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Best of NHL: Ovechkin's hat trick leads Capitals to victory

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Best of NHL: Ovechkin's hat trick leads Capitals to victory

TORONTO — Alex Ovechkin had a hat trick to help the Washington Capitals beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 on Saturday night.

Ovechkin scored two of his three goals in the opening period for the Capitals. Jakub Vrana also scored, and Braden Holtby made 27 saves for his 13th victory of the season.

Jake Gardiner and Nikita Zaitsev replied in the third period for Toronto. Curtis McElhinney stopped 17 shots.

Ovechkin opened the scoring when he skated with the puck through the neutral zone before taking a wrist shot from just outside the left face-off circle and beating McElhinney at 12:03. It was Ovechkin's 574th goal, which moved him past Mike Bossy for 21st on the career list (see full recap).

Gibbons scores in OT to lift Devils over Red Wings
DETROIT — Brian Gibbons scored with 2:28 remaining in overtime to give the New Jersey Devils a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.

The Devils squandered a 3-1 lead in the third period, but Gibbons was able to get his stick on a pass by Red Wings defenseman Nick Jensen and took control of the puck in front of the Detroit net. He beat Jimmy Howard for the game-winner, his 11th goal of the season.

David Booth scored twice for the Red Wings and Anthony Mantha started Detroit's third-period rally with his 11th goal of the season. Brian Boyle and Taylor Hall scored in the first period for New Jersey, and Nico Hischier added a goal in the third.

New Jersey moved past Columbus into first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Devils have points in four straight games and eight of nine (see full recap).

Price returns to make 36 saves, Canadiens top Sabres
MONTREAL — Carey Price made 36 saves in his return from a lower-body injury and the Montreal Canadiens beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-0 on Saturday night to snap a five-game losing streak.

Jeff Petry, Alex Galchenyuk and Paul Bryon scored. Montreal's last previous victory was against the Sabres two weeks ago.

Price missed 10 games with the injury. The shutout was his 40th in the NHL and first since Feb. 28, 2017.

Robin Lehner made 23 saves for the Sabres. They have lost eight of their last nine games.

Price had a shaky start to the season prior to getting hurt, but the 30-year-old looked like his old self Saturday. The goalie, whose specific injury was never disclosed, made key saves to keep his side in the game (see full recap).

Crosby, Kessel carry Penguins past Lightning
PITTSBURGH — Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel each scored twice and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 on Saturday night to end a season-high three-game losing streak.

Tristan Jarry, making his first home start, stopped 33 shots for his first NHL win. He also assisted on the first goal of the game.

Pittsburgh hasn't lost four straight in regulation overall since Dec. 14-19, 2015, the first four games of coach Mike Sullivan's tenure. The Penguins, playing without injured star forward Evgeni Malkin, also ended a two-game home regulation losing streak.

Kessel also had two assists, and Crosby had one, fueling a Penguins offense that scored three power-play goals and added another short-handed. Kessel, with seven goals in his last nine games, scored his team-best 11th. Crosby, who has points in five of his last six, added his ninth (see full recap).

Playing through pain, Provorov and Couturier give Flyers all they've got

Playing through pain, Provorov and Couturier give Flyers all they've got

BOX SCORE

You could see the tears that had formed in Ivan Provorov’s eyes.

Whether it was the product of elimination, a turnover that led to the Penguins' go-ahead goal, the sheer emotion of playing on a shoulder that may need offseason surgery or the tribulations of a six-month journey, no 21-year-old kid can be expected to overcome these levels of distress and anguish.

“I did everything I could. The third period didn’t go as well as I wanted to. I turned the puck over a couple of times and it turned to goals and it cost us the game,” Provorov said while holding back emotions. “As long as my arm was attached I was playing.”

How Provorov mustered up the strength to play 20-and-a-half minutes in his final game of the season, an 8-5 loss to the Penguins, probably defied medical logic. His left shoulder was so battered from crashing into the boards in the final few minutes of Game 5 that his upper body was often contorted to a 45-degree angle where his only option was to pass just about every time the puck was on his stick, even with a wide open net to shoot at. 

 “He is a warrior,” said defenseman Andrew MacDonald. “Everyone here knows it and respects the hell out of him.”

Had this been the regular season, Provorov and teammate Sean Couturier would have missed weeks of action. Couturier revealed he suffered a torn medial collateral ligament when he collided with Radko Gudas leading up to Game 4. Last Wednesday the Flyers' center could barely walk and yet he was already skating again.

“The decision was on me,” Couturier said, “Obviously, I had the support of the staff, the organization and the medical team. They helped me a lot. I had a lot of treatments. It definitely got better over the days, but it wasn’t the ideal situation. I didn’t really feel a whole lot today to be honest. I was just giving everything I got.”

Courageous and so incredibly determined, Couturier gave a performance for the ages. Skating on one good leg and another that needs at least four weeks of rest and treatment, the Flyers' Selke Trophy finalist scored a hat trick to go along with five points, and was on the ice for every goal the Flyers scored.

"Credit to Coots, what he played through during the playoffs and the way he played,” Scott Laughton said. “I don’t know much more to say about that guy. The way he battled and the way he played through what he was dealing with.”

The Penguins had their share of injuries as well. Evgeni Malkin missed Game 6 with a leg injury and Patric Hornqvist returned after missing the previous two contests. Even without Malkin, the Penguins had four goals from Jake Guentzel, plus they created havoc and stifled the Flyers with a suffocating forecheck that exposed areas the Flyers need to address in the offseason.

“You have to do it all the time and you have to be consistent in executing under pressure,” said head coach Dave Hakstol. “We didn’t do that consistently in this series, not just tonight. That’s the time of year that it is.”    

Overall, the Flyers weren’t eliminated in six games because they didn’t have a healthy Couturier and Provorov. 

Rather, the dogged determination and incredible resolve of those two players is precisely why the Flyers can take pride in pushing the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions to six games, especially after the Flyers were manhandled 7-0 in Game 1.

In the end, the guys in orange and black simply weren’t good enough or deep enough. 

But draft and develop a few more Couturiers and Provorovs on your roster and the thought of winning championships year after year won’t just be a Pittsburgh thing.   

Sean Couturier played through torn MCL in Flyers' final 2 games

Sean Couturier played through torn MCL in Flyers' final 2 games

Sean Couturier's "lower-body" injury was a lot more serious than originally believed.

After the Flyers were eliminated by the Penguins in Game 6 Sunday (see observations), Couturier revealed he had been playing on a torn MCL in his right knee. It will not require surgery, he said.

Couturier missed just one game with the injury. When asked if he'd come back as fast if it were the regular season, the centerman said, "probably not."

"It's usually something like four weeks," he said. "Depends on the situation during the season, [but] probably take more time off."

The Flyers' top center suffered the injury in a collision with teammate Radko Gudas during practice April 17. He missed Game 4 and then returned for Game 5 in Pittsburgh, where he scored the game-winning goal to help the Flyers force Game 6.

On Sunday afternoon, Couturier recorded his second career playoff hat trick — both coming against the Penguins — and had five total points in the Flyers' 8-5 loss.

"That was incredible," Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. "If you guys only knew what kind of shape those guys were in. I respect the hell out of those guys."

It turns out, we found out exactly what kind of shape Couturier was in, and it certainly was far more serious than we thought.

NBC Sports Philadelphia's Eric Mullin contributed to this story.