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NHL Playoff Update: 'Canes advance, Leafs stay alive

The Carolina Hurricanes are the first team to advance to the conference finals, while the Florida Panthers could do the same Friday night with a win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The three remaining series in the conference semifinals have played through at least Game 4, with the Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars each one win away from advancing.

How did the NHL Playoffs get to this point? Recap all the latest action ahead of Friday night's games.

Leafs avoid a letdown

After a franchise-record six straight Stanley Cup Playoff wins going back to their first-round series when they eliminated the record-setting Boston Bruins from 3-1 down, the Florida Panthers finally experienced a loss. 

There were rumblings of Toronto Maple Leafs fans feeling like Florida had caught all the breaks in the opening three games in the series, but they finally got one of their own in Game 4. 

After a scoreless first period, a pass intended to wrap around behind the goal hit off an official’s knee to the front of the Panthers' net, which was ultimately deflected in by Toronto’s William Nylander, for a 1-0 score which held until the end of the second period. 

Mitch Marner gave the Leafs a little breathing room with his first goal since Game 2 of the first round, and the Leafs escaped with a 2-1 win as Sam Reinhart's goal was reduced to a consolation.

A rather large brawl between the teams followed the final whistle, which may spice things up going into Game 5. 

The Panthers hold a 3-1 lead in the series and are still only one game away from the conference finals, although they are fourth favorites to lift the Stanley Cup at odds of +500, while they are +180 to win the Eastern Conference.

Oilers even up the series

The Edmonton Oilers and Vegas Golden Knights have had quite the back-and-forth series so far, with each game decided by multiple goals. 

After getting off to a 3-0 lead in the first period in Game 4, the Oilers never looked back en route to a 4-1 victory. 

However, that was not the storyline following the game. 

The focus remains on Vegas’ Alex Pietrangelo and his vicious slash on superstar Leon Draisaitl. 

It was far from a hockey play, as the puck was far from Draisaitl’s stick at that point and even Connor McDavid openly called for a suspension, which eventually came. 

Much like the Panthers vs. Leafs game, we saw plenty of extracurricular activities as the game reached a conclusion, which also led to Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse receiving a one-game suspension. 

Ultimately, the series is tied at 2-2 heading back to Vegas for Game 5. 

With Edmonton having shown their ability to bounce back, they are now the favorites to win the Western Conference at +140, with the Golden Knights at +275.

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Dallas dominates to hit the front

The Dallas Stars and Seattle Kraken have traded games through each of the first four games in this series, but finally one of them went back-to-back. 

That was the Stars on home ice on Thursday night as they recorded a smooth 5-2 victory, having previously won 6-3 in Game 4. 

The Stars took an early 3-0 lead and, after Seattle had got to within one goal, Dallas they turned it on to pull clear, and never looked back. 

Jason Robertson was the points and goals leader throughout the regular season, but it has been Joe Pavelski and Roope Hintz stepping up in the playofffs. 

Pavelski notched his seventh goal of the series, while Hintz also added two more himself in Game 5 for eight in total this postseason. 

After taking a 3-2 lead in this series, Dallas has now moved ahead of the Golden Knights in terms of winning the Western Conference at +200 odds.

Hurricanes breeze through to Eastern Conference Finals

The first four games of the New Jersey Devils vs. Carolina Hurricanes series hadn’t been remotely close, with each one decided by at least four goals. 

However, we finally got a closer contest in Game 5 in Carolina Thursday night.

The Devils may have taken the lead twice but they were never able to get away with Carolina twice coming from behind in a 2-2 tie to force overtime.

And just over seven minutes into overtime, Carolina’s Jesper Fast was able to find the back of the net off a long-range shot. 

It was his second overtime winner in these Stanley Cup Playoffs, and this one sent his team to the Eastern Conference Finals where they’ll await the winner of the Maple Leafs vs. Panthers series. 

Having guaranteed themselves as one of the last four teams remaining, the Hurricanes are now the favorites to hoist the Cup at +230 odds.

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