Makar scores in OT to give Avalanche commanding series lead

Artemi Panarin and Frank Vatrano each had a goal and two assists and the New York Rangers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2 in Game 2 on Thursday night to even the best-of-seven first-round series.

Rangers cruise to Game 2 win to even series with Penguins

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar is swarmed by teammates after scoring against the Nashville Predators during overtime in Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series on Thursday. (Jack Dempsey/The Associated Press)

Cale Makar scored 8:31 into overtime, Darcy Kuemper made 25 saves on his 32nd birthday and the Colorado Avalanche beat the Nashville Predators 2-1 on Thursday night to take a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series.

Makar got the rebound in the middle of the offensive zone and lined it through traffic to touch off the celebration.

Nathan MacKinnon also scored for Colorado, which faced a more intense Nashville defense after winning 7-2 in Game 1. The Predators blocked 34 shots.

The series moves to Nashville for Game 3 on Saturday.

Yakov Trenin scored for Nashville.

Connor Ingram stepped in and stepped up in stopping 48 shots as he made his first postseason start. He allowed MacKinnon's goal on the first shot of the game and turned back everything until Makar's goal.

The 25-year-old Ingram relieved David Rittich in the first game after the Avalanche scored five first-period goals. The Predators remain without top goaltender Juuse Saros, who is sidelined by a lower-body injury but could be back later in the series.

Since moving to Denver, the Avalanche are 14-2 in a best-of-seven playoff series when they capture the opening two games.

Colorado had a goal disallowed in the closing seconds of the second period for goaltender interference. Artturi Lehkonen fell on top of Ingram before a shot from Valeri Nichushkin went in. The Avalanche challenged the play and the officials confirmed the call on replay.

It put Nashville on the power play to start the third. Shortly after, the Predators had a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:52 when Nichushkin went to the penalty box for a high-stick. But they couldn't capitalize. The best scoring chance was Makar on a breakaway, only to have his shot land in the glove of Ingram.

Ingram was at his finest in the third period when he stopped a point-blank shot from Nazem Kadri with his left pad. Ingram spent most of the season with the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League, where he went 30-17-9. He appeared in three regular season games for Nashville this season.

Both teams struggled on the power play, going a combined 0 for 8. There were a combined 110 hits.

The first period was vastly different for the Predators than Game 1, when they allowed five goals. This time, they outshot the Avalanche by an 11-8 margin.

Trenin tied the game at 1-apiece with 4:41 left in the first. He celebrated by jumping into the boards behind the goal.

MacKinnon scored the first goal on the game's first shot 5:25 into the action. He lined in a shot to the stick side of Ingram on a mini-breakaway. MacKinnon has 73 points (31 goals, 42 assists) in 52 career playoff games.

Rangers rout Penguins

Artemi Panarin and Frank Vatrano each had a goal and two assists and the New York Rangers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2 in Game 2 on Thursday night to even the best-of-seven first-round series.

Chris Kreider, Andrew Copp and Ryan Strome also scored for the Rangers. Igor Shesterkin made 39 saves two nights after stopping 79 shots in a triple-overtime loss in Game 1.

Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist, and Jake Guentzel also scored for the Penguins. Louis Domingue, getting the start after replacing the injured Casey DeSmith in the second overtime of Game 1, finished with 34 saves.

Game 3 is Saturday night in Pittsburgh.

With the Rangers leading 3-2 after 40 minutes, the Penguins came out strong in the third period with the first nine shots on goal. Shesterkin stopped a tip by Bryan Rust and then made a diving save to deny a slap shot by Evgeni Malkin in the opening minute of the period. Shesterkin also stopped a slap shot by Guentzel 3 1/2 minutes in and then had a diving save on Crosby's deflection nearly 30 seconds later.

Panarin then extended the lead to 4-2 when his centering pass from beyond the goal line deflected off Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson and past Domingue at 8:02.

Vatrano gave the Rangers a three-goal lead when he got around Matheson in the right circle, skated in and beat Domingue inside the right post at 9:49.

