Greiss catches Islanders' goalie wave

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Greiss catches Islanders' goalie wave

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Thomas Greiss stopped 44 shots for his first shutout of the season, and the New York Islanders beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 on Friday night.

Johnny Boychuk, Anthony Beauvillier and John Tavares scored for the Islanders, who moved past the Hurricanes into the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Greiss got his eighth career shutout one night after Jaroslav Halak had 50 saves in a 3-0 home win against the crosstown-rival Rangers.

Cam Ward finished with 20 saves for the Hurricanes, who lost their second straight and fell into a tie with Columbus one point behind the Islanders for the conference's last playoff spot.

Jeff Skinner had his game-tying goal in the third period waved off after a replay review ruled he was offside when he entered the zone. Carolina failed to get a better scoring chance the rest of the night despite getting nearly twice as many shots as the Islanders (see full recap).

Wheeler, Scheifele help Jets rout Avalanche
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Blake Wheeler had two goals and assists and Mark Scheifele assisted on three goals as the Winnipeg Jets defeated the Colorado Avalanche 6-1 on Friday night.

Wheeler ended a 15-game goal drought and Scheifele now has seven points in his last three games.

Kyle Connor, Andrew Copp, Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers also scored for Winnipeg, which is 5-2-1 during its 10-game homestand. Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers each had two assists and Laine added one.

Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves to pick up his 30th win of the season. It was the most wins by a Jets goalie since the franchise moved to Winnipeg from Atlanta prior to the 2011-12 season. Ondrej Pavelec had 29 wins the first season.

Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen nixed Hellebuyck's shutout bid when he scored unassisted on a wraparound with 5:56 left in the third period.

Colorado goalie Jonathan Bernier was pulled following the second period after Winnipeg went up 4-0 on 20 shots. Semyon Varlamov stopped six of the eight shots he faced in relief for the Avalanche (see full recap).

Bishop, Stars hold off Blues to make division move
DALLAS -- Ben Bishop stopped 27 shots and the Dallas Stars held on to beat St. Louis 2-1 on Friday night, moving past the Blues into third place in the Central Division.

Mattias Janmark and Stephen Johns scored for Dallas, which had a season-low 16 shots on goal while winning for the sixth time in seven games. The Stars, who had not been this high in the standings since Nov. 5, are tied with the Blues with 72 points, but have two games in hand.

Brayden Schenn spoiled Bishop's shutout bid with a power-play goal with 1:14 remaining, and Jake Allen finished with 14 saves for St. Louis. The Blues have lost three straight (0-2-1).

Neither team scored in the first period, when the Blues outshot Dallas 8-3. St. Louis failed to score on two power plays, and the Stars were unsuccessful on their only man-advantage of the period.

Janmark scored on the power play at 2:42 of the second, getting his 16th of the season to top his total from his rookie season two years ago. It was also his fourth on power-play goal of the season.

Bishop preserved the Stars' lead early in the third as he turned away Schenn's backhand attempt in front of the net (see full recap).

Robert Hagg finds himself the odd man out vs. Rangers

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Robert Hagg finds himself the odd man out vs. Rangers

Rookie Robert Hagg will be a healthy scratch for the first time in his career following his performance Tuesday in Detroit, where the defenseman played just 12:39 and finished with a minus-2 rating, including just four shifts and 2:28 during the Flyers' third-period comeback.

Hagg missed four games with a lower-body injury, and when he returned he played on the left side, paired with Radko Gudas. For most of the second half of the season, Hagg has played the right side with Andrew MacDonald as the team’s second pairing.

“It’s not always about the individual,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “The pair (Hagg and Gudas) didn’t have easy chemistry there. We ended up in some situations with and against the speed and ended up with some bad gaps. The pair and combination wasn’t as effective as we needed it to be.”

Lyon in the crease
If Hakstol wanted to be a very unconventional think-outside-the-box coach, he would start Petr Mrazek for a period and then bring in Alex Lyon for the remaining two periods and beyond.

Lyon will start tonight’s game against the Rangers, the same team he earned his first career win against after replacing Michal Neuvirth following the first period. 

Some of Lyon’s best work this season has been coming in cold off the bench. He owns a .970 save percentage in games he has entered in relief, and a pedestrian .890 save percentage in five games he has started.

“It’s not just based on one performance, it never is,” Hakstol said. “ It’s always based on situation and a player’s body of work. Alex’s body of work has been good. He came in the other night and did an excellent job and that’s part of the decision.”

