Atlantic Watch: 3/17-3/22

For the second straight week the Flyers obtained at least a point in each game they played. Posting a record of 1-0-2 in three games that all went to shootouts, the Flyers have now earned a point in seven straight games going 4-0-3 in that span. This week, shootout losses to the Thrashers and the Caps featuring a shootout win over the Stars in between gave Philly four out of the six possible points available.

The four points were enough to give Philly the first playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

Danny Briere scored the game-tying goal with only a minute and twenty-eight seconds left in regulation to give the Flyers a point on Thursday in Atlanta. After a scoreless overtime period, Rob Schremp and Blake Wheeler scored for the Thrashers to give them the additional point.

Watching their 2-0 lead slowly wither away against the Stars, the orange and black grabbed the extra point in Dallas to clinch a playoff berth. Ville Leino’s goal past a sprawling Kari Lehtonen in the sixth round of the shootout made the Flyers 2-0-0 against the Stars and concluded their play against Western Conference teams on the season.

Three days later, the Flyers dropped a highly anticipated match up against the top two teams in the conference. Sergei Bobrovsky had an abominable performance allowing three soft goals on nine shots handing Washington a 3-0 lead. Storming back with four unanswered goals, Philly forced the game into overtime. After a scoreless overtime, Brian Boucher went 0/3 in shootout attempts leaving the orange and black with just a point.

Leino didn’t register a goal this week, but he did have two shootout goals. After netting the game-winner in Saturday’s game against Dallas, Leino also scored last night against Washington to open the shootout. Leino also had an assist on Briere’s goal last night.

Speaking of Briere, he had four points on the week racking up three goals and an assist. Briere’s pair on Thursday against the Thrashers forced the game into overtime, while his tip-in goal last night gave Philly a late third period lead they couldn’t hold on to. He did also score on Michal Neuvirth in the shootout last night.

Matt Carle had four assists on the week. Having at least one assist in each game, Carle’s week was highlighted with a two-assist night in Dallas. Carle also had the primary assist on Claude Giroux’s goal against Atlanta and the primary assist on Kris Versteeg’s goal last night.

The Flyers’ schedule over the next week looks to be challenging as they face Pittsburgh twice (tomorrow and Tuesday), the Isles on Saturday, and the Bruins on Sunday.

Pittsburgh Penguins: 1-1-0. The news of the week surronding the Penguins isn’t their 1-1-0 record against the Rangers and Red Wings, but rather the suspension of Matt Cooke. After an uncalled for hit against Ryan McDonagh on Sunday, Cooke received a suspension spanning for the rest of the regular season (ten games including Monday’s win) and the first round of the playoffs (at least four games).

With the game tied at one in the early stages of the third period Sunday, the Pens were hoping to gain two points in a game against their division rival New York Rangers. Cooke’s elbow (resulting in a five minute major) and a Matt Niskanen high-sticking double minor ended those hopes despite a Chris Kunitz shorthanded goal to give them a brief 2-1 lead. Three minutes after Kunitz’s goal, Marian Gaborik scored on a 5-on-3 advantage while Ryan Callahan posted the game-winner eleven seconds later. Goals from Derek Stepan and Brandon Dubinsky gave the Rangers a four-goal third and a 5-2 win.

Facing the Red Wings the next day in Detroit seemed like a tall order, but a 4-0 lead halfway through the game showed the Pens were up for the challenge. However, four goals from Detroit tied the game ultimately forcing the game into a shootout. Scoring the lone goal in the shootout, James Neal let Pittsburgh escape Hockeytown with two points after nearly blowing a four-goal lead.

Pascal Dupuis played a huge role in Monday’s win as he scored two goals and assisted on Kunitz’s first period tally. It was Dupuis’ first two-goal game since October 30th when he netted a pair, including the game winner, against the Hurricanes.

Kunitz had a goal and an assist in Monday’s win in Detroit. After giving his team the lead in the third period the day before, Kunitz scored Pitt’s second goal and set up Tyler Kennedy beautifully to help the Pens edge out a win.

With three games against Atlantic division opponents, the Pens have a chance to gain some ground in the playoff scenario. Two games against Philly (tomorrow and Tuesday), a game against the Devils on Friday, and a Sunday afternoon match up against the Panthers sum up Pittsburgh’s work this week.

