Atlantic Watch: 12/28-1/3

The Flyers went 1-1-0 in their two games this past week – losing the much anticipated Winter Classic on Monday afternoon to the New York Rangers. Due to Ilya Bryzgalov’s recent struggles in net, Sergei Bobrovsky earned both starts this week stopping 54 of the 59 shots he faced. Philly, which has dropped five of their last seven games, looks to turn things around this week against the Chicago Blackhawks and Ottawa Senators.

The Orange and Black continued their dominance over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the CONSOL Energy Center with a 4-2 victory on Thursday night. Matt Read earned his third game-winner of the season with his 12th goal of the season 16:11 into the middle period for the Flyers second win of the season against the Pens. Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot each registered a goal as the pair returned to Pittsburgh for the first time since signing with the Flyers, who moved to 4-0-0 all-time at the CONSOL Energy Center.

Kimmo Timonen had his first goal of the season in the first period and assisted on Talbot’s empty-netter, while Jakub Voracek had the secondary assist on Read’s goal and the primary assist on Talbot’s goal for a two-assist night to serve as the only Flyers with multi-point games. Tyler Kennedy had a goal and an assist in the losing effort while Jordan Staal scored his 15th goal of the season in the first minute of the game in the Penguins’ last home game of 2011.

On the second day of 2012, the Flyers lost 3-2 to the Rangers at Citizens Bank Park. Brad Richards deposited the game-winner early in the third period as the Flyers entered the third period with a 2-1 lead, but found themselves trailing with 14:39 left. Brayden Schenn recorded his first goal in the NHL during the second period, while Claude Giroux put home his 18th of the season 1:55 later to give Philly a 2-0 lead. Scott Hartnell earned the secondary assist on Giroux’s goal, but also racked up 12 PIMs at the end of the game. Braydon Coburn and Matt Carle both posted a game-high five shots on net as the Flyers had all 10 of their shots in the third period denied.

Bobrovsky made 30 saves during the game, but allowed two goals on 16 shots in the third period to allow the Rangers to earn the win. Henrik Lundqvisst had a little to do with it as well, stopping Danny Briere on a late penalty shot. Philly dropped to 0-1-1 in Winter Classic games.

Jagr left the game on Monday with a ”calf” injury, which was later deemed to be a groin injury. Jagr had one shot on net in 7:09 TOI before he stopped playing due to the injury, which has sidelined him for 7-to-10 days.

The Flyers next game is tomorrow at home against the Blackhawks. Their final two games of the week take part in a home-and-home with the Senators as they play at home at 1pm on Saturday and play in Ottawa at 5pm on Sunday.

New York Rangers: 2-1-0. After losing in Washington, the Rangers provided two wins to increase their lead in the division to four points over the Flyers. With all three of their games this week taking place away from Madison Square Garden, the Rangers improved their road record to 13-6-2 on the season. The Blueshirts hope to keep their winning ways intact as they play three games this week, one of which comes against an Atlantic Division rival.

Heading into Washington, D.C. on a five-game winning streak, the Rangers lost to the Washington Capitals 4-1 on Wednesday night. Troy Brouwer put home the game-winner halfway through the second period with his 10th goal of the season as Tomas Vokoun earned the win in net with 22 saves. Alexander Semin earned his eighth and ninth goals of the season, while Alex Ovechkin earned his 14th and 15th assists of the season as the Caps out scored the Rangers 3-0 in the final 40 minutes. Brandon Dubinsky potted his third goal of the season 17:16 into the opening period, while Ryan Callahan recorded the assist being the only Rangers with points in the game. Martin Biron’s record dropped to 7-2-0 as he allowed four goals on 23 shots from the opposition as the Rangers lost their second road game in the month of December.

Two days later, the Rangers traveled south and handed the Florida Panthers a 4-1 loss. Richards put home his 13th of the season 5:10 into the game to provide the game-winner for New York as they jumped out to a 4-0 lead before the Panthers finally responded in the second period.

