Atlantic Watch: 3/14-3/20

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A dominant win over the New York Islanders and a pair of comebacks helped the Flyers gain five crucial points in the standings this week, as Philly still has a slim chance to win the Eastern Conference.

Unfortunately, the only game in which the Flyers didn’t earn a point may have been their most impressive performance, as they posted 23 more shots than the Panthers in their one-goal game loss last night.

Three games against three clubs that are lower in the conference standings should help the Flyers a lot over the next couple days, as the Orange and Black hope to clinch a playoff spot at some point this week.

The Flyers’ first contest of the week was a win against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum by the score of 3-2. Ilya Bryzgalov’s shutout streak finally came to an end at 249:43, as Michael Grabner’s 16th tally of the season eluded him with 6 1/2 minutes left in regulation. Although he came up less than seven minutes shy of a fourth straight shutout, Bryzgalov did set the longest shutout streak in club history.

Scott Hartnell recorded the game-winner 7:02 into the middle stanza to extend the Flyers’ lead to 3-0 before both Grabner and John Tavares tallied for the Isles in the third period. Zac Rinaldo snapped a 44-game goal drought with his second of the season to open the scoring in the first period before Claude Giroux gave Philly a 2-0 advantage minutes later with his 26th in 2011-2012. Philly was able to kill off both of the Islanders’ power plays in the tilt, as the only New York player to visit the sin bin during the game was Matt Martin for his fight with Wayne Simmonds in the opening period. The win concluded Bryzgalov’s seven-game winning streak, as he made 29 saves and allowed two goals against or less for a sixth time during the run.

For New York, Evgeni Nabokov lost his fourth consecutive game, as he allowed three goals against or more in each of the losses in the skid. The win was the Flyers’ 22nd one-goal game victory of the season and the Islanders’ sixth one-goal game loss, as Philly earned four wins against the Isles for a fifth straight year.

Two days later, the Flyers headed up north to take on the Boston Bruins and suffered a 3-2 loss in a shootout. Patrice Bergeron was the third of three Boston shooters to beat Bryzgalov in the shootout, while Tim Thomas denied Danny Briere for the additional point to give the Bruins the season series 3-1-0. The game didn’t start out as planned for Philly, as Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin registered goals in the opening 20 minutes to put Boston up 2-0. Thanks to a power-play tally from Matt Read in the middle stanza and a redirection from Jakub Voracek late in the third period, the Flyers were able to grab a point in the loss.

The defeat dropped the Flyers’ record to 3-6 in shootouts this season, as they dropped their third straight game to the Bruins, a team Philly will most likely need to beat in the postseason if they hope to make a deep playoff run. The loss snapped Bryzgalov’s seven-game winning streak, a stretch of games where he allowed only seven goals against.

On Sunday, the Flyers ended the Pittsburgh Penguins’ NHL-best 11-game winning streak with a thrilling and unexpected 3-2 overtime decision at the Wells Fargo Center. Entering the third period down 2-0 due to goals from Craig Adams and Evgeni Malkin, the Flyers tied the contest on tallies from Kimmo Timonen and Hartnell. With nine-tenths of a second left in overtime, Briere set up Hartnell for the game-winning tally, as the Flyers’ leader in goals registered his 35th of the season and his sixth multi-goal performance in 2011-2012.

Timonen’s goal snapped his 22-game goal drought and started the Flyers’ comeback, as Philly was out shot 27-10 after the first 40 minutes. The win marked the first time the Flyers won after they entered the third period with a deficit since they beat the Calgary Flames 5-4 in a shootout on February 25, as they recorded their sixth overtime win in 2011-2012 and the Pens’ posted their third overtime loss. Malkin’s goal was his 41st and extended his point streak to four games (three goals and four assists), as the Pens record dropped to 10-7-1 against the rest of the Atlantic Division. Bryzgalov had a season-high 38 saves, while Marc-Andre Fleury snapped his 10-game winning streak in a 24-save performance. The victory was the Flyers’ first overtime win against the Pens since their 6-5 decision on October 14, 2005.

Last night, the Florida Panthers visited the Wells Fargo Center and left with a 2-1 win. Despite out shooting the Panthers 36-13, the only goal Philly could put past Scott Clemmensen was Eric Wellwood’s fourth of the season in the second period. The goal marked the second time this year where Wellwood was the only member of the Orange and Black to deposit a goal, as his tallied the game-winning goal in the Flyers’ 1-0 win against the Capitals on March 4.

