Atlantic Watch: Penguins on winning streak, Devils snap losing streak, Islanders’ point streak ends

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The Philadelphia Flyers lost their first two games this week to stretch their losing streak to three games before they edged out the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday for a pair of points. Philly will have a home-and-home with a struggling Devils club over the next few days, as they look to gain a spot in the Eastern Conference’s top eight.

The Orange and Black had the Pittsburgh Penguins beat on Monday, but they let their hated rivals come back for a 5-4 win at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday. Jakub Voracek had two power-play goals and the tandem of Zac Rinaldo and Kimmo Timonen helped the Flyers gain a 4-1 lead after 20 minutes, but Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby helped to rally the Pens to four unanswered goals. Both Marc-Andre Fleury and Ilya Bryzgalov were pulled, as Tomas Vokoun earned the win by stopping all 14 shots he saw in the final two periods and Brian Boucher suffered the loss by allowing one goal on six shots. After he was expected to miss six weeks, Matt Read returned to action in the loss after missing just six games. He was minus-2 with a shot on net.

Two days later, the Flyers traveled to Boston and were shut out by Tuukka Rask, who had 23 saves, for the 3-0 defeat. Tyler Seguin, Chris Kelly, and Daniel Paille each scored in a span of 2:18 in the opening stanza, as Bryzgalov stopped the rest of the 25 attempts from the Bruins. Rinaldo tried to ignite the club in the middle frame with a huge hit on Johnny Boychuk and a scrap with Shawn Thornton, but the squad couldn’t solve Rask and Boston’s defense. Philly’s closest chance was when Voracek clanked a shot off the post on a power play in the third period. Andrej Meszaros, who missed 21 games with a sprained left shoulder, had three shots, three hits, and three blocked shots in his return.

With a return to Philadelphia, the Flyers ended their three-game skid with a 3-2 decision over the Sabres on Sunday. Simon Gagne scored with the man advantage and Max Talbot scored a man down to put the hosts up by two early, but Brian Flynn put home a rebound attempt to make it 2-1 after 20 minutes. Claude Giroux deposited the decisive goal 17 seconds into the second period, as Steve Ott set up Jochen Hecht for a shorthanded tally in the final period to finalize the score. Shortly after Hecht’s goal, Cody Hodgson had a wrist shot squeak through Bryz and was an inch away from tying the contest before Brayden Schenn flew into the crease and swept the puck off the goal line to let the Flyers grab two points.

In terms of transactions, the Flyers sent a handful of players down to Adirondack this week. The group of Boucher, Eric Wellwood, Harry Zolnierczyk, Tye McGinn, and Erik Gustafsson were all sent down to the AHL.

With Michael Leighton being called up, Boucher was sent down to the Phantoms. He was in net for Adirondack on Sunday and earned the 3-2 shootout loss to the Albany Devils. Boosh had 18 saves on 20 shots, but he was beat by all three of the Devils he faced in the shootout.

Wellwood, who last suited up in the NHL when the Flyers beat the Rangers on January 24th, had a goal and was plus-1 since his return to the Phantoms this week.

Zolnierczyk had two shots in three games with Adirondack this week. He has only served two of the four games in his suspension for charging major on Mike Lundin on March 2nd.

Both Gustafsson and McGinn have yet to play with the Phantoms since being assigned to the AHL within the last few days. Gustafsson last suited up for the Flyers on Saturday, while McGinn hasn’t played since Mike Brown broke his orbital bone in a fight on February 25th.

The Flyers’ organization also completed a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets’ organization, as forward Matt Ford was dealt to Columbus in exchange for future considerations. Ford didn’t play a single game with the Flyers and had 13 points in 35 tilts with the Phantoms this season.

The Flyers endure a home-and-home with the Devils for their next two games, as the clubs play at the Prudential Center tonight and the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night. Philly concludes the week with a trip to Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning Monday night.

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Pittsburgh Penguins: 4-0-0. Thanks to two huge comebacks this week, the Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off four victories to extend their winning streak to six games. With another four-game week ahead, the Pens look to stay perfect in March.

After the Pens came back against the Flyers on Thursday, they needed a shootout on Saturday to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 at the Air Canada Centre. Both Crosby and James Neal scored in regulation and proceeded to beat James Reimer in the shootout to help keep Pittsburgh’s streak alive. Pascal Dupuis and Paul Martin, who was in his second game back after missing two games due to a lower-body injury, each registered goals in the win, as Fleury had 22 saves and two stops in the shootout for the victory. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, a monstrous hit from James van Riemsdyk on Evgeni Malkin has put the center out of action with an upper-body injury. The injury, which Pens’ head coach Dan Bylsma has stated isn’t a concussion, is expected to sideline the star for one-to-two weeks.

