Best of NHL: Canadiens top Panthers, clinch Atlantic Division title

Best of NHL: Canadiens top Panthers, clinch Atlantic Division title

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Artturi Lehkonen scored twice in the third period and had an assist to help the Montreal Canadiens clinch the Atlantic Division title with a 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Monday night.

Andrew Shaw and Alexander Radulov also scored for the Canadiens, and Charlie Lindgren stopped 31 shots in his second NHL start.

Jonathan Marchessault scored for Florida and Reto Berra finished with 27 saves.

Lehkonen put Montreal ahead 2-1 at 1:27 of the third as he beat Berra with a rising shot from between the circles high to the glove side. He made it a two-goal game when he followed Paul Byron's breakaway attempt by knocking in the rebound for his 16th with 3:11 remaining (see full story)

Maple Leafs beat Sabres, close in on playoff spot
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Auston Matthews scored his 39th goal to set the record for most by an American-born rookie and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-2 on Monday night to move closer to clinching their second playoff berth in 12 seasons.

Nazem Kadri had a goal and an assist, James van Rimedsyk and Leo Komarov also scored, and Frederick Andersen made 18 saves for the Maple Leafs in their fourth straight win.

The victory vaulted Toronto (39-24-15) one point ahead of Boston (43-30-6) for second-place in the Atlantic Division.

Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly scored for Buffalo. Robin Lehner was pulled after giving up three goals on five shots in the first five minutes, and Anders Nillson stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced.

The Sabres have lost three in a row and are 6-12-2 in their past 20 games. The late-season collapse will extend Buffalo's playoff drought to six consecutive seasons (see full story)

Red Wings top Senators on Svechnikov's SO winner
DETROIT -- Evgeni Svechnikov scored the only goal of the shootout in his NHL debut, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a 5-4 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.

In the seventh round of the tiebreaker, Svechnikov went to his backhand and slid the puck between the pads of Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson.

Tomas Tatar had a goal and an assist, and Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist and Dylan Larkin scored in regulation for Detroit, Nick Jensen had two assists and Petr Mrazek stopped 41 shots.

Kyle Turris and Fredrik Claesson scored 4:09 apart in the third period to tie the score for the Senators, who pulled into a tie with Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division. Ottawa is technically ahead at the moment with a game in hand on the Bruins.

Erik Karlsson had a goal and an assist, Alexandre Burows also scored and Turris also had two assists for the Senators (see full story)

Blue Jackets tighten grip for 10th straight win

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Blue Jackets tighten grip for 10th straight win

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 33 shots for his fifth shutout of the season, Cam Atkinson had a goal and an assist, and the Columbus Blue Jackets shut out the Florida Panthers 4-0 on Thursday night for their 10th straight win.

Pierre-Luc Dubois had two assists for the Blue Jackets, who improved to 42-28-5 and joined Philadelphia (1984-86) and Pittsburgh (2010-13) as the only NHL franchises to record 10-game win streaks in consecutive seasons.

The shutout was the 24th of Bobrovsky's career and his seventh straight win. Sonny Milano, Seth Jones and Thomas Vanek -- into an empty net -- also scored for Columbus, which moved into a second-place tie in the Metropolitan Division with idle Pittsburgh, each with 89 points.

Florida dropped to 37-28-7. With 10 games left in the season, the Panthers remained a point behind the idle New Jersey Devils for a playoff spot (see full recap).

Maple Leafs top Predators in Matthews’ return
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Auston Matthews had a goal in his return from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for 10 games and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Thursday night.

The Predators had been 14-0-1 since their previous regulation loss on Feb. 17.

James van Riemsdyk and Mitchell Marner each had a goal and an assist, and William Nylander and Jake Gardiner also scored for Toronto, which has won five of six.

Morgan Rielly had three assists for the Maple Leafs, and Tyler Bozak had two. Frederik Andersen stopped 23 shots.

Viktor Arvidsson and Scott Hartnell scored for Nashville. Pekka Rinne had 23 saves (see full recap).

