Atlantic Watch: Penguins win four straight, Devils snap losing streak, Powe returns to division

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The Philadelphia Flyers seem to heading in the right direction after they recorded wins in their last two games. After they lost both the game and a crucial player on Friday, the Orange and Black pulled off back-to-back wins in their last two contests. The Flyers start a four-game week tomorrow, as they finish the seven-day stretch with a pair of games that start a lengthy road trip.

On Friday, the Washington Capitals handed Philly a 3-2 loss at the Verizon Center. Wojtek Wolski registered the game-winner halfway through the third period, as Braden Holtby stopped 29 shots on 31 shots. Bruno Gervais scored his first as a Flyer and Brayden Schenn scored his first of the season, but Philadelphia suffered a blow when John Erskine landed an elbow straight to Wayne Simmonds’ face. Simmonds has yet to play since the incident and is considered to be day-to-day with a concussion. Zac Rinaldo sent a message before the next faceoff when he pummeled Matt Hendricks and the Flyers used the momentum from the bout for a large part of the game, but in the end the club lost their third straight contest.

When the Orange and Black returned home the following day, they beat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-3 for their second home win of the campaign. Philly jumped on Dan Ellis early and beat the Canes’ netminder three times in the first 15:25 to gain a 3-1 advantage. It looked as though it was going to be an offensive showdown when Eric Staal cut the deficit to one just 33 seconds after Danny Briere’s power-play goal in the first period, but two goals from the Flyers in the middle stanza put the game away. Mike Knuble had the eventual game-winner on a goal in the crease 52 seconds into the second period, which resulted in Ellis being pulled after he allowed four goals on 12 shots. Claude Giroux put home a power-play tally for his third of the season later in the second period, while Patrick Dwyer finalized the 5-3 score with his second of the year on the man advantage early in the third period.

After a few days off, the Flyers came out and shut down the league’s most offensively productive team with a 2-1 home victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tom Sestito doubled his NHL goal total in Tuesday’s win with a pair of tallies to help the Flyers hand the Bolts their second straight loss. Sestito broke the ice with a goal off a Jakub Voracek feed 4:25 into the middle frame for his first goal since December 23rd, 2010, when he was a Columbus Blue Jacket. Benoit Pouliot evened the score near the midway point of the third period when he was left all alone in front of Ilya Bryzgalov. The contest wasn’t tied for long, as Sestito potted his second of the game 1:41 after Pouliot’s equalizer. Bryzgalov had an amazing game in net, as he held the Lightning, who average 4.44 goals/game following this loss, to less than two goals. The Bolts had scored at least two goals in every game of the season until last night.

With no transactions and the only roster news being the injury to Simmonds, the Flyers look forward to next week. Philly has games against the Florida Panthers on Thursday and the Hurricanes Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center before they start a six-game road trip on Monday against the Toronto Maple Leafs (make sure you get Philadelphia Flyers tickets before the long road trip). The Orange and Black finish this seven-day stretch at the MTS Centre against the Winnipeg Jets.

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Pittsburgh Penguins: 4-0-0. The Pittsburgh Penguins lost for a third time in four games when the New York Islanders beat them last Tuesday. Since then, the Pens have yet to lose and have defeated three divisional rivals in the process. Pittsburgh looks to keep the streak going when they play a pair of games against a team one point behind them in the standings and take part in a tilt against the team at the bottom of the league.

The Penguins started the week with a 3-0 victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Evgeni Malkin had a two-point night, as he registered the game-winning goal just 84 seconds into the contest and assisted on James Neal’s power-play tally 28 seconds into the third period. Simon Despres recorded his first goal of the season, and his second in the NHL, halfway through the final period to ice the game for Pittsburgh. Tomas Vokoun stopped 28 shots in his first shutout as a Penguin and his first since his 42-save blanking of the Florida Panthers on February 7th last season as a member of the Washington Capitals. Henrik Lundqvist made 26 stops on 29 shots from the Penguins, as King Henrik allowed three goals against in a single game for the third time in his seven appearances so far this season. It marks the first time the Rangers were shut out since Game 5 of the 2012 ECQF, when Craig Anderson denied 41 attempts to hand the Ottawa Senators a 2-0 win.

After a day off, the Pens invited the New Jersey Devils to the CONSOL Energy Center and handed the visitors a 5-1 defeat. Brandon Sutter put home his first as a Pen and Chris Kunitz scored his second of the campaign to give Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead four seconds before the halfway point of the game. With Patrik Elias in the sin bin, Andy Greene converted on a shorthanded bid to make it 2-1, which is where the score stood to start the third period. Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby made it 4-1 a little over seven minutes into the final frame before Robert Bortuzzo notched his first goal in the NHL to finish the four-goal victory for the Penguins.

On Sunday, the Pens visited the Verizon Center and grabbed a 6-3 win over the Washington Capitals. Kunitz led the way with a four-goal game, as he earned credit for the first goal of the game on Monday after it was initially rewarded to Paul Martin. Crosby registered three helpers and Malkin had a pair of assists, as Matt Cooke potted his first tally of 2013 on the way to the Penguins’ third straight win. Vokoun earned his second straight decision with 21 stops on 24 shots from Washington. One of the goals Vokoun allowed was an unfortunate bounce on a clear into the zone from John Carlson, as the goaltender went behind his net to handle the puck while the disc hit the glass funny and slid into the open net. It marked the second time Pittsburgh recorded six goals in a single game this year, as they beat the Blueshirts by the same score in New York on January 20th.

