Atlantic Watch: 4/4-4/10

Image Courtesy of The Associated Press

The Flyers finished their 2011-12 regular season with a pair of games that didn’t have any kind of effect on the standings, as they beat the Buffalo Sabres and lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It’s those same Penguins that the Flyers will play in the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, which starts tonight.

Philly’s final home game of the regular season was also their final win, as they beat the visiting Sabres 2-1 on Thursday night.

Ville Leino may have had a disappointing year, but he recorded his eighth of the year and second against the Flyers in the second period to give Buffalo their only lead of the tilt. In the third period, Marc-Andre Bourdon scored his fourth of the campaign, and second in three games, to tie the game 6:05 into the final frame. With only 4:21 left in regulation, Matt Read blew by Robyn Regehr and beat Ryan Miller on a breakaway for his sixth game-winner and his 24th on the season to give Philly a record of 25-5-9 in one-goal games. The victory completed Philly’s first season sweep of the Sabres since 2008-09.

On Saturday, the Flyers concluded the year with a meaningless 4-2 loss to the Penguins in Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby potted the game-winner late in the second period on the power play, as Evgeni Malkin added on the insurance marker with only 12 seconds left in the middle stanza to make him only the second player in the NHL with 50 goals (Steven Stamkos, 60). Pascal Dupuis extended his point streak to an impressive 17 games, where he scored 10 goals and registered 12 assists, with his goal in the first few minutes of the tilt. Brayden Schenn tied the game in the final minute of the first period, and fellow rookie Harry Zolnierczyk also stood up for both Danny Briere and Nick Grossmann by fighting Joe Vitale in the opening minutes of the game. Jaromir Jagr produced his 19th goal of the season to give him 54 points for the campaign, as his current team dropped to 8-3-1 against his former team over the last two seasons.

Sergei Bobrovsky was in net for the Flyers and stopped 19 of 23 in the loss, while Marc-Andre Fleury denied 14 of 15 before he was pulled for rest and allowed Brent Johnson to record the win with five stops. The defeat was the Flyers’ first loss in Pittsburgh since their 4-1 decision on March 27, 2010 at Mellon Arena, where current Penguin Arron Asham was the lone Flyer to score.

The only roster movement for Philly this week was calling up Zolnierczyk from Adirondack. In addition to his assist and fight, Z was also plus-1 and dealt another two PIMs.

The Flyers also signed Grossmann to a multi-year contract extension, worth $3.5 million each season through the 2015-16 campaign.

The Orange and Black start their quest for the Stanley Cup tonight against the Penguins at the CONSOL Energy Center. Game 2 will take place on Friday night before the series switches to the Wells Fargo Center for Game 3 on Sunday afternoon.

Image Courtesy of The Associated Press

New York Rangers: 0-2-0. After they clinched the top seed in the East with their win last Tuesday against the Flyers, the Rangers’ final two games of the regular season didn’t mean much.

It’s a good thing they didn’t considering New York dropped a pair of three-goal game losses to close out the year.

The Rangers final road game in the regular season was on Thursday, which resulted in a 5-2 loss at the hands of the Penguins. The game may have not meant much to them, but the loss meant the Penguins gained home-ice advantage in the opening round against the Flyers, as the win put Pittsburgh three points ahead of Philly in the standings with only one game left for both clubs. Brandon Dubinsky potted his 10th of the season in the first period while Artem Anisimov scored his 16th of the year on the power play in the third period to make it a 4-2 contest with only 2:14 left. Brian Boyle led all players on the New York roster in points, as the forward recorded a pair of helpers in the club’s first loss away from Madison Square Garden since a 4-3 loss to the Blackhawks in Chicago on March 9.

In net, Martin Biron registered his third loss in his last four appearances with 27 stops on 31 shots, while Fleury denied 35 for the win. Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, and Malkin each had a goal and an assist for Pittsburgh in the victory, as Jordan Staal had two assists against his brother’s team. Richard Park, who deposited only his seventh tally of his comeback season, recorded his fourth game-winning goal 5:11 into the middle frame. The game dropped the Rangers to 2-4-0 against the Pens this year.

New York’s 4-1 defeat on Saturday to the Washington Capitals at MSG didn’t take too long to get out of control. Alex Ovechkin scored 32 seconds into the affair before Mathieu Perreault potted his 16th of the season at the 2:18 mark to give the Caps an extremely early 2-0 advantage. The period concluded with a John Carlson power-play tally, as Henrik Lundqvist allowed a trio of shots to beat on him just seven produced by Washington. Nicklas Backstrom made it 4-0 only 5:58 into the second period before Boyle registered his 11th of the year later in the stanza to make it a three-goal game.

Although they outshot Washington 36-17 overall, the Rangers experienced back-to-back three-goal game losses for the first time since March 8 when they lost 4-1 to both the New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators in a three-day span. Of the four contests between these two clubs this season, three resulted in three-goal games with the Caps recording two wins in those tilts.

The lone roster move of the week by the Blueshirts was signing Chris Kreider to a three-year entry-level contract. The forward, who was picked 19th overall by New York at the 2009 NHL Draft, had 45 points in 44 games with Boston College this year and departed as a two-time national champion.