Sean Bergenheim put home the decisive goal in the contest, as the puck took a funny bounce after it hit a stanchion and landed next to the crease before the former Islander put home his 17th of the season. The 13 shots produced by the Panthers is the lowest shot total allowed by the Flyers all season, as Philly dropped to 23-5-8 in one-goal games. Timonen’s assist on Wellwood’s goal moved him to within one helper from 400 in his career. The loss prevented the Broad Street Bullies from their first season sweep of the Panthers since they won all four contests against Florida in the 2005-2006 campaign.

The biggest news off the ice for the Flyers this week was the fact defenseman Andrej Meszaros is expected to miss six-to-eight weeks due to back surgery. The procedure is to remove a small bone fragment. Meszaros hasn’t played since the Flyers’ 6-3 win against the Islanders on March 1.

Pavel Kubina (upper-body injury), Max Talbot (upper-body injury), and Andreas Lilja (throat) all returned to the line-up against the Panthers last night. Kubina, who missed seven games, committed one penalty and tossed three shots on net. Talbot, who only missed Sunday’s game against his former team, was minus-1 with a shot on net in 11:25 of ice time last night. Lilja, who also only missed Sunday’s contest, was minus-1 with a shot on net in 13:54 TOI in the loss yesterday.

With injuries to Meszaros and Lilja, Brandon Manning spent time with both the Flyers and Phantoms this week. The 21-year-old defenseman was minus-1 with two shots on net in 11:57 TOI in the win Sunday against the Pens.

The Orange and Black conclude their five-game homestand with three games at the Well this week, as they host the Washington Capitals on Thursday night, the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night.

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New York Rangers: 1-2-0. In the midst of their seven-game homestand, the Rangers were only able to win one of their three contests this week. After a pair of losses to the Penguins and Colorado Avalanche, the Rangers were able to beat the New Jersey Devils to clinch a playoff spot. New York has a pair of games at home and a pair of games on the road over the next seven days.

The Blueshirts lost 5-2 on Thursday night to the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden. In his first game since December 5th, Sidney Crosby had a pair of assists while Matt Cooke had a pair of goals in the Pens’ 10th straight win. Both James Neal and Tyler Kennedy registered a couple of assists in the Rangers’ second straight three-goal game loss to the Pens in New York. Marian Gaborik and Carl Hagelin each had a goal and an assist for New York, as Brad Richards posted a pair of assists in the Rangers’ first home loss since their 4-2 defeat to the Chicago Blackhawks on February 16th. Brandon Prust and Stu Bickel were both minus-3, while Martin Biron allowed five goals against for the first time since he stopped just 20 of 25 against the Atlanta Thrashers on October 27, 2010. The loss for New York dropped their record to 16-9 in three-goal games, while it improved the Pens’ record to 17-5.

Luck wasn’t on the Rangers’ side Saturday when the visiting Colorado Avalanche managed to leave Madison Square Garden with a 3-1 win. Although they out shot Colorado 42-20, Semyon Varlamov tied his season-high with 41 saves for his fourth straight win. The only member of New York’s squad to beat the former Capital on the night was Mats Zuccarello, who potted his first goal with the Rangers this season after he put home six in 2010-2011. Matt Hunwick tied the game at one with his third of 2011-2012, while Gabriel Landeskog had the game-winner halfway through the game for the Avs’ fifth straight game in their point streak going 4-0-1 in the process. Ryan Wilson was the only player to record two points, as his pair of assists helped to sink the Rangers’ record to 8-6-2 against the Western Conference. The loss marked the first time New York lost back-to-back home games since they lost to the Maple Leafs 4-2 on December 5th and 3-2 to the Lightning in a shootout three days later.

To conclude the week, the Rangers beat the Devils 4-2 on Monday night in New York. After three fights happened three seconds into the game, Brandon Dubinsky gave the Blueshirts a lead 1:11 into the contest with his eighth goal of the season. Dan Girardi snapped a 27-game goal drought with his fifth of 2011-2012 33 seconds into the middle stanza, as the Rangers finish 3-3-0 against New Jersey. Both Ryan Callahan and Hagelin had a pair of assists for New York, while Petr Sykora was the lone Devil to record two points in the tilt with his 17th goal and his 21st assist. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 20 shots in the win for the first time since he denied 25 against New Jersey in the Rangers’ 4-1 loss on March 6th. Martin Brodeur made 23 saves and allowed four goals against or more for a second straight game, the first time he has done so since he allowed four goals or more in three straight contests from December 18th to December 23rd in 2010. With the win, the Rangers grabbed the first playoff berth in the Eastern Conference with 97 points (they finished last season in eighth place with 93 points).