Grubauer, Capitals shut out Red Wings
DETROIT -- Philipp Grubauer made 39 saves for his third shutout of the season, and Brett Connolly scored the game's only goal on a third-period breakaway to lift the Washington Capitals to a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.

The Capitals have won six of seven and lead Pittsburgh and Columbus by four points atop the Metropolitan Division as the regular season winds down. Washington has turned increasingly to Grubauer of late after Braden Holtby struggled in February and at the beginning of March. Holtby wasn't available Thursday because of an injury coach Barry Trotz described as a tweak.

The Capitals took the lead with 13:19 remaining in the game after Detroit defenseman Xavier Ouellet couldn't control the puck near Washington's blue line. Connolly and teammate Jakub Vrana went the other way on a two-man breakaway, and Connolly beat Jimmy Howard with a wrist shot to the glove side. It was his 15th goal of the season.

The Red Wings had a goal called back for goalie interference in the first period -- replays showed Tyler Bertuzzi appearing to make contact with Grubauer in front of the net. Detroit squandered a great opportunity in the second when the Red Wings had a two-man advantage for the full 2:00.

Andreas Athanasiou had a breakaway in the third, but couldn't beat Grubauer. Athanasiou had another chance in the final minutes, but his shot deflected wide as Grubauer tried unsuccessfully to grab it with his glove.

Detroit has lost 11 of 12 (see full recap).

Dave Hakstol shows who he can trust in Flyers' win over Rangers

Dave Hakstol shows who he can trust in Flyers' win over Rangers


Who can I trust?

That’s the underlying question Dave Hakstol is attempting to answer almost nightly as the Flyers inch their way toward a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It was no different in the Flyers' frantic 4-3 win over the Rangers Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

“We were sporadic. The first three or four minutes of the game, we weren’t sharp or crisp,” Hakstol said. “Honestly, we got back on our heels in the last part of the third period. There are things that we obviously have to clean up.”

The cleanup crew Hakstol is looking for must possess a trustworthiness factor that makes each player dependable during crunch time. Against the Rangers, the Flyers' coach was forced to lean heavily on a handful of guys who weren’t even on Hakstol’s roster during the first half of the season.

Matt Read replaced Travis Konecny (who scored two goals) on the top line, and was counted on defensively where Konecny came up short in the previous two periods. Read played 13:52 to Konecny’s 12:29.

“He wasn’t taking care of the puck very well,” Hakstol said of Konecny. “Individuals have got to be better at this time of year and how we manage the puck and the mentality that we’re going to do things with.”

“It’s just part of buying in and doing things for the team” Konecny said. “I have no problem with it. It’s a matter of getting the two points. If that’s the way we’ve got to win, then we’ve got to do that every time.”

The 21-year-old Oskar Lindblom scored the eventual game-winning goal on the opening shift of the third period, and the second-line winger was consistently shifted until the final four minutes of regulation.  

“Everybody’s different. It depends on the player,” Hakstol said. “Oskar is a guy that has come in and fit into the structural part of our game very well if you watch Oskar’s game. He’s just very intelligent in terms of playing within a system. He always finds a way to be on the right side of the puck.”

And then there’s goaltender Alex Lyon, who stepped up following his strong performance in relief of Petr Mrazek Tuesday night in Detroit. 

When the defense in front of him broke down, Lyon answered the call and preserved the Flyers' lead throughout times in the second period and even during a spotty third period.

“I was actually thinking about it before the game today,” Lyon said. “Every game is so different, and you feel different. Circumstances are different, the team is different every day, so I think the best guys are those who can adjust to that, so I try and take a page out of their book.”

And with his 33-save performance, Lyon has put himself in position to start Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh.

If there’s a doghouse for those who perform poorly, then consider this to be Hakstol’s safe house. They may not be the Flyers' best guys, but as of now, they’re the reliable ones.

Or as Hakstol is looking for — those who play on the right side of the puck.