Flyers

Best of NHL: Devils snap Kings' 8-game win streak

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Best of NHL: Devils snap Kings' 8-game win streak

NEWARK, N.J. -- Taylor Hall scored twice and the New Jersey Devils ended the Los Angeles Kings' eight-game winning streak with a 5-1 victory Tuesday night.

Travis Zajac, Brian Boyle and Brian Gibbons also scored for the Devils, who snapped a two-game skid. Cory Schneider made 13 saves.

The Kings were beaten for the first time since losing 3-2 in overtime to Arizona on Nov. 24. Their winning streak was the longest in the NHL this season.

It was Los Angeles' first defeat in regulation since a 2-1 loss to Winnipeg on Nov. 22.

Jonathan Quick made 20 saves for the Kings, and Torrey Mitchell's goal with 7:56 left prevented Los Angeles from being shut out for the first time this season (see full recap).

Vasilevskiy, Lightning shut out Blues
ST. LOUIS -- Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point scored, Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 32 shots and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the St. Louis Blues 3-0 on Tuesday night in a matchup of the NHL's top two teams.

Tyler Johnson added an empty netter as Tampa Bay (22-6-2) earned its fifth straight win. It was Vasilevskiy's third shutout of the season and the seventh of his career.

Jake Allen made 22 saves for St. Louis, which had won four in a row. The Blues (21-9-2) were shut out for the third time at home this season.

Point put Tampa Bay in front when he lifted in a rebound of his own shot at 19:15 of the first period. From the side of the net, Johnson fed Point in the slot. His shot hit the crossbar and caromed to the right. Point alertly followed the puck and extended his point streak to five games, setting a career high.

Vasilevskiy had several nice saves, turning away Vladimir Tarasenko on a 2-on-1 breakaway in the second period. Vasilevskiy leads the league in wins with 20, and Allen is second with 17 (see full recap).

Granlund lifts Wild to shootout win
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Mikael Granlund scored the winning goal in a shootout and the Minnesota Wild defeated the Calgary Flames 2-1 on Tuesday night.

The shootout reached the fifth round before Granlund beat Mike Smith. Alex Stalock stopped Michael Ferland to give Minnesota its third straight victory, the first two coming in overtime.

Ferland and Minnesota's Matt Cullen scored in regulation. Smith made 21 saves for Calgary, while Stalock stopped 16 shots in two periods plus overtime for the Wild. He replaced injured goalie Devan Dubnyk after the first.

Calgary dominated the puck throughout the first period and carried a 10-1 advantage in shots on goal 17 minutes in. But after the Wild killed off the second Flames power play of the frame, their second and third shots on net produced the game's first goal.

Ryan Suter took a shot from the top of the left circle that Smith turned aside. Joel Eriksson Ek took a whack at the rebound before Cullen poked it in to put Minnesota on top 1-0.

The Flames tied it with just more than a minute left in the second period on Ferland's 12th goal of the season. Ferland fired a slap shot from center point that deflected off Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin and beat Stalock over his left shoulder.

Stalock entered at the start of the second period in place of Dubnyk, who stopped all 10 shots he saw in the first but was removed after aggravating a lower-body injury (see full recap).

Panthers upset West-best Golden Knights in OT

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Panthers upset West-best Golden Knights in OT

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Aaron Ekblad scored 40 seconds into overtime to lift the Panthers to a 4-3 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday night, spoiling former coach Gerard Gallant's return to Florida.

Ekblad grabbed a rebound in the high slot and fired it past Malcolm Subban to give Florida its second win in six games this month.

Aleksander Barkov scored his league-leading fifth short-handed goal of the season and had two assists, and Evgenii Dadonov and Jamie McGinn also scored for the Panthers. James Reimer stopped 33 shots.

William Karlsson had a goal and an assist, and David Perron and James Neal also scored for Vegas. Subban finished with 22 saves (see full recap).

Pacioretty, Canadiens snap 3-game skid
WASHINGTON -- Max Pacioretty had two goals and an assist to help the Montreal Canadiens break a three-game losing streak with a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

Paul Byron also scored for the Canadiens. Antii Niemi, playing in place of Carey Price, who had been in goal for eight consecutive games, stopped 24 shots.

