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Around the NHL: Getting Closer to an All Wildcard East Final

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Could the final two teams to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference also be the two teams facing each other in the Eastern Conference Final? It’s starting to become more of a possibility.

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes both made the playoffs in the two wildcard spots in the East and pulled off upsets of the two division winners in the first round. Now, both teams hold the lead in their respective second round series after three games.

More on the progress of the second round of the playoffs in this Around the NHL update.

Eastern Conference

Hurricanes Take Commanding Lead on Islanders

Carolina stunned the defending Stanley Cup champions with a double-overtime win in Game 7 to advance to the second round. This little team that could continues to roll.

In a pair of defensive battles, the Hurricanes grabbed the Game 1 win on Jordan Staal’s goal in overtime in a 1-0 decision, then scored twice in the first 65 seconds of the third period in Game 2 to take a 2-1 lead and held on for the win to take a 2-0 series lead.

With the series back in Carolina, the Hurricanes kept rolling along. After trading goals in the first two periods, the Hurricanes pulled ahead for good with a goal by Justin Williams and iced the game with two empty-net goals, sealing a 5-2 win to open up a 3-0 series lead.

Game 4 of the series is on Friday night.

Columbus Pulls Ahead of Boston

After the first-round upsets, Boston became the NHL’s top seed remaining in the playoffs, finishing third in the league standings. They too are now facing a similar fate at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It took a third-period rally for the Bruins to pick up a Game 1 win. Charlie Coyle scored the game-tying goal with 4:35 to play in the third to tie the game and won it at 5:15 of overtime.

Game 2 also featured overtime, going beyond the initial 20 minutes into a second overtime. Matt Duchene scored the winning goal on the power play at 3:42 to even the series.

In Game 3 in Columbus, the Blue Jackets opened up a 2-0 lead with a first-period goal by Boone Jenner and a second-period power-play goal by Duchene. Late in the second, the Bruins got a goal after a lengthy review on a play that was determined to be a continuation before the whistle blew and the goal was allowed. Despite the critical late goal in the period to get the margin to one, the Bruins were shut down the rest of the way by tremendous goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky and Columbus emerged as a 2-1 winner to take a 2-1 series lead.

Game 4 in the series is on Thursday night.

Western Conference

Couture’s Hat Trick Gives Sharks Series Lead

Riding the emotion from their incredible comeback win over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 7 of the first round, the San Jose Sharks rolled to a 5-2 win in Game 1 over Colorado.

Colorado held off a furious rally by the Sharks to come away with a 4-3 win in Game 2.

The Sharks regained control of the series in Game 3 behind a hat trick from Logan Couture. Couture scored the winning goal just 65 seconds after Colorado tied the game and iced the game with an empty-net goal to complete the hat trick.

Game 4 of the series is on Thursday night.

Blues-Stars All Even After 4

The Blues got some star power for the win in Game 1 with Vladimir Tarasenko scoring twice in a 3-2 win.

Dallas answered back in Game 2 with three goals in the opening period before holding on for a 4-2 win to even the series.

Game 3 was a wild back-and-forth affair that featured four goals in the final period. St. Louis had a 2-1 lead after two periods. At the 13:06 mark, Dallas tied the game with Andrew Cogliano scoring shorthanded. Alex Pietrangelo broke the 2-2 tie just 1:18 later. Tyler Seguin scored off a great feed from Miro Heiskanen just 1:28 after that to tie the game at three.

With 1:38 remaining in the third, Patrick Maroon stepped in front and lifted a shot over the shoulder of Ben Bishop for the deciding goal, giving St. Louis the 4-3 win and 2-1 series lead.

With Wednesday night’s game, this series was the first in the second round to complete four games. Dallas answered back from St. Louis' late-game heroics in Game 3. After allowing the first goal to the Blues, Dallas scored the next four, on their way to a 4-2 win to even the series at two games apiece.

Game 5 is on Friday night.

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