Richards was one of two Rangers with a goal and an assist in the game as Carl Hagelin scored 35 seconds into the game and had the secondary assist on Michael Del Zotto’s tally later in the period. Ryan McDonagh was the third Blueshirt with two points on the night as he recorded a two-assist night, while Dubinsky scored in his second straight game with the team’s final goal 7:41 into the second period. Henrik Lundqvist returned to New York’s cage and denied 27 of the Cats’ 28 shots on net as he allowed one goal or less in a game for the 10th time this season. Scott Clemmensen earned the loss allowing three goals on 14 shots in the opening 15:37 as Jose Theodore came in to stop 10 of the Rangers’ final 11 shots.

To earn their third victory of the season against the Flyers, the Rangers posted a 3-2 win on Monday. Mike Rupp stunned the Philly crowd as he provided a two-goal performance for the Blueshirts to help them to their first win in regulation in Philadelphia since their 2-1 win on December 19, 2009. Both Brandon Prust and John Mitchell earned two-assist games to round out the unlikely trio of multi-point performances for New York as Richards, Dubinsky, and Callahan collaborated for the game-winning goal early in the third period. Lundqvist stopped 34 Flyers shots.

In the biggest roster news of the week for the Rangers, Marc Staal returned to the line-up for the Winter Classic. Returning from a concussion, Staal was plus-1 in 12:41 TOI in his first game of the season.

Also returning to action this week was Jeff Woywitka. After missing four games due to a foot injury, the Flyers’ first-round draft pick in 2001 played against the Capitals and Panthers this week posting an assist as well as a shot on net.

As for players that were assigned to the Connecticut Whale (the Rangers’ AHL affiliate), the always annoying Sean Avery and defenseman Tim Erixon made appearances for the club this week.

Taking part in only the Whale’s 5-4 loss on the road against the Portland Pirates (the Phoenix Coyotes’ AHL affiliate) this week, Avery had four shots on net and two PIMs in a minus-1 effort.

Erixon took part in three games for the Whale scoring a goal and recording three assists along with 11 shots and two PIMs.

In addition to the news surronding Rangers who returned from injuries and who were assigned to Connecticut, Del Zotto was fined $2,500 for his actions in an altercation with Panthers’ forward Tomas Kopecky in the dying seconds of Friday’s game.

Speaking of the Panthers, the Blueshirts host Florida tomorrow night before the Rangers return to the road for a game in Pitt against the Pens on Friday. To conclude the week, the Rangers return home to face the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday.

Pittsburgh Penguins: 0-2-0. The Pens lost both of their games this week to the two teams closest to them in the chase for the Atlantic Division. The pair of losses come after a four-game winning streak and marked the third time in the month of December the Pens lost back-to-back games. Having yet to play in 2012, Pitt takes part in three home games this week as they hope to find the win column again.

The Pens saw their four-game winning streak snapped with their home loss to the Flyers on Thursday by a score of 4-2. Staal scored 44 seconds into the game, but Philly scored four of the next five goals to grab two points in the standings. Kennedy was the only Penguin with a multi-point performance as he assisted on Staal’s tally and scored his fifth goal of the season 13:31 into the third period to cut the Flyers’ lead to one goal. Kennedy also led the Pens with five shots on net, while Evgeni Malkin was second on the team with four shots on net.

Matt Niskanen finished the game minus-3, while James Neal and Chris Kunitz both provided minus-2 performances as seven Penguins finished with a negative rating. Marc-Andre Fleury made 19 saves in the loss allowing two goals on six Flyers’ shots in the second period. The loss dropped the Penguins’ home record to 3-3-0 for December.

On Saturday, the Pens traveled to New Jersey and suffered a 3-1 loss to the Devils. Kunitz netted his 13th of the season on the power play 9:25 into the final period, but the Devils’ two-goal first period was enough to hand the Pens their second straight loss. Fleury had another 19-save effort for his 10th decision of the season where he provided less than 20 saves (7-3-0). Brooks Orpik had a rough game as he earned two PIMs and covered the puck in the crease to award the Devils with a penalty shot in the first period, which Ilya Kovalchuk deposited for the game’s first goal. Niskanen had the primary assist on Kunitz’s tally, while Steve Sullivan earned the secondary assist to be the only Pens in the game with a point as not a single Pitt player finished with a plus rating. Steve MacIntyre played 47 seconds for Pittsburgh, his second lowest amount of time spent on the ice in any of the nine games he has played this season (23 seconds against the Minnesota Wild on October 18 is the lowest).

