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Pressure on Panthers, Rangers, Flames lowers 2-1 in series WGN Radio 720

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WASHINGTON (AP) – Aaron Ekblad paused for almost 10 seconds to think about what the Florida Panthers need to do to level their series against the Washington Capitals.

“I think there are a lot of things we could do better,” he said. “I think it’s easy to sum it up: find a game we played in the regular season and turn it into a playoff game we can play.”

This is no longer a regular season where the Panthers have been the NHL’s best team. Now the pressure is on the winners of the Presidential Trophy and two other favorites, who are lagging behind in their series 2-1, in the 3rd game on Monday. The Calgary Flames Pacific Division champion is in the same spot against the Dallas Stars as the New York Rangers against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“The pressure you can handle in two ways,” said Florida interim coach Andrew Brunet. “It can knock you down, or you can lift it up a notch and work harder and raise that level of combat and intensity to a higher level.”

There was a lack of intensity and strong nervousness for the Panthers against an opponent with much more experience in the playoffs and a success story at this time of year. They need to find a remedy for this in Game 4 on Monday night (19:00 EDT, TBS), otherwise they will be on the verge of retirement and another exit in the early postseason.

“If we win the game, we equalize and we’re on home ice again,” forward Sam Reinhart said. “It’s a series of seven games. We have three games and we know that our best hockey has not been played yet, and it is here for us. “

Asked if he could consider including veteran Joe Thornton or other changes to the lineup, Brunett said the Panthers “take everything into account.” The downgrade could also be to make the best pair of defender Mackenzie Wigar, who fought in the series.

“Everything is on the table,” said the Brunette after a short strenuous workout full of combat training. “It’s nice to rest here for a day, in fact a day and a half, and think about a few things. We will make some decisions. “

Decisions for the Capitals seem easy after Ilya Samsonov stopped 29 of 30 shots in his first start to the series. This is the status quo for Washington with right-winger Tom Wilson, which is still expected, and there is no reason for major change.

RANGERS IN PINGUINS (7 PM, ESPN)

The Rangers reached the playoffs with a slight advantage over the Penguins thanks in large part to Igor Shesterkin, who was one of the league’s top goalkeepers this season. They lost their third game in Pittsburgh largely because Shesterkin conceded four goals in 15 shots and got a hook after the first period.

“It’s not easy to beat the goalkeeper,” said Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan. “I think our guys have done a very good job so far, trying to create clean traffic and complicate the review for Shesterkin.”

For the Rangers to overcome the lack of play-off experience against Sidney Crosby, Eugene Malkin and the Penguins, they will almost certainly need Shesterkin to return to the Vezina Trophy. He showed he could do it in the playoffs by making 79 saves in the first game, which tripled in overtime.

The teammates in front of Shasterkin also need to be the best.

“I don’t think we played together, especially at this point in the season,” said forward Chris Crider. “Efforts are not something you question. The point is to work smart, not hard. ”

FLAMES at STARS (21:30, TBS)

The Flames are working hard, but they are in a tough battle against Dallas, which plays in a similar style. There were only seven goals in the series, not counting the empty net, and the attack is hard to find.

On the other hand, confidence is not a problem for Calgary, who scored 111 points in the regular season – 13 more than the Stars.

“I have more than enough faith in this group to know we can get out of this,” said winger Matthew Tkachuk. “We know that this series is ultimately how the two teams play, how competitive it is and similar styles, it will probably be far, if not very close. We have to come here and win one game. “

MVP candidate Johnny Hadro, who led the league by equal points, has just two assists in the series. Like Tkachuk, he is not concerned about the lag of the “Flames” in the first round and offers them to turn the script, despite entering the favorites.

“We’ve been outsiders all year,” Gaudro said. “No one expected us to be where we are now, so we’ll just keep the same mindset that we’ve had all year and we’ll be fine.”

Not if the Stars have anything to do with it. Just like the Capitals and the Penguins, they have more recent success in the playoffs since reaching the Stanley Cup final in 2020 and understand how to deal with the ups and downs from game to game.

“As the series continues, it gets more and more intense,” coach Rick Bownes said. “Calgary does not want to lose 3-1. We want to lose to them 3-1. We want to overcome them with a score of 3-1, so the intensity just coincides with the difficult situation in which the teams found themselves. We can handle it. “

AVALANCHE IN PREDATORS, Colorado leads 3-0 (21:30, ESPN)

The predicament in which the Nashville Predators found themselves is on the verge of being engulfed in an avalanche. Colorado looked like the Cup favorite he was supposed to be, and he has one win left to reach the second round for the fourth year in a row.

Forward Logan O’Connor said Avalanche have the splendor they try to bring to every game. This includes the second of this series, which went into overtime.

“At the beginning of the year, if we had a game like Game 2, we might be disappointed and the guys could go a little bit on their page, try to do something a little more individually,” O’Connor said. “And in that game 2, I think we showed how far we’ve come because everyone was determined to keep doing what we’re doing.”

Colorado was frightened when goalkeeper Darcy Kumper inadvertently hit Ryan Johansen of Nashville on the right eye on Saturday and left the game. Avs coach Jared Bednar said Sunday after further evaluation with Kuemper’s eye, no vision loss, and the only problem was swelling.

Kumper could play in the 4th game if the swelling decreases, but while leading in a 3-0 series Avalanche could play safe and start Paul Francois. No matter who is at the gate, the goal remains the same.

“We have to keep playing the same way as in the first three games of the series,” Bednar said. “I liked all three games with our band. You just know, be resilient. ”

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AP sports writers Will Graves in Pittsburgh, Teresa M. Walker in Nashville and Stephen Hawkins in Dallas.

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Follow AP hockey writer Stephen Wayne on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

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More NHL AP: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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