Best of NHL: Capitals ride rare home power-play goals past Penguins

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Best of NHL: Capitals ride rare home power-play goals past Penguins

WASHINGTON -- John Carlson and T.J. Oshie scored rare home power-play goals, Braden Holtby became the second-fastest goaltender in NHL history to 200 victories and the Washington Capitals beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 Friday night.

Holtby stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced to pick up victory No. 200 in his 319th game, second only to Hockey Hall of Famer and six-time Stanley Cup winner Ken Dryden, who did it in 311. The only goal he allowed was credited to Phil Kessel but went in off Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov.

Chandler Stephenson also scored for the Capitals on a feed from Nicklas Backstrom, who snapped his career-worst point drought at seven games. In his first game on Washington's top line, Stephenson picked up his fifth point in eight games.

Before Stephenson's insurance goal 13:42 into the third period and Jakub Vrana's empty-netter that sealed it, special teams made the difference in this matchup between rivals who met in the second round of the playoffs the past two years. Washington was 2 for 6 on the power play after scoring just twice in 25 opportunities in its first six home games, while Pittsburgh went 0 for 4.

Penguins goaltender Matt Murray made 27 saves. Carlson's goal at 14:09 of the first period went in off Penguins penalty killer Tom Kuhnhackl, and Oshie's at 8:26 of the second was a deflection from just outside the crease (see full recap).

Marleau gives Maple Leafs overtime win
TORONTO -- Patrick Marleau scored in overtime to give the Toronto Maple Leafs a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins on Friday night in the first game of a home-and-home series.

James van Riemsdyk scored twice, the second to tie it with a minute left in regulation, and Frederik Andersen made 33 saves. The Maple Leafs have won three in a row to improve to 11-7-0.

Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak scored for Boston, and Anton Khudobin stopped 30 shots.

It's quick turnaround for the teams with Boston hosting the back end of the two-game set Saturday night.

Pastrnak put the Bruins ahead with 5:30 to in the third with just a second remaining on a Boston power play, batting in a rebound while Andersen was sprawled out after turning away Jordan Szwarz.

Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock pulled Andersen with 2:04 to go looking for the equalizer and, with exactly a minute to play, van Riemsdyk tied it at 2, redirecting Mitch Marner's slap pass from the top of the crease (see full recap).

Panthers cruise past Sabres to snap skid
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Roberto Luongo broke a tie with Curtis Joseph for fourth place on the NHL career victory list with 455, making 24 saves in the Florida Panthers' 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.

Evgenii Dadonov and Aleksander Barkov each had a goal and an assist, and Ian McCoshen and Vincent Trocheck also scored to help the Panthers snap a five-game skid.

Kyle Okposo scored for the Sabres, and Robin Lehner stopped 27 shots.

Buffalo is 4-4-0 in its last eight games after a 1-5-2 start but has yet to win consecutive games this season.

McCoshen scored 3:50 into the third period on a wrist shot from the blue line that slid past Lehner's right skate.

Luongo's biggest save came with less than seven minutes left in the third period when he lifted his glove above his head to catch Sam Reinhart's shot from the high slot (see full recap).

Travis Konecny answering Flyers' call of duty

Travis Konecny answering Flyers' call of duty

Travis Konecny is one of a handful of young Flyers who thrives on confrontation, lining up an opponent in his crosshairs and going for the kill.

And that’s just his profile in Call of Duty — the popular war-based video game he plays occasionally with teammates.

And while Konecny didn't show up on the scoresheet Sunday evening, he still answered his call of duty, leading the charge in a variety of ways in the Flyers' 6-3 win over the Washington Capitals that inched the Flyers within four points of the division-leading Caps and two points of Pittsburgh for second place. All three teams return to action Tuesday with the Flyers in Detroit.

Battered, bloodied and perhaps a little beaten, Konecny was determined that the Capitals weren’t going to get the best of him.

“I just think I’ve learned in the two years I’ve been here it doesn’t matter what your role is on the team,” Konecny said after the game. “Everybody buys in, everybody blocks shots, everyone goes to the net, everyone backchecks. I think it’s a part of me that’s learned to become a Philadelphia Flyer.”

The orange and black uniform was only a cover for the black and blue bruises Konecny’s body endured. In the third period, he stood directly in the line of fire of Christian Djoos’s shot and then limped back to the locker room. On his next shift, Konecny blocked another shot from Dmitri Orlov.

Even after giving all the postgame interviews, Konecny was still limping. The playing surface at the Wells Fargo Center may not have had enough ice for all of his sore spots.

“He’s got the heart of a lion and I think you’ve seen that all year long,” said Wayne Simmonds, who tallied twice in the win. “I kept telling him that’s what winners are made of. It’s the type of effort we’re going to need from every single guy in this dressing room. He blocks one shot, he gets up slowly, gets back on the ice, blocks another.”