As far as injuries go, both Artem Anisimov and Steve Eminger are day-to-day. Anisimov injured his left shoulder from a hit he took from Pitt’s Joe Vitale in Thursday’s loss. Eminger is out with an undisclosed injury.

On the positive side, three of New York’s finest players returned to action.  Lundqvist, who missed two games last week due to the flu, went 1-1-0 in two games with a save percentage of .902. Callahan, who missed three games with a bruised foot, had a pair of helpers and nine shots on net in two games this week. Michael Del Zotto, who missed four games with a hip injury, posted an even rating with four shots on net in a couple of contests.

Aside from injuries, the Rangers also called up defenseman Tim Erixon from the Connecticut Whale. The 23rd overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft was minus-1 in his first two games with New York since late December.

New York finishes their homestand with a game tonight against the Detroit Red Wings and Friday against the Buffalo Sabres. On Saturday, the Blueshirts visit the Toronto Maple Leafs before they travel to Minnesota to take on the Wild Tuesday night.

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Pittsburgh Penguins: 3-0-1. Although they saw their long winning streak snapped, the Pens are happy to have extended their point streak to 13 games and to see Crosby return to the ice. Only one point behind the division and conference leading Rangers, the Pens hope to gain several points in their four games this week to possibly win their first conference title since they finished the season atop the Prince of Wales Conference in the 1992-1993 campaign.

After they beat the Rangers 5-2 on Thursday night, the Pens traveled to New Jersey and did the same thing to the Devils on Saturday. Cooke registered another two-goal game to record consecutive two-goal performances for the first time in his 13-year career, as the Penguins won their third straight three-goal game and their 11th game overall. Neal, Pascal Dupuis, and Malkin also scored for Pittsburgh, as Fleury earned his 10th straight win with 12 saves, a season-low for any of his decisions.

Crosby had a trio of assists for his third three-point performance in just his ninth game of the season, as the Penguins won their fourth straight game on the road. Although the Pens out shot Jersey 44-14 in the contest, it was still a two-goal tilt early in the third period thanks to Andy Greene’s first goal of the season and Sykora’s second goal in as many games. Brodeur made a season-high 39 saves in the loss, as the 44 shots Pitt threw at him is the highest total he has seen in 2011-12. New Jersey was dealt four misconducts in the final 20 minutes as Eric Boulton, Ryan Carter, Steve Bernier, and David Clarkson were all handed 10-minute misconducts. The three-goal game loss dropped the Devils’ record to 10-10 in games decided by three goals or more this season, as the Pens improved their record to 2-3-0 against Jersey with the final match-up between these clubs coming on Sunday at the CONSOL Energy Center.

Last night, following their overtime loss on Sunday to the Flyers, which snapped their winning streak, the Pens dealt the visiting Winnipeg Jets an 8-4 beatdown. Powered by Neal (who had a hat-trick and an assist), Malkin (who had two goals and three assists), Crosby (who had four assists), and Kennedy (who had two goals), Pittsburgh was able to win their season series against Winnipeg with a record of 3-1-0. Even though he allowed four goals against, Brad Thiessen made 26 saves to improve to 3-0-0 in 2011-2012 with the Pens, as both Ondrej Pavelec and Chris Mason finished the game with save percentages under .800. The win improved the Pens’ home winning streak to eight games, a stretch where they have out scored the opposition 33-13. The victory also marked the fourth time they potted eight goals in a game, the second of which came against the Jets.

The biggest news this week for Pitt was the return of Crosby. After he missed 40 games with a concussion/concussion-like symptoms, Crosby had nine assists in the Pens’ four games.

Both Kris Letang and Paul Martin returned to Pittsburgh’s line-up this week as well. Letang, who missed five games with a concussion, had three assists and was plus-6 in four games. Martin, who missed two games with an illness, recorded an assist and a plus-5 rating overall in all of the Pens’ games this week.

Vitale is the only Penguin who injured themselves this week, as the center is day-to-day with a shoulder injury. He has missed the Pens’ last two games.

Pittsburgh hosts the Nashville Predators tomorrow night before they head up north to visit the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night. Returning home on Sunday night, the Pens take on the Devils before they conclude the week with a contest against the visiting Islanders.

