Atlantic Watch: 11/16-11/22

Matt Read provided an excellent game-winning goal for the Flyers on Thursday, but that was the only good news Philly received all week as they are currently enduring a two-game losing streak with several key players missing the lineup in the process.

Chris Pronger, Braydon Coburn, and Jaromir Jagr are important players on the Flyers’ roster. Jagr plays an important role in Philly’s most productive offensive trio, while the defense must rely on AHL call-ups when both Pronger and Coburn are absent from the lineup. Negative results were witnessed when all these players were not available at the same time Monday night against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Jagr injured himself very early in last Thursday’s 2-1 win over the visiting Phoenix Coyotes. James van Riemsdyk gave the Flyers a lead in the second period only to see it erased by a fluky goal from Mikkel Boedker early in the third period.

As the game wound down, the Coyotes seemed to already have their minds focused on overtime as Jakub Voracek worked the puck free near the boards and shot it at Mike Smith, resulting in a rebound for Max Talbot. Passing the puck to Read, Talbot had the primary assist on a game-winning goal scored with just 18.6 seconds left in regulation.

The score was Read’s second game-winning goal within a three-game span dating back to Philly’s win in Florida on Sunday. Ilya Bryzgalov made 26 saves on 27 Phoenix shots.

The ghost of Atlanta seems to still haunt the Flyers, as they lost their second game of the season to the Winnipeg Jets, 6-4, on Saturday in Manitoba. Dustin Byfuglien provided the easily preventable game-winning goal on a weak shot along the goal line to Sergei Bobrovsky’s left that seemingly fooled the goalie banking in off his leg pad. Scott Hartnell and Read had two-goal games, while Claude Giroux had a three-assist game.

For the Jets, Bryan Little had two goals in the first seven minutes, while Ondrej Pavelec had 27 saves on 31 shots. After blowing a 6-2 lead in their first win of the season over the Flyers, the Jets nearly blew another four-goal lead on Saturday. With the score 5-1 10:20 into the middle stanza, the Jets let the Flyers muscle the score back to 5-4 before Nik Antropov put home the empty-netter to secure the win.

In addition to Jagr being out of the line-up on Monday, both Pronger and Coburn were scratched in an embarrassing 4-2 loss at the hands of the Hurricanes at the Wells Fargo Center.

Alexei Ponikarovsky had a two-goal night, while Jeff Skinner performed a spin-o-rama  move to advance past Kimmo Timonen for a goal late in the first period. JVR had a strong performance, manhandling the Canes’ defense behind the net for Philly’s first goal on the evening and providing a stellar one-handed cross crease pass to Read for the team’s second goal. Unfortunately, the Flyers’ didn’t help out Bryzgalov too much in the defensive zone on Monday night – defensemen out of position, a bad turnover in the defensive zone, and three players looking at a loose puck in the crease rather than doing something about it led to three of the Canes’ goals.

When it comes to scoring this week, both Read and Hartnell led the team with four points over the three games. Read had four goals, two of which came in the loss against the Jets on Saturday. Hartnell had two goals and two assists, registering a three point game (2 goals, 1 assist) on Saturday. Hartnell also had the secondary assist on JVR’s opening goal against the Coyotes.

Although he didn’t have the most points this week, JVR looked impressive. His goal against the Coyotes was a great shot and his goals against the Hurricanes were just a matter of want and hard work. He didn’t register any points against the Jets, but he did register a game-high eight shots.

As for roster moves this week, both Kevin Marshall and Marc-Andre Bourdon made their NHL debuts on Monday night. Marshall, who was drafted 41st overall in 2007 by Philly, was a minus-1 in 14:11 time on the ice. Bourdon, who has 32 points in 111 games with the Adirondack Phantoms since the 2009-2010 season, was a plus-1 and had 2 PIM (interference in the first period) in 15:49 work.

After earning points in eight straight games, the Flyers have suffered back-to-back losses in regulation for the first time in almost a month. Tonight’s matchup and Friday’s tilt will hopefully turn the Flyers play around for the better before facing a difficult divisional foe on Saturday to conclude the week.

Tonight, the Flyers head to Long Island to take on the Islanders for the first time this year. The Islanders are 5-10-3 and have a goal differential of minus-11 over their last two games. On Black Friday, the Flyers host the Montreal Canadiens for a matinee game in Philadelphia. To finish the week, and their span of three games in four days, the Flyers travel to New York to take on the Rangers for the first time since their rowdy preseason meeting, at 2 PM on Saturday.