The clean-cut and rather reserved Konecny that came to the Flyers as a 19-year-old rookie last season has now been replaced with a more brash, tattoo-sporting, always-chirping Konecny with a longer hair style and the appearance of facial hair.

The only missing element to complete the look is a leather biker’s jacket.  

That rugged toughness was on display again when he dropped the gloves with Washington winger T.J. Oshie and bloodied his knuckles 7:41 into the third period.

“I just got high-sticked right before,” Konecny said. “I got frustrated and I finished my hit on him. Not a bad guy to take off the ice when they’re trying to score."

“It was awesome. It was great to see,” said Simmonds. “You see him get high-sticked there. He didn’t quit on the play and kept going. He battles with a guy who’s probably 20 pounds bigger, maybe more than that. It was a great emotional leap for the team in the third period there. Unbelievable job and kudos to him.”

Konecny, who has 19 goals and 22 asissts on the season and has earned Dave Hakstol's trust with a bump up to the first line alongside Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier, has quickly rounded into a five-tool player this season with speed, playmaking, a scoring touch with a hard-nosed edge. Much like Brad Marchand with the Bruins, that type of player becomes vital once the postseason rolls around.

“It gives the bench a good injection of life,” said Hakstol. “They love it and guys love to see that on the bench. I think that’s what our guys expect, but it’s always great when you see one guy doing it.”  

Which is probably why Konecny enjoys that other Call of Duty. Another game with a similar approach, except a lot less painful.

Raffl out
General manager Ron Hextall announced Monday morning that forward Michael Raffl will miss two weeks with an upper-body injury suffered in the second period against the Capitals Sunday. Raffl, who has 11 goals and eight assists this year, had been seeing some time on the top line with Giroux and Couturier recently.

Future Flyers Report — Anthony Stolarz's long road back to playing

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Future Flyers Report — Anthony Stolarz's long road back to playing

Before this week begins, it’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects.

Anthony Stolarz, G, 24, 6-6/232, Reading (ECHL)
It was a long road back but Stolarz found his way back on the ice last week.

Stolarz began his rehab stint with the Royals and it doesn’t appear to be a long one. Per Jason Guarente, Stolarz packed up his gear Saturday and appears headed back to Lehigh Valley.

With Reading, Stolarz allowed six goals on 61 shots. As of this post, he has yet to be recalled.

The 24-year-old had been out since last April and underwent left knee surgery in September. Now that he’s back on the ice, expect Stolarz to see some AHL action. He’s on a one-year deal.

Carter Hart, G, 19, 6-1/177, Everett (WHL)
Well, some disappointing news first. He failed to break the WHL shutout record, allowing one goal in Everett’s final regular-season game. He finishes his junior career with 26 shutouts.

Hart enjoyed one of the best junior seasons ever from a goalie and dominated the WHL. He led the league in goals-against average (1.60), save percentage (.947) and shutouts (7). The disparity between Hart and the No. 2 goalie, Cole Kehler, in GAA is remarkable. Hart finished with more than a goal better average than Kehler’s 2.77. Griffin Outhouse was second in save percentage, with .914. Hart was head and shoulders above his peers in the WHL.

Up next, the WHL playoffs. Then next season, the AHL. Hart watch is ramping up.

Morgan Frost, C, 18, 5-11/172, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Frost’s quest to lead the OHL in points came up short but the Flyers' “other” 2017 first-round pick finished his draft-plus-1 season as a 1.67 point-per-game player.

The 18-year-old’s regular season ended Sunday with a goal and an assist. He finished the season with 42 goals, 70 assists and 112 points and led the OHL as a plus-70 player. Next up is the OHL playoffs.

Let’s cool the jets on the Frost on the Flyers talk next season. There is a chance he outshines the competition in training camp but he still needs to bulk up a considerable amount.

March Madness
The NCAA Tournament begins Friday. It’ll feature four Flyers prospects, Michigan’s Cooper Marody and Brendan Warren, Ohio State’s Tanner Laczynski and Clarkson’s Terrance Amorosa.

Quick Hits
• Phantoms center Mikhail Vorobyev remained hot last week with two assists in three weekend games. He has eight points in his last nine games.

• Pascal Laberge’s point streak reached nine games before ending Friday. He finished the regular season with 47 points in 64 games between Quebec and Victoriaville.

• Matthew Strome, who signed his entry-level contract last week, finished the regular season with Hamilton with 37 goals and 68 points.

Isaac Ratcliffe’s season wrapped up on a four-game point streak and three-game goal streak. Ratcliffe led Guelph with 41 goals and 68 points.

• The Flyers signed Maksim Sushko to his entry-level contract. Sushko finished with 31 goals and 60 points. Five of the Flyers’ seven 2017 draft picks have signed.