Alex Ovechkin

Capitals regain top spot in Metro as Ovechkin scores NHL-best 35th goal

USA Today Images

Capitals regain top spot in Metro as Ovechkin scores NHL-best 35th goal

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Alex Ovechkin can stop fretting about what the Washington Capitals captain described as the worst game of his career.

He and the Capitals were much better in a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday, two days after a 7-1 meltdown at Chicago.

After being held without a shot against Chicago, Ovechkin responded by scoring his NHL-leading 35th goal, and Washington reclaimed the top spot in the Metropolitan Division

"Yeah, I think the last game I didn't play my game. I think it was the worst play of my career by myself. I take the blame on it," Ovechkin said. "I think we understand the game in Chicago was just forget about it, you know. We moved forward. We got two points."

Capitals coach Barry Trotz noticed how much more involved Ovechkin was against Buffalo, particularly after a few early exchanges with Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (see full recap.)

Marchand's OT goal gives Bruins win over Flames 
CALGARY, Alberta — Brad Marchand scored his 22nd goal 3:36 into overtime to give the Boston Bruins a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Monday.

After a turnover deep in the Flames end, Riley Nash sprung the Bruins' leading scorer on a breakaway and Marchand made no mistake, slipping the puck through the pads of David Rittich.

David Pastrnak also scored for Boston (36-13-8), which moved within one point of Tampa Bay for first place in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. Boston has two games in hand.

Matthew Tkachuk scored for the Flames (30-21-9), who fell to 1-3-4 in their last eight home games.

With the teams meeting for the second time in six days, Calgary was territorially outplayed by a wide margin in the first period but Rittich kept the Flames in it (see full recap.)

Cullen, Ennis star in Wild win against Islanders 
NEW YORK — Minnesota knows it needs to play better on the road to strengthen its push for a playoff spot. The Wild also want to do a better job of holding third-period leads than they have lately.

They accomplished both Monday against the New York Islanders.

Matt Cullen and Tyler Ennis scored in Minnesota's three-goal second period, and the Wild beat the Islanders 5-3. Jason Zucker added two goals, Joel Eriksson Ek also scored, and Devan Dubnyk stopped 32 shots as Minnesota improved to 4-1-2 in its past seven games.

The Wild just lost three of five on their homestand, including twice when they gave up the tying goal in the third period before falling after regulation.

"Having the lead in the second and keeping it is really good for us," Zucker said (see full recap.)

Arvidsson scores twice in Predators' win vs. Senators 
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Viktor Arvidsson scored twice to reach 20 goals this season, and the Nashville Predators beat the Ottawa Senators 5-2 on Monday night.

Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Craig Smith also scored for Nashville, which ended a two-game skid and tied Winnipeg for first place in the Central Division.

The Predators recorded two power-play goals and scored on the man advantage in their second straight game after going six games without converting on the power play.

Pekka Rinne made 36 saves to earn his 30th win of the season.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Max McCormick scored for the Senators, who played catch-up most of the game. Craig Anderson stopped 36 shots (see full recap.)

Red-hot Konecny aims to keep it going vs. Capitals

USA Today Images

Red-hot Konecny aims to keep it going vs. Capitals

WASHINGTON — Travis Konecny is the hottest goal scorer in Washington D.C. right now, and considering that also includes Alex Ovechkin and his 588 career goals, that’s a significant statement for the Flyers' second-year forward.

Konecny, currently on a four-game goal streak, is looking to pick up right where he left off prior to the All-Star break, and right now that means sticking with the routine. Despite the heavy workload that lies ahead on the Flyers' schedule, Konecny was on the ice for Wednesday’s optional morning skate whereas a handful of veterans usually elect for the rest.

“Honestly, if I wake up and I feel like I need one, I’ll definitely take one,” Konecny said. “I’ll probably take one going into the last stretch here, but as of now, I feel good when I step out on the ice and it’s good to shoot the puck around a little bit.”

Konecny returns to D.C., where he “capitalized” on his overtime opportunity playing alongside Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov. It was the first of back-to-back OT winners, and impressively Konecny has provided the game-winning goal in four of the Flyers' last eight victories. It’s all part of the evolution from a rookie negotiating his first season in the NHL to a second-year veteran who knows what to expect.

