Atlantic Watch: Flyers Respond to Giroux, Penguins’ Three-Game Winning Streak, Rangers and Islanders Deal With Injuries

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Although the Philadelphia Flyers lost two of their three games this week, the Orange and Black finished the week with a resounding 7-0 victory over a divisional opponent. Philly will look to gain ground in the Eastern Conference this week with four games over the next seven days, one of which is against the Pittsburgh Penguins and another two against a pair of the teams at the bottom of the standings.

The Flyers started the week with a 5-3 defeat on Friday to the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center. Travis Zajac opened the scoring with his third of the season in the first minute of the game before the trio of Wayne Simmonds, Mike Knuble, and Matt Read potted goals in a span of 2:36 to give Philly a 3-1 lead going into the second period. Alexei Ponikarovsky scored in the opening minute of the middle stanza, while Patrik Elias beat Ilya Bryzgalov later in the frame to make it a 3-3 tie after 40 minutes. David Clarkson redirected an Adam Larsson shot from the point halfway through the third period and Steve Bernier tacked on an empty-netter to give Jersey their second win of the year against the Flyers. Martin Brodeur stopped 25 of the Flyers’ 28 shots in the win and assisted on Ponikarovsky’s tally, while Bryzgalov denied 14 in the loss.

The following day, the Montreal Canadiens dominated the Flyers at the Bell Centre for a 4-1 victory. Both Brendan Gallagher and Rene Bourque had a goal and an assist, while the pair of Brian Gionta and Max Pacioretty had two-assist games for the Canadiens. Philly caught a break when Carey Price missed the contest due to the flu, but Peter Budaj filled in wonderfully, as he stopped 18 of 19 shots despite never really being tested. Danny Briere was the only Flyer to beat Budaj in the loss, as Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn received credit for the helpers on a goal that deflected twice off of Andrei Markov before it fooled Budaj to cross over the goal line. The loss produced such a lackadaisical effort from the visitors that captain Claude Giroux called out his team afterwards.

Giroux and his teammates responded to his remarks from Saturday night with a 7-0 shellacking of the New York Islanders on Monday afternoon. The captain backed up his words with the eventual game-winner just 26 seconds into the game on his way to a three-point day, as he beat Evgeni Nabokov twice and recorded an assist. Briere also had two goals and an assist, while Read had a goal and two assists. Voracek had a career-high four-point game with four assists, as Zac Rinaldo registered his first goal of the year in the win and Bryzgalov recorded his first shutout of 2013 with a 19-save effort. The younger Schenn also found nylon in the Flyers’ most impressive win of the season, while both Simmonds and Braydon Coburn endured fights in the seven-goal decision.

In terms of roster movement this week, Sean Couturier returned to action and Erik Gustafsson was called up from the Adirondack Phantoms.

Couturier, who missed last Monday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs and last Tuesday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets due to the flu, returned to action in the Flyers’ loss on Friday. In his first three games since his return, Couturier had an assist and one shot on net.

Gustafsson, who suited up for 30 regular season games and seven postseason games last season, made his season debut with the Flyers on Saturday against the Canadiens. In his first two NHL games of 2013, Gustafsson had an assist and two PIMs with a plus-1 rating.

The Flyers conclude their six-game road trip tonight at the CONSOL Energy Center against the Penguins. Philly then starts a five-game home stand tomorrow against the Florida Panthers before they take on the Winnipeg Jets Saturday afternoon and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night.

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Pittsburgh Penguins: 3-0-0. The Penguins responded to their two-game skid with a three-game winning streak this week, as they beat a pair of teams in the Northeast Division and a team from the Southeast. Pittsburgh looks to keep their winning ways intact with four games this week, three of which are against teams currently out of playoff contention.