Pittsburgh Penguins: 1-2-0. The Pens dropped both of their games in Florida this week before pounding the lowly Islanders by a five-spot on Monday, which featured the return of their captain after a ten-month absence from the sport. The Pens hope to build off their momentum from Monday’s game as they endure a busy four-game slate this week.

To open, the Pens failed to avenge their playoff collapse from the 2011 playoffs, losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 on Thursday night. Vincent Lecavalier had a two-goal night, while Dwayne Roloson mimicked his play of this past Spring with 33 saves on 34 shots. Marc-Andre Fleury gave up three goals on 17 shots for a whopping save percentage of .824. Tyler Kennedy scored the only goal for the Pens, tallying for Pittsburgh with only 3:11 left in regulation.

Two days later, the Penguins dropped a 3-2 decision to the Panthers due to a late goal by Stephen Weiss. With the game tied 2-2, and only 3:30 left to play, Weiss scored a power-play goal to give the Cats the decisive goal.

Jose Theodore stopped 39 of the Penguins’ 41 shots on Saturday, halting all 17 shots he saw in the third period. Pascal Dupuis had two assists and was a plus-1 on the evening serving as the Pens’ points leader for the evening. After this loss to the Panthers, the Penguins are currently 1-4-1 against the Southeast division this season; they’re 1-1-0 against the Panthers.

Ending the week with their game against the Isles on Monday, Sidney Crosby made his long-awaited return to the ice and didn’t disappoint in the Pens’ 5-0 home win. Scoring two goals and registering two assists, Crosby had four points in 15:54 ice time in his return. Dupuis picked up three assists and Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist in a game where Crosby opened the scoring on a ridiculous play just 5:24 into the game.

After recording their second shutout of the season against the Islanders, the Penguins have won all three of their match-ups against the less-skilled New York hockey club this year — outscoring them 11-2 in the process.

Dupuis, despite not scoring a single goal all week, posted the most points for the Pens over the last seven days with five assists. After aiding with primary assists on both goals for Pittsburgh in its loss to Florida, Dupuis posted three helpers in the Pens’ win over the Islanders on Monday night. Gaining two assists in the first period, Dupuis had the primary assists on both of Crosby’s goals and the secondary assist on Brooks Orpik’s goal.

The Penguins host the St. Louis Blues tonight, a team who lost at home last night to the Los Angeles Kings by a score of 3-2. On Friday night, the Pens host the Ottawa Senators for the first of four meetings this season. Going on the road for a four-game road trip the following day, the Pens take on the Canadiens in Montreal on Saturday and conclude the week by playing the Rangers on Tuesday.

New York Rangers: 0-1-0. The Rangers didn’t score a single goal this week. Granted, they only played one game, but that game was a painfully significant loss as it came via shutout and it ended a long winning streak. After a lazy week with only one game, the Rangers find themselves with four games over the next seven days.

Powered by a two-goal performance by Brian Gionta, the Canadiens ended the Rangers’ seven-game winning streak with a resounding 4-0 win at home on Saturday. Martin Biron allowed four goals on 31 shots, while the Rangers posted a meager 17 shots on net for the whole game. Marian Gaborik, Michael Del Zotto, and Brad Richards were all a minus-2 on the night, while Andre Deveaux racked up a game-high nine PIM.

In addition to their 2-0 loss to the Oilers in Edmonton in late October, this is the second time the Rangers have been shut out this season in 17 games played.

Since the Rangers only had one game, and that one game featured them getting shut out, the most offensive-minded Rangers of the week were Brandon Prust and Ryan Callahan. Both Prust and Callahan were the only Rangers on Saturday to provide two shots on net while staying even in the plus/minus column. Dan Girardi had two shots as well, but he was a minus-1.

Returning to action tonight, the Rangers visit Florida to take on the Panthers at 7:30 PM. The Rangers finish their road trip meeting the Capitals in Washington on Black Friday. On Saturday, the Rangers host the Flyers for the first of six meetings between the divisional enemies. Ending the week playing another divisional opponent, the Rangers host the Pens on Tuesday night.

New Jersey Devils: 1-1-0. The Devils should have been 2-0-0 this week, but they stopped playing after the first period of their game against the Panthers on Monday, allowing Florida to come all the way back for a regulation win.

If the Devils had held on to beat the Panthers they may have endured a seven-game winning streak to conclude the month of November. Considering they had a two-game winning streak entering the game, and finish the month playing four games against three lowly opponents, the winning streak isn’t too far of a stretch.

