Atlantic Watch: Devils top the East, Rangers on winning streak, Islanders on losing streak

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The Philadelphia Flyers were able to extend their point streak to four games this week, as they earned a shootout loss to the Florida Panthers and an overtime win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Although they were dominated in Toronto, the Orange and Black did a good job of rebounding to earn their second road win of the year last night in Winnipeg. The Flyers continue their road trip with three of their six games away from the Wells Fargo Center coming in the next seven days.

Philadelphia had a lead after 40 minutes on Thursday, but they only came away with a point, as the visiting Panthers edged out a 3-2 shootout win. Jack Skille gave Florida the 1-0 advantage just under 11 minutes into the game, but Jakub Voracek knotted the score only 52 seconds later. Matt Read recorded his fourth goal of the season, and his fourth against the Cats, in the second period to gain the lead, but Stephen Weiss potted his first goal of 2013 in the third period with Bruno Gervais in the sin bin for tripping. After Philly outshot Florida 5-0 in overtime, both Jonathan Huberdeau and Peter Mueller beat Ilya Bryzgalov in the shootout while Jose Theodore stoned Read and Claude Giroux for the additional point.

The Flyers nearly blew another point on Saturday, but Danny Briere helped Philly pull out a 4-3 overtime win at home against the Hurricanes. The game didn’t start out promising for the hosts, as Jiri Tlusty beat Bryzgalov 17 seconds in for the 1-0 lead. Later in the frame, Brayden Schenn redirected a Kimmo Timonen shot to beat Cam Ward, while Read scored 1:33 into the second period to give Philly the 2-1 advantage. A little under 10 minutes later, Jeff Skinner scored 15 seconds before Voracek did to make it a 3-2 contest heading into the third period. In the third, Carolina pushed the game into extra time with a Joe Corvo shot from the point that hit Kurtis Foster in front and past Bryzgalov. Briere scored 1:47 into the extra period with a shot that clanked off the post to Ward’s right before the puck bounced off the goaltender’s leg and into the net.

On Monday, the Flyers dropped a 5-2 decision in Toronto against the Maple Leafs. Wayne Simmonds opened the scoring early with his first goal since his return from a concussion 38 ticks into the tilt. Dion Phaneuf rocketed a slap shot past Bryzgalov later in the first for a 1-1 game at the end of the first period. Toronto pulled away in the second, as tallies from Colton Orr and Matt Frattin came 28 seconds apart. Clarke MacArthur potted his second of 2013 less than four minutes after Frattin’s tally, which resulted in Bryz being pulled after he allowed four goals on 14 shots. Brian Boucher had nine saves on 10 shots in relief, while James Reimer recorded the win despite leaving early in the second period due to an injury and having 12 saves. Ben Scrivens came in for the Leafs and stopped everything except a Tye McGinn shot in the final minute to help Toronto win, as the home team was outshot 46-24.

Bryzgalov and his teammates responded well to their shellacking from the night before, as the Orange and Black beat the Jets in Winnipeg last night by the count of 3-2. The younger Schenn redirected a Voracek feed to the slot past Al Montoya for the early lead, as Andrew Ladd evened the contest minutes later due to a beautiful pass by Blake Wheeler. Philly left the first period with a one-goal lead due to a Timonen shot from the point, which was made possible by a strong keep he had seconds before the scoring play started and a screen from Simmonds. Voracek helped set up another goal in the third period, as he found McGinn at the top of the crease for the rookie’s third of the campaign. Ladd notched his second of the game in the final minute, as Bryz stopped 24 shots a day after being pulled.

Philly had a lot of player movement this week, as a pair of players who haven’t seen the ice often this year led to several roster changes.

One sequence of events was due an injury Michael Leighton suffered to a finger on his stick hand, which has sidelined the goalie for anywhere from a week to 10 days.

