Best of NHL: Maple Leafs topple Blue Jackets to boost playoff hopes

Best of NHL: Maple Leafs topple Blue Jackets to boost playoff hopes

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- William Nylander and Leo Komarov each had a goal and an assist and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 on Wednesday night.

Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri also scored, and Frederik Andersen had 32 saves as Toronto stayed in the thick of the playoff hunt in the Atlantic Division. Nikita Zaitsev scored an empty-net goal after the Blue Jackets pulled their goalie for a sixth skater near the end.

David Savard and Brandon Saad scored for Columbus, which lost for the first time in the last five games. Backup goaltender Joonas Korpisalo stopped 26 shots. The Blue Jackets stayed in third place in the Metropolitan Division, two points behind leader Washington and one behind Pittsburgh. They play the Capitals in Washington on Thursday night (see full recap).

Ladd rallies Islanders past rival Rangers
NEW YORK -- Andrew Ladd scored the tiebreaking goal with about 7 1/2 minutes remaining in the third period and the New York Islanders rallied for 3-2 victory over the crosstown-rival Rangers on Wednesday night.

Anders Lee had a goal and an assist, and Nikolay Kulemin also scored for the Islanders, who pulled two points behind Boston for the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot. Anthony Beauvillier had two assists and Thomas Greiss stopped 34 shots.

Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash scored, and Antti Raanta finished with 25 saves for the Rangers, who remained six points behind Columbus for third place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Islanders, who beat the Rangers for the third time in four games this season and seven of eight over the last two, won for just the second time in six games (1-3-1). The Islanders also improved to 17-9-4 since interim coach Doug Weight replaced the fired Jack Capuano (see full recap).

Petr Mrazek in strange yet familiar territory

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Petr Mrazek in strange yet familiar territory

Petr Mrazek knew the day he was traded to the Flyers wouldn’t be the last time he’d be in Detroit. Looking at the Flyers’ schedule, Mrazek noticed one more game left to be played against his former team.

Tonight, Mrazek will make his 12th start with his new team against the organization that drafted him in the fifth round in 2010.

Prior to the morning skate, Mrazek spent time talking with former teammates and fellow netminders Jimmy Howard and Jared Coreau. But it was a little strange walking into Little Caesars Arena for the first time as a visitor.

“A little different, different entrance, but it’s a fun building and one of the nicest ‘visitor’ locker room in the league,” Mrazek said. “Every game is different. I wouldn’t know who’s got more of an advantage. I talked with Double-A (Andreas Athanasiou) this morning and asked is he’s going to do the same move as he always does or if he’s going to go backhand. But when the puck drops we just got to focus on ourselves.”

Mrazek won his fifth game in orange and black with a 6-3 victory over the Washington Capitals Sunday. If the Flyers advance to the playoffs, the Red Wings would receive a third-round draft pick as compensation.  

The Dead Wing Era
With a win tonight, Mrazek and the Flyers can eliminate the Red Wings from the postseason. It will mark the second straight season Detroit has failed to advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which hasn’t happened in Hockeytown since the early 1980s.
The current-day Red Wings have completely tanked since the trade deadline. They’ve dropped ten straight (0-9-1) since Feb. 26, and have just one regulation victory over the last 15 games.

The Flyers will be looking for a three-game season sweep of the Red Wings while being mindful of a dreaded letdown game against one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference.

“It’s important for us to be ready from the start,” said center Sean Couturier. “We don’t want to get surprised. They’re still a good team. They’ve got some talent probably some guys who want to prove themselves. These games are never easy. We’ve got to be prepared for that and just focus on what we’ve got to do.”

The Dead Wing Era is a period in Detroit hockey from the late 1960s to the early 1980s when the Red Wings failed to reach the postseason in 15 of 17 seasons. 

Passing Big E
With a point tonight Claude Giroux can pass Eric Lindros for fifth place on the Flyers all-time scoring list with 660 points. Whenever his career ends, Giroux will join Lindros one day in the Flyers Hall of Fame.

