Flyers

Gustav Nyquist scores twice as Red Wings take down Penguins

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Gustav Nyquist scores twice as Red Wings take down Penguins

DETROIT -- Gustav Nyquist scored twice, Jimmy Howard made 37 saves and the Detroit Red Wings beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 on Sunday night.

Dylan Larkin and Frans Nielsen also scored for Detroit. Evgeni Malkin got his fifth goal in seven games for the Penguins.

The Wings took the lead 11:31 into the opening period. Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg fed a cross-ice pass to Nyquist in the middle of the Pittsburgh zone. Nyquist skated out between the hash marks and used Pittsburgh defenseman Frank Corrado as a screen to fire a high shot past Matt Murray on the glove side.

Larkin added to Detroit's advantage just 59 seconds into the second. He burst down the right wing past Malkin and tucked the puck past Murray as he cut across the front of the net.

The Penguins got on the board with a power-play goal at 8:04 of the second. Howard made a spectacular glove stop Malkin's shot, but a video review determined that his glove was across the goal line when he caught the puck.

Detroit went up 3-1 at 15:18 of the second. Nielsen skated down the left wing and faked a slap shot. When Murray bit on the fake, Nielsen slid the puck along the ice under Murray's right pad.

Nyquist added his second at 16:34 of the third period. Murray stopped Tyler Bertuzzi's shot, but Nyquist was on the doorstep to slide in the rebound.

Murray finished with 19 saves (see full recap).

Johnson scores twice in Lightning's rout of Columbus
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Tyler Johnson scored twice, Andre Vasilevskiy stopped 21 shots for his ninth career shutout and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-0 on Sunday night.

Johnson's second-period goals extended his point streak to 12 games, tied for the longest in the league this season. He's got eight goals and 10 assists in that stretch.

After a slow start, Tampa Bay scored four times in a span of 7:23 in the second period, sucking the energy out of the sellout crowd at Nationwide Arena on New Year's Eve.

Nikita Kucherov got his league-leading 25th goal of the season, and Steven Stamkos and Cory Conacher also scored for the Lightning. Brayden Point, Mikhail Sergachev and Victor Hedman had two assists apiece.

Vasilevskiy didn't have to work particularly hard in recording his league-leading fifth shutout of the season for the Lightning, who lead the NHL in wins and sit atop the Atlantic Division at 28-8-2.

Joonas Korpisalo had 30 saves for Columbus. He started in place of Sergei Bobrovsky, who has struggled lately and was rested by coach John Tortorella. The Blue Jackets were 6-6-2 in December and have slipped to third in the Metropolitan Division (see full recap).

Karlsson has hat trick, Golden Knights beat Maple Leafs
LAS VEGAS -- William Karlsson had the first hat trick in Vegas history and added an assist to help the streaking Golden Knights beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3 on Sunday.

The Western Conference-leading Golden Knights have won seven straight and have earned points in 12 consecutive games, both NHL records for a first-year team. An NHL-best 11-1-1 in December, the Golden Knights are 16-2-1 at home and 26-9-2 overall.

Karlsson pushed his team-leading goals total to 20. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Erik Haula and Jonathan Marchessault also scored, and Malcolm Subban made 19 saves.

Auston Matthews scored twice for Toronto, Patrick Marleau added a goal, and Frederik Anderson stopped 25 shots.

Toronto is 11-7-1 against the Western Conference and 8-5-0 against Pacific Division team. The Maple Leafs, who played their 10th road game of the month, finished a five-game trip 2-2-1.

Toronto went 0-for-3 with the man advantage (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.