Boucher was then called up to the NHL to take Leighton’s place, while Cal Heeter moved from the Trenton Titans to the Adirondack Phantoms. Leighton was expected to start Tuesday against the Jets, which meant Boucher would have started for the Flyers for the first time since the 2011 playoffs. However, due to Bryz being pulled, Boucher played 33:45 of a game that was already decided and allowed one goal on 10 shots on Monday.

Another sequence of events involved Sean Couturier suffering from the flu, which kept him out of the games on Monday and Tuesday. Tom Sestito filled in for Couturier on Monday, but Harry Zolnierczyk was called up from Adirondack to fill in last night.

Since Zolnierczyk, who wore number 12 and registered two shots on net in his first game of the season with Philly, was called up to the NHL, the Flyers needed to make a roster move in response. The player in this case was Jody Shelley, who was placed on injured reserve with a hip injury.

Although Couturier missed a pair of games this week, Simmonds returned to action. In his first three games back from a concussion, the gritty skater has a goal on 12 shots and a secondary assist.

On top of all the injury news, the Flyers also inked Timonen to a one-year extension, where he’ll earn $6 million for the 2013-2014 campaign.

As for the upcoming schedule, the Flyers visit the Prudential Center on Friday to play the Devils, the Bell Centre on Saturday to take on the Montreal Canadiens, and Nassau Coliseum on Monday to play the New York Islanders.

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New Jersey Devils: 3-1-0. The Devils added on to their winning streak with a pair of wins in their first two games of the week, but the Canes ended Jersey’s stretch of winning last night in Jersey. Even with the loss last night, the Devils have only lost in regulation twice this year and sit atop of the Eastern Conference. Jersey looks to stay in first place with contests against teams far below them in the standings this week.

The Devils started their week by extending their winning streak to three games with a 4-2 win at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Adam Henrique opened the scoring early in the second period with his second goal in as many games before Nate Thompson evened the score a little less than 10 minutes later. Jersey left the period with a lead though, as Ilya Kovalchuk scored a shorthanded tally to end his six-game goal drought. Thanks to an elongated 5-on-3 advantage late in the contest, Andy Greene and Patrik Elias potted power-play goals to make it a 4-1 game before Matt Carle scored in the final three minutes to make it 4-2.

New Jersey then swept their home-and-home against the Pittsburgh Penguins over the weekend with a 3-1 win at home on Saturday and a 3-1 win on the road the following day.

In Saturday’s win, Brandon Sutter potted his second goal in as many games on a power play in the first before Stefan Matteau scored his first NHL goal in the second period to tie it at one. Henrique deposited the game-winner on a power play midway through the third period to conclude his three-game goal streak before Bobby Butler registered his first goal as a Devil less than three minutes later to finalize the 3-1 count. Martin Brodeur denied 24 of the Pens’ 25 shots for his fourth game of the season where he allowed one goal or less, while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 25 attempts in his third game of 2013 where he allowed three goals or more.

At the CONSOL Energy Center on Sunday, David Clarkson recorded his second two-goal game in a four-game span with his eighth of the year in the first period and ninth just 1:57 after Kovalchuk made it 2-0 11:27 into the middle frame. James Neal converted on a power play 15 seconds into the third period to end Johan Hedberg’s shutout bid, as the netminder stopped 23 of 24 in the win.

The streak ended last night with a 4-2 defeat at home to Carolina. Kovalchuk opened the scoring late in the opening frame with a power-play goal to extend his point streak to four games. The Hurricanes beat Brodeur twice in the middle stanza, as Jussi Jokinen potted his first of the season on the power play within the first two minutes of the period and Patrick Dwyer handed the visitors the lead in the period’s last two minutes. Ryan Carter made it 2-2 early in the third period before Tlusty put home the decisive goal less than six minutes later. Tlusty also finalized the score with an empty-netter with less than a minute to play.

The biggest news of the week for New Jersey surrounds Andrei Loktionov and Dainius Zubrus.

The Devils added Loktionov from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. Loktionov was assigned to the Albany Devils, where he was minus-1 in two games this week.

