Best of NHL: Canadiens top Panthers, clinch Atlantic Division title

Best of NHL: Canadiens top Panthers, clinch Atlantic Division title

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Artturi Lehkonen scored twice in the third period and had an assist to help the Montreal Canadiens clinch the Atlantic Division title with a 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Monday night.

Andrew Shaw and Alexander Radulov also scored for the Canadiens, and Charlie Lindgren stopped 31 shots in his second NHL start.

Jonathan Marchessault scored for Florida and Reto Berra finished with 27 saves.

Lehkonen put Montreal ahead 2-1 at 1:27 of the third as he beat Berra with a rising shot from between the circles high to the glove side. He made it a two-goal game when he followed Paul Byron's breakaway attempt by knocking in the rebound for his 16th with 3:11 remaining (see full story)

Maple Leafs beat Sabres, close in on playoff spot
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Auston Matthews scored his 39th goal to set the record for most by an American-born rookie and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-2 on Monday night to move closer to clinching their second playoff berth in 12 seasons.

Nazem Kadri had a goal and an assist, James van Rimedsyk and Leo Komarov also scored, and Frederick Andersen made 18 saves for the Maple Leafs in their fourth straight win.

The victory vaulted Toronto (39-24-15) one point ahead of Boston (43-30-6) for second-place in the Atlantic Division.

Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly scored for Buffalo. Robin Lehner was pulled after giving up three goals on five shots in the first five minutes, and Anders Nillson stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced.

The Sabres have lost three in a row and are 6-12-2 in their past 20 games. The late-season collapse will extend Buffalo's playoff drought to six consecutive seasons (see full story)

Red Wings top Senators on Svechnikov's SO winner
DETROIT -- Evgeni Svechnikov scored the only goal of the shootout in his NHL debut, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a 5-4 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.

In the seventh round of the tiebreaker, Svechnikov went to his backhand and slid the puck between the pads of Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson.

Tomas Tatar had a goal and an assist, and Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist and Dylan Larkin scored in regulation for Detroit, Nick Jensen had two assists and Petr Mrazek stopped 41 shots.

Kyle Turris and Fredrik Claesson scored 4:09 apart in the third period to tie the score for the Senators, who pulled into a tie with Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division. Ottawa is technically ahead at the moment with a game in hand on the Bruins.

Erik Karlsson had a goal and an assist, Alexandre Burows also scored and Turris also had two assists for the Senators (see full story)

Why Flyers' prospect Morgan Frost is not ready for NHL

Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Why Flyers' prospect Morgan Frost is not ready for NHL

VOORHEES, N.J.-- It certainly looked and sounded good in theory.

Take a first-round pick who exploded for 112 points in juniors in the season after he was drafted and pencil him in as the Flyers' third-line center.

After all, defenseman Ivan Provorov and forward Travis Konency made the transition straight from major juniors to the NHL, so why couldn’t Frost?

The odds were extremely slim from the moment Frost stepped on the ice eight days ago at rookie camp. He didn’t have the best World Junior Summer Showcase tournament, that also featured 2018 Flyers first rounders Joel Farabee and Jay O’Brien, who arguably outplayed Frost during the eight-day event. 

Frost, along with Isaac Ratcliffe, the Flyers' second-round pick in 2017, was returned to his junior club Tuesday.

Still, watching Frost during one-on-one or three-on-two drills during camp, you could see the skill set that made Flyers scouts salivate to the point where he was a unanimous selection when the organization traded Brayden Schenn to select him 27th overall in the 2017 NHL Draft.

Frost’s stick-handling skills are off the charts for a prospect his age. His vision and hockey sense are traits that can’t be coached and he has another gear in his skating that many young players can’t get to. 

However, even when he proved to be a vital component on the power play during the prospects game on Long Island, you knew Frost wasn’t quite ready.

He may have finished the rookie game with a goal, an assist — plus a breakaway attempt where he came close to scoring another goal — but take the puck off his stick and you could see where Frost’s game needs improvement.

