Home ice is not a big advantage in first round of playoffs

Home ice hasn't been an advantage this year in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Road teams have posted a 14-12 record through the first week of the postseason.

Think about it. The Kings and Ducks both lost their first two games at home. The defending champion Blackhawks face elimination after dropping two at home to fall behind the Blues 3-1.

The Rangers, who took home ice away from the Penguins by winning in Game 2 in Pittsburgh, quickly gave it back with a lackluster performance in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden. New York has dropped four in a row at home in the postseason going back to last season.

Only the Capitals, Lightning, Stars swept the first two games at home.

In the 11 seasons since the 2004 lockout, home teams have only once had a sub-.500 record in the playoffs and that was a 39-47 mark in 2011-12, according to STATS. The best mark was .686 (59-27) in 2012-13.

Six of the 11 seasons the winning percentage was greater than .550.

"I think your mindset is a little different when you go on the road," Rangers center Derick Brassard said Wednesday. "It's kind of like the team against everyone, the crowd, the players, everything. You mindset is: 'Let's go steal one.'

"At home, you want to show off and you can get away from your game. It's just the game of hockey. Once the puck is dropped, it does not matter who is there, you just have to play. Home ice doesn't mean anything, to be honest."

Penguins center Nick Bonino said that no matter what the won-lost record is at this point in the playoffs, you still want home ice. It gives you the last line change and the crowd can get behind a team.

"I feel like the last couple of years home ice has not meant a lot," said Penguins forward Eric Fehr, who is in his 10th NHL season. "I think teams are so even, and going into any game, pretty much it's a coin toss. It's just how well can you play. Every rink is exciting and everybody brings the same every night. The home ice isn't as big an advantage as it used to be."

Here's a look at the other action on the schedule Thursday night:


Penguins at Rangers, Pittsburgh leads 2-1 (7 p.m. EDT, CNBC)

This series has been one of momentum shifts. The Penguins had it in Games 1 and 3, and the Rangers were the better team in Game 2.

"It's a tight game, the difference here is not very big between these two teams," Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. "You need that extra play at the right time. That's what it is going to come down to. A few corrections and hopefully we can go out and have a strong game.":

Much of the talk Wednesday concerned a high-sticking incident involving Penguins defenseman Kris Letang and Rangers forward Viktor Stalberg. It happened in the third period shortly after Matt Cullen's goal gave Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead.

Stalberg lost a couple of teeth. No penalty was called and the league held Letang blameless, leaving the Rangers unhappy.

"It was a fast play. I went in the corner to clear the puck and my stick was up," Letang said Wednesday. "I got hit at the same time and was going forward, and unfortunately I hit him. Not in a million years would I try to hit someone in the face like that."

The Rangers held an optional skate on Wednesday, and injured defenseman Dan Girardi participated. He is day to day.


Red Wings at Lightning, Tampa Bay leads series 3-1 (7 p.m. EDT, NBCSN)

Tampa Bay can eliminate Detroit in the first round for the second straight year by winning at home.

The Lightning pushed the Red Wings to the brink by scoring three times on the power play in Game 4 in Detroit.

Not only did the extra man help the defending Eastern Conference champions, it has hurt the Red Wings. They are 1 of 21 on the power play, including an 0-for-4 showing on Tuesday.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Wednesday that it's a psychological advantage knowing the other team has its back against the wall.

"You want to end this now because everybody gets nicked up, you want to get out of the series as fast as possible," Cooper said.

If the Red Wings can avoid elimination, both teams will get their first two-day break of the series before playing Sunday night at Joe Louis Arena.


Ducks at Predators, Nashville leads 2-1 (8 p.m. EDT, NHL Network)

The Predators aren't happy after blowing a chance for the first 3-0 series lead in franchise history. Now coach Peter Laviolette may be forced to change his lines with right wing Craig Smith day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Smith has eight points in 11 career playoff games.

Colin Wilson skated on the second line with Mike Ribeiro and Filip Forsberg with Miikka Salomaki moving into Wilson's spot on the third line.

"By our standard, we were flat last night, and they played a good hockey game," Laviolette said. "Just like Game 1 is over and Game 2 is over, now Game 3 is over, and we're moving forward."

Anaheim switched back to goalie Frederik Andersen for Game 3, and he posted a shutout that helped settle down the Ducks. Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau says he wants to be going home with the series tied up.

"It's definitely a pivotal game, and I think Nashville realizes the same thing," Boudreau said.


Blackhawks at Blues, St. Louis leads 3-1 (9:30 p.m. EDT, NBCSN)

After being eliminated in the first round following excellent regular seasons the past two years, the Blues are on the verge of a breakthrough.

The franchise that has never won a Stanley Cup is a game away from eliminating an organization that had dynasty claims winning three of the last six titles.

The Blackhawks will be without forward Andrew Shaw, who was suspended a game for yelling an anti-gay slur at someone on the ice after he was sent to the penalty box late in Tuesday's loss. He apologized on Wednesday.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock called the incident unfortunate.

"The world's changed," Hitchcock said. "It's a different place now and sensitivity and inclusion is a big part of the world now. You've got to pay respect for that. We sometimes live and work in a bubble and this is a world lesson that we don't live or work in a bubble, we're part of the picture too. I think it's a good lesson for everybody. It's bigger than sport, it's bigger than the team, its' bigger than the playoff series."

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said the team has to stay focused if it wants to stage a comeback.

"We've just got to look back to what's made us a successful team over the last number of years," he said.


AP Sports Writers Teresa M. Walker, Larry Lage, Jay Cohen, RB Fallstrom, Fred Goodall and Andrew Seligman contributed to this report.


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