Atlantic Watch: 2/2-2/9

With only two games since last Wednesday, the Flyers had the lightest work week of any team in the Atlantic Division. Since both of those games were against Western Conference teams, the schedule didn’t feature any intense divisional games as well. Nonetheless Philly went 2-0-0 on the week notching wins against the Nashville Predators on Thursday and Dallas Stars on Saturday.

Ville Leino’s first two-goal game in the NHL led the Flyers to victory Thursday beating the Predators 3-2. Both of Leino’s goals came in the 3rd period, including a spin-o-rama goal from the slot with about three minutes left in regulation as the game winner.  

Goals from Andrej Meszaros and Darroll Powe were unexpected but greatly appreciated on Saturday as Philly beat Dallas 3-1. Powe’s game winning tally came early in the second period and came short handed. Brian Boucher played great in net making 30 of 31 saves.

Jeff Carter produced the most for the Flyers this week scoring two goals and two assists. He had a three point game on Thursday scoring Philly’s first goal and assisting on both of Leino’s goals. Then, on Saturday Carter scored the only goal in the third period to extend the Flyers lead to two.

Despite winning all possible games this week, the Flyers were unable to gain ground on the second place Pittsburgh Penguins. Here’s a look at how the rest of the Atlantic Division did this week.

Pittsburgh Penguins: 2-2-0. The Penguins had the most entertaining week out of all teams in the division. The week started off with a 3-0 win over the Islanders, but that wasn’t the major story relating to the game. With about twenty seconds left in the third period, Islanders’ goalie Rick DiPietro hits the Pens’ Matt Cooke as he was skating into the corner. As a scrum occurred in the corner, DiPietro then decided to taunt Penguins’ goalie Brent Johnson into a fight, which Johnson surprisingly agreed to take part in. Just as DiPietro started to smile, Johnson landed a left hook knocking DiPietro to the ice. Both goalies left the game meaning Johnson wasn’t rewarded the shutout.

This was most likely the last time all week anybody in the Pittsburgh organization was smiling. During their 3-2 come-from-behind victory against the Sabres on Friday, Evgeni Malkin left during the second period with a lower-body injury. The Penguins later found out Malkin had suffered a torn ACL and MCL putting the center out for the season.

The effects of Malkin’s injury were felt immediately as the Pens fell to the Capitals on national television losing 3-0 Sunday. A Penguins’ team that got dominated by the Caps looked lost without their two star players in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Hope was just around the corner, however, as they were to play the Blue Jackets, a team they beat 7-2 earlier in the season.

The boost of hope expected to come from beating Columbus never came as the Blue Jackets walked into Pittsburgh and cleaned up 4-1 last night. Both Rick Nash and Jakub Voracek registered a goal and an assist as Tyler Kennedy scored Pitt’s lone goal on the evening. Kennedy’s goal is the only goal scored in the seven periods the Penguins have played since losing Malkin.

Any other week it would be good news for Pittsburgh that they kept up with Philadelphia. However, the news of Malkin’s injury has already affected the team negatively. For the Pens sake Crosby will return soon and hopefully restore order.

 New York Rangers: 0-3-0. Although they didn’t lose a star player for the season, the Rangers had quite the horrible week as well. Losing every game they played this week and not gaining a point in the process gave New York the honor of dropping them to nine points behind the Penguins within the division.

The Rangers were inches away from tying their Thursday game up against the Devils, but New Jersey held on for a 3-2 win. Goals from Ryan Callahan and Vinny Prospal cut the Devils’ lead to one with seventeen minutes left in the third period. Unable to put another one past New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur resulted in the Rangers first loss on the week.

Carey Price turned out to be too much for the Rangers on Saturday as Montreal’s netminder got the shutout helping his team win 2-0. A Scott Gomez goal late in the second period was all Price needed  to beat the Rangers as he saved all 35 shots he saw in the game. Tomas Plekanec put home the empty netter giving the Canadiens a 2-0 victory and the Rangers a bitter taste in their mouth. Despite putting seven more shots on net, the Rangers were unable to register a single goal.

New York’s woes continued as they took on the Central Division leading Detroit Red Wings ultimately losing 3-2. The bad breaks for the Rangers kept coming as they were unable to get the win despite putting up 47 shots on net. Pavel Datsyuk and Jiri Hudler both had a goal and an assist as Drew Miller’s fourth goal on the season turned out to be the game winning goal for the Red Wings. 

The mini losing streak the Rangers are currently enduring is undoubtedly hurting them in the playoff hunt, but they’ll most likely get out of this hole. An unlucky break in a frantic finish, facing an unbeatable goalie, and not getting rewarded for almost putting fifty shots on net is a span of three games that couldn’t demonstrate unfortunate luck any better.

New Jersey Devils: 3-0-1. The Devils haven’t been playing like one of the worst three teams in the league lately and their record as of late is showing that. Registering a point in all four of their games this week, the Devils obtained seven of the possible eight points.

A big week from Ilya Kovalchuk, Dainius Zubrus, and Travis Zajac pushed New Jersey to success. Zajac had two goals and four assists which included his three point game on Sunday against the Canadiens (one goal, two assists). Kovalchuk had two goals and three assists on the week highlighted with his two-goal game against Montreal on Sunday. Zubrus had two goals and an assist in the four-game span registering the Devils’ first goal on Sunday against the Canadiens. 

After being on the beneficial side of the aforementioned situation with the Rangers on Thursday, the Devils hosted the Panthers on Friday in what ended up being their lone loss within the week. The Panthers’ Rostislav Olesz found the back of the net two minutes into overtime giving Florida the additional point. This ended up being the only down point in the week for New Jersey.

Two days later, the Devils handled the same Canadiens’ team that shutout the Rangers the day before. Scoring two goals in the first period while adding another in the second period, New Jersey ended up beating Carey Price three times on the evening giving them a 3-1 lead entering the third period. Kovalchuk added an empty netter to make the final score 4-1.

The Hurricanes saw a one goal lead late in the game evaporate as the Devils tied the game up and won it in overtime 3-2 last night. With just under three minutes left in regulation, Nick Palmieri notched his fifth goal of the season tying the game at two. As the game extended past regulation, Mattias Tedenby would score a little over half way through the overtime session. Tedenby’s second on the night and seventh on the season made the Devils 3-0-1 within the week.

With the exception of their 4-1 win Sunday, all of New Jersey’s games this week were decided by one goal. In those game, the Devils went 2-0-1. Good teams win the close ones and if the Devils keep it up they can possibly make their season reasonable rather than letting it remain horrible.

New York Islanders: 1-2-0. The injury bug keeps hurting the Islanders as two of their goaltenders were injured this week. Both Rick DiPietro and Kevin Poulin were injured and suffered the injuries outside of game situations. DiPietro suffered facial fractures and knee swelling after being knocked out by Brent Johnson while Poulin injured his knee last night in pregame warmups after hitting a rut in the ice. With Nathan Lawson already sitting out due to knee problems, the Islanders forced Mikko Koskinen into his first NHL game ever.

The Islanders only bright spot in the week was their 5-3 win over Ottawa. Rob Schremp scored two goals including the game winner as the Islanders escaped a first period that saw a total of six goals. Kevin Poulin registered the win making twenty of twenty-three saves on the night.

An embarrassing 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh on Wednesday and a 5-3 loss last night with a goalie making his NHL in net, the Islanders had a rough week to say the least.

Goaltending has without a doubt now become just as big an issue for the Islanders as injuries. With the goaltending tandem of Mikko Koskinen and emergency call-up Joel Martin, the Islanders surely can’t be confident with the current goalie situation.