The following day, the Penguins returned to Pittsburgh and smoked the New York Islanders 6-1. Kunitz posted a five-point performance, as he had a hat trick and two assists, and Crosby recorded five helpers on a day where Evgeni Nabokov allowed five tallies on 17 shots. Kevin Poulin stopped 10 of the Pens’ 11 shots on him in relief, as Dupuis had a two-goal game and Neal had a three-point game. Vokoun denied 23 of the Islanders’ 24 shots on net, but Brad Boyes’ sixth of the campaign ended the goaltender’s shutout bid. The Pens recorded 26 goals over their first five games of March.

Brandon Sutter scored twice in the final six minutes of regulation last night to help the Penguins beat the Bruins 3-2 at the CONSOL Energy Center. Zdeno Chara and Seguin potted goals for Boston in the opening stanza and Anton Khudobin stopped 22 shots in the first 40 minutes, but Kunitz’s 18th of 2013 with 6:18 left made it a one-goal game before Sutter’s pair 3:24 apart put Pittsburgh up by one with 2:03 remaining. Fleury nearly cost his team the game, but he lucked out thanks to Sutter’s tallies late, as the goaltender made 14 saves on 16 shots from the Bruins.

Aside from Martin’s return and Malkin’s injury, another transaction of note for the Penguins was Tom Kostopoulos being claimed off of waivers by the New Jersey Devils. He had seven points in 17 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, but has yet to play a game in the NHL this year.

The Pens first game of the upcoming week is at the Air Canada Centre against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Pittsburgh then returns home to start a three-game homestand, as they host the New York Rangers on Saturday, the Bruins on Sunday, and the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.

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New Jersey Devils: 2-1-0. Not only did the Devils end their six-game losing streak, they managed to grab four out of a possible six points over the last seven days despite the fact Martin Brodeur has yet to return to action. With a home-and-home against a divisional foe and a game against a team right below them in the standings, New Jersey has their hands full with a four-game week.

New Jersey’s losing streak ended on Thursday with a 3-2 shootout win over the Sabres at the Prudential Center. Down by two with 10:04 left in regulation, Adam Henrique scored on the power play and Patrik Elias evened the contest with 1:06 remaining to send it to overtime. In the shootout, David Clarkson and Elias beat Ryan Miller, while Johan Hedberg, who had 23 saves in the win, stopped Thomas Vanek and watched Jason Pominville miss his attempt for the additional point. Unfortunately for Jersey, Henrik Tallinder missed the game due to a lower-body injury. The blue liner was recently put on injured reserve and is deemed day-to-day.

The Devils lost for a seventh time in eight games on Saturday with a 6-3 road loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Three-point nights from Jiri Tlusty and Alexander Semin powered the Canes over Jersey, as Dan Ellis stopped 31 of 34 for the win. Hedberg suffered the defeat, as he allowed five goals on 18 shots before being pulled after the second period. Jeff Frazee, who was called up from Albany this week, made his NHL debut and made three saves on three shots in the third period for New Jersey in the loss. Ilya Kovalchuk had two goals and Elias deposited his eighth of 2013, as the Devils lost their fifth straight road game.

The Devils traveled back to New Jersey and earned a 3-2 shootout win against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday. Kovalchuk and Elias beat Ondrej Pavelec in the shootout for the extra point, while Hedberg denied the trio of Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd, and Evander Kane. Jersey’s goaltender made 23 saves in 65 minutes of competition, as Mark Stuart and Kane were the only two Jets to beat Hedberg in regulation. Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta beat Pavelec in the first 10:12 of the contest for a two-goal lead, as the Devils extended their streak without a regulation win to nine games with a record of 2-6-1 since February 21st. Bryce Salvador, who missed Saturday’s loss with an upper-body injury, had a shot on net, one blocked shot, and one takeaway in his return.

In addition to picking up Kostopoulos off of waivers, the Devils called up Harri Pesonen and assigned the tandem of Keith Kinkaid and Cam Janssen to Albany.

Pesonen could make his NHL debut this week against the Flyers. He has 26 points in 54 games with Albany in the AHL this season.

As for Kinkaid and Janssen, Kinkaid made 25 saves on 28 shots in Albany’s 4-2 loss to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Friday, while Janssen had a shot on net and two PIMs in three games since his return to the AHL.

After their home-and-home with the Orange and Black, the Devils host the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night and the Rangers on Tuesday.

