The NHL's best team during the regular season is one loss away from a second-round elimination.
The Boston Bruins have faced as much adversity as any team inside the NHL bubble, and it's starting to show. Starting goaltender—and Vezina Trophy finalist—Tuukka Rask opted out during the first round, Rocket Richard Trophy winner David Pastrnak missed three games, Patrice Bergeron has been banged up and now it's all coming to a head against a mighty Tampa Bay Lightning team.
No Presidents' Trophy-winning team has captured the Stanley Cup since the Chicago Blackhawks accomplished the feat in 2013. Boston will need to make history in coming back from a 3-1 deficit if it hopes to avoid extending streak.
Here's a look at where the NHL playoffs stand after Saturday's action.
(E2) Tampa Bay Lightning def. (E4) Boston Bruins, 3-1 (TB leads series 3-1)
(E6) New York Islanders def. (E1) Philadelphia Flyers, 3-1 (NYI leads series 2-1)
(W1) Vegas Golden Knights def. (W5) Vancouver Canucks, 3-0 (VGK leads series 2-1)
Ondrej Palat, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning: 2 goals, 5 SOG, 3 Hits
Nikita Kucherov, RW, Tampa Bay Lightning: 2 assists, 3 SOG, 3 Hits
Jordan Eberle, RW, New York Islanders: 2 assists, 1 SOG, 16:14 TOI
Anders Lee, LW, New York Islanders: 1 goal, 2 SOG, 3 Hits, 1 Block
Robin Lehner, G, Vegas Golden Knights: 31 Saves, 0 Goals Allowed
Mark Stone, RW, Vegas Golden Knights, 1 goal, 1 SOG, 2 Hits
Lightning 1 Win from Eastern Conference Final
Ondrej Palat is heating up. So is the Tampa Bay Lightning power play.
The combination may spell an early end to the postseason for the Boston Bruins.
Palat scored the first two goals in Saturday's Game 4, helping give Tampa a 3-0 lead after two periods that proved more than enough for a 3-1 victory. The Bruins' only goal came 7:04 into the final frame when Jake DeBrusk capitalized on a feed from Charlie Coyle. Victor Hedman added the third goal for the Lightning at 18:04 of the second period.
After Boston won Game 1, 4-3, it's been all Tampa Bay, with the Bolts winning three straight and giving up just five goals. More impressively, the Lightning won Games 3 and 4 by a combined score of 10-2.
During that stretch Tampa snapped an 0-of-15 power play streak and have since converted on four of their last 11 opportunities.
Saturday did provide a bit of a bounce-back game for Boston goalie Jaroslav Halak (23 saves on 26 shots), but conceding the opening goal on just the fourth shot he faced forced his team to play from behind for the remaining 50 minutes of the game.
The Bruins have never successfully battled back from a 3-1 deficit before. Should they find a way to do it against the Lightning, it will be only the 30th time in NHL history a club has blown a 3-1 lead.
Game 5: Monday at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
Philadelphia's Hart Condition
The Philadelphia Flyers may have a number of problems to solve if it wants to advance, but 22-year-old goalie Carter Hart isn't one of them.
This is, after all, the same goalie who blanked the Montreal Canadiens in back-to-back games during the first round and who was able to help steal Game 2 from the New York Islanders on Wednesday. But his job gets considerably tougher when he's forced to play in front of a snakebitten offense and a defense that's been letting up more shots in the second round than it did in the first.
Montreal averaged 28.5 shots on net per game over a six-game series. New York is averaging 30.3 shots on goal through three games.
Unfortunately, when given a lead to protect in Game 3 after Tyler Pitlick scored 14:18 into the first period, Hart couldn't hang on. Matt Martin and Leo Komarov scored 12 minutes apart in the second period, with the latter goal coming just six seconds before intermission to give New York the lead.
It was a back-breaking goal the Flyers couldn't recover from.
Philadelphia has been outscored 10-5 this series. That's not a goaltending issue. It's an offensive one.
Game 4: Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.
Knights Quiet the Canucks
The Vegas Golden Knights showed why they are the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference on Saturday by handing an agonizing loss to the fifth-seeded Vancouver Canucks.
Goalie Robin Lehner put together a perfect game with 31 saves in a 3-0 Game 3 victory—his second shutout of this series—as the Knights held Vancouver to 0-of-5 on the power play, blocked 22 shots and outhit the Canucks 39-30.
The young Vancouver team could do little to slow things down.
Alex Tuch and Zach Whitecloud scored 83 seconds apart barely five minutes into the first period as Vegas seized control of the game early and refused to give it up. After Mark Stone netted his sixth goal of the playoffs 2:19 into the third period, the game was all but over.
Vegas entered the night 7-0 when scoring three or more goals in a postseason game. Vancouver wasn't going to break that streak.
Despite trailing for the majority of the game, the Canucks were outshot in both the second and third periods and were held to just nine shots in the final frame. The attack of Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser landed 10 shots on net combined, yet there was simply not enough sustained pressure on Lehner to avoid being shut out.
Game 4: Sunday at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.