Florida Panthers

Panthers upset West-best Golden Knights in OT

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Panthers upset West-best Golden Knights in OT

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Aaron Ekblad scored 40 seconds into overtime to lift the Panthers to a 4-3 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday night, spoiling former coach Gerard Gallant's return to Florida.

Ekblad grabbed a rebound in the high slot and fired it past Malcolm Subban to give Florida its second win in six games this month.

Aleksander Barkov scored his league-leading fifth short-handed goal of the season and had two assists, and Evgenii Dadonov and Jamie McGinn also scored for the Panthers. James Reimer stopped 33 shots.

William Karlsson had a goal and an assist, and David Perron and James Neal also scored for Vegas. Subban finished with 22 saves (see full recap).

Pacioretty, Canadiens snap 3-game skid
WASHINGTON -- Max Pacioretty had two goals and an assist to help the Montreal Canadiens break a three-game losing streak with a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

Paul Byron also scored for the Canadiens. Antii Niemi, playing in place of Carey Price, who had been in goal for eight consecutive games, stopped 24 shots.

John Carlson and Lars Eller scored for the Capitals, and Philipp Grubauer finished with 22 saves.

Pacioretty, who has six goals in the last six games, scored Montreal's first goal at 7:08 in the second period and added an empty-netter with 1:18 remaining in the game (see full recap).

Ducks get upper hand on rival Kings again
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Ryan Kesler deflected home Francois Beauchemin's shot for the tiebreaking goal with 7:39 to play and the Anaheim Ducks won their second Freeway Faceoff in seven days, beating the struggling Los Angeles Kings 2-1 Friday night.

Adam Henrique scored early in the third period and John Gibson made 23 saves for the Ducks, who have won six of nine overall.

Rookie Alex Iafallo evened it for Los Angeles moments after Henrique's goal, but Kesler's long deflection sent the puck bouncing past Jonathan Quick. Anaheim then hung on in a frantic final minute to even the archrivals' season series at two games apiece.

Quick stopped 29 shots in the Kings' sixth consecutive loss, extending their longest skid of the season (see full recap).

Malkin lifts Penguins past Bruins in high-scoring thriller

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Malkin lifts Penguins past Bruins in high-scoring thriller

PITTSBURGH -- Evgeni Malkin got his second goal of the game at 2:51 of overtime to rally the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 6-5 victory over the Boston Bruins on Sunday night.

Phil Kessel set up Malkin, who one-timed a shot over Tuukka Rask's pad during a 2-on-1.

Malkin and Kessel scored power-play goals in regulation, while Kris Letang, Jamie Oleksiak and Riley Sheahan also scored for Pittsburgh. The Penguins, coming off a 4-0 win at the New York Islanders on Friday, got consecutive victories for the first time since Dec. 1-2 when they defeated Buffalo twice by a combined score of 9-1. The Penguins, who have just six wins in their last 11 games, moved into the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, but are one point from last place in the Metropolitan Division.

Sidney Crosby had three assists after getting a season-high four points against the Islanders. Crosby, with points in five straight against Boston, had four points in 11 games before the last two.

Matt Murray stopped all six shots he faced in relief of Tristan Jarry, who made 14 saves on 19 shots before he was pulled after the Bruins' fifth goal (see full recap).

Forsberg makes 32 saves as Blackhawks beat Oilers
CHICAGO -- Anton Forsberg made 32 saves, Nick Schmaltz and Alex DeBrincat scored in the first period, and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the slumping Edmonton Oilers 4-1 on Sunday.

Brandon Saad and Jordan Oesterle also scored for the Blackhawks, who got their first home win since a 4-1 victory against Minnesota on Dec. 17. Jonathan Toews extended his point streak to four games.

It was Forsberg's first win since Nov. 11 and just the second of his first season in Chicago. Forsberg had been the backup all year, but his role had come into question after Jeff Glass came up the minors and played well with starter Corey Crawford sidelined by an upper-body injury.

Edmonton has dropped six of seven, including a 5-1 loss at Dallas on Saturday. The Oilers have been outscored 20-3 in their last five games (see full recap).

Islanders down Devils in shootout
NEW YORK -- Brock Nelson scored the only goal in the shootout to lift the New York Islanders over the New Jersey Devils 5-4 on Sunday.

The victory snapped a five-game losing streak for the Islanders, who trailed 4-2 early in the third period.

Nelson beat Devils netminder Cory Schneider in the fifth round of the shootout.

Jaroslav Halak made 42 saves for the Islanders.

The Devils lost their fifth straight before both teams start a league-mandated five-day break.

Cal Clutterbuck and rookie Sebastian Aho tied the game with third-period goals after Miles Wood and Taylor Hall had given the Devils a 4-2 lead early in the period.

Clutterbuck's tying goal came at 15:43 after Aho narrowed the deficit to 4-3 with his first career goal at 7:58. Aho's power-play score was assisted by John Tavares and Mathew Barzal, who leads all rookies with 26 assists (see full recap).

Anderson lifts Blue Jackets past Panthers in shootout
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Josh Anderson scored the deciding goal in the eighth round of the shootout, lifting the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Sunday night.

Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky stopped Jared McCann's attempt to secure the win for the Blue Jackets, who also got goals from Artemi Panarin and Jack Johnson in the tiebreaker. Aleksander Barkov, who tied the score with 1:34 left in the third period, and Mike Matheson scored in the shootout for Florida.

Nick Foligno and rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois scored power-play goals for Columbus -- just the second time this season the NHL's worst man-advantage unit has come through twice, and both against Florida. Bobrovsky, who took an errant stick under his chin in the final period, had 42 saves through overtime to help the Blue Jackets win for just the fourth time in 11 games (4-6-1).