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New Jersey Devils: 2-2-0. The Devils only registered five goals in regulation this week, but the they still managed to walk away with two wins, as the club sits sixth in the conference. Trailing the Flyers by three points, the Devils find themselves isolated in the sixth slot, as the seventh-seeded Ottawa Senators are five points behind them. The upcoming days won’t be easy for New Jersey, as two of their three opponents are likely to possess deep postseason runs this year.

Jersey started the week with a 1-0 shootout victory over the visiting Avalanche on Thursday night. Ilya Kovalchuk scored in the first round of the shootout, while Zach Parise potted the decisive goal in the second round, as Brodeur stopped both of Colorado’s shooters to add on to his 28-save shutout in regulation. The game was evenly played, as the Devils only out shot Colorado by a margin of 33-28 and both teams failed to convert on one power-play chance per side in the Devils’ fourth straight win at the Prudential Center. The win was Brodeur’s second shutout of the season and the Devils’ fifth, while the loss was Jean-Sebastien Giguere’s second blanking and the eighth time the Avs were shut out in 2011-2012. The victory marked the first time the Devils won a game 1-0 in a shootout since Brodeur made 51 saves against the Rangers on January 12, 2010.

Following their losses to the Penguins and Rangers, the Devils returned to the win column last night with a 1-0 decision over the Sens in Ottawa. Kovalchuk’s 31st of the season, and 400th in his career, came on a power-play tally late in the second period. It was all Johan Hedberg needed, as the Devils’ netminder stopped all 34 of the Sens’ shots in the win. Marek Zidlicky and Patrik Elias had helpers on the game-winning goals, as Jersey improved to 22-7-5 in one-goal games this season. Ben Bishop made one less save than Hedberg on the evening, as the Sens were shut out for just a third time in 2011-2012. Hedberg’s biggest save of the night came on a penalty shot awarded to Erik Condra after he was tripped by Anton Volchenkov on a breakaway. The win improved the Devils’ record to 10-5-3 against the Northeast Division this season.

New Jersey’s only roster move of the week was signing goalie Scott Wedgewood to a three-year entry-level contract. The 84th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, Wedgewood was playing with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) before he signed the contract with Jersey.

The Devils have today and tomorrow off before they host the Maple Leafs on Friday night. After their game in Pitt on Sunday, the Devils return to Jersey to host the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday.

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New York Islanders: 2-1-0. After they failed to win a single game last week, the Isles came out and won two of three in their most recent seven-day span. Beating two Canadian teams on the road, the Islanders hope to keep their winning streak intact, as they finish their road trip this week with three games away from New York.

After their loss to the Flyers on Thursday to make it five straight, New York was able to beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in a six-round shootout on Saturday for their third win in March. Goals from Mark Streit and Frans Nielsen 14:05 apart in the middle stanza gave the Islanders a one-goal lead until Louis Leblanc tied the game early in the third period. In the shootout, tallies from David Desharnais and Rene Bourque were answered by Nielsen and Matt Moulson before Josh Bailey put home the decisive goal on the final shot. Al Montoya, who took part in his first game in the month of March, made 28 saves for his first win in exactly three months, while Peter Budaj’s season-high 36 saves wasn’t enough to give Montreal the win. The victory was the Isles’ sixth via a shootout this season, their first since they beat the Rangers 4-3 on February 24th.

In their third game of the week, the Islanders beat the Maple Leafs 5-2 last night in Toronto. Moulson had a two-goal game with his first tally serving as the game-winner, as he registered both in the final 20 minutes of the game. P.A. Parenteau snapped a nine-game goal drought with his 16th in the third period to complete the Isles’ 3-0 third period. Tavares recorded three assists for his ninth three-point performance of the season, as Nabokov stopped 12 shots for his lowest save total in any of his victories in 2011-2012. With the shot advantage 34-14 in their favor, it was the first time the Islanders out shot an opponent by 20 shots this season and it was the fewest amount of shots against in any game. The win also marked the Islanders’ first multi-goal game win since they beat the Jets 3-1 on February 14th and it was their first three-goal game victory since they beat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 on January 31st.

The only player movement this week for the Isles was Parenteau’s return to the line-up. After he missed the Islanders’ game against the Caps last Tuesday, Parenteau took part in all three games this week and had a goal with two assists while going plus-1.

The Isles conclude their five-game road trip this week with three contests away from Nassau Coliseum starting with a game against the Lightning on Saturday before they take on the Florida Panthers Sunday and conclude the week against the Pens on Tuesday.