Auston Matthews' return helps Maple Leafs beat Rangers

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Auston Matthews' return helps Maple Leafs beat Rangers

NEW YORK -- Auston Matthews had a goal and an assist in his return from a concussion to help the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the New York Rangers 3-2 on Saturday night.

Matthews sat out the previous six games. The top pick in the 2016 draft made a pretty move just outside the crease to give the Maple Leafs a 3-1 lead at 11:22 of the second period. Zach Hyman and William Nylander assisted on the play.

Nylander and Ron Hainsey also scored for Toronto, and Frederik Anderson stopped 30 shots.

Jimmy Vesey and J.T. Miller scored for the Rangers, and Henrik Lundqvist made 24 saves. New York dropped only its third game at Madison Square Garden in the last 15 contests.

The Rangers appeared to have tied it at 3 at 12:09 of the third period. Michael Grabner snuck a shot between Anderson's pads. However, Toronto coach Mike Babcock challenged the play and the call was overturned after the referees determined Kevin Hayes was offside.

Nylander scored the game's first goal at 17:14 of the opening frame when Matthews delivered a backhand pass to set up a one-timer. Matthews missed a point-blank opportunity moments before he set up Nylander (see full recap).

Reimer makes 38 saves to lift Panthers over Senators
SUNRISE, Fla. -- James Reimer made 38 saves for his first shutout this season, Jonathan Huberdeau scored in the second period and the Florida Panthers beat the Ottawa Senators 1-0 on Saturday night.

Reimer got his first shutout since April 9 at Washington. He was playing in his ninth straight game and second in two nights after beating Minnesota 4-2 on Friday.

Ottawa backup Mike Condon stopped 37 shots, but couldn't turn away Huberdeau when he went top shelf 1:36 into the second. Ottawa has dropped three straight.

Huberdeau sent a wrist shot past Condon after a cross-ice pass from Nick Bjugstad from just inside the blue line. Huberdeau also scored twice Friday.

Florida's best opportunity to extend the lead came with just over nine minutes remaining, when Evgenii Dadonov had a short breakaway, but his shot bounced off Condon's right arm. Bjugstad then had a chance at a tip-in, but that grazed off Condon's pads (see full recap).

Fleury has first shutout, leads Vegas past Capitals
LAS VEGAS -- Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 26 shots for his first shutout with Vegas, William Karlsson scored during a three-goal first period and the Golden Knights beat the Washington Capitals 3-0 on Saturday night.

Fleury was perfect in his 699th career game and eighth since being selected by Vegas in the expansion draft.

Alex Tuch and Oscar Lindberg also scored in the first period for Vegas, which went 4-0-1 on this homestand and has a point in nine straight games.

Washington was 4-0-1 in its past five games and 8-1-1 in its last 10, but the Capitals lost their second in two nights, including a defeat to the Coyotes.

The Capitals had scored at least four goals in six of their previous nine games and hadn't been shut out since a 2-0 home loss to Toronto on Oct. 17 -- the only other time they've been blanked this season.

Tuch opened the scoring by tapping in Brendan Leipsic's rebound for his eighth of the season. Lindberg then took a pass from Tomas Nosek and punched in his seventh. Finally, Karlsson slapped a one-timer past Braden Holtby.

It could have been worse for Washington. Tuch's goal came moments after Leipsic missed on a breakaway, Jon Merrill had a solid attempt from the right slot that Holtby stymied, James Neal had two great looks and Jonathan Marchessault clanked a shot off the crossbar (see full recap).

Petr Mrazek in strange yet familiar territory

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Petr Mrazek in strange yet familiar territory

DETROIT — Petr Mrazek knew the day he was traded to the Flyers wouldn’t be the last time he’d be in Detroit. Looking at the Flyers’ schedule, Mrazek noticed one more game left to be played against his former team.

Tonight, Mrazek will make his 12th start with his new team against the organization that drafted him in the fifth round in 2010.

Prior to the morning skate, Mrazek spent time talking with former teammates and fellow netminders Jimmy Howard and Jared Coreau. But it was a little strange walking into Little Caesars Arena for the first time as a visitor.

“A little different, different entrance, but it’s a fun building and one of the nicest visitor locker rooms in the league,” Mrazek said. “Every game is different. I wouldn’t know who’s got more of an advantage. I talked with Double-A (Andreas Athanasiou) this morning and asked if he’s going to do the same move as he always does or if he’s going to go backhand. But when the puck drops, we've just got to focus on ourselves.”

Mrazek won his fifth game in orange and black with a 6-3 victory over the Washington Capitals Sunday. If the Flyers advance to the playoffs, the Red Wings would receive a third-round draft pick as compensation.  

The Dead Wing era
With a win tonight, Mrazek and the Flyers can eliminate the Red Wings from postseason contention. It will mark the second straight season Detroit has failed to advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which hasn’t happened in Hockeytown since the early 1980s.
The current-day Red Wings have completely tanked since the trade deadline. They’ve dropped 10 straight (0-9-1) since Feb. 26, and have just one regulation victory over the last 15 games.