Deryk Engelland returned from his three-game suspension for his hit on Marcus Kruger in the Pens’ win against the Blackhawks on December 20th. Making his return against the Devils, Engelland went pointless with no shots in an even performance in 14:21 TOI.

Jason Williams, Alexandre Picard, and Simon Despres were the trio of players assigned to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (the Pens’ AHL affiliate) this week.

Taking part in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s 4-2 win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (the New York Islanders’ AHL affiliate) on Saturday, Williams was plus-1 with an assist and two shots on net.

Also taking part in only the game against the Sound Tigers on Saturday, Picard had an assist and a shot on net in a plus-1 effort.

Despres has yet to play for WBS since being assigned to the team a few days ago.

The Penguins start their week with a pair of home games against Atlantic Division opponents as they play the Rangers on Friday and the Devils on Saturday. Pittsburgh finishes the week by hosting the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.

New Jersey Devils: 2-0-1. For the first time since their 2-0-0 stretch from October 12th to October 18, the Devils earned a point in every game they played this week. After earning victories in their first two games, Jersey lost in overtime on Monday for a total of five points. New Jersey looks forward to a busy seven days as they play two division leaders along with a pair of teams fighting to be in the playoff picture.

To start their week, the Devils earned a 3-1 win at home over the Buffalo Sabres. Petr Sykora provided a two-goal game for the Devils depositing the game-winner 1:26 into the second period for his 10th goal of the season. Patrik Elias was the other Devil with a multi-point performance as he provided two assists for a team that featured no players with a minus rating for the game. Bryce Salvador and Cam Janssen, as well as Paul Gaustad and Patrick Kaleta, earned 10-minute misconducts for a scrum that occurred 7:12 into the middle period. Martin Brodeur was awarded the victory as he allowed only one goal against in a game since his win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on November 23rd. Brodeur also recorded his third assist of the season with the secondary helper on Sykora’s first goal of the game.

Thomas Vanek scored Buffalo’s only goal of the game with a power-play marker in the second period, while Ryan Miller dropped to 9-9-2 on the season with a 20-save loss.

Winning their second game in a row, the Devils handed the visiting Penguins a 3-1 loss on Saturday. David Clarkson recorded the game-winner with 24 seconds left in the first period as he posted his 13th goal of the season with a power-play tally. Kovalchuk’s 12th came on a penalty shot earlier in the first, while Zach Parise registered his 13th of the season with the empty-net tally late in the third period for the Devils’ fourth multi-goal win in the month of December. Kovalchuk, who had a goal with two assists, recorded his second three-point performance of the season (one goal, two assists on October 10th against the Carolina Hurricanes). Brodeur blocked 29 of the Pens’ 30 shots during the game to earn his third straight decision, the first time all season he has recorded three straight wins. The win improved Jersey’s record to 1-1-0 against the Pens this season and to 10-6-1 at home.

Entering the third period with a 2-0 lead on Monday in Ottawa, the Devils gave up three straight goals to lose 3-2 in overtime to the Senators. After receiving goals from Dainius Zubrus and Clarkson in the second period, Brodeur allowed three goals on the Sens’ final 14 shots of the game to leave Jersey with only a point in their loss. Daniel Alfredsson scored his 14th goal of the season on the power play with only a minute left in the extra frame to drop the Devils’ record to 10-2 in their games that needed extra time this season. Sykora, Travis Zajac, and Mattias Tedenby each recorded an assist as Mark Fayne was the only Devil to finish minus-2 in a game that was even at 18 shots for each team after 40 minutes of play.

Two Devils returned to action this week as both Adam Larsson and Henrik Tallinder made appearances in the line-up.

After missing two games due to personal reasons, Larsson played in all three games this week putting one shot on net and posting a plus/minus of plus-2.

Sidelined for six games due to back spasms, Tallinder returned to Jersey’s line-up to play against the Pens and Sens. The defenseman had a shot on net and finished the week with an even rating after going plus-1 against the Penguins and minus-1 against the Senators.

