Atlantic Watch: 2/22-2/28

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The end of their four-game road trip wasn’t pretty for the Flyers, as their only two points came in a shootout win against the Calgary Flames on Saturday night. With a pair of shutout losses, the Flyers have now been shut out five times this season. The Flyers hope two games against Eastern Conference teams below them in the standings will help them gain ground in a fight for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

On Thursday, the Flyers failed to put a puck past Devan Dubnyk a single time in a 2-0 loss against the Edmonton Oilers. Taylor Hall’s 22nd goal of the season came early in the second period on a power-play chance due to a Pavel Kubina hooking minor, as it was all Dubnyk needed for his 35-save shutout. Jordan Eberle potted his 27th in 2011-2012 minutes later, while both Brayden Schenn and Claude Giroux had five shots on net for Philly in their third road loss in February. Ilya Bryzgalov may have allowed two soft goals, but he made several crucial saves in the loss, including a save on Shawn Horcoff’s penalty shot in the third period. The Flyers failed to score in Edmonton for a second straight game, as their last trip to Rexall place was a 1-0 loss on February 3, 2010 thanks to a Jeff Deslauriers’ 33-save shutout.

Two days later, the Flyers overcame a 3-0 deficit in the second period to win 5-4 in a shootout against the Flames. Matt Read was the second Flyer in the shootout to beat Miikka Kiprusoff, as his tally in the fifth round gave Philly the additional point. After Tom Kostopoulos’ shorthanded tally in the middle stanza made it 3-0, goals from Jakub Voracek and Braydon Coburn made it a one-goal game entering the third period. Thanks to a pair of goals from Scott Hartnell in the final 20 minutes, the Flyers managed to pull out two points in a game where they looked down-and-out early. Nicklas Grossman had his first two-point game in the NHL with a pair of assists, as Giroux also had a pair of assists in the team’s second win against a Western Conference team in February.

A Ryane Clowe goal less than 90 seconds into last night’s contest was enough for Antti Niemi, as the San Jose Sharks beat the visiting Flyers 1-0. Assisted by Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, Clowe had his second game-winner of the season, while Niemi’s 26-save effort had him his fifth shutout in 2011-2012. The loss concluded the road trip, as the Flyers went 2-2-0 and failed to win a game in regulation. Giroux failed to record a shot on net last night for the first time all season, while Danny Briere had a particularly rough night thanks to checks from Tommy Wingels and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The loss marked the first time Philly lost by a score of 1-0 in a regulation contest since the 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, where the Buffalo Sabres did the feat twice.

Sean Couturier was the only player to miss time this week for Philly, as he missed the Oilers’ game due to a lower body injury. He was plus-1 overall with a shot on net in the other two games for the Flyers.

Eric Wellwood filled in for Couturier on Thursday night. The forward had one shot on net in 9:37 TOI in the loss.

The Flyers return home and host the New York Islanders on Thursday for the clubs’ fifth meeting this season before heading to Washington for a contest against the Capitals on Sunday. Philly concludes the week with a game against the Detroit Red Wings at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday.

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New York Rangers: 2-0-1. The Rangers grabbed five out of the six points available this week to stay atop the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. Despite a four-game workload, the Rangers have a fairly easy schedule with two games against non-playoff opponents and the faltering Boston Bruins over the next seven days.

Down by a pair of goals in the middle stanza, the Rangers rallied back to earn a point in a 4-3 shootout loss to the New York Islanders on Friday night at Nassau Coliseum. After P.A. Parenteau scored his second goal of the night on the power play nearly nine minutes into the second period, goals from Marian Gaborik and Derek Stepan tied the game at three minutes later. Gaborik was the lone Ranger with a multi-point performance, as he also had his 24th assist of the season on Stepan’s game-tying goal. Matt Moulson opened the scoring with his 26th of the season and assisted on Parenteau’s second goal of the game for a two-point night, while both John Tavares and Andrew MacDonald had two-assist games in the Isles’ second win of the season over the Rangers. Evgeni Nabokov had 33 saves in the win, while Martin Biron denied 24 shots for his third loss in his last four decisions. The win improved the Isles to 5-3 in the shootout for 2011-2012, while the Rangers dropped to 3-5.

Ryan Callahan’s overtime beauty snapped the Rangers’ two-game skid with a 3-2 win over the visiting Buffalo Sabres on Saturday. Callahan’s 100th NHL goal saw the Rangers’ forward craftily maneuver his way through the Sabres’ defense before he beat Ryan Miller, who had 25 saves in the loss. Drew Stafford’s two-goal game wasn’t enough for Buffalo, as Gaborik’s 29th tally of the season in the third period tied the game and forced overtime. Brad Richards pumped five shots at Miller, as the Rangers’ sniper tried to break an eight-game spell where he potted only one goal. The win was the Rangers’ third overtime win in the month of February, as they improved their record to 9-6 in games that needed more than regulation.

