Capitals regain top spot in Metro as Ovechkin scores NHL-best 35th goal

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Capitals regain top spot in Metro as Ovechkin scores NHL-best 35th goal

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Alex Ovechkin can stop fretting about what the Washington Capitals captain described as the worst game of his career.

He and the Capitals were much better in a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday, two days after a 7-1 meltdown at Chicago.

After being held without a shot against Chicago, Ovechkin responded by scoring his NHL-leading 35th goal, and Washington reclaimed the top spot in the Metropolitan Division

"Yeah, I think the last game I didn't play my game. I think it was the worst play of my career by myself. I take the blame on it," Ovechkin said. "I think we understand the game in Chicago was just forget about it, you know. We moved forward. We got two points."

Capitals coach Barry Trotz noticed how much more involved Ovechkin was against Buffalo, particularly after a few early exchanges with Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (see full recap.)

Marchand's OT goal gives Bruins win over Flames 
CALGARY, Alberta — Brad Marchand scored his 22nd goal 3:36 into overtime to give the Boston Bruins a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Monday.

After a turnover deep in the Flames end, Riley Nash sprung the Bruins' leading scorer on a breakaway and Marchand made no mistake, slipping the puck through the pads of David Rittich.

David Pastrnak also scored for Boston (36-13-8), which moved within one point of Tampa Bay for first place in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. Boston has two games in hand.

Matthew Tkachuk scored for the Flames (30-21-9), who fell to 1-3-4 in their last eight home games.

With the teams meeting for the second time in six days, Calgary was territorially outplayed by a wide margin in the first period but Rittich kept the Flames in it (see full recap.)

Cullen, Ennis star in Wild win against Islanders 
NEW YORK — Minnesota knows it needs to play better on the road to strengthen its push for a playoff spot. The Wild also want to do a better job of holding third-period leads than they have lately.

They accomplished both Monday against the New York Islanders.

Matt Cullen and Tyler Ennis scored in Minnesota's three-goal second period, and the Wild beat the Islanders 5-3. Jason Zucker added two goals, Joel Eriksson Ek also scored, and Devan Dubnyk stopped 32 shots as Minnesota improved to 4-1-2 in its past seven games.

The Wild just lost three of five on their homestand, including twice when they gave up the tying goal in the third period before falling after regulation.

"Having the lead in the second and keeping it is really good for us," Zucker said (see full recap.)

Arvidsson scores twice in Predators' win vs. Senators 
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Viktor Arvidsson scored twice to reach 20 goals this season, and the Nashville Predators beat the Ottawa Senators 5-2 on Monday night.

Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Craig Smith also scored for Nashville, which ended a two-game skid and tied Winnipeg for first place in the Central Division.

The Predators recorded two power-play goals and scored on the man advantage in their second straight game after going six games without converting on the power play.

Pekka Rinne made 36 saves to earn his 30th win of the season.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Max McCormick scored for the Senators, who played catch-up most of the game. Craig Anderson stopped 36 shots (see full recap.)

Blues put an end to Blue Jackets' 10-game winning streak

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Blues put an end to Blue Jackets' 10-game winning streak

COLUMBUS, Ohio —The St. Louis Blues got things going early and put an end to the Columbus Blue Jackets' 10-game winning streak with a big victory over their own.

Jake Allen made 33 saves, Alexander Steen scored on St. Louis' first shot of the game, and the Blues beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 on Saturday night.

"It was a huge win for us, especially when Colorado wins this afternoon," Allen said. "Points are crucial right now. Let's just take it one step at a time. And we will figure out the standings at the end."

St. Louis has 89 points - one behind Colorado, which beat Vegas 2-1 in a shootout, and Minnesota, which played Saturday night.

"Approaching every game like the season is on the line," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "The challenge for us now is to make sure that doesn't change. I am very pleased and very proud of the group. There is an awful lot of character inside our locker room, and I love that it's on full display right now." (See full recap.)

Capitals tighten grip on 1st in Metro
MONTREAL —  Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson each scored twice and Nicklas Backstrom had four assists as the Washington Capitals defeated the Montreal Canadiens 6-4 on Saturday night.