Unfortunately for New Jersey, Anton Volchenkov is day-to-day with a lower body injury he suffered against the Penguins.

As for other roster moves, Alexander Urbom was assigned to the Albany Devils (the Devils’ AHL affiliate) earlier in the week. Taking part in Albany’s games against the Manchester Monarchs (the Los Angeles Kings’ AHL affiliate) and the Adirondack Phantoms this week, Urbom had two assists and posted four shots while going plus-1 in the two games.

The Devils start the week with a pair of home games as they host the Boston Bruins tonight and the Florida Panthers on Friday night. Hitting the road, the Devils travel to Pittsburgh on Saturday to take on the Penguins and then to Calgary on Tuesday to take on the Flames.

New York Islanders: 3-0-0. The Islanders pulled off their second three-game winning streak of the season this week as they beat two Canadian teams and the Hurricanes. After earning three points in their first five home games of the month, the Islanders earned four with their victories against the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers to close out 2011. Taking on three Western Conference opponents this week, the Islanders look to continue their point-producing ways.

Putting an end to their three-game losing streak, the Islanders defeated the visiting Flames on Thursday 3-1. John Tavares recorded his second game-winner of the season with his 12th goal of the season 3:20 into the third period. Providing the secondary assist on Andrew MacDonald’s second period goal, Tavares joined P.A. Parenteau, who had two assists, as the only two players with two points in the contest. Travis Hamonic finished plus-3, while 16 of the 18 Flames finished even or with a minus rating. Other than Tim Jackman’s first goal of the season 1:11 into the game, Evgeni Nabokov stopped everything thrown at him in a 29-save performance for his first win since December 20 in Winnipeg against the Jets. Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 31 shots in the loss.

For their second straight win, the Islanders beat the Oilers in New York by a score of 4-1. Matt Moulson deposited his 17th goal of the season with 2:05 left in the first period for the game-winner. With the addition of two assists, Moulson recorded his first game with at least three points since his four-goal game against the Dallas Stars on December 3. Parenteau had a goal and an assist for his third two-point game in a four-game span, while Tavares posted a goal and an assist as well for his second straight two-point contest. Matt Martin posted his fourth goal of the season early in the second for the Isles’ final goal as they beat Devan Dubnyk four times on their 13 shots in the first 40 minutes of the game. Nabokov stopped 28 shots from Edmonton for his second performance of the season that featured only one goal against.

Overcoming two one-goal deficits in the game, the Islanders edged out a 4-3 shootout victory against the Hurricanes in Carolina last night. Frans Nielsen provided the decisive goal in the shootout as Parenteau also scored for the Isles, who out scored the Canes 2-1 in the battle for the extra point. In addition to his shootout goal, Nielsen also had his sixth goal of the season and an assist for his first two-point game since he did the same thing against the Rangers on November 15. Moulson scored early in the first period and Kyle Okposo scored his seventh of the season with only 1:30 left in the third period to tie the game, as Tavares had a three-assist game for his third straight multi-point game. Special teams played a major role in the game as both Moulson’s and Nielsen’s goals came on the Isles’ only two power plays of the game.

Nabokov made 37 saves on 40 Carolina shots as he earned his third straight win, the first time he has won three straight decisions since he won six straight in the 2010 playoffs as a member of the San Jose Sharks. Jussi Jokinen scored the only goal in the shootout for Carolina as Cam Ward made 33 stops in the Hurricanes’ third loss in their last four games.

New York was fortunate enough to have both Brian Rolston and Steve Staios return from injuries this week.

After missing five games due to a concussion, Rolston returned to the line-up against Calgary and took part in all three Islanders’ games this week. Rolston had one goal on four shots and ended the week with an even plus/minus after going plus-2 against the Flames and minus-2 against the Hurricanes.

Staios missed seven games with a head injury and made his way back to the ice to play the Oilers and Hurricanes.  He went minus-1 with four PIMs and one shot on net.

For their first two games of the week, the Islanders will head out west to take on the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night and the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night. The Isles then return home to host the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night.