“I definitely feel good, more confident and what I need to do off the ice to be able to stay in right shape," Konecny said. "Our training staff has set us up pretty good as far as the way we take care of our body, the things we eat and what we put into our bodies.”

Along with a half-dozen teammates, Konecny switched out his wrist shots for chip shots over All-Star weekend and enjoyed a two-day golf trip to the Miami area to play at the Trump National Doral and the course more famously known as “The Blue Monster.”

As if navigating the final 33 games of the NHL’s regular season wasn’t challenging enough, Konecny along with Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier and Brandon Manning elected to play the 7,288-yard course from the back tees in 25-30 mile an hour winds. Leier said just breaking 90 on the scorecard was a challenge.  

Rookie Nolan Patrick jokingly reasoned that Konecny’s scoring touch also coincided when the two players were paired together on the road, which started a few weeks ago.

“Yeah, room with Nolan Patrick,” Konecny said with a smile, “Ever since I’ve been with him the team’s been doing well. We’ll keep that going.” 

Ovie tops 100 MPH
If it wasn’t obvious before, Capitals superstar sniper Alex Ovechkin proved at the All-Star festivities that he possesses one of the hardest shots in the NHL, as he won the hardest shot competition for the first time in his 13-year career. Ovechkin had claimed the title after his first attempt, but chose to take another crack at topping triple digits. Ovechkin uncorked a drive at 101.3 mph and Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth definitely took notice.

“I watched the skills (contest) and I played with Alex for five years, and I know a lot of times he’s just shooting as hard as he can and shooting at the net,” Neuvirth said, “Sometimes he doesn’t even know where he’s shooting and that’s why he’s so good, because there’s no way you can stop it even when the shooter doesn’t know where it’s going.”  

Stat of the Day
Regardless of tonight’s outcomes around the league, the Flyers and the Bruins are the only two teams to record at least eight wins in each of the past two months. The Flyers finished December with an 8-4-1 mark and they enter the final game of January with an 8-3-0 record. 

More importantly, the Flyers are 5-2-4 in the Metropolitan Division as they’ve earned points in all but two of their 11 divisional contests.

“Every point is critical. That’s probably an understatement,” said head coach Dave Hakstol, “It comes back to doing everything within your power to gain points night in and night out, regardless of the situation and regardless of the opponent.”

Expected lines & pairings









NHL unveils All-Star Game captains

USA Today Images

NHL unveils All-Star Game captains

NEW YORK -- When the Tampa Bay Lightning host NHL All-Star Weekend, they'll have face of the franchise Steven Stamkos front and center.

Stamkos was voted by fans as captain of the Atlantic Division team for the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament that'll take place later this month at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. The league unveiled All-Star captains Wednesday night and is expected to announce the full rosters in mid-January.

Stamkos has 49 points for first-place Tampa Bay and is signed for the next seven seasons. Stamkos was the No. 1 pick of the Lightning in 2008 and chose to stay with them rather than test free agency in the summer of 2016 (see full story).

Golden Knights: Marchessault signs 6-year deal
LAS VEGAS -- The Vegas Golden Knights signed scoring leader Jonathan Marchessault to a $30 million, six-year contract extension Wednesday, the clearest sign yet that the first-year, first-place organization is going for it.

Marchessault will count $5 million against the salary cap through 2023-24, a significant raise from the $750,000 he was making this season as one of the NHL's best bargains. General manager George McPhee announced the deal amid the Golden Knights' season-best eight-game winning streak.

Since being taken from the Florida Panthers in the expansion draft, Marchessault has been a big reason for the Golden Knights' surprising inaugural season. The 27-year-old forward has 15 goals and 22 assists in 37 games for Vegas, which leads the Western Conference at 27-9-2 (see full story).

Predators: Forsberg out 4 to 6 weeks with injury
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Nashville Predators forward and leading scorer Filip Forsberg will miss four to six weeks with an upper-body injury.

The Predators announced the extent of Forsberg's injury Wednesday. Forsberg got hurt Friday at Minnesota and had missed Nashville's two games since. That marked the first time the Predators had played a regular-season or playoff game without Forsberg since the 2013-14 season.

Forsberg has 15 goals and 34 points in 37 games this season. He leads the Predators in goals. His 19 assists rank second on the team, behind P.K. Subban's 20.