The Rangers start the playoffs at home with games at the world’s most famous arena tomorrow and Saturday. Their final game of the week is in Ottawa on Monday.

Image Courtesy of The Associated Press

Pittsburgh Penguins: 2-0-0. With the help of the Rangers, the Penguins earned home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

It will be the third time in the last five seasons that only one team in Pennsylvania will advance to the next round.

Fortunately for the Pens, it seems as though both Steve Sullivan and James Neal will be back in the line-up for Game 1 tonight. Unfortunately for the Vegas Gold and Black, defenseman Matt Niskanen is likely to miss tonight’s affair due to a lower-body injury.

As for their interaction with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the parent club called up Brian Strait and Steve MacIntyre.

Strait was minus-2 and posted a shot on net in two games with Pittsburgh, while MacIntyre had two PIMs in 8:37 TOI against the Flyers before being sent back down to the AHL.

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New Jersey Devils: 2-0-0. The Devils head into the playoffs as the hottest club thanks to their six-game winning streak to conclude the regular season.

Although they finished fourth in the stacked Atlantic, Jersey finished sixth in the Eastern Conference. They’ll take on the Panthers in the opening round of the playoffs with the first meeting taking place on Friday in Florida.

It will be a rematch of a 2000 series which saw the Horned Ones emerge with a sweep.

On Thursday, the Devils beat the Red Wings 2-1 in Detroit. Petr Sykora registered his sixth game-winner of the season and his 20th overall 11:20 into the third period to improve Jersey’s record to 24-7-6 in one-goal games.

Alexei Ponikarovsky opened the scoring with his 14th of the year in the first period before Tomas Holmstrom put home his 11th on a man advantage in the middle stanza. Peter Harrold recorded his first point as a Devil with a helper on Ponikarovsky’s goal to end his 17-game pointless streak. Martin Brodeur made four more saves than his counterpart Jimmy Howard, as his 23 stops helped the Devils to victory. The win was the Devils’ third in their last four road games and their third straight against Western Conference opponents to finish the year 10-6-2 against the opposite conference.

To conclude their campaign, New Jersey beat the Senators 4-2 at the Prudential Center on Saturday. In his first game with Jersey this season, and his 13th NHL game in his career, Stephen Gionta potted his first goal for the game-winner with 9:05 left. Ilya Kovalchuk put home a pair of tallies and Sykora rounded out the scoring for the Devils with his 21st coming on a power-play goal in the second period. Brodeur made 31 stops for his fifth straight win, as the Devils won for a season-high sixth straight time. The victory also let Jersey finish the season 24-13-4 at home, which was good enough for 12th-best in the NHL.

In a bit of bad news for the Devils, Jacob Josefson was ruled out for the rest of the season with a broken wrist. Although the incident happened in last week’s game against the New York Islanders, it wasn’t deemed season-ending until this week.

David Clarkson missed the season finale, but isn’t expected to miss any time in the Devils’ series against the Panthers.

After a pair of games in Florida on Friday and Sunday, the Devils return to The Rock to host Florida for Game 3 of their series on Tuesday night.

Image Courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

New York Islanders: 1-1-0. The 2011-12 season wasn’t too kind to the Islanders, as the club finished last in the division and near the bottom of the league standings for a fifth straight year.

Luckily for New York, they earned the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft thanks to Tuesday’s lottery drawing.

In their final win of the season, the Islanders beat the visiting Winnipeg Jets, 5-4, on Thursday. For his second goal of the period, Michael Grabner beat Chris Mason with just 47 seconds left in regulation to give the Islanders their second home win in their last six games at Nassau Coliseum. Kyle Okposo also had a pair of goals in the victory, while both Frans Nielsen and John Tavares recorded a pair of helpers. Although he allowed at least four goals against for a third time in his last four appearances, Al Montoya recorded the win to snap a three-game losing streak, as he stopped 21-of-25 shots. The win let New York finish with a home record of 17-18-6, which was the exact record they finished with last season.

The Isles finished up with a 7-3 loss to the Blue Jackets in Columbus. Powered by three-point nights from Cam Atkinson (two goals and one assist) along with James Wisniewski and Vinny Prospal (one goal and two assists), the Islanders experienced their second blowout loss in the final week.

Both Grabner and Okposo scored, as Grabner reached the 20-goal plateau for a second time in his three-season career in the NHL. For the first time in his career, Montoya allowed seven goals against in a contest, as the Islanders’ goalie took part in his fifth tilt this season where he allowed at least five goals against. The loss was the first time all season the Islanders allowed seven goals against and the ninth time they lost by a margin of four goals or more. Matt Martin engaged in a pair of fights, one of which came against Derek Dorsett, who won the PIM crown with 235 (just three more than Zac Rinaldo).

A duo of Islanders missed the final stretch of games. Center Casey Cizikas missed the final five games with an upper-body injury, while Evgeni Nabokov missed the last six due to a lower-body injury.

In Bridgeport, Brock Nelson signed an amateur tryout contract, while both Micheal Haley and Matt Donovan were assigned to the club.

In one game with his new club, Nelson recorded a shot on net.

Both Haley and Donovan have yet to play a game with the Sound Tigers since rejoining the club this week.