The current and former Flyers captains spoke briefly in Voorhees earlier this season prior to Lindros’ No. 88 retirement ceremony on Jan. 18. Overtaking “Big E” is an accomplishment Giroux holds in high regard.

“Just for what he’s done for the organization it means something. He’s had a great career,” Giroux said. “Just talking with him was pretty special. He talked about what experiences he’s had, talking about things he was going through as a team. To be able to pass him, it’s pretty special.” 

This season alone, Giroux has worked his way from 11th on the franchise’s career scoring list to where he is now. Once he moves past Lindros, Giroux will be 38 points shy of passing Rick MacLeish for fourth place, which in all likelihood, will come next season.

Blue Jackets pull even with Flyers in points

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Blue Jackets pull even with Flyers in points

BOSTON -- Cam Atkinson scored 2:55 into overtime to lift the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 5-4 victory over Boston on Monday night for their eighth straight victory, spoiling a splendid NHL debut for Bruins forward Ryan Donato.

Sonny Milano, Boone Jenner, Thomas Vanek and Artemi Panarin also scored for the Blue Jackets. Nick Foligno had two assists, nd Vanek and Jenner each added one. Joonas Korpisalo stopped 34 shots.

Atkinson cut in on the left wing and fired a wrister past Rask for the game-winner.

Columbus moved into a tie with Philadelphia with 85 points, but the Flyers hold the tiebreaker for third place in the Metropolitan Division and the Blue Jackets hold the first wild card in the Eastern Conference.

Donato had a goal and two assists for Boston, which moved a point behind idle Tampa Bay for first in the Atlantic. Riley Nash, Brad Marchand and David Krejci also scored for the Bruins, and Tuukka Rask finished with 19 saves (see full recap).

Luongo, Panthers blank Canadiens
MONTREAL -- Roberto Luongo stopped 28 shots for his third shutout of the season and 76th of his career, leading the Florida Panthers to a 2-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.

Aaron Ekblad and Aleksander Barkov scored to help the Panthers inch closer to a playoff position, pulling three points behind idle new Jersey for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. Florida has two games in hand on the Devils.

Antti Niemi finished with 38 saves for Montreal, which was shut out for the second straight game and 12th time this season -- including three against the Panthers. The Canadiens were coming off a 4-0 loss at Toronto on Saturday.

The opening 10 minutes saw two fights, one of which had Ekblad sparring with Nicolas Deslauriers. It may have fired up the big defenseman because he stole a puck from Michael McCarron, deked past defenseman Jeff Petry and beat Niemi with a move to the backhand for an unassisted goal with 1:29 left in the opening period.

Jacob De La Rose thought he had tied it for Montreal 17 seconds later, but a video review showed Alex Galchenyuk was offside by a toenail and it was waived off.

Barkov got his 26th of the season at 6:23 of the third when his shot from the left side went in off Montreal forward Logan Shaw.

Star goalie Carey Price returned to the Montreal lineup after concussion suffered Feb. 20. He backed up Niemi (see full recap).

Rinne makes 35 saves in Preds’ shutout
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Pekka Rinne stopped 35 shots for his eighth shutout of the season and the Nashville Predators set a franchise record by earning a point in their 15th consecutive game with a 4-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.

Mike Fisher and Ryan Johansen scored goals 4:34 apart in the second period, and Filip Forsberg and Ryan Hartman sealed the victory by scoring in the final four minutes.

The NHL-leading Predators improved to 14-0-1 in their past 15, and also extended their team-best road winning streak to nine straight.

Rinne won his 11th straight to match his personal best in a stretch in which he's allowed just 18 goals. The shutout was the 51st of his 12-year career and third in nine games.

And Rinne also improved to 40-9-4 in becoming the NHL's seventh goalie to win 40 games in a season three or more times.

The Predators haven't lost in regulation since a 3-1 defeat to Detroit at home on Feb. 17. And they improved to 12-0-3 in their past 15 road games since a 3-0 loss at Vegas on Jan. 2 (see full recap).