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NHL Puck Drops: Fast starters

Los Angeles Kings right wing Dustin Brown, left, jumps out of the way of the puck as it goes between the legs of Vegas Golden Knights defenceman Brayden McNabb as goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, right, looks on during Game 3 of the teams NHL first-round playoff series in Los Angeles, Calif.
AP Photo/Chris Carlson
Los Angeles Kings right wing Dustin Brown, left, jumps out of the way of the puck as it goes between the legs of Vegas Golden Knights defenceman Brayden McNabb as goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, right, looks on during Game 3 of the teams NHL first-round playoff series in Los Angeles, Calif. AP Photo/Chris Carlson - Associated Press

Pundit talks teams jumping out to two-game leads in the NHL playoffs

Barely a week into the opening round of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs, five clubs – Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals, Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche and New Jersey Devils - found themselves down two games to none in their respective best-of-seven series. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Kings face elimination after dropping three straight contests to the Vegas Golden Knights. 

The Kings have faced this scenario before, overcoming a 3-0 opening-round deficit in the 2014 playoffs to defeat the San Jose Sharks in seven games. Several of their current stars, such as Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter, were part of that comeback. Still, they face long odds repeating that feat against the motivated Golden Knights. 

As for the others, winning their next two games are crucial to their hopes of overcoming their current predicaments. 

Rebounding Leafs?

After suffering lopsided defeats to the powerful Boston Bruins, the Maple Leafs hope to bounce back as their series shifts to Toronto. The Bruins took advantage of the Leafs porous blue-line while shutting down offensive stars Auston Matthews, Patrick Marleau and William Nylander. Compounding the Leafs' woes is the loss of centre Nazem Kadri to a three-game suspension. 

Psych’ed out

Suffering consecutive overtime defeats to the Columbus Blue Jackets will do little to soothe Washington's fragile postseason psyche. Despite the efforts of offensive stars Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeni Kuznetsov, the Capitals' inability to hold two-goal leads against the Jackets has their followers anticipating yet another playoff meltdown. 

Duck-ing for cover

After being shut out 3-0 in Game 1 against the Sharks, the Ducks had a better effort in their 3-2 loss the following game. Their leading scorers (Rickard Rakell, Corey Perry, Adam Henrique, Ondrej Kase) were shut down by the Sharks in both games. If they don't cash in soon, the Ducks could be in trouble. 

Avs so close but so far

While the Avalanche face a tough opponent in the league-leading Nashville Predators, they're not going down without a fight. Led by Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, the Avalanche held a 2-2 tie with the Predators in Game 1 through two periods before losing 5-2, then overcame three two-goal deficits in their next game before dropping a 5-4 decision. 

Having a Devil of a time

The underdog Devils aren't backing against the powerhouse Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite falling 5-3 in Game 2, they outshot the Lightning 44-26. While the Lightning's scoring depth has thus far made the difference in this series, Devils forwards Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Travis Zajac are proving difficult to contain.

Perhaps these clubs should look to the Minnesota Wild and Philadelphia Flyers for inspiration. 

The Wild were down two games to none against the Winnipeg Jets, but rebounded with a convincing 6-2 victory in Game 3. 

The Flyers bounced back from a 7-0 Game 1 defeat against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a convincing 5-1 victory in the following game. Though they suffered another lopsided loss in Game 3, they have a chance to tie the series on Wednesday. 

Lyle Richardson is a freelance writer with Sporting News and runs the website Spector’s Hockey. His column will appear in The Guardian throughout the NHL hockey season.

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