The Pens handed the Ottawa Senators more than a loss on Wednesday night, as they beat the hosts by a score of 4-2. James Neal had two goals and an assist in a contest where Erik Karlsson suffered his season-ending injury. It’s not certain if Matt Cooke’s actions in the laceration of Karlsson’s Achilles tendon were intentional, but either way it looks as though Ottawa will be without their star blue liner for the rest of the campaign. Sidney Crosby had a goal and two assists and Pascal Dupuis also beat Craig Anderson, as the Sens’ goalie stopped 26 of 30 in the loss. Marc-Andre Fleury saved 27 of Ottawa’s 29 shots on net, as Stephane Da Costa and Jim O’Brien provided the Senators only two goals in a span of 24 seconds midway through the game for a brief 2-1 lead.

Pittsburgh won their second straight on Friday when they handed the Winnipeg Jets a 3-1 defeat at the MTS Centre. Neal scored the game-winner late in the third period before Andrew Ladd made it 2-1 with 1:35 left in regulation. Craig Adams, who opened the scoring in the first period, tacked on the empty-netter to finalize the score. Fleury and Ondrej Pavelec both had 25 saves, but Pavelec saw one more shot than the Flower to suffer the loss. Chris Thorburn and Deryk Engelland dropped the gloves, while James Wright and Adams went at it in the second period in the clubs’ second meeting of 2013.

The Penguins concluded their week with a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday at the First Niagara Center. Both Dupuis and Crosby beat Ryan Miller in the game’s first 1:35 to give the Pens a multi-goal lead before Cody Hodgson potted his seventh of the year a little over five minutes later to make it 2-1. Thomas Vanek registered a power-play goal in the middle frame and Steve Ott scored 5:17 into the third period to give Buffalo the lead with less than 15 minutes left in regulation. Dupuis evened the score with his second tally of the day 1:49 after Ott’s marker, while Paul Martin put home his first game-winning goal since December of 2010. Miller had one more save than Fleury in the loss, but Pittsburgh’s goaltender notched his third straight win with a 30-save performance.

Pittsburgh received some help on the blue line this week, as both Kris Letang and Matt Niskanen returned from injuries.

Letang missed three games with a lower-body injury and returned to action, ironically, in the same game the Sens lost Karlsson. In his first three games back, Letang had two assists and five shots on net with a plus-1 rating.

As for Niskanen, the blue liner missed eight games with an ankle injury and returned against the Sens as well. He was pointless with an even rating in his first three contests since he missed action.

Since the pair of Letang and Niskanen returned to the ice, Dylan Reese was returned to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The defenseman had a goal in four shots on net in his two games since returning to the AHL, as well as a plus-1 rating.

Beau Bennett, who was picked 20th overall by the Pens in the 2010 NHL Draft, made his NHL debut this week against the Jets on Friday. He has yet to record a point, as he has an even rating and two shots on net through two games.

The Pens start a three-game homestand tonight against the Flyers before they host the Florida Panthers on Friday and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday. Pittsburgh then endures a three-game road trip when they visit the Panthers on Tuesday at the BB&T Center.

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New Jersey Devils: 1-1-1. The Devils averaged a point per game this week, as they beat the Flyers, lost to the Islanders, and suffered a shootout loss to the Sens on Monday. Jersey will take on two Southeast Division squads who are at the bottom of the conference this week for a total of three games.

After they beat Philly on Friday, the Devils were embarrassed by the Islanders on Saturday 5-1. Both John Tavares and Matt Moulson had four-point contests, as Tavares had a hat trick and an assist, while Moulson had a goal and three helpers. Michael Grabner had the fifth goal for New York, as Johan Hedberg allowed five goals on 33 shots to suffer his first regulation loss in 2013. After Tavares scored twice and Moulson put home his lone goal in a span of 2:20 in the final 3:14 of the second period, Marek Zidlicky made it a two-goal game again with 11:13 left in regulation with a power-play strike. Elias and Ilya Kovalchuk had assists in Jersey’s second four-goal loss in February.