New York Rangers: 3-0-0. Boasting the best record in the Atlantic division this week, the Rangers posted three-goal wins over the Canadiens and Penguins finishing off the week with a 1-0 shutout of the Panthers last night.

A five goal first period, including three goals over a minute and seven second span, allowed the Rangers to walk over the Canadiens 6-3 on Friday.

Being the benefactor of multiple bonehead plays by the Pens on Sunday, the Rangers scored two power-play goals and an empty netter to beat Pittsburgh 5-2 on national television.

Completing the week long sweep of their games, Brandon Dubinksy scored the lone goal last night just before the eight minute mark of the third period giving Henrik Lundqvist enough to shut out the visiting Panthers 1-0.

Ryan Callahan had five points on the week posting two goals and three assists. Callahan’s strongest performance of the week was a three point performance against the Pens on Sunday where he scored the game-winning goal and had two assists.

Brandon Dubinsky also had five points this week with two goals and three helpers. Also posting a three point game against Pittsburgh, Dubinsky scored the game-winning goal against the Panthers last night.

After hosting the Senators tomorrow night, the Rangers go on the road to play the Bruins on Saturday and the Sabres on Wednesday.

New Jersey Devils: 1-3-0. Diminishing any hope they had to make a playoff run, the Devils lost three of their four games this week to drop them nine points out of eigth place in the Eastern Conference.

A late first period goal from Ryan Shannon and an early third period goal from Chris Neil turned out to be enough for the Sens on Thursday as the Devils fell to Ottawa for a third time this season by a score of 3-1.

The next day wasn’t the Devils day either as they were shut out by the Caps 3-0 in their own building. Martin Brodeur allowed three goals on twelve shots as the veteran netminder failed to amount double digit saves in a game his team desperately needed him.  

Two days later, Brodeur decided to make all of the thirteen saves he saw on the day to shut out the Blue Jackets helping the Devils register a 3-0 win.

After Ilya Kovalchuk opened the scoring halfway through the first period, the Devils allowed four straight goals as the Bruins marched to a 4-1 win last night. A goal and two assists from Zdeno Chara helped in the Bruins’ win over New Jersey.

David Clarkson had the offensive performance of the week for the Devils as he had a two-goal game against Columbus on Sunday. Scoring what turned out to be the game-winning goal halfway through the first period, Clarkson added on another tally halfway through the second period for his second on the night and twelve on the season.

Mattias Tedenby had three assists on the week. Helping on both of Clarkson’s goals on Sunday, Tedenby also had the primary assist on Kovalchuk’s goal last night against Boston.

New Jersey’s hopes for making the playoffs don’t get any brighter this week as they only have two games and they come against teams just as hungry for points. The Devils are on the road for Friday’s game against the Pens and Saturday’s game against the Sabres.

New York Islanders: 2-1-0. An overtime loss against Carolina, a shootout win over Florida, and a strong win over Tampa gave the Isles two wins as they look to just finish out the season.

An Erik Cole goal with under five minutes left in regulation Friday forced the Isles’ game with Carolina into overtime. With just over a minute left in the extra period, the Isles saw the extra point slip away on Joni Pitkanen’s third goal of the year as the ’Canes won 3-2. 

Not learning their lesson from the day before, the Isles allowed Stephen Weiss to tie the game up with only six minutes and thirty-four seconds left in regulation. Fortunately for New York, shootout goals from Frans Nielsen and PA Parenteau gave them the additional point as they won 4-3.

A Nate Thompson goal one minute into the game last night didn’t destroy the Isles’ confidence. Scoring the next four goals, the Islanders waltzed to a 5-2 win over the fifth-place Tampa Bay Lightning in Florida.

Michael Grabner had six points on the week registering three goals and three assists. In each game this week, Grabner had a goal and an assist allowing him to break the thirty-goal plateau. He now has thirty-one goals on the season.

Frans Nielsen also had a strong week scoring two goals and having two assists. After registering a goal and an assist against Carolina, Nielsen assisted on Grabner’s second period goal against Florida and scored in the third period against Tampa last night.

Atlanta visits Long Island tomorrow as Philly visits on Saturday to round out the work week for the Islanders.