Carl Hagelin’s 11th of the season late in the first period was all Henrik Lundqvist needed on Monday night, as the Rangers beat the New Jersey Devils 2-0 at Madison Square Garden. Callahan added an empty-net goal in the third period to join Hagelin as the only Rangers to have a goal and an assist in the win. The end of the second period ended violently, as four fighting majors, two unsportsmanlike conducts, and 30 PIMs took place in the final 3:08 of the middle stanza. Lundqvist denied 13 shots to record his eighth shutout of the season, the lowest shot total he has faced in any shutout throughout his entire NHL career. The 13 shots by the Devils was their season low, while the Rangers’ 15 shots on net tied their season-low, as they were out shot 28-15 by the Anaheim Ducks in their 2-1 shootout loss on October 8th. The win was the 10th shutout of the season for New York and the second time the Devils were shut out.

The Rangers made a pair of trades this week, as they acquired both John Scott and Michael Vernace.

In exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2012, the Rangers got Scott from the Chicago Blackhawks. The defenseman/winger has one goal and four assists in 144 games in the NHL.

In exchange for Wojtek Wolski, New York received Vernace and a third-round pick in 2013. Splitting his time with the Colorado Avalanche and the Tampa Bay Lightning, Vernace has one assist in 22 NHL games.

Ruslan Fedotenko returned to the line-up this week after he missed time with a head injury. He had one shot on net and had an even plus/minus overall in all the Rangers games.

The Blueshirts start their four-game week with a pair of games against Southeast Division opponents, as they travel to play the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday before going to Florida to play the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday. New York plays in their only home game of the week on Sunday against the Boston Bruins and wrap up with a game against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center Tuesday night.

 

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Pittsburgh Penguins: 2-0-0. Although they came against two teams currently outside the playoff picture, the Penguins provided two dominant victories this week in a pair of home games. With a trio of games against Western Conference teams over the next week, the Penguins hope to stay in the fourth spot of the Eastern Conference.

Four different Penguins had three-point performances or better in Pittsburgh’s 8-1 drubbing of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin recorded goals 34 through 36 on the season for his third hat-trick in 2011-2012, as he added an assist for his fourth four-point game. Jordan Staal was the only other Pen to record a multi-goal night with two goals and an assist, while Chris Kunitz had a goal and an assist. James Neal had a three-assist night, as did Steve Sullivan, who had his first of the season in the Pens eighth home win out of their last nine at the CONSOL Energy Center. Marc-Andre Fleury had 34 saves in the win, as the Pens supported their goalie with the team’s third eight-goal game in 2011-2012.

The following day the Pens handed the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets a 4-2 loss. After a shorthanded tally from Rick Nash 11 seconds before the midway point of the game, the Pens posted four unanswered goals to grab control of the contest. Malkin’s power-play tally in the final minute of the middle stanza tied the game before Pascal Dupuis gave Pitt the lead 5:50 into the third period. Kris Letang recorded the game-winner on the power play, as Joe Vitale finished the scoring for the Pens with his fourth goal of 2011-2012. Brad Thiessen made his NHL debut against the Jackets and won the contest with a 22-save effort, as the Penguins record against the Western Conference improved to 9-2-3. Matt Cooke had two assists for his second multi-point performance in a five-game span, as the win helped Pitt gain control of the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.

The only Pen to return to the line-up from injury this week was Brooks Orpik. Taking part in both games, Orpik was plus-5 with two shots on net.

As for interaction with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pens, Cal O’Reilly was assigned to Pitt’s AHL affiliate. He was minus-1 with two shots and two PIMs in a pair of AHL games.

After the Pens finish February with a road game against the Dallas Stars, Pitt travels to Colorado to play the Avalanche on Saturday before they return home to start a four-game home stand against the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday night.

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New Jersey Devils: 0-3-0. The Devils failed to win a single game this week, as they lost a pair of one-goal games and a two-goal game. New Jersey hopes that a three-game road trip can help them end their three-game losing streak.

The streak started Friday night, when the Vancouver Canucks traveled to Jersey and earned a 2-1 win. Mason Raymond’s second game-winner of the season, and seventh overall, came 2:07 into the second period to give the Canucks a two-goal lead before a David Clarkson tally just over nine minutes later made it a one-goal game. Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora had the assists on Clarkson’s tally, as Dainius Zubrus was the only Devil to record PIMs on the night with his hooking call minutes into the third period. Christopher Tanev recorded his first point in the NHL with the primary assist on Aaron Rome’s goal in the first period, while Cory Schneider allowed one goal against or less for a fifth time this season in a 30-save game. The loss dropped Jersey’s record to 7-6-2 this season against Western Conference opponents.