On Monday, the Sens visited the Prudential Center and left with a 2-1 win in a shootout. Stephen Gionta opened the scoring just 79 seconds into the tilt and handed New Jersey a lead they held on to until Daniel Alfredsson’s fourth of the season evened the game at one with 11:48 left in regulation. In the skills competition, both Kovalchuk and Alfredsson missed on their attempts before Ben Bishop stopped Elias’ shot and Jakob Silfverberg beat Brodeur. After Bobby Butler missed his attempt, Bishop registered his first victory of 2013.

As for transactions, the Devils made another trade and had a lot of action with the Albany Devils.

After Ponikarovsky played against the Flyers with Winnipeg on Tuesday, he made his debut with the Devils on Friday, as the winger was acquired from the Jets for a seventh-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft and a fourth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. Ponikarovsky has a goal on seven shots and two PIMs in his first three games with Jersey this season.

Jersey’s trade last week involved Andrei Loktionov, who was recalled from Albany to New Jersey, then assigned to Albany, and once again recalled to Jersey over the last several days. The former Los Angeles King made his Devils’ debut on Monday, as he was minus-1 with two PIMs in 9:31 TOI against the Sens.

The reason for Ponikarovsky and Loktionov being added to the organization is due to Dainius Zubrus’ wrist injury. The former Flyer endured surgery on his wrist this week and was placed on injured reserve. He is expected to be out four-to-six weeks.

Other player movement for Jersey involved Harry Young being resigned, Jacob Josefson being assigned to Albany, and Mathieu Darche being released.

Young, who was picked by New Jersey in the seventh round of the 2008 NHL Draft, was resigned by the Devils’ organization through the 2013-2014 season. Young has played in 30 games with the Kalamazoo Wings, the Vancouver Canucks’ ECHL affiliate, and two games with the Trenton Titans. He will earn $70,000 in the AHL next season and $550,000 in the NHL.

Josefson returned to the AHL after the Devils’ loss on Saturday. In his first game with Albany since being assigned Josefson had a goal on two shots and was minus-1.

Darche was released by the Devils earlier in the week and announced his retirement yesterday. Darche, who last played in the NHL last season with the Canadiens, didn’t play a game at any level in 2012-2013.

The Devils endure a pair of contests against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on Thursday and Saturday before they host the Jets on Sunday.

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New York Rangers: 1-1-1. Similar to the Devils, the Rangers experienced a win, a loss, and a loss past regulation this week to see their record become 8-6-1. The Blueshirts will look to move up the standings this week with three games against three different Canadian clubs.

The Rangers suffered a 4-3 shootout loss to the Isles on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. The hosts were up 2-0 after 20 minutes thanks to Dan Girardi’s first of the season and Marian Gaborik’s seventh. Unfortunately for the Rangers, the trio of Colin McDonald, Tavares, and Brad Boyes beat Martin Biron in the first 7:25 of the middle frame to give the Islanders a one-goal lead. With Brian Strait in the box for interference, Carl Hagelin put home a power-play tally to even the score three minutes after Boyes’ strike, which is where the teams sat after 65 minutes of competition. Nabokov made saves on attempts from Gaborik and Rick Nash in the shootout, while both Frans Nielsen and Tavares beat Biron to hand the Islanders the extra point. Nabokov made eight more saves than Biron to end his four-game losing streak.

New York returned to the win column on Sunday with a 2-1 decision over the Capitals at MSG. John Carlson beat Henrik Lundqvist just 1:19 into the game, but a tally from Hagelin in the second period and power-play goal from Derek Stepan in the third period allowed the Rangers to edge out a one-goal victory. Lundqvist earned his fourth straight win with his fourth contest of the year where he allowed only one goal, while Braden Holtby recorded his highest save total for a loss this season with 38 blocks. Holtby stopped all 20 of the shots he saw in the first period and 13 of the 14 he saw in the second period.

The Blueshirts concluded their three-game homestand with a 3-1 loss to the Canadiens last night. Anton Stralman gave New York the 1-0 advantage with 7:31 left in the second stanza before Pacioretty tied the game with less than two minutes left in the period. Alex Galchenyuk ended his 13-game goal drought with his first game-winning goal in the NHL just 1:45 into the third period, while Raphael Diaz put home a shorthanded empty-netter for his first tally of 2013. Price stopped 24 of 25 shots in his first game back after missing a pair of contests due to the flu, while Lundqvist allowed two goals on 17 shots on net.