Jonathan Huberdeau also scored for the Panthers and James Reimer stopped 46 shots. Florida has lost three straight after a five-game winning streak to close December (see full recap).

Fitting final week of 2017 for Flyers

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Fitting final week of 2017 for Flyers

The Flyers closed out the 2017 calendar year in style.

Well, in the style we’ve all become accustomed to the past 52 weeks, and even beyond.

The Flyers closed 2017 in a fittingly inconsistent and frustrating matter. How? First, an uglier-than-it-looks 3-2 loss Thursday to the host Florida Panthers. But then that was followed up 24 hours later with an impressive 5-3 win over the NHL-best Tampa Bay Lightning that snapped the Bolts’ eight-game home win streak.

Just because there were only two games this week doesn’t mean we don’t have plenty to dissect as 2017 reaches the brink of existence.

Let’s dive right in.

• This week was just so incredibly apropos of what we’ve seen from these Flyers, wasn’t it? We’ve seen this club come out of the gate strong, fall into the dark abyss of a 10-game losing streak, power out of that hole by reeling off six straight and then have its pulse even out with a win here and a loss there.

It’s this Jekyll and Hyde show that seems to have no end for this group. This week was the latest example with the uninspiring loss in South Florida and then the total 180 for an earmarked win over the powerhouse Bolts in their own barn, where they hadn’t lost in almost a month.

This inconsistency with these Flyers isn’t anywhere close to breaking news, but when you look back at these two games this past week, it’s the overwhelming theme. And that overwhelming theme of this week is a microcosm of why the Flyers are where they are, four points behind the New York Islanders for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference as of Sunday morning.

Atop the list of 2018 resolutions, well, you fill in the blank. It’s the same one that’s been near the top of that list each year for a while now.

• The Flyers’ return from the Christmas break in South Florida was almost doomed from the beginning.

They kicked things off with a bang (not really) by taking three penalties in the first period, taxing their penalty killers and forcing lines to be jumbled. They wound up outshot by a 13-5 margin in that period. Then Brian Elliott wasn’t his sharpest, giving up three goals, including an early softie to Jared McCann, on 27 shots.

Then it was the power play. And, oh, was it ever the power play, and not in a good way. The man advantage was a dismal 0 for 4 with just six shots on net and it continually shot itself in the foot, including allowing a shorthanded goal to Derek McKenzie.

Almost everything that could have gone wrong for the Flyers did, before they turned it on late with two goals turn the heat up a bit, but not nearly enough. The Flyers aren’t good enough right now to continually play catch-up like that against any team in the NHL, no matter if it’s the worst or the best. They can’t just play 10 minutes and expect to win. And that was another hard reality Thursday.

• Lesson learned Friday in Tampa, where the Flyers put forth a complete, sound effort in topping the league-best Bolts, snapping their long home win streak and making a statement in the process.

Yes, the Flyers caught a break as the Lightning started backup goalie Peter Budaj over Andrei Vasilevskiy and yes, the Flyers found themselves in a hole again courtesy of an unstoppable Steven Stamkos power-play laser beam. But from that point on, they controlled the flow of the game and had the Lightning on their heels for the rest of the evening.

A major difference, you ask? The power play that was dreadful the night before laid the groundwork with two quick second-period tallies, one off the stick of Wayne Simmonds, the other off the stick of Shayne Gostisbehere. What else did those tallies do? They gave the Flyers a much-needed jolt of confidence — confidence that not only could they hang on the road with the best team in the league, but also that they could go on the road and take it to the best team in the league.

It was a complete effort that also included goals from Sean Couturier and Brandon Manning and an empty-netter by Valtteri Filppula.

If only that effort could be bottled up and spread out over a full season.

• What else more can be said about Couturier and the complete player he’s evolved into this season? He again displayed his evolution on the offensive end in the two games this week.

On Thursday, he collected goal No. 17 on the season when he got a piece of Gostisbehere’s point drive late in the third. On Friday, he set up Simmonds with a gorgeous backhand saucer pass across the crease before he slammed home a rebound at the end of the second period for goal No. 18.

So what’s changed for Couturier to get him here? It’s not talent. He’s always had that offensive talent dating back to junior. Sure, playing on the top line with guys like Simmonds and Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek also helps.

But he is supremely confident now in the offensive end. There’s no hesitation. But also look at where the majority of his goals have come from this season — in and around the crease. He’s getting into the greasy areas around the net and putting his 6-foot-3, 211-pound frame to work. And it shows.

That's how you become a top center.

• There were only two games last week, so let’s look into the orange and black crystal ball and take a peek at the week coming up. The Flyers are about to embark on a four-game homestand vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Islanders, St. Louis Blues and Buffalo Sabres. And that’s before hitting the mandated bye week, which starts Jan. 8.

Yeah, so, needless to say, this is a pivotal week for the Flyers if they are to make some type of push toward the postseason. It will officially be January and the nitty-gritty is approaching if it’s not already here. The Pens and Isles both sit ahead of the Flyers in the standings. The Sabres are the worst team in the East as of Sunday morning and are more-than-beatable. The Blues are a feisty squad out of the Central Division, but the Flyers already shut them out earlier in the season in St. Louis.

Better grab some points now before the bye week passes you by.

Coming up this week: Tuesday vs. Pittsburgh (7 p.m. on NBCSN), Thursday vs. New York Islanders (7 p.m. on NBCSP), Saturday vs. St. Louis (1 p.m. on NBCSP), Sunday vs. Buffalo (1 p.m. on NBCSP).