John Carlson and Lars Eller scored for the Capitals, and Philipp Grubauer finished with 22 saves.

Pacioretty, who has six goals in the last six games, scored Montreal's first goal at 7:08 in the second period and added an empty-netter with 1:18 remaining in the game (see full recap).

Ducks get upper hand on rival Kings again
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Ryan Kesler deflected home Francois Beauchemin's shot for the tiebreaking goal with 7:39 to play and the Anaheim Ducks won their second Freeway Faceoff in seven days, beating the struggling Los Angeles Kings 2-1 Friday night.

Adam Henrique scored early in the third period and John Gibson made 23 saves for the Ducks, who have won six of nine overall.

Rookie Alex Iafallo evened it for Los Angeles moments after Henrique's goal, but Kesler's long deflection sent the puck bouncing past Jonathan Quick. Anaheim then hung on in a frantic final minute to even the archrivals' season series at two games apiece.

Quick stopped 29 shots in the Kings' sixth consecutive loss, extending their longest skid of the season (see full recap).

Flyers have clear path to postseason but ...

Flyers have clear path to postseason but ...

It’s about to get real for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Real serious and potentially really hard. The Flyers have played the fewest divisional games of any team in the NHL.

That might be beneficial if the team located about 40 minutes off the shores of the Atlantic Ocean actually played in the Atlantic Division. The Flyers have hammered Atlantic teams this season: an 8-4-0 record including a win in Tampa and their most recent three-game series sweep of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Whereas the Atlantic houses a collection of domesticated poodles and Pomeranians, the Metropolitan Division is more a breeding ground for vicious Dobermans and pit bulls.

And the Flyers are about to enter the teeth of that beast.

Dave Hakstol’s club plays 19 of their remaining 37 games against the rock-solid Metropolitan, the only 8-team division in hockey without a legitimate doormat or two. 

“It’s good or bad depending on whether you’re winning or not,” general manager Ron Hextall said.“It’s great taking points from other teams and adding to your total. It does put a higher importance on those games for sure. Every game is important, but certain games are just a little more important. Your lows can’t be too low. That’s the bottom line.

“They’re divisional games. They’re huge games for us, especially with how tight it is with that wild card spot,” center Sean Couturier said. “We’ve got to step up and be ready for the challenge.”

Unfortunately for the Flyers, their sore spot over their past two-plus seasons has been their play against the Metropolitan elites — the teams they’re typically chasing in the standings.

4-4-1 vs. Capitals
3-5-2 vs. Rangers
3-6-1 vs. Penguins
2-3-4 vs. Blue Jackets

Collectively, that’s a 12-18-8 record in the Dave Hakstol era with just a 4-9-6 mark on the road. Interestingly, defenseman Brandon Manning believes roster formation has been part of the reason behind the success of the Flyers' opponents.  

“Credit to them, I think they’ve done a good job of getting better every year,” Manning said. “You look at what Pittsburgh does with their turnover and still finding a way to win. Columbus is so much better and you look at Jersey, which hasn’t been the greatest team the past couple of years, but this year they have a really good hockey team. I think credit to those teams for finding a way to get better.” 

And if there’s a direct path to the postseason, then winning these crucial divisional games has to be the way to get there. Since the formation of the NHL’s current four-division alignment in 2013-14, the Metropolitan has sent 17 teams to the playoffs and only once has a team reached the postseason without a winning record within the division — the Pittsburgh Penguins finished 9-17-4 in the Metro in 2014-15. 

The Capitals, Rangers and Blue Jackets also have the luxury of rostering a Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender in crucial divisional games, whereas, Hakstol will rely more on a platoon based on Elliott’s first-half workload and Neuvirth attempting to regain his early season form.  

“I haven’t studied the schedule that much in depth, but considering Moose started a stretch of 25 out of 30 games, that’s a real heavy workload,” Hakstol said. “I would expect the workload to be more spread out than that. We’ll find the best rhythm to be able and have both of them help our team.

“You need two goalies. I don’t care who you are,” Hextall said. “Look around the league. I said it before, there’s no Marty Brodeurs.”

Maybe not, but Saturday it all starts with Brodeur’s former team and with a back-to-back against the Devils and the Capitals this weekend. The Flyers' position within the division can change very drastically one direction or the other.