Jay Beagle and T.J. Oshie also scored for Washington (44-24-7), which strengthened its grip on first place in the Metropolitan Division. Backstrom posted his 20th career game with at least four points and second this season.

Charles Hudon scored twice for Montreal (27-37-12), which was coming off a 3-0 win at Buffalo on Friday night. Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher each had a goal for the Canadiens, who are 2-8-2 in their last 12 games (see full recap).

Kinkaid saves 35 shots as Devils pick up key win over Lightning 
NEWARK, N.J. — While Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier have been getting much of the credit for New Jersey's surprising playoff push, goaltender Keith Kinkaid has been the one carrying the Devils back to the postseason the past two weeks.

Kinkaid made 35 saves and the Devils took another major step toward making the playoffs for the first time since 2012 with a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.

Hischier and Kyle Palmieri scored for New Jersey, which has elevated its playoff chances with wins in five of seven games - including outstanding efforts in beating the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins and the Eastern Conference-leading Lightning on consecutive nights.

"Keith has been a difference maker," Devils coach John Hynes said of Kinkaid, who had 75 saves the past two nights. "He has really come in and played well. He has made key saves at key times. He obviously won quite a few games and been a real important factor for us in remaining competitive in the playoff race. We would like to see him continue that at that level, as well." (See full recap.)

Why have Penguins dominated Flyers recently?

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Why have Penguins dominated Flyers recently?

VOORHEES, N.J. — The keys to the Keystone State Rivalry are now in the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have been in the driver’s seat recently in their feud with the Flyers.

The Penguins are on the verge of a season sweep for the first time since taking all eight meetings during the Flyers' disastrous 2006-07 season.

It’s a complete turnaround from the Flyers' eight-game winning streak from November 2013 to April 2015. PPG Paints Arena, formerly known as Consol Energy Center, could also be commonly referred to as Wells Fargo Center West.

However, in the Dave Hakstol era, which has also coincided with the Mike Sullivan era in Pittsburgh, the ice has been tilted toward Lake Erie. The Flyers are just 3-7-1 against the Penguins over the past three years.

Over time, that vitriolic and acrimonious attitude seems to be missing from a once-bitter feud and the Flyers seemed to thrive off that animosity.

“There’s not as many fights as we used to and not as many hits,” captain Claude Giroux said. “If you don’t take care of the puck and you don’t play smart out there, it’s going to cost your team.”

Since the third period of their first game in November, there have been costly mistakes and very little pushback from the Flyers. They’ve been outscored 14-4 in their last seven periods and a brief overtime against the Penguins.

“It’s a matter of us going out and being ourselves for a full 60 minutes,” Hakstol said. “We haven’t done that against Pittsburgh and you’ve got to credit them for that. They can push teams off balance.”

And clearly, the Penguins have presented a matchup problem for the Flyers, regardless of which team has owned last change. Sidney Crosby has thrived this season with a plus-6 rating against the Flyers.

With Sean Couturier serving as Evgeni Malkin’s shadow dating back to his rookie season in 2011-12, Giroux had been tasked with matching up with Crosby’s line. Now with Couturier and Giroux paired together, the task of containing Crosby has shifted elsewhere, whether it’s been Valtteri Filppula, Scott Laughton or Nolan Patrick.

The Flyers' 19-year-old rookie center has quickly discovered what works and what doesn’t against arguably the NHL’s best all-around player.

“You have to be a little more defensive-minded when (Crosby) is out there, and even Malkin too,” Patrick said. “Crosby’s not really a guy you can go after and knock the puck off. You just got to try and contain them and have a good stick on him.”

“I don’t think we’ve given them our best effort so far this year,” defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. “We were a little timid last time. We were trying to feel out the game and see what kind of game it was going to be, rather than dictate the play.”

The Flyers haven’t exhibited their best effort against any team recently, and no need to prove a point against the Penguins this late in the season.

The Flyers simply need points and the Penguins just happen to be the next team on the schedule.