Shorthanded shortcomings
The Red Wings scored the tenth shorthanded goal against the Flyers Tuesday, matching the Colorado Avalanche for the most 5-on-4 goals allowed this season. 

This season, the Flyers are 4-4-2 in games in which they’ve given up a shorthanded goal, but more importantly, many of those goals have been momentum killers — the difference between tying a game or facing a two-goal deficit.

In the Flyers' 5-1 loss to the Rangers on Jan. 16, New York forward Paul Carey scored shorthanded with ten seconds remaining in the first period that extended the Rangers lead to 3-1, and took away any hope for a Flyers' comeback.    

“The Rangers are going to come with the kitchen sink on their penalty kill and they’re playing without a lot of pressure,” Hakstol said. “At times, you’re going to see two, three and four guys on their PK come up the ice offensively, so we’re going to have to do a very good job of that tonight.” 

Much of the blame can be attributed to the power play’s 1-3-1 setup — Shayne Gostisbehere serving as the only player on the point with Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek in the circles, Sean Couturier in the high slot and Wayne Simmonds down low.

When a turnover or giveaway is committed between the circles and the blue line, typically only Gostisbehere or the player taking his spot at the point is the only player back to defend, leaving the Flyers wide open for a two-on-one shorthanded chance against.   

“We starting off taking a chance with one defenseman out there,” Gostisbehere said. “That’s just the name of the game. I don’t think there’s too many power play units with two D out there right now. I think for us, it’s staying within ourselves and keeping it simple.”

Crosby's highlight-reel goal sparks Penguins' rally

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Crosby's highlight-reel goal sparks Penguins' rally

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby ignited a rally with a highlight-reel goal and became the third active player with 700 career assists in the Pittsburgh Penguins' 5-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.

Crosby's picked up his 24th goal of the season when he knocked a pass from Jake Guentzel out of the air, deflected it toward the front of his stick and smacked it by Carey Price to tie it at 3 late in the second period.

Derick Brassard put the Penguins in front to stay, beating Price early in the third period as Pittsburgh avoided dropping both games of a back-to-back against also-rans Montreal and the New York Islanders.

Guentzel had a goal and two assists. His 21st goal of the season came off an assist from Crosby, the 700th of Crosby's career. Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist also scored for the Penguins, who drew within two points of idle first-place Washington in the Metropolitan Division. Casey DeSmith finished with 27 saves.

Jonathan Drouin, Nikita Scherbak and Jacob de la Rose scored for the Canadiens, who have dropped nine of their last 10 games. Carey Price made 34 stops in his first start in a month due to a concussion (see full recap).

Schwartz, Blues top Bruins in OT
ST. LOUIS — Jaden Schwartz scored his second goal of the game 30 seconds into overtime to give the St. Louis Blues a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

Schwartz skated up the middle and fired a shot past Anton Khudobin. The Blues won for the fifth time in six games to move within a point of the final Western Conference wild-card spot.

Jake Allen made 21 saves to improve to 24-21-2.

Ryan Donato scored for Boston. The Bruins clinched a playoff spot and moved within four points of Tampa Bay for the Eastern lead.

Schwartz tied it midway through the third period with a wrist shot from the top of the circle.

Donato scored his second goal in his second NHL game. He had a goal and two assists in a 5-4 loss to Columbus on Monday night.

Donato, still a student at Harvard University, returned to Massachusetts on Tuesday to attend class before flying back to St. Louis to rejoin the Bruins. His father, Ted, played 528 games in two stints with the Bruins (1992-99, 2003-04) (see full recap).

Rookie sets record in Coyotes’ victory
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Clayton Keller had two assists to set the Arizona Coyotes' franchise record for most points by a rookie in a 4-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night in a matchup of the NHL's two worst teams.

Rookie Dylan Strome scored in his first game after being called up from the minors. Derek Stepan had a goal and assist, and Richard Panik and Max Domi, with an empty-netter, also scored. Antti Raanta stopped 29 shots to improve to 12-4-4 in his past 20 starts.

Keller, Arizona's 2016 first-round draft pick, extended his points streak to six games, in which he has two goals and five assists. He has 55 points, one more than Peter Mueller had in setting the rookie team record in 2007-08. And Keller has 35 assists, one more than teammate Max Domi had in his rookie season two years ago.

Arizona improved to 13-5-2 in its past 20, and earned its 61st point in leaving Vancouver alone at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

Jordan Nolan scored for Buffalo, which dropped to 23-38-12 to remain in last place in the overall standings (see full recap).