Focusing on the positive game of the week for Jersey, the Devils went into Tampa Bay and handed the Lightning a 4-2 loss. Both David Clarkson and Ryan Carter had a goal and an assist helping the Devils jump out to a 3-0 lead before the first period was over. Martin Brodeur stopped 21 of 23 shots, while his counterpart Dwayne Roloson allowed four goals (two on the power play) on 24 shots. Dainius Zubrus opened the scoring just 1:09 into the game and, along with Carter, was one of two Devils on the night who were plus-2.

Now moving on to the good stuff: the Devils 4-3 loss against the Panthers in Florida on Monday night. Despite rolling out to a 3-0 lead just 11:49 into the game, the Devils managed to choke it away allowing two goals in the second period and two goals in the third period to leave without a single point.

Andy Greene had two assists while Brodeur had the secondary assist on Zubrus’ goal, but Kris Versteeg netted a pair of his own within a 5:12 span in the second period to jump start his team’s comeback. As his team killed off a 4-on-3 disadvantage in the third period, Weiss scored an exhilarating short-handed goal to tie the game up at three goals apiece. Tomas Fleischmann came up clutch netting the game-winner with only 2:03 left.

Five Devils were tied for the team lead in points this week with a mediocre two points. Clarkson, Carter, and Greene crafted the most impressive performances in the bunch rounding up their pair of points within one game. Zubrus, who scored a goal in each game, and Patrik Elias, who had a goal against the Lightning and an assist against the Panthers, tallied two points as well, but needed both games to do so.

 The Devils arguably have their easiest week of the season this week. They play three games this week, so one can’t argue it’s light in the workload, but it’s obvious the competition isn’t too hard to conquer. Tonight, the Devils host the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team which is currently on a two-game winning streak, but is 5-13-2 overall. Then, the Devils have a home-and-home with the Islanders providing matinee games on both Friday and Saturday. After playing in Uniondale on Saturday, the Devils host the Islanders on Saturday to conclude their relatively simple week.

New York Islanders:  1-2-0. After a positive performance to start the week, the Islanders failed to score a single goal in their last two games. With a busy four-game week ahead, featuring respectable teams, the Islanders may not see an end to their losing streak. Even worse, the Islanders may not find an end to their goalless streak either.

Behind a four-goal second period, the Islanders managed to hang on for a 4-3 win at home against the Canadiens for their second win in the month of November. Jay Pandolfo scored his 100th career NHL goal (in the regular season) while Matt Moulson netted the game-winner with 1:45 left in the second period. Rick DiPietro made 24 saves on 27 shots and assisted on Moulson’s game-winning goal. Matt Martin had two assists in the game, which coincidentally were his first two assists of the season.

Two days later, the Islanders suffered a 6-0 beating at the hands of the visiting Boston Bruins. DiPietro was pulled after the first period, where he allowed three goals on 13 shots and his team was out shot 13-2. Chris Kelly, of all Bruins, led Boston in points with two goals and an assist. Kelly also had the Bruins lone penalty on the day, while the Islanders recorded five minors. Tim Thomas provided the 23-save shutout, although his team seemed quite comfortable without his assistance.

Looking to bounce back from their embarrassing 6-0 home loss, the Islanders ran into bad luck on Monday night. As Crosby made his return to the Pens, Pittsburgh was motivated to annihilate the Islanders and did so with a 5-0 victory. In front of his home crowd, Crosby provided an amazing performance, while not a single Islander found the back of the net. Starting his first game in the NHL, Anders Nilsson managed to stop just 31 of 36 shots. John Tavares had a decent showing for a player whose team was defeated 5-0, providing six shots on net and ending the game even in the plus/minus category.

Martin had the most points for the Islanders this week with two assists. In addition to racking up the most points, Martin, along with Moulson, was one of two Islanders who escaped the Bruins’ game with a plus/minus of even. In fact, Martin finished the week with a plus-1 rating in a week where his team won a one-goal game and then was shut out twice. He also provided nine shots over the three games.

Nilsson was one of two Islanders to make their NHL debut this week. After saving 14 of the 17 shots he saw in the last two periods of the Bruins’ game, Nilsson didn’t stand a chance playing a team who was amped due to the return of their best, and maybe the league’s best, player to the line-up. 

The other Islander making their NHL debut this week was David Ullstrom. The 102nd overall pick by the Isles in the 2008 NHL Draft was minus-2 in his first game on Monday, but he did manage to put two shots on net. Finding the ice more than most players in their NHL debut, Ullstrom played for 13:30 on Monday night.

First hosting the Flyers tonight at home, the Islanders welcome the Devils on Friday to start a home-and-home with their divisional foe. Finishing the home-and-home the following day in New Jersey, the Isles conclude the week by heading up to Buffalo and playing the Sabres on Tuesday night.