As for Zubrus, the forward hasn’t played since last Tuesday and is considered day-to-day with what seems to be a back injury. The former Flyer could have a long-term back problem, which means surgery is a possibility. Zubrus is being reevaluated by team doctors to see what his options are for the situation.

After having today and tomorrow off, the Devils will host the Flyers on Friday before they travel to Nassau Coliseum on Saturday to take on the Islanders. New Jersey concludes the week with a matinee contest against the Ottawa Senators on Monday at home.

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Pittsburgh Penguins: 1-2-0. The Penguins followed their five-game winning streak with back-to-back losses, as they dropped both of their contests against Jersey over the weekend. Pittsburgh looks to return to the win column with a game at home against the Sens and two games against a pair of teams in the bottom six of the Eastern Conference.

The Pens went down early on Tuesday, but a huge second period allowed them to beat the visiting Washington Capitals 5-2. After Mike Ribeiro potted a goal 4:12 into the contest, Pittsburgh responded with five goals in the middle stanza to lead by four after 40 minutes. Evgeni Malkin put home a power-play goal a second before the seven-minute mark to tie the game before Pascal Dupuis scored a little less than six minutes later to grab the lead. Neal and Matt Cooke registered goals 11 seconds apart later in the period, as Sidney Crosby put home the team’s fifth of the frame in the final 20 seconds of the period. Alex Ovechkin converted on a power-play opportunity in the third period to make it a three-goal win for the Pens.

Pittsburgh responded to their fifth straight victory by losing both games of their home-and-home against the Devils to start the upcoming week on a two-game losing streak.

In terms of roster movement for the Pens, a lot of it centered around the injury to Kris Letang. The blue liner is believed to have suffered a lower-body injury in last Tuesday’s game against the Islanders and has missed the team’s last three games. Fortunately for Pittsburgh, both Letang and Matt Niskanen could return to action this weekend.

Along with Letang’s injury, Pittsburgh lost Ben Lovejoy from their blue line, as he was sent to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a fifth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. In his first three games with the Ducks, Lovejoy had two assists and five shots on net.

Due to Letang’s absence and Lovejoy’s departure, Dylan Reese was called up from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Reese took part in the team’s three most recent games, as he had a shot on net and 18:15 TOI in Sunday’s loss.

The Pens also called up Joe Morrow, but the defenseman didn’t see any playing time.

Pittsburgh hopes to keep up with Jersey this week, as they host the Senators tonight before they hit the road to play the Jets on Friday and the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.

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New York Rangers: 3-0-0. The Rangers won all three of their contests this week to start a three-game winning streak, as the club has won four of their last five games. The Blueshirts look to keep rolling this week with two contests against the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference and a game against the Canadiens.

J.T. Miller led the Rangers to a 4-1 win over the Isles on Thursday to start the current winning streak. The rookie scored 1:29 into the game and on a power-play goal late in the second period to make it 3-1 for the hosts with his first two goals in the NHL. Marian Gaborik potted his sixth of the campaign and Ryan McDonagh recorded the empty-netter, as Henrik Lundqvist had 27 saves for the victory. John Tavares had the Islanders’ lone goal and Evgeni Nabokov stopped 21 of 24 in the first of four meetings between the clubs in 2013.

New York recorded another lopsided win on Sunday when they walked over the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning 5-1. Carl Hagelin scored 31 seconds in and potted another tally in the second period, as the forward had a three-point performance in Lundqvist’s second straight game with only one goal allowed. Ryan Callahan and Rick Nash also scored in the win, while Arron Asham provided his first goal of the year in the final stanza. The Rangers chased Mathieu Garon out of the net, as the netminder made 16 saves on 19 attempts. Anders Lindback didn’t do much better, as he allowed two goals on 13 shots.

