Flyers

Best of NHL: League-best Lightning dispatch of Sharks

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Best of NHL: League-best Lightning dispatch of Sharks

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Vladislav Namestnikov had two goals, Nikita Kucherov scored his 15th of the season and the Tampa Bay Lightning ended San Jose's four-game winning streak by beating the Sharks 5-1 on Wednesday night.

Jake Dotchin got his first career goal and Slater Koekkoek also scored for the Lightning (12-2-2), who lead the NHL standings with 26 points.

Steven Stamkos had three assists for Tampa Bay. Kucherov added two and Namestnikov had one as all three players finished with three points. Stamkos (28 points) and Kucherov (26) rank 1-2 in the league in scoring.

Joonas Donskoi scored for the Sharks, who allowed five goals for the third time this season. They gave up a total of six during their winning streak.

Donskoi scored 25 seconds into the game as the Sharks peppered Andrei Vasilevskiy with a myriad of shots before Donskoi found a hole.

Vasilevskiy was a wall the rest of the way, stopping 32 shots on the night. Sharks starter Martin Jones allowed four goals on 21 shots and was pulled after two periods (see full recap).

Vesey, Rangers top Bruins for 5th straight win
NEW YORK -- Jimmy Vesey scored two first-period goals 29 seconds apart, Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves and the New York Rangers beat the Boston Bruins 4-2 on Wednesday night for their fifth straight win.

Pavel Buchnevich and Rick Nash also scored for the resurgent Rangers, who improved to 8-7-2 despite losing seven of their first eight games.

David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron had the goals for Boston.

The Rangers came out strong against their old rivals, outshooting the Bruins 16-7 in the opening period and scoring three times. The Bruins had the better of play in the scoreless second, with a 13-8 shots advantage.

New York led 3-1 heading into the third period before Bergeron cut the margin to one at 6:44 with his third goal of the season. Lundqvist was able to hold off the Bruins before Nash scored into an empty net with 7.7 seconds left (see full recap).

Matthews-less Maple Leafs defeat Wild
TORONTO -- Frederik Andersen made 35 saves to help the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Minnesota Wild 4-2 on Wednesday night.

Nazem Kadri, Patrick Marleau, Connor Carrick and Connor Brown scored for Toronto. Playing with star center Auston Matthews out day to day with an upper-body injury, Toronto improved to 10-7-0.

Jason Zucker scored twice for Minnesota, and Devan Dubnyk stopped 15 shots. The Wild have lost three in a row to fall to 5-7-2.

Toronto coach Mike Babcock shifted Marleau to the middle with Matthews out. Matthews was scratched for the first time since being drafted in 2016, playing in 98 straight games including all 82 last year in his Calder Trophy winning campaign (see full recap).

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

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USA Today Images

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Pekka Rinne made 33 saves in his 300th career win and the Nashville Predators routed the San Jose Sharks 7-1 on Thursday night.

Nick Bonino, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson each had a goal and an assist, and Scott Hartnell, Kevin Fiala and Mattias Ekholm also scored for Nashville, which has won three straight. The Predators moved within one point of expansion Vegas for the Western Conference lead.

Nashville defensemen Roman Josi and P.K. Subban each had two assists.

All of Rinne's wins have come with Nashville. He tied former Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun for 33rd place in NHL history.

Logan Couture had the San Jose goal. The loss snapped the Sharks' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Wild use big 2nd period to top Devils
NEWARK, N.J. -- Joel Eriksson Ek and Chris Stewart scored in a 39-second span during Minnesota's three-goal second period, and the Wild rallied from two down to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Thursday night.

Wild defenseman Mike Reilly also scored in the second period and Eric Staal iced the game with an empty-net goal, his 900th NHL point. Backup goalie Alex Stalock made 38 saves as the Wild moved into third place in the Central Division after winning for the 11th time in 17 games (11-3-3).

Taylor Hall and Stefan Noesen scored for the Devils, who have lost two in a row after a four-game winning streak. Eddie Lack made 21 saves.

Hall's 13-game point streak is the longest in NHL this season, one more than David Pastrnak of Boston.

Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau made the right moves in this one, inserting Reilly and Stewart into the lineup and electing to give No. 1 goaltender Devan Dubnyk a night off (see full recap).

Matthews exits Maple Leafs’ SO victory with injury
TORONTO -- Tyler Bozak scored the shootout winner and the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the New York Islanders 4-3 on Thursday night.

Auston Matthews tipped in Jake Gardiner's shot to tie it 3-all with 3:29 remaining in the third period, but later left the game favoring his right side after taking a hit from Cal Clutterbuck and did not return. The 20-year-old Toronto star missed six games in December with a concussion and another four games with an undisclosed upper-body injury.

Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly had the other Maple Leafs goals, and Frederik Andersen made 32 saves. Toronto (38-20-5) has won eight straight at home.

Ryan Pulock, Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle scored for the Islanders (29-26-7), and Jaroslav Halak turned aside 28 shots. New York, one point out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, dropped to 4-6-2 since the All-Star break and 13-15-3 on the road this season.

With his three points, Barzal has a team-leading 65 and a 14-point lead over Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL's rookie scoring race (see full recap).

Here comes Nolan Patrick, just in time for Flyers

Here comes Nolan Patrick, just in time for Flyers

BOX SCORE

When Dave Hakstol was hired on May 18, 2015, to become the 19th head coach of the Flyers, there was an underlying belief that given his collegiate pedigree, Hakstol was the perfect bench boss to handle the team's homegrown prospects.

However, as we’ve seen over the course of three seasons, the progression of a young player doesn’t always continue on an upward trajectory from the moment they start their NHL career.

As he juggles a roster that is now the youngest in the Eastern Conference following injuries to Brian Elliott and Wayne Simmonds, Hakstol appears to be pushing all of the right buttons, including those connected with the organization’s most prized prospect, Nolan Patrick.

Thursday night’s 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets further exemplified that as Patrick scored a power-play goal in his second straight game (see observations). With the injury to Simmonds, Hakstol believed Patrick could slide seamlessly into Simmonds' net-front role on the top unit, and the rookie has yet to disappoint his coach or teammates.

“I think there’s a little less pressure,” Patrick said. “You don’t have the puck on your stick as much. I think my shots are something I need to improve on. It’s kind of nice for me to be there and not try and beat goalies with my shots. I like it there.”

Hakstol recognized early in the opening month of the season that Patrick wasn’t quite ready to handle the role of being a top-six forward, but over the course of an 82-game season, he has gradually given the 19-year-old center more responsibility and Patrick has proved he’s deserving of the coach’s trust.

“His approach, his hockey sense and his intelligence is what gives him an opportunity to be successful in any situation,” Hakstol said. “Each time we’ve been able to give him more of an opportunity, he’s taken advantage of that. Nolan is doing a lot of those little things on a nightly basis — up and down the middle of the rink, playing a good 200-foot game, and the fact he’s taken pride in that is the foundation of his game.”

“He’s been great,” Patrick said of Hakstol. “When I first got here, they made me work for everything. They didn’t put me in situations I wasn’t ready for. Even now, when I’m not playing great, he does what’s best for the team. He’ll hold me back or not put me out there when I’m struggling on faceoffs. He notices that and he’s been huge for me.”

And Patrick has been huge for the Flyers. He’s now scored a goal in three straight games. 

You’re never quite sure when the future will eventually catch up to the present, but with the help of his head coach, it’s coming at just the right time for Nolan Patrick.