Two days later, the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Devils 4-3 at the Prudential Center. Martin St. Louis recorded a hat-trick and gave Matt Gilroy a tap-in for his second goal of the season in an impressive four-point night for the Lightning’s veteran forward. Teddy Purcell had three assists for his third three-point game in his last four games overall. Alexei Ponikarovsky opened the scoring in the first period, while Sykora tied the game at two early in the third period with his 15th of the season in the Devils’ first loss of the season to the Lightning. Martin Brodeur’s 12 saves in the loss is his lowest total in a complete game loss this season, as he allowed three goals against for a second time in three starts. The loss dropped the Devils record to 11-6-0 against the Southeast Division and to 19-6-4 in one-goal games.

Jersey concluded the week with their shutout loss against the Rangers on Monday.

The biggest news of the week related to the Devils’ roster was the addition of Marek Zidlicky. In exchange for Kurtis Foster, Nick Palmieri, Stephane Veilleux, a second-round pick in 2012, and a conditional third-round pick in 2013, Jersey acquired Zidlicky from the Minnesota Wild. He was minus-3 with two PIMs and a shot on net in the Devils’ two most recent games.

Both Ryan Carter and Adam Larsson returned to the line-up this week. Carter, who missed nine games with a hand injury, had a shot on net in Jersey’s three games. Larsson, who missed 10 games with a bruised lower back, was minus-1 with a shot on net in the two most recent Devils’ games.

Eric Boulton was placed on waivers earlier in the week by New Jersey. After nobody picked him up, Boulton ultimately made his way back to the Devils’ line-up and racked up seven PIMs against the Rangers on Monday.

The Devils play their final three games of their current road trip in the week ahead, starting with a visit to TD Garden to take on the Boston Bruins Thursday night. After a match-up against the Capitals on Friday, they take on the Islanders Sunday afternoon before they return home to host the Rangers on Tuesday night.

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New York Islanders: 1-1-1. For the second week in a row, the Islanders lost more games than they won. as their hopes to make the playoffs are dwindling by the day. The road doesn’t get any easier for New York, as they take on three tough opponents in the next seven days.

After their shootout win over the Rangers on Friday, the Isles dropped a 5-2 decision to the Ottawa Senators on the road Sunday. Jim O’Brien, who played in his 17th NHL game overall, recorded the game-winner 5:13 into the third period, as the Sens scored five of the game’s final six goals. Tavares scored 49 second into the contest, while Parenteau scored his 15th of 2011-2012 a little over nine minutes into the third period to give the Isles two goals in the loss. Travis Hamonic recorded a two-assist performance, while Parenteau’s primary assist on Tavares’ tally was his 43rd of the season. Robin Lehner earned his second win of the season for the Sens with a 28-save effort, while Nabokov failed to break 20 saves for a second time in a four-game span with his 19-save night. The loss dropped the Isles to 7-15 in three-goal games.

New York finished the week by blowing a 2-0 lead for a 3-2 loss last night in Washington against the Capitals. With Josh Bailey’s seventh in the first period and Moulson’s 27th of the season early in the third period, it looked as though the Isles were going to get their second win in their last three games. Unfortunately, a pair of Troy Brouwer goals, one of which came with 26 seconds left, tied the game and forced overtime, where Alex Ovechkin blew a wrister through Nabokov’s five-hole for the additional point. The loss was the Islanders’ ninth overtime loss of the season, as New York has dropped four of their last five games to find themselves eight points out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Steve Staios ended an 11-game point drought with his primary assist on Moulson’s tally, while Nabokov suffered his first overtime loss of the season.

The Islanders made a deadline day trade, as they shipped Brian Rolston and Mike Mottau to the Boston Bruins for defenseman Marc Cantin and winger Yannick Riendeau. Neither player has taken part in an Islanders’ game yet.

Another noticeable roster change was Tim Wallace being picked up off waivers by the Lightning. In his first two games in Tampa Bay, Wallace was minus-1.

Hamonic, Nabokov, and Bailey all returned from injuries this week.

Hamonic, who missed nine games due to a broken nose, was plus-3 with three assists and six shots in the Isles’ three games.

Nabokov, who missed four games with the flu, posted a .960 save percentage and a record of 1-1-1 in three games this week.

Bailey, who missed two games with back spasms, had a goal on two shots in last night’s loss to the Caps.

When it came to player movement involving the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL Affiliate), the Islanders recalled Casey Cizikas and David Ullstrom. Cizikas, who made his NHL debut against the Rangers on Friday, was minus-1 with a shot on net and two PIMs. Ullstrom had four PIMs and five shots on net in the Isles’ latest two games.

The Isles conclude their four-game road trip with a game against the Flyers tomorrow and a match-up against the Bruins on Saturday. They finish the week with a home game against the Devils on Sunday.