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NHL playoffs | How they matchup: Lightning-Islanders, Capitals-Penguins

NHL playoffs | How they matchup: Lightning-Islanders, Capitals-Penguins
Victor Hedman (77) Ryan Callahan (24) and Ben Bishop (30) of the Lightning defend the net during a playoff game against the Red Wings on April 21. (Mike Carlson / Getty Images)

NHL PLAYOFFS | EASTERN CONFERENCE

A2. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 46-31-5, 97 pts
1st round: def. Detroit, 4-1

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W1. NEW YORK ISLANDERS 45-27-10, 100
1st round: def. Florida, 4-2

Power play: Season — Lightning 15.8% (28th); Islanders 18.3% (17th). Playoffs — Lightning 17.4% (10th); Islanders 23.8% (6th).

Penalty killing: Season — Lightning 84% (7th); Islanders 84.5% (4th). Playoffs —Lightning 96% (1st); Islanders 86.7% (5th)

Top scorers: Season — Lightning, Nikita Kucherov 30-36—66; Islanders, John Tavares 33-37—70. Playoffs — Lightning, Kucherov 5-3—8; Islanders, Tavares 5-4—9.

Outlook: The Lightning had fewer points during the regular season but got home-ice advantage because the Islanders made the playoffs as a wild-card team. In the absence of Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay's dynamic line of Kucherov, Tyler Johnson (two goals, seven points) and Alex Killorn (three goals, five points) dominated Detroit. Goaltender Ben Bishop (1.61 goals-against average, .950 save percentage) can win games almost on his own. Tavares was magnificent in the Islanders' first playoff series win since 1993, but he'll need scoring support. Goalie Thomas Greiss (1.79, .944) was solid against Florida. but must prove he can sustain that level.

Helene Elliott's pick: The Lightning's playoff experience will prevail. Tampa Bay in six.

SCHEDULE

Game 1 | Wednesday at Tampa Bay, 4
Game 2 | Saturday at Tampa Bay, noon
Game 3 | Tuesday at New York, 4 p.m.
Game 4 | May 6 at New York, 4 p.m.
Game 5* | May 8 at Tampa Bay, TBD
Game 6* | May 10 at New York, TBD
Game 7* | May 12 at Tampa Bay, TBD
*if necessary; times PDT

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Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin (8) shakes hands with Penguins forward Sidney Crosby (87) following Game 7 of a second-round playoff series in 2009.
Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin (8) shakes hands with Penguins forward Sidney Crosby (87) following Game 7 of a second-round playoff series in 2009. (Bruce Bennett / Associated Press)

M1. WASHINGTON CAPITALS 56-18-8, 120
1st round: def. Philadelphia, 4-2

M2. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS 48-26-8, 104
1st round: def. N.Y. Rangers, 4-1

Power play: Season — Capitals 21.9% (fifth); Penguins 18.4% (16th). Playoffs — Capitals 29.6% (third); Penguins 38.1% (first).

Penalty killing: Season — Capitals 85.2% (second); Penguins 84.4% (fifth); Playoffs — Capitals 95.8% (second); Penguins 89.5% (fourth).

Top scorers: Season — Capitals, Evgeny Kuznetsov, 20-57—77; Penguins, Sidney Crosby 36-49—85. Playoffs — Capitals, Nicklas Backstrom 2-5—7; Penguins, Crosby 3-5—8.

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Outlook: Alex Ovechkin and Crosby will meet in the playoffs for the second time; the first was in the second round in 2009. Ovechkin led the NHL in goals (50) and Crosby awoke after Mike Sullivan became the coach and ranked third in scoring. MVP candidate Braden Holtby of Washington leads goalies in postseason play at 0.84 and .968. The Capitals will need Backstrom to play as well as he did in the first round, and they'll have their hands full with Pittsburgh's deep scoring and mobile defense. The key will be rookie Penguins goalie Matt Murray (1.33, .955) and his ability to handle pressure.

Helene Elliott's pick: If Justin (Mr. Game 7) Williams' clutch play rubs off on his teammates, Capitals in 7.

SCHEDULE
Game 1 | Thursday at Washington, 5 p.m.
Game 2 | Saturday at Washington, 5 p.m.
Game 3 | Monday at Pittsburgh, 5 p.m.
Game 4 | May 4 at Pittsburgh, 5 p.m.
Game 5* | May 7 at Washington, TBD
Game 6* | May 10 at Pittsburgh, TBD
Game 7* | May 12 at Washington, TBD
*if necessary; times PDT

Follow Helene Elliott on Twitter @helenenothelen

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