The Pens finished their strong week with a 4-2 decision over the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. Despite being outshot 24-14 in the first 40 minutes, the Penguins entered the third period up 2-0 thanks to Neal’s power-play goal in the first period and Despres’ second of the season in the middle stanza. Sutter’s second in three contests looked to have sealed the deal for the visitors 1:44 into the third period, but the Isles responded quickly to get within striking distance. Michael Grabner tapped home a beautiful pass from Kyle Okposo to make it a two-goal game again just 1:30 after Sutter made it 3-0 Pittsburgh. Brad Boyes found the back of the net 35 seconds after Grabner to make it 3-2 with 16:11 left in regulation. New York couldn’t send the tilt to overtime, as Pascal Dupuis registered an empty-net tally in the final minute to finalize the score. The Penguins had a brief scare in the win, as Crosby left the ice after a deflected shot hit him in the face during the second period. He returned later in the game.

Pittsburgh will be without the services of blue liner Matt Niskanen for the next two to four weeks due to an ankle injury. The defenseman was placed on injured reserve after his skates-first collision into the boards in the Pens’ 2-1 shootout win over the Ottawa Senators last Sunday. He has one goal and two assists in five games with a minus-1 rating.

On the positive side, the Pens also claimed Zach Boychuk off of waivers from the Carolina Hurricanes. After he had seven goals and 11 assists in 73 games with the Canes over the last five seasons, Boychuk has two PIMs and four shots on net in three games so far with the Penguins.

The Caps make a visit to the CONSOL Energy tomorrow night before the Pens travel to the Prudential Center on Saturday to start a home-and-home with the Devils. The teams will play each other again in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

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New Jersey Devils: 2-1-1. The Devils may have lost in regulation for the first time in 2013 on Saturday, but it also concluded a four-game losing streak. Jersey heads into this week with a two-game winning streak after they beat both New York teams by a combined score of 6-1. With four games over the next seven days, the Devils will play two games against the Pens and two games against Southeast Division opponents.

The Devils extended both their losing streak and point streak on Thursday with a 5-4 overtime loss to the Islanders. John Tavares put Jersey in a 1-0 hole late in the first period with a power-play tally before a Keith Aucoin goal on the man advantage 2:41 into the second period handed New York a 2-0 lead. Steve Bernier made it a one-goal deficit 32 seconds after Aucoin’s strike before Ryan Carter put home his first of 2013 less than three minutes later to even the tilt at two. Tavares beat Martin Brodeur for the second time on the night 1:10 after Carter’s goal to make it 3-2 Isles before Henrik Tallinder made it 3-3 late in the second stanza. Mark Streit and Adam Henrique traded goals in the middle of the third period to send the game into overtime, where Boyes converted on a power-play opportunity with Tallinder in the box for a cross-checking minor. Evgeni Nabokov recorded the win with 28 saves, while Brodeur suffered the defeat after he denied 30 of the Islanders’ 35 shots on net.

After they were trampled by the Pens on Saturday, the Devils handed the Isles some revenge with a 3-0 victory on Sunday. In his second start of the season, Johan Hedberg outplayed Nabokov in a goaltender’s duel, as The Moose stopped all of the Islanders’ 22 shots for his 22nd regular season shutout in his career. Hedberg is 1-0-1 in 2013, as his only loss was a 2-1 shootout decision to the Boston Bruins on January 29th. The game was scoreless until Bernier scored on a power-play chance with 3:54 remaining and then found the back of the net again 1:10 later. David Clarkson tacked on the empty-netter to make it 3-0.

The Devils returned home last night and produced a 3-1 win over the Rangers. Clarkson had a three-point game, as he had the secondary helper on Henrique’s opening goal five minutes into the game before he scored the game-winner in the final minute of the first and his seventh of the season 2:53 into the third frame on a man advantage. Brodeur was on his way to another shutout when Chris Kreider beat the Devils’ netminder for his first regular season goal in the NHL with 13:32 left in the affair. Elias also had a three-point night, as the veteran posted three helpers for his second three-point performance of the season. Lundqvist allowed three goals on 22 shots, while the Blueshirts dropped their second straight divisional game.

As for transactions, the Devils started the week by placing Cam Janssen on waivers. The enforcer was then assigned to the Albany Devils after every other team in the NHL passed on him. Janssen was minus-2 in his first three games with Albany, as he recorded 10 PIMs thanks to scraps with Joel Rechlicz and Andrew Carroll. He is minus-1 in three games with New Jersey this season.

Matt Anderson was also sent to Albany this week. The forward had an assist in the Devils’ loss on Thursday, as he had one point and a plus-1 rating in two games with Jersey so far this year. In his first two games since being sent down to the AHL, Anderson has one goal and two assists.

