Halak does the heavy lifting with 50 saves

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Halak does the heavy lifting with 50 saves

NEW YORK -- Jaroslav Halak stopped 50 shots for his first shutout of the season as the New York Islanders kept up their recent mastery of the crosstown-rival Rangers with a 3-0 victory Thursday night.

Josh Bailey, Jordan Eberle and Thomas Hickey each scored for the Islanders, who have won all three meetings this season and 10 of the last 11. Rookie sensation Mathew Barzal had three assists to help the Islanders move into a tie with Columbus one point behind Carolina for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

Halak, who faced 51 shots in a loss to Columbus on Tuesday night, had 15 saves in the first period, 14 in the second and another 21 in the third for his 42nd career shutout.

Henrik Lundqvist finished with 32 saves for the Rangers, who have lost six of eight overall and dropped to 0-4-1 in five visits to Bazrclays Center since the Islanders moved to the Brooklyn arena in 2015. The Rangers remained four points behind the Hurricanes, who lost at New Jersey (see full recap).

Hischier, Noesen push Devils past Hurricanes
NEWARK, N.J. -- Nico Hischier had a goal and two assists, and Stefan Noesen scored twice to lead the New Jersey Devils to a 5-2 victory over the Carolina Hurrricanes on Thursday night in a game between the two teams currently in wild-card playoff positions in the Eastern Conference.

Kyle Palmieri and Damon Severson also scored for the Devils, who have won two straight after losing four in a row. Keith Kinkaid made 27 saves.

Hischier had the primary assist on Palmieri's go-ahead goal late in the second period and helped blow the game open in the third, combining with Noesen to score goals in a 32-second span.

Jeff Skinner and defenseman Brett Pesce scored for Carolina, which was on the road after going 5-2-1 in a season-high eight-game homestand. Scott Darling had 17 saves for the Hurricanes, who will play New Jersey at home on Sunday (see full recap).

Aston-Reese helps Pens notch 10th straight home win
PITTSBURGH -- Zach Aston-Reese broke a third-period tie with a power-play goal and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-1 on Thursday night for their 10th straight home victory.

Two nights after scoring his first two NHL goals, Aston-Reese gave the Penguins the lead at 5:24 of the period. Kris Letang's point shot through traffic clipped Aston-Reese's skate and went between goalie Jonathan Quick's pads.

The Penguins' home streak is the longest since a franchise-record 13-game run during the 2013-14 season. The Penguins haven't lost in Pittsburgh since Jan. 4, a 4-0 setback to Carolina. Pittsburgh has won eight of 10 overall and 13 of 17.

Ryan Reaves scored in the second period, and Evgeni Malkin added an empty-netter. Matt Murray, playing his 100th NHL game, stopped 34 shots. Murray is in sole possession of first place for the most wins in his first 100 games among goalies to debut since 2005-06. He is unbeaten in regulation in his last eight decisions and won his last six at home.

Dion Phaneuf scored a power-play goal in his Kings debut. Phaneuf and forward Nate Thompson were traded from Ottawa to the Kings for Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore during the Senators' 6-3 loss to Pittsburgh on Tuesday night (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.

Devils' Hall wastes no time in overtime

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Devils' Hall wastes no time in overtime

PITTSBURGH -- Taylor Hall beat Matt Murray on a breakaway 27 seconds into overtime to lift the New Jersey Devils to a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night.

Hall was all alone when Nico Hischier found him with a long lead pass. Hall then slipped the puck between Murray's legs for his 33rd goal of the season as New Jersey picked up two vital points in the race for one of the two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference.

Hall added two assists for New Jersey. Hischier finished with a goal and an assist, and Blake Coleman and Will Butcher also scored for the Devils. Keith Kincaid made 40 stops for the Devils, who finished a season-high six-game road trip 4-2.

Sidney Crosby scored his 25th of the season for Pittsburgh. Brian Dumolin and Phil Kessel scored in the third period as the Penguins erased a two-goal deficit. Murray finished with 30 saves as the Penguins lost for just the second time in their last 17 home games.

New Jersey's drive to end a six-year playoff drought has stalled since the All-Star break. A lopsided loss in San Jose dropped the Devils to just 13-12 since Jan. 30 and skated onto the ice at PPG Paints Arena with a tenuous grasp on the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference (see full recap).

Bruins win on Pastrnak’s last-second goal
DALLAS -- David Pastrnak broke a tie with 12 seconds left and the Boston Bruins scored three straight goals in the third period to rally past the fading Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night.

A scramble followed a faceoff in the Dallas end, and Brad Marchand passed to Pastrnak in front. While falling down, he put the puck past Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen.

Tuukka Rask made a season-high 40 saves for the Bruins. Marchand scored Boston's first goal and also assisted on a short-handed goal by Tim Schaller that tied it midway through the third period.

The second-place Bruins won for the first time in three games (1-0-2) to move within four points of Atlantic Division leader Tampa Bay. Boston has already clinched a playoff berth.

The Stars are winless in their last seven games (0-5-2). They remained four points behind Colorado for the second Western Conference wild card (see full recap).

Berglund, Blues push win streak to 4
ST. LOUIS -- Patrik Berglund scored twice and the surging St. Louis Blues beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 on Friday night for their fourth consecutive victory.

Vladimir Tarasenko and Dmitrij Jaskin also scored for St. Louis. Jake Allen made 19 saves in his eighth straight start as the Blues won for the sixth time in seven games.

Sam Gagner scored for Vancouver, which has lost eight of nine. Anders Nilsson stopped 21 shots.

The Blues swept the season series and have won their last five games against the Canucks.

Tarasenko extended the lead to 3-1 just 14 seconds into the third period, slipping Jaden Schwartz's pass between Nilsson's legs. Tarasenko missed the previous two games with an upper-body injury.

Jaskin's sixth goal of the season with 2:29 left sealed it for St. Louis (see full recap).