The Flyers will be looking for a three-game season sweep of the Red Wings while being mindful of a dreaded letdown game against one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference.

“It’s important for us to be ready from the start,” center Sean Couturier said. “We don’t want to get surprised. They’re still a good team. They’ve got some talent, probably some guys who want to prove themselves. These games are never easy. We’ve got to be prepared for that and just focus on what we’ve got to do.”

The Dead Wing era is a period in Detroit hockey from the late 1960s to the early 1980s when the Red Wings failed to reach the postseason in 15 of 17 seasons. 

Passing 'Big E'
With a point tonight, Claude Giroux can pass Eric Lindros for fifth place on the Flyers' all-time scoring list with 660 points. Whenever his career ends, Giroux will join Lindros one day in the Flyers' Hall of Fame.

The current and former Flyers captains spoke briefly in Voorhees, New Jersey, earlier this season prior to Lindros’ No. 88 retirement ceremony on Jan. 18. Overtaking “Big E” is an accomplishment Giroux holds in high regard.

“Just for what he’s done for the organization, it means something. He’s had a great career,” Giroux said. “Just talking with him was pretty special. He talked about what experiences he’s had, talking about things he was going through as a team. To be able to pass him, it’s pretty special.” 

This season alone, Giroux has worked his way from 11th on the franchise’s career scoring list to where he is now. Once he moves past Lindros, Giroux will be 38 points shy of passing Rick MacLeish for fourth place, which in all likelihood, will come next season.

Blue Jackets pull even with Flyers in points

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Blue Jackets pull even with Flyers in points

BOSTON -- Cam Atkinson scored 2:55 into overtime to lift the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 5-4 victory over Boston on Monday night for their eighth straight victory, spoiling a splendid NHL debut for Bruins forward Ryan Donato.

Sonny Milano, Boone Jenner, Thomas Vanek and Artemi Panarin also scored for the Blue Jackets. Nick Foligno had two assists, nd Vanek and Jenner each added one. Joonas Korpisalo stopped 34 shots.

Atkinson cut in on the left wing and fired a wrister past Rask for the game-winner.

Columbus moved into a tie with Philadelphia with 85 points, but the Flyers hold the tiebreaker for third place in the Metropolitan Division and the Blue Jackets hold the first wild card in the Eastern Conference.

Donato had a goal and two assists for Boston, which moved a point behind idle Tampa Bay for first in the Atlantic. Riley Nash, Brad Marchand and David Krejci also scored for the Bruins, and Tuukka Rask finished with 19 saves (see full recap).

Luongo, Panthers blank Canadiens
MONTREAL -- Roberto Luongo stopped 28 shots for his third shutout of the season and 76th of his career, leading the Florida Panthers to a 2-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.

Aaron Ekblad and Aleksander Barkov scored to help the Panthers inch closer to a playoff position, pulling three points behind idle new Jersey for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. Florida has two games in hand on the Devils.

Antti Niemi finished with 38 saves for Montreal, which was shut out for the second straight game and 12th time this season -- including three against the Panthers. The Canadiens were coming off a 4-0 loss at Toronto on Saturday.

The opening 10 minutes saw two fights, one of which had Ekblad sparring with Nicolas Deslauriers. It may have fired up the big defenseman because he stole a puck from Michael McCarron, deked past defenseman Jeff Petry and beat Niemi with a move to the backhand for an unassisted goal with 1:29 left in the opening period.

Jacob De La Rose thought he had tied it for Montreal 17 seconds later, but a video review showed Alex Galchenyuk was offside by a toenail and it was waived off.

Barkov got his 26th of the season at 6:23 of the third when his shot from the left side went in off Montreal forward Logan Shaw.

Star goalie Carey Price returned to the Montreal lineup after concussion suffered Feb. 20. He backed up Niemi (see full recap).

Rinne makes 35 saves in Preds’ shutout
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Pekka Rinne stopped 35 shots for his eighth shutout of the season and the Nashville Predators set a franchise record by earning a point in their 15th consecutive game with a 4-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.

Mike Fisher and Ryan Johansen scored goals 4:34 apart in the second period, and Filip Forsberg and Ryan Hartman sealed the victory by scoring in the final four minutes.

The NHL-leading Predators improved to 14-0-1 in their past 15, and also extended their team-best road winning streak to nine straight.

Rinne won his 11th straight to match his personal best in a stretch in which he's allowed just 18 goals. The shutout was the 51st of his 12-year career and third in nine games.

And Rinne also improved to 40-9-4 in becoming the NHL's seventh goalie to win 40 games in a season three or more times.

The Predators haven't lost in regulation since a 3-1 defeat to Detroit at home on Feb. 17. And they improved to 12-0-3 in their past 15 road games since a 3-0 loss at Vegas on Jan. 2 (see full recap).