Bobby Butler was the only fortunate player to make the transition from the AHL to the NHL this week, as he appeared in the Devils’ wins on Sunday and Tuesday. The forward saw 15:24 TOI over the two games and threw three shots on net.

Henrique returned to the action this week after he missed Jersey’s first five games of 2013 due to his recovery from a surgery to reattach a torn ulnar collateral ligament. He has two goals and an assist along with two PIMs in his first four games of the campaign.

Blue liner Mark Fayne also missed time this week due to an arm injury. Fayne missed the losses on Thursday and Saturday before he returned for the victories on Sunday and Tuesday, where he had three shots on net over the two games.

The Devils are hoping their two-game winning streak helps them against the high-scoring Bolts tomorrow night before they endure their home-and-home with the Pens over the weekend. Jersey returns to the Prudential Center on Tuesday for a contest against the Canes.

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New York Islanders: 1-2-0. After they edged out an overtime victory against the Devils on Thursday, the Isles dropped two straight for a record of 4-4-1 in 2013. After an away game within the state, the Islanders host a pair of games against two teams outside the division.

The Islanders beat the Devils 5-4 in overtime to start the week, but they were then shut out by Hedberg on Sunday and beat by the Pens last night at Nassau Coliseum.

As for roster movement, New York signed a new forward, resigned a current defenseman, dealt with a brief suspension, and saw another blue liner placed on injured reserve.

Yesterday the Isles signed left winger Brett Gallant to a one-year, entry-level contract. Gallant spent the 2011-2012 campaign and all of this year with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He had two goals and one assist in 62 games with the Sound Tigers over the last two seasons.

New York also gave d-man Brian Strait a contract extension. Strait inked a deal with the Islanders through the 2015-2016 campaign, as the defenseman will earn $775,000 each of the next three years. He has an assist and four PIMs in nine games this season.

While one former Pen currently on the Islanders earned a contract extension, another was suspended two games. Colin McDonald was banned two games for his boarding of Ben Lovejoy in the Isles’ 4-1 road win last Tuesday. After he missed the games on Thursday and Sunday, McDonald returned last night to post one shot on net in 8:00 TOI.

Radek Martinek, who has yet to play a game with New York in 2013, was placed on injured reserve with a groin and abdominal strain. Shortly before the start of the season, Martinek inked a one-year deal worth $600,000.

The Islanders look to turn things around against the Rangers tomorrow night at MSG before they hit the road for a game in Buffalo on Saturday and Carolina on Monday.

Image courtesy of Blueshirtsunited.com

New York Rangers: 1-2-0. The Rangers beat the Lightning this week, but they also dropped decisions to the Penguins and the Devils. New York is tied with the Flyers for the least amount of points in the division with eight, but since the Rangers have played one less game they sit fourth in the Atlantic and 11th in the Eastern Conference.

After they were shut out by the Pens, the Rangers responded with a 3-2 win on the road against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. Steven Stamkos scored the first of his two goals in the loss 4:22 into the second period before Derek Stepan potted his first of 2013 to even the score at one just 5:28 later. With a little over 17 minutes left in regulation, Rick Nash accrued his second goal as a Ranger for a 2-1 lead. Carl Hagelin made it a two-goal game later in the third period with his first of the campaign, as his tally became the game-winner when Stamkos put home his second in the game’s final minute. The Rangers ended the Bolts’ five-game winning streak, which saw the Lightning produce 28 goals and allow only 11. Martin Biron made 30 saves on 32 shots against in his first start of the season, as he became the first goaltender in 2013 to hold Tampa Bay to two goals or less.

The Blueshirts concluded their seven-day span with the 3-1 loss in New Jersey last night.

The Rangers had the most interesting transaction of the week, at least to Flyers’ fans, as New York acquired the tandem of Darroll Powe and Nick Palmieri from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Mike Rupp.

Powe was plus-1 with nine PIMs in eight games with the Wild this season. He had two hits and won one of his two faceoffs in 8:33 TOI in Tuesday’s loss.

Palmieri had 10 goals and 11 helpers in 40 contests for the Houston Aeros. He had four goals and three assists in 38 games between the Devils and Wild in 2011-2012.

Palmieri was assigned to the Connecticut Whale along with Benn Ferriero. The pair took part in the Whale’s 4-3 shootout loss to Albany last week, as Palmieri was plus-1 with two shots on net and Ferriero posted a minus-1 rating.

While they went from New York to Connecticut, J.T. Miller and Brandon Mashinter were recalled from the Whale to the Rangers this week. While Mashinter was called up Monday and sent back down Tuesday without playing in a single game for the Blueshirts, Miller made his NHL debut last night in Jersey. He was plus-1 with two shots on net in 14:25 TOI. Miller also won his only faceoff in his debut, which was an offensive zone draw.

While Ryan Callahan was placed on injured reserve due to the shoulder injury he suffered last week against the Flyers, Kreider returned to action after he missed four games due to an ankle injury. He scored his first regular season goal in the NHL last night on his only shot in the contest, as he was also plus-1 in the 3-1 loss to New Jersey.

The Rangers host the Islanders tomorrow and Tampa Bay on Sunday before they travel to TD Garden to face the Bruins on Tuesday.