A pair of injuries hit New York this week, as the tandem of Nash and Darroll Powe missed contests in the last seven days.

Nash only missed last night’s game against the Canadiens, but he was scratched due to an undisclosed injury and is considered day-to-day. Steve Zipay of Newsday mentioned the fact that Nash’s head was rammed into the boards by Milan Lucic in the club’s game against the Boston Bruins on February 12th, but the forward did finish the game and then played against the Islanders and Capitals.

As for Powe, the former Flyer suffered a concussion after a scary collision with Washington’s Matt Hendricks on Sunday. Powe is minus-1 with four PIMs with the Rangers so far this season.

Due to the injuries to Nash and Powe, both Chris Kreider and Brandon Mashinter saw the ice this week with the Rangers.

Kreider was with the Rangers last week, but was assigned to the Connecticut Whale earlier this week. He played against the Canadiens on Tuesday, where he had two shots on net and a minus-1 rating in 14:37 TOI.

Mashinter made his Rangers’ debut on Tuesday, where he saw 5:55 TOI. The winger has five goals and six assists in 14 games with the Whale this year.

Along with all the roster movement due to the injuries, the Rangers also resigned goaltender Cameron Talbot. The netminder signed for two more years through the 2014-2015 campaign. He will earn $125,000 in the AHL and $550,000 in the NHL next year, along with $575,000 in both the AHL and NHL for the 2014-2015 season. Talbot has yet to play a game in the NHL, but he has been in the Rangers’ system since the 2009-2010 campaign.

The Rangers visit Scotiabank Place on Thursday to take on the Sens before they travel to Montreal for their second contest in five days against the Canadiens. The Blueshirts return home to New York to start a four-game homestand on Tuesday against the Jets.

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New York Islanders: 2-2-0. The Islanders won two straight games, the second of which was a 5-1 win over one of the better teams in the conference, before they were outscored 10-1 in their last two games, which were both losses. New York starts the week against a red hot club and concludes their three-game homestand before they play two of the games in their upcoming seven-game road trip.

After coming back from being down 2-0 to beat the Rangers in a shootout on Thursday and handling the Devils 5-1 on Saturday, the Islanders were abused on Monday by the Flyers in a 7-0 rout.

Unfortunately for the Isles, they responded to their seven-goal defeat with a 3-1 loss last night to the Sens in Ottawa. For a second straight game, Kyle Okposo took a penalty that resulted in a power-play goal for the other squad, as Colin Greening put Ottawa up 1-0 a second over six minutes into the middle period. Andre Benoit produced the eventual game-winner just 2:36 later with his first goal in the NHL in his 21st game with the Sens. Travis Hamonic tied his goal total of last season when his second tally of 2013 ended his 14-game goal drought to make it a one-goal game with 17:16 left in regulation. Dave Dziurzynski finalized the score with his first NHL goal in his third game ever with the Senators, as the Islanders lost for the seventh time in nine games in February. Anderson had 14 more saves than Rick DiPietro for the victory, as New York’s netminder recorded his third loss in as many starts this season. DiPietro has allowed at least three goals against in each one of his three contests and has yet to make more than 25 saves in a start in 2013.

The biggest roster news for the Islanders this week was Strait’s injury. Strait broke his ankle in an awkward tumble in the neutral zone on Monday against the Flyers and was placed on injured reserve. Strait is most likely done for the season.

Due to Strait’s injury, blue liner Radek Martinek was added to the roster. The defenseman returned to New York after a year with the Columbus Blue Jackets, but he has yet to take part in a game with the Islanders in 2013.

The Isles play the Canadiens tomorrow night and the Sabres on Saturday to conclude their homestand before they start their long road trip. New York’s first two games away from Nassau Coliseum are on Sunday, when they visit the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena, and Tuesday, when they play the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.