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New York Rangers: 2-2-0. The Rangers continue to frustrate John Tortorella, as last season’s Atlantic Division champs are currently eighth in the conference. With two games against division leaders and two games against clubs fighting to stay in the playoff picture, New York as another tough week ahead.

The Rangers concluded their four-game winning streak on Thursday with a 2-1 overtime decision over the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. Michael Grabner gave the Isles a 1-0 lead in the first period, but Rick Nash’s eighth of the campaign tied the game with 5:23 remaining to send it to extra time. Marian Gaborik potted the game-winner 42 ticks into overtime on the man advantage. Henrik Lundqvist made 28 saves on 29 shots, while Nabokov was dealt the loss in a 37-save effort. Gaborik’s overtime tally was his second of 2013 and Lundqvist posted his sixth contest of the year where he allowed only one goal against, as the Islanders were held to a goal or less for a seventh time this season.

The Ottawa Senators ended New York’s win streak with a 3-2 victory at Madison Square Garden on Friday. Jakob Silfverberg produced his fourth of 2013 with 4:41 left to give Robin Lehner the win on a night where the netminder stopped 33 of the Rangers’ 35 shots on net. Zack Smith and Patrick Wiercioch put Ottawa up by two 10:50 into the game, but Nash and Brad Richards, who returned to the ice after missing two games with back spasms, beat Lehner later in the frame to make the game 2-2 heading into the second stanza.

On Sunday, the Blueshirts responded to their loss with a 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center. With the game tied at one halfway through the second period, a pair of infractions on the same play from Alexander Ovechkin led to tallies from Brian Boyle and Ryan Callahan to put the visitors up by two heading into the third period. Richards finalized the score with 1:12 left, as Martin Biron performed better than the Caps’ goaltending tandem of Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby to earn his second win in his last four starts. After Steve Oleksy opened the scoring with his first goal in the NHL, Derek Stepan leveled the tilt with his sixth of 2013 later in the first period. Matt Gilroy, who missed five games with the flu, returned to action and saw 11:27 TOI.

New York finished their week with a 3-1 defeat to the Sabres last night in Buffalo. Marcus Foligno had a two-goal game and Vanek had the game-winner, as Jhonas Enroth recorded his first win of 2013 with 32 saves. Stepan had the Rangers’ lone tally on a shorthanded bid with Darroll Powe in the sin bin, as four penalties in the second stanza hurt New York in the loss. Lundqvist made less than 20 saves for a sixth time this season, as his 19 saves in the loss helped lead to Tortorella’s usual postgame antics with reporters.

With Marc Staal being out indefinitely due to the incident that happened in the Flyers’ loss to New York on March 5th, the Rangers picked up Roman Hamrlik off of waivers from the Caps. In his first two games with the Blueshirts, Hamrlik had two PIMs, two blocked shots, one hit, and one takeaway.

The Blueshirts have games in Winnipeg on Thursday against the Jets and Saturday in Pittsburgh against the Pens before they return home to host the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday. New York finishes the seven-day span with a road game against the Devils Tuesday night.

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New York Islanders: 1-1-1. The Islanders extended their point streak to five games before the Pens blew them out 6-1 on Sunday. Two of New York’s three games over the next seven days are against Southeast Division squads at the bottom of the conference, as the Islanders look to stay within the playoff picture.

After their overtime loss to the Rangers on Thursday, the Isles returned home and grabbed a 5-2 decision over the Caps on Saturday. John Tavares had a two-goal performance and Boyes had a two-assist night, as Frans Nielsen had a goal and a helper in the Islanders’ third win within their first four games of March. Josh Bailey and Casey Cizikas also beat Philipp Grubauer in the win, as the Caps’ goaltender made 40 saves on 45 shots. Nabokov made 22 stops for the victory, as Mathieu Perreault and Nicklas Backstrom were the only two Caps to find nylon on Saturday. Lubomir Visnovsky, who missed a pair of games due to personal reasons, had an assist and a minus-1 rating in his return. The win concluded the Islanders’ homestand, which the team went 3-2-2 on, and their five-game point streak, where they were 3-0-2.

The Islanders went on to lose 6-1 to the Pens on Sunday.

Along with Visnovsky’s return to the Islanders, New York assigned David Ullstrom to Bridgeport. He had the game-winning goal in overtime last night for the Sound Tigers, as the squad earned a 3-2 decision over the Springfield Falcons, who lead the Northeast Division with 76 points in 58 games.

The Isles finish their three-game road trip with games at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Thursday against the Bolts and at the BB&T Center on Saturday against the Florida Panthers. New York concludes the week by starting a four-game homestand on Tuesday against the Ottawa Senators.