Shesterkin was down on the ice for several minutes following a collision with Pittsburgh's Jeff Carter as the goalie was trying to get back in position from behind the net with about two minutes left.

The Rangers took a 2-1 lead during a power play early in the second period when Adam Fox's slap shot through traffic was deflected by Strome in front and through Domingue's skates at 2:59.

Minutes later, the Penguins had an odd-man rush but ust fired a shot wide off the end boards, and Crosby's sharp-angle attempt from the left side on the rebound was kicked aside by Shesterkin. That got the Madison Square Garden crowd, roaring since Strome's go-ahead goal, to break out in chants of "I-gor! I-gor!"

Kreider pushed the Rangers' lead to 3-1. He deflected Frank Vatrano's point shot past Domingue for his second goal of the series at 7:54.

Crosby pulled the Penguins within one on a rush as he scored from the middle on the rebound of Bryan Rust's backhander with 1:26 left in the middle period.

The Rangers outshot the Penguins 14-11 in a fast-paced and physical first period.

Copp got the Rangers on the scoreboard first again as he got a pass from Panarin and quickly fired a shot past Domingue from the inside edge of the right circle at 6:50. It was his second goal of the series.

Guentzel tied it with his third of the series after a turnover by the Rangers in the neutral zone. Guentzel got the rebound of a shot by Marcus Pettersson in front and fired a slap shot past Shesterkin at 8:52.

Panthers blow out Capitals

Aleksander Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe each had a goal and an assist and the Florida Panthers beat the Washington Capitals 5-1 on Thursday night to even the Eastern Conference first-round series at a game apiece.

Aaron Ekblad, Anton Lundell and Mason Marchment also scored for Florida, the top overall seed in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 26 shots.

Nicklas Backstrom scored for Washington. Vitek Vanecek gave up five goals on 18 shots in the first two periods, and Ilya Samsonov went into the Capitals' net for the third period — stopping all 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes.

The series shifts to Washington, with Game 3 on Saturday and Game 4 on Monday night.

It was just Florida's sixth win in its last 19 home playoff games going back to 1996, and matched the biggest victory margin in franchise playoff history. Florida beat Boston 6-2 in Game 2 of the first round of the 1996 playoffs, the season in which the Panthers went to the Stanley Cup final, and won 5-1 in Pittsburgh later that season in the East finals.

Florida did the bulk of its damage Thursday in a pair of short bursts — two goals in a span of 1:38 late in the first period, then two more goals in a span of 2:08 late in the second period.

The Panthers were almost entirely bottled up for the first 14:30, getting held to two shots in that span — just the third time in 84 games this season that they were held to such a low number that deep into a game.

But the Panthers eventually got a break. Or rather, a bounce.

Florida Panthers center Anton Lundell (15) celebrates his goal during the second period of Game 2 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series against the Washington Capitals on Thursday. (Marta Lavandier/The Associated Press)

Ekblad opened the scoring with a shot that hit a Washington stick, took a big bounce off the ice and got past Vanecek. Barkov tapped in a pass that came through the crease from Jonathan Huberdeau shortly after, and it was 2-0 Florida after one.

Undeterred by a tough angle, Backstrom scored on a power play at 2:44 of the second to cut the lead in half, but Marchment restored the two-goal edge for Florida just 27 seconds later — the Panthers' third goal of the night on just seven shots to that point.

Lundell got his goal by cashing in a give-and-go with Sam Reinhart, then Verhaeghe let fly with a wrist shot that got over Vanecek's glove for the 5-1 lead.

That undoubtedly played a role in the Capitals giving Samsonov the third period, and just as undoubtedly brought back memories of last season when Washington used three goalies in six playoff games thanks to a combination of injuries and COVID-related issues.

The Capitals were without Tom Wilson, who left Game 1 shortly after scoring the opening goal of the series and did not return because of a lower-body injury. His status is listed as day-to-day by the Capitals, who recalled forward Brett Leason from Hershey of the AHL earlier Thursday. Leason made his NHL playoff debut.

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