“The part of the game without the puck, learning how to check it and working to get it back, that’s an area we’re going to ask him to improve,” head coach Dave Hakstol said.

There were shifts when Frost was in the right position defensively, and then there were moments where he spent a good deal of time chasing the play.

Then came the preseason opener at Nassau Coliseum Sunday where Frost, and the entire team for that matter, was unnoticeable. General manager Ron Hextall labeled it “an eye-opener” and said Frost may have been one of those “intimidated” by the next level of competition. 

Every teenager progresses differently. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter came straight to the Flyers after four years in juniors. Captain Claude Giroux spent half a season with the Phantoms before he became an NHL regular a month shy of his 21st birthday.   

The 19-year-old Frost will return to Sault Ste. Marie for his fourth and final season of juniors. Expectations are high and that shouldn’t change for a player of his abilities.

As for this season, no need to pick the grape off the vine prematurely when it’s obvious it still needs to ripen. 

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James van Riemsdyk can make Shayne Gostisbehere that much scarier

James van Riemsdyk can make Shayne Gostisbehere that much scarier

James van Riemsdyk sat at his practice locker Saturday and kindly asked for a moment.

After removing some gear, he threw on his Flyers shirt, pulled back his hair and put on his hat.

Then he stood up.

Right there, his presence was felt — the wide 6-foot-3, 217-pound frame, noticeable and tangible, a problem for opponents over the last five seasons.

Shayne Gostisbehere made his way to the dressing room shortly following van Riemsdyk. Asked about his new teammate, Gostisbehere looked like a youngster anxious to buy a No. 25 jersey. And his excitement was justified — a player like van Riemsdyk is what makes Gostisbehere that more daunting when darting along the blue line.

The power-play quarterback was envisioning his playing field.

The read was easy.

"Get as many pucks to the net because that's his office down there," Gostisbehere said.

He wasn't kidding.

All it took was one preseason game to feel that presence of van Riemsdyk and how he can change the Flyers. Gostisbehere, who often unselfishly works the point with perimeter passing, delivered on his promise by showing no hesitation in Monday's 3-1 preseason win over the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

In the first period on the Flyers' opening power play, a 5-on-3 man advantage, van Riemsdyk took a hefty crosscheck to the back, actually knocking him down to one knee. His size and disruptiveness completely stole the attention of an Islander in front, while also impeding goalie Thomas Greiss. Gostisbehere wasted no time, ripping a bullet into the net.

Another power play later, Gostisbehere used just 24 seconds before lacing a shot with van Riemsdyk in his precious blue paint. It was a second goal for Gostisbehere, but more so a money example of why general manager Ron Hextall brought van Riemsdyk back to Philadelphia on a five-year, $35 million deal.

The Flyers already had one of the best net-front guys in the business. Wayne Simmonds' 86 man-advantage goals since 2011-12 are second in the NHL to only Alex Ovechkin's 131. They also already had a budding net-front piece in Nolan Patrick, who led the Flyers with five power-play markers over the final 23 regular-season games of 2017-18.

All of which creates a good problem for head coach Dave Hakstol — van Riemsdyk made that problem clear Monday night, if his 36 goals last season weren't clear enough.

"I think JVR can make some sneaky plays," Gostisbehere said postgame. "We have so many weapons."

Indeed they do and Hakstol will have to spread them out and use them all.

van Riemsdyk, who knows young talent from playing with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander in Toronto, smiled after his first game with the 25-year-old Gostisbehere orchestrating the power play.

"I've got to get used to that a little bit, he's pretty dynamic up there," van Riemsdyk said of Gostisbehere, who led all NHL blueliners with 33 man-advantage points last season. "He's got a ton of skill and an unbelievable hockey sense. No play is ever out of the question for him, so you just try to get in good spots and he makes it look pretty easy up there."

The equation seems easy — van Riemsdyk knows where to go and Gostisbehere knows when to shoot.

The answer, already felt.

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