Flyers

Ovechkin nabs league goals lead with OT marker

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Ovechkin nabs league goals lead with OT marker

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Alex Ovechkin scored his NHL-leading 26th goal 1:57 into overtime, and the Washington Capitals beat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-4 on Tuesday night for their third straight win.

Ovechkin also tied it with 7:15 left in regulation, with Nicklas Backstrom assisting on both goals. Alex Chiasson, Devante Smith-Pelly and Dmitry Orlov each scored for the Capitals, who went to overtime for the sixth time in eight games.

Teuvo Teravainen and Elias Lindholm scored in the third period, and Victor Rask had two goals for the Hurricanes, who trailed by two midway through the second. They rallied to take a short-lived lead midway through the third before Ovechkin struck twice to end their six-game home winning streak.

After Sebastian Aho hit the post in OT for Carolina, Ovechkin headed the other way and fired a shot from the right circle that beat Cam Ward to end it (see full recap).

Blues continue dominance over Devils
ST. LOUIS -- Carter Hutton stopped 24 shots through overtime and both New Jersey attempts in the shootout, Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko scored in the tiebreaker, and the Blues beat the Devils 3-2 Tuesday night.

Tarasenko and Vladimir Sobotka scored in regulation as St. Louis got its ninth straight win against New Jersey, dating back to a 7-1 loss to the Devils on Jan. 21, 2014. The Blues have a 30-11 scoring edge during the win streak.

Hutton improved to 7-3-0 on the season. He made an eye-popping pad save on Marcus Johansson with 2:09 left in overtime, and then stopped Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri in the shootout.

Nico Hischier and Hall scored for New Jersey. Keith Kincaid made 27 stops through overtime, but failed on both shootout shots. The Devils have lost three straight (see full recap).

Vasilevskiy, Lightning shut out Leafs
TORONTO -- Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 30 shots for his NHL-best sixth shutout of the season to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 2-0 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.

Vasilevskiy got his league-leading 26th win, and Cedrick Paquette and Alex Killorn scored for Tampa Bay, which won for the 12th time in 14 games.

Frederik Andersen had 34 saves for Toronto, which lost its third straight and is 3-6-1 in its last 10 games.

Tampa Bay controlled much of the pace during the first period, outshooting Toronto 25-12. The Lightning opened the scoring when Chris Kunitz stripped the puck from Andersen while the goalie was handling it behind the net. Kunitz centered a pass to Paquette in the slot and he converted at 12:00 for his first goal since last Jan. 21.

The Lightning added to their lead when Killorn's shot from the circle went through Andersen's legs. Initially, game officials let play resume as they ruled no goal at the time but after 22 seconds the league office called in to interrupt play and award Tampa the goal at with 3:06 remaining (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.