Best of NHL: Jeff Carter leads surging Kings to 4th straight win

Best of NHL: Jeff Carter leads surging Kings to 4th straight win

LOS ANGELES -- Jeff Carter scored two goals and Peter Budaj earned his sixth shutout of the season in the Los Angeles Kings' fourth consecutive victory, 5-0 over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night.

Marian Gaborik also scored during Los Angeles' three-goal first period, and Dustin Brown and Dwight King added third-period goals in the Kings' first win over the Avalanche in four tries.

Budaj made 22 saves in the longtime Avalanche goalie's 17th career shutout for Los Angeles, which has ramped up its playoff push with back-to-back victories after hosting the All-Star Game.

Spencer Martin stopped 35 shots in the 21-year-old prospect's third NHL appearance for the league-worst Avalanche, who have lost nine straight and 19 of 21 (see full recap).

Backstrom’s big night lifts Caps to win
WASHINGTON -- Nicklas Backstrom had three points and Alex Ovechkin continued to climb the NHL's goal-scoring charts as the Washington Capitals beat the Boston Bruins 5-3 on Wednesday night.

The Bruins' winning streak ended at three, and they got a scare when center Patrice Bergeron took a slap shot off his right leg. League-leading Washington extended its winning streak against Boston to eight.

Backstrom had a goal and two assists, setting up T.J. Oshie and Ovechkin, who passed Ron Francis for 27th on the all-time list. Brett Connolly and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored for the Capitals, who got 30 saves from Braden Holtby.

Despite allowing two power-play goals to fellow All-Star Brad Marchand and a late goal to David Krejci, Holtby improved to 11-2-0 against the Bruins in the regular season (see full recap).

Monahan, Flames take down Wild
CALGARY, Alberta -- Sean Monahan scored twice to lead the Calgary Flames to a 5-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night.

Deryk Engelland had a goal and an assist, and Alex Chiasson and Micheal Ferland also scored to help the Flames win consecutive games after losing four straight. Brian Elliott stopped 28 shots.

Jason Zucker scored and Devan Dubnyk finished with 31 saves for the Wild, who had won three straight and five of their previous six overall. Minnesota was also 12-0-2 in its last 14 road games (see full recap).

Blues put an end to Blue Jackets' 10-game winning streak

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Blues put an end to Blue Jackets' 10-game winning streak

COLUMBUS, Ohio —The St. Louis Blues got things going early and put an end to the Columbus Blue Jackets' 10-game winning streak with a big victory over their own.

Jake Allen made 33 saves, Alexander Steen scored on St. Louis' first shot of the game, and the Blues beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 on Saturday night.

"It was a huge win for us, especially when Colorado wins this afternoon," Allen said. "Points are crucial right now. Let's just take it one step at a time. And we will figure out the standings at the end."

St. Louis has 89 points - one behind Colorado, which beat Vegas 2-1 in a shootout, and Minnesota, which played Saturday night.

"Approaching every game like the season is on the line," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "The challenge for us now is to make sure that doesn't change. I am very pleased and very proud of the group. There is an awful lot of character inside our locker room, and I love that it's on full display right now." (See full recap.)

Capitals tighten grip on 1st in Metro
MONTREAL —  Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson each scored twice and Nicklas Backstrom had four assists as the Washington Capitals defeated the Montreal Canadiens 6-4 on Saturday night.

Jay Beagle and T.J. Oshie also scored for Washington (44-24-7), which strengthened its grip on first place in the Metropolitan Division. Backstrom posted his 20th career game with at least four points and second this season.

Charles Hudon scored twice for Montreal (27-37-12), which was coming off a 3-0 win at Buffalo on Friday night. Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher each had a goal for the Canadiens, who are 2-8-2 in their last 12 games (see full recap).

Kinkaid saves 35 shots as Devils pick up key win over Lightning 
NEWARK, N.J. — While Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier have been getting much of the credit for New Jersey's surprising playoff push, goaltender Keith Kinkaid has been the one carrying the Devils back to the postseason the past two weeks.

Kinkaid made 35 saves and the Devils took another major step toward making the playoffs for the first time since 2012 with a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.

Hischier and Kyle Palmieri scored for New Jersey, which has elevated its playoff chances with wins in five of seven games - including outstanding efforts in beating the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins and the Eastern Conference-leading Lightning on consecutive nights.

"Keith has been a difference maker," Devils coach John Hynes said of Kinkaid, who had 75 saves the past two nights. "He has really come in and played well. He has made key saves at key times. He obviously won quite a few games and been a real important factor for us in remaining competitive in the playoff race. We would like to see him continue that at that level, as well." (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.