Flyers

NHL Playoffs: Capitals cut Penguins' series lead in OT after Sidney Crosby exits

NHL Playoffs: Capitals cut Penguins' series lead in OT after Sidney Crosby exits

PITTSBURGH -- A shot from the point by Washington's Kevin Shattenkirk salvaged -- or at the very least, extended -- his team's season.

A far different kind of shot may end up determining the outcome of a playoff series growing more contentious by the shift.

Shattenkirk's goal 3:13 into overtime lifted the Capitals to a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins to cut Pittsburgh's lead to 2-1 in the Eastern Conference semifinal, one that could go on without Penguins star Sidney Crosby.

The Pittsburgh captain left just over 5 minutes into the game after getting cross-checked to the head by Washington's Matt Niskanen. The NHL's leading scorer and one of the game's best players did not return and his status for Wednesday's Game 4 -- and maybe the rest of the postseason -- is uncertain.

"Certainly didn't mean to injure him," said Niskanen, who spent four years with Crosby in Pittsburgh before signing with Washington in 2014. "It's an unfortunate play that happened really quick."

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Crosby will be evaluated on Tuesday. Even without Crosby, Pittsburgh pushed Washington to the limit. Evgeni Malkin and Justin Schultz scored in a 48-second span with less than 2 minutes left in regulation to force overtime.

For once Washington, whose 43-year franchise history is littered with playoff collapse after playoff collapse, dominated the extra period before Shattenkirk's flip zipped by Marc-Andre Fleury's blocker to send his teammates pouring over the boards in celebration.

"Tonight was a great test for all of us," said Shattenkirk, who played miserably during a blowout loss in Game 2. "There were a lot of different moments in the game where we had to see what we were made of."

One frightening moment, however, will resonate above all others.

The game was scoreless early in the first period when Crosby skated just outside the Capitals' crease. Washington's Alex Ovechkin slashed Crosby along the upper body and Crosby slid awkwardly trying to maintain his balance when he collided with Niskanen, who had his stick raised.

The stick caught Crosby flush across the mouth and the two-time Hart Trophy winner laid on the ice in pain for several moments before slowly skating off under his own power as Pittsburgh trainers searched the area for Crosby's teeth.

Niskanen earned a major penalty for cross-checking and was given a game misconduct. Washington coach Barry Trotz called it "a hockey play." Niskanen allowed it looked "really bad" when he caught the replay, but stressed there was no malicious intent.

His former teammates weren't buying it.

"It's one of those things you look at it once, you see what actually happened and the next thing is watching how deliberate it was when the guy cross-checks him in the face," Pittsburgh forward Chris Kunitz said. "I thought all of that was kind of out of this league, but I guess not."

This wasn't the first time Crosby took an ugly shot to the head from a Capital. Crosby was in the middle of an MVP run on Jan., 1, 2011, when he took an elbow to the head from Washington's David Steckel during the Winter Classic, leading to a concussion that cost Crosby the better part of two years in his prime as he struggled to recover.

Their captain gone for the rest of the game and perhaps longer, the Penguins appeared momentarily dazed as they tried to regroup.

Washington took a 2-0 lead early in the third period behind goals by Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetzov, rare moments of flow during a static and occasionally ugly three periods that tried to make up in physicality what it lacked in pace of the frenetic opening two games in Washington.

"That's what you have to do in the playoffs," Capitals forward T.J. Oshie said. "You have to play physical and grind it out. We're trying to make this a long series here and the physicality is key for us."

Braden Holtby, yanked after a sloppy second period in Game 2, remained steady during Pittsburgh's second-period surge and the Capitals appeared to be in control when the Penguins pulled Fleury with 3 minutes to go. Then Malkin scored with 1:53 remaining and Schultz tied it 48 seconds later when his blast from the point deflected off Oshie.

No matter. Washington dominated the extra period before Shattenkirk delivered his first goal of the playoffs.

"We came here to win two games," Shattenkirk said. "And next game is going to be even tougher."

Though maybe not as tough as it could be for Pittsburgh if Crosby's familiar No. 87 is out of the lineup.

Just shoot! Jakub Voracek quiets many with his heroics

Just shoot! Jakub Voracek quiets many with his heroics

BOX SCORE

Jakub Voracek had dead aim, at least that’s what the score sheet confirmed Tuesday following the Flyers' 3-2 overtime win over the Montreal Canadiens (see observations).

Two shots on net. Two shots that found a way past Carey Price.

Even though the NHL’s assist leader has more shots on net than Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, Voracek hears the voices that say he passes up on quality scoring opportunities. 

One prime example came with 30 seconds remaining in the second period. Claude Giroux forced a takeaway and fed Voracek on a 2-on-0 prime scoring chance, but it resulted in Voracek sending a pass back to Giroux when perhaps he should have shot.

“It’s always easier to say we’re over-passing things,” Voracek said. “If you’re on the ice, the actual situation looks completely different. I hear ‘shoot the puck’ every single time I touch it. If I listened to all the people who say shoot the puck, I’d have 500 shots at the end of the season.”

However, Voracek shot the puck when it mattered most. With the Flyers trailing, 2-1, Dave Hakstol pulled goaltender Alex Lyon for the extra attacker Voracek, who took a shot from the top of the right circle that deflected off the stick of Max Pacioretty and past Price for the game-tying goal, and then buried the game-winner 1:26 into overtime (see highlights).

