining.

Avalanche goalie Darcy Kuemper was hurt with a minute left in the first period. Pavel Francouz replaced him and made 20 saves in his seventh playoff appearance of his career.

Avalanche centre Nathan MacKinnon (29) scored in the opening period of a 7-3 win over the Predators in game three of their Stanley Cup first-round playoff series on Saturday in Nashville, Tenn. (Mark Zaleski/The Associated Press)

Matt Duchene, Eeli Tolvanen and captain Roman Josi each scored goals for Nashville. Alexandre Carrier had two assists.

This is the first time the Predators have trailed 0-3 in a series, and they will try to avoid being swept for the first time in their 15 playoff appearances in Game 4 on Monday night.

Colorado has simply dominated the Predators, outscoring them 16-6 with a 137-81 difference in shots through the first three games.

Lehkonen got the Avs on the board first yet again midway through the first on yet another Nashville penalty, deflecting a slap shot by Toews. MacKinnon made it 2-0 just 21 seconds into the Avs' next man advantage at 16:07.

Duchene got Nashville on the board, scoring on a wrister at 17:37. Then Predators centre Ryan Johansen's stick caught Kuemper's face, and Francouz replaced him in net.

The Predators managed to score twice on the man advantage in the second with Tolvanen scoring from the dot in the left face-off circle at 5:41. Landeskog beat Ingram with a backhander on the man advantage midway through the second for a 3-2 lead, then Josi tied it with a slap shot from the blue line at 12:11.

Landeskog scored his second at 14:02 to put Colorado ahead to stay.

The Avs got another man advantage when Nashville lost its challenge of Landeskog's goal for Lehkonen interfering with Ingram after Predators forward Mikael Granlund blamed for the contact. When Ingram played the puck behind the net, lost the puck and Kadri scored into the open net just 39 seconds later for a 5-3 lead.

Toews padded the lead with a shot from the top of the left circle midway through the third.

Capitals cruise past Panthers

Ilya Samsonov rebounded after allowing an early goal, and the Washington Capitals bounced back on Saturday to show they can very much hang with the Presidents' Trophy-winning Florida Panthers.

Samsonov made 29 saves, Alex Ovechkin scored a power-play goal and assisted on another and the Capitals blew out the Panthers 6-1 in Game 3 to take a 2-1 lead in the first-round series. Chants of "Sammy! Sammy!" gave way to "Ovi! Ovi! in the third period of the convincing victory.

Game 4 is Monday in Washington.

T.J. Oshie deflected Ovechkin's shot for one power-play goal, and Marcus Johansson, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Garnet Hathaway also scored for the Capitals, who shook off a 5-1 loss in Game 2 and an early deficit in Game 3 behind the play of their new starting goaltender and a stingy effort that stymied the NHL's best regular-season offense.

Samsonov got the nod to replace Vitek Vanecek in net after stopping all 17 shots in relief Thursday. He got off to a rough start, giving up a goal to league MVP candidate Jonathan Huberdeau less than three minutes in — then stopped every shot he saw the rest of the way.

With Samsonov the backbone at even strength and short-handed, Washington's penalty kill improved to 9 of 9 against Florida, which ranked fifth on the power play this season at just under 25%. The Panthers also led the league in scoring at more than four goals a game.

But this series against an opponent with more experience in postseason hockey — seven players remain from Washington's 2018 Stanley Cup championship — has been another rough lesson for the Panthers about how to win the playoffs. Ill-advised penalties by top-pairing defenceman Mackenzie Weegar and Huberdeau paved the way for the power-play goals, a missed defensive assignment opened the door for Johansson's and a turnover in the corner led to van Riemsdyk's.

Expected deep playoff run

Similar mistakes cost Florida in the first round last year: a loss to Tampa Bay on the way to the Lightning's second of back-to-back titles. Only this time, the Panthers were expected to make a deep run after compiling an NHL-best 122 points on 58 victories in 82 games.

If they don't win three more within the next eight days, it'll go down as another disappointment for a franchise that hasn't advanced in the playoffs since 1996 and entered the post-season as one of the favoUrites to hoist the Cup.

The Eastern Conference eighth-seeded Capitals improved to 4 of 12 on the power play in the series. Their victory guaranteed at least two more home playoff games this spring.

Ovechkin's goal was his 72nd in the playoffs, tying him with Patrick Marleau and Esa Tikkanen for 14th on the career list. His 28 power-play goals are tied for seventh.

Capitals right-winger Tom Wilson missed a second consecutive game with a lower-body injury.

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