The Rangers nearly ended their winning streak last night against the Boston Bruins, but the club managed to hang on for a 4-3 shootout win at TD Garden. Hagelin opened the scoring for a second straight game with his fourth of 2013 halfway through the first period, while Derek Stepan extended the lead with his second of the year in the middle frame. Anton Stralman’s first of the season made it 3-0 Rangers with 17:53 left in regulation. David Krejci’s goal with 11:16 remaining made it a two-goal game, while strikes from Nathan Horton and Brad Marchand 48 seconds apart made it 3-3 with only 43 seconds left. The game needed more than 65 minutes, as the clubs were tied 1-1 in the skills competition after the third round due to conversions from Nash and Marchand. Krejci missed in the fourth round and Callahan converted to hand New York the additional point.

The Blueshirts benefitted from a pair of players returning from injuries. Both Callahan and Dan Girardi missed multiple games, but suited up this week.

Callahan, who missed three games due to the shoulder injury he suffered in a scrap with Max Talbot on January 29th, returned to action on Thursday. He has a goal and is plus-2 since he made his way back to the ice.

As for Girardi, the blue liner missed two games due to what was believed to be a nagging groin injury. The defenseman has three helpers and is plus-5 in two games since his return.

The Rangers start a three-game homestand tomorrow night against the Islanders. They host the Capitals on Sunday before they conclude their stretch of home games on Tuesday against the Canadiens.

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New York Islanders: 0-3-0. After they went on a three-game point streak, the Islanders are currently enduring a five-game losing streak, as New York lost all three of their games this week. The Isles will face three divisional opponents and the Sens over the next seven days, as they look to move up the standings.

After their loss to the other New York team on Thursday, the Islanders’ dropped a 3-2 decision to the Sabres at home on Saturday. Thomas Vanek and Tavares exchanged goals in the first 20 minutes before both Christian Ehrhoff and Colin McDonald recorded their first goals of the year in the second period to make it a 2-2 game heading into the third period. Alexander Sulzer potted the game-winner with 12:25 left in regulation off of assists from Steve Ott and Mikhail Grigorenko. Ryan Miller made 41 saves to Nabokov’s 12, as the Sabres were outshot by 11 in the first period and 10 in the third period.

The Islanders were in a good position to end their losing streak on Monday, but a horrible third period led to a 6-4 defeat at the hands of the visiting Hurricanes. With a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes, New York allowed three goals in the first 9:09 of the third period to trail by two with under 11 minutes left in regulation. Tlusty scored two of Carolina’s four goals in the third stanza, while Alexander Semin and Eric Staal added the other pair of tallies. Frans Nielsen scored his first goal of the year before three minutes passed in the contest, while Tavares potted his seventh of 2013 and Matt Moulson provided two goals in a game where all the Islanders’ goals came on the man advantage. Rick DiPietro accrued his second loss of the year, as the goaltender allowed five goals on 30 shots.

After back-to-back poor performances from their goaltenders, it’s no surprise the Isles made a move for a goalie this week. What is surprising is the fact Garth Snow went after a goalie who hasn’t played at all this year, as New York acquired Tim Thomas from the Bruins in exchange for a conditional second-round draft pick in either the 2014 or 2015 NHL Draft. The trade, of course, wasn’t made with the intention that Thomas would play for New York this season, but rather the addition of Thomas’ cap hit can help the Isles stay above the cap floor.

In addition to Thomas, the Islanders also enjoyed both Lubomir Visnovsky and Josh Bailey making a return to the ice.

Visnovsky, who missed the beginning of the season due to personal reasons, made his Islanders’ debut on Saturday. He had two assists and four PIMs in his first two games with New York.

Although the Isles added Visnovsky to their blue line, they lost Matt Carkner due to a lower-body injury. New York placed the physical d-man on injured reserve for a groin injury.

As for their offense, the Islanders had Bailey return to the squad. After he missed the first ten games due to a knee surgery, Bailey had an assist and 10 shots on net with a minus-1 rating in his first two games of 2013.

The Islanders look to turn things around starting with a game at Madison Square Garden tomorrow against the Rangers. After home games against the Devils on Saturday and the Flyers on Monday, the Isles conclude their week with a trip to Scotiabank Place to take on the Senators.