When asked if he caught Price by surprise on the equalizer, Voracek responded: “Me shooting? 100 percent. I just tried to hide behind the D and I got lucky and it went in.”

“It’s one of those nights when you had a lot of really good scoring opportunities and we weren’t able to cash in on them,” Hakstol said. “It’s nice to get a bounce like that with a minute and a half to go to tie it up.”

For the game, the Flyers had 79 shot attempts to Montreal’s 55. Thankfully for the Flyers, No. 79 was Voracek’s game-winner, which came at the end of his 56-second shift. Had he missed the net and been forced to play defense at the other end of the ice, there may not have been much left in the tank.     

“I was pretty tired,” Voracek said. “I’d rather have it like that. If I had missed the net, I’d have to stay on the ice and try to backcheck after, so I got lucky.”

Voracek became the second player in franchise history to score a game-tying goal in the final two minutes of regulation, and then follow it up with an overtime game-winner. Moving forward, the Flyers may need Voracek to shoot and score more with the recent injury to Wayne Simmonds, who will miss the next two to three weeks with an upper-body injury (see story).

To make matters worse, Flyers top-line winger Travis Konecny may have suffered a foot injury after taking a shot off his skate in the opening period (see video). Konecny never left the game but labored playing short, limited shifts, and wasn’t on the ice with Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov to begin the overtime session.

“He obviously got hit with the puck there, but he finished the game and that’s part of the game,” Hakstol said. “He was obviously sore through the rest of the game, but I give him credit, he continued to battle through to do everything that he could.”

Less than 24 hours after the Flyers acquired Petr Mrazek from the Detroit Red Wings to solidify the goaltending position, Alex Lyon turned in another solid effort with 25 saves on 27 shots, beating perennial All-Stars Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price in back-to-back victories.

“Yeah, it’s cool obviously to play against those guys,” Lyon said. “You watch them and you try to model your game after them. Obviously, they’re fantastic. In the same breath, you've got to go out there and say, ‘I’m coming out here to be better than you today.’”  

“It’s always nice to have some clarity,” Hakstol said. “I think Alex said it best after the game in New York the other day — it’s an ever-changing business. You just have to be ready and prepared for what the next day brings. He pretty much lived by his words.”

Notables
• Simmonds' streak of 223 consecutive games played ended Tuesday night. It marked the first game Simmonds has missed dating back to April 11, 2015.

• For the third straight game, the Flyers weren’t forced to utilize their penalty kill at any point, becoming the second team in NHL history to go three games without allowing a power-play opportunity.

• Forward Oskar Lindblom made his NHL debut Tuesday night, replacing the injured Simmonds in the Flyers' lineup. Lindblom finished the game with 15:11 of ice time and one shot on net.  

Blue Jackets snap skid on rare Harrington goal

uspresswire-bluejackets-team-celebrate.jpg
USA Today Images

Blue Jackets snap skid on rare Harrington goal

NEWARK, N.J. -- Defenseman Scott Harrington broke a second-period tie with his second goal of the season, and the slumping Columbus Blue Jackets snapped a three-game losing streak and ended the New Jersey Devils' four-game winning streak with a 2-1 decision on Tuesday night.

Boone Jenner also scored as the Blue Jackets moved into the second wild-card position in the Eastern Conference with 65 points, one ahead of Carolina and the Islanders. Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves in helping the Blue Jackets win for the fifth time in 15 games (5-9-2).

Taylor Hall scored for the Devils to extend his point-scoring streak to 12 games, tying David Pastrnak of the Bruins for the league-high this season. He also pushed his personal point-scoring streak to 19 games. He missed three games with a thumb injury, so the league does not consider that to be part of his current streak.

Keith Kinkaid had 17 saves for New Jersey, which holds the first wild-card spot in the conference (see full recap).

Point helps Lightning beat Capitals in showdown
WASHINGTON -- Brayden Point scored two first-period goals, Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 35 shots to earn his NHL-leading 35th victory and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Washington Capitals 4-2 Tuesday night in a matchup between division leaders.

Chris Kunitz also scored in the opening period, which ended with Tampa Bay up 3-0. That was enough of a cushion for Vasilevskiy, an All-Star who came in with a 2.34 goals-against average.

After Alex Ovechkin notched his NHL-high 36th goal for Washington to make it 3-2 at 11:02 of the third period, Nikita Kucherov clinched it with a breakaway goal with 7:02 remaining.

The victory improved Tampa Bay's NHL-best record to 40-17-3 and kept the Lightning ahead of surging Boston in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.

Lars Eller scored a power-play goal for the Capitals, who lead Pittsburgh by one point in the Metropolitan Division (see full recap).

Andersen makes 40 saves in Maple Leafs’ shutout
TORONTO -- Frederik Andersen made 40 saves and James van Riemsdyk scored the only goal as the surging Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Florida Panthers 1-0 on Tuesday night.

The shutout was Andersen's career-best fifth of the season. The 28-year-old goalie has reached 30 wins for the third time.

Toronto (37-20-5) has won 11 of 12 and improved to 14-4-2 since Jan. 4.

The Panthers (26-25-6) have dropped back-to-back games after opening their five-game road trip with three straight wins. Florida entered the night six points out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Florida threatened in the third with goaltender Roberto Luongo pulled for an extra attacker, but Andersen managed to thwart the Panthers' best chance -- a point shot from Keith Yandle with 23 seconds remaining.

Luongo stopped 30 shots in the loss (see full recap).