Atlantic Watch: Flyers keep slipping, Penguins keep winning, Rangers and Devils hanging on to playoff spots, Islanders within reach of postseason

Image courtesy of Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

The Philadelphia Flyers were the only team in the Atlantic Division not to win a game this week, as they went 0-1-1 against the Pens and Rangers. Things don’t get any easier for the Flyers over the next week, as they take on a division leader and two teams fighting to make the postseason.

After a six-day break, the Flyers dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the CONSOL Energy Center on Sunday. Tyler Kennedy, who missed the Pens’ game against the New York Islanders due to being sick, ripped one over Ilya Bryzgalov’s right shoulder with 2:27 left in the extra frame to give the hosts an NHL-best 12-game winning streak. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 27 of 28, as the only Flyer to beat him was Claude Giroux in the second period.

As for Bryzgalov, Sidney Crosby ended the goalie’s shutout bid with 6:14 left on a 5-on-3 power play to send the game into overtime and allowed Kennedy’s tally in the additional period for 33 saves on 35 shots against. Both Danny Briere and Nicklas Grossmann missed the game due to injuries, as Harry Zolnierczyk and Kurtis Foster played in their places. Zolnierczyk, who played in his first NHL game since being suspended, saw 7:58 of ice time in place of Briere, who sat out indefinitely with a concussion. Foster had one shot on net in 9:29 TOI in place of Grossmann, who missed the game with an upper-body injury and is day-to-day.

Last night, the Flyers dropped a 5-2 decision to the New York Rangers in Philly. Rick Nash potted his 300th goal in the NHL in a three-point performance, while Brad Richards put up two points to reach 800 in his career. Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves to Bryzgalov’s 26, as Derek Stepan had his first career four-point night. In place of Briere last night was Tye McGinn, who was minus-2 with two shots and two hits in 14:08 TOI. J.T. Miller, who missed one game with a wrist injury, was minus-1 with two shots on net and a hit in 17:11 TOI. Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek had goals last night, while Giroux had two assists in the loss.

The biggest transaction of the week for Philly was signing forward Kyle Flanagan. A Hobey Baker finalist, Flanagan is a 24-year-old forward who recently signed a one-year entry-level contract, as he will spend the rest of the season with the Adirondack Phantoms. After he totaled 47 points in 35 games for St. Lawrence University this season, Flanagan has picked up two assists in two games so far for the Phantoms.

The Orange and Black continue their five-game home stand this week with games against the New York Islanders tomorrow, the Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon, and the Washington Capitals on Sunday.

Image Courtesy of Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Penguins: 3-0-0. The Penguins just can’t lose. With three wins this week Pittsburgh has now won 13 straight contests. With two of their three contests over the next week coming against teams outside the playoffs, the Pens could extend their already lengthy winning streak.

The Pens made it 11 straight wins on Friday with a 4-2 win over the Islanders in New York. Although they trailed 1-0 and 2-1, Pittsburgh received a goal and an assist from Pascal Dupuis and two helpers from Crosby to record another victory. Mark Streit opened the scoring in the first period, but Joe Vitale leveled the game at one in the second period. After Josh Bailey potted his fourth of 2013 with under three minutes left in the middle frame to restore New York’s lead before Chris Kunitz beat Evgeni Nabokov, who recorded the loss with 21 saves on 24 shots, in the final 15 seconds of the second stanza. Brandon Sutter put home the game-winning goal early in the third period, as Tomas Vokoun had 33 saves for the win. Trevor Smith made his season debut for Pittsburgh in the victory, as he saw 10:24 TOI in 13 shifts.

After their win on Sunday night against the Flyers, Pittsburgh earned a 1-0 decision over the Canadiens last night at the CONSOL Energy Center. Crosby had the game’s lone goal, as the Pens’ captain recorded his 15th of the season in the second period. Although Fleury left after the second period, and is considered day-to-day after a collision with Kennedy knocked him out of the game, Vokoun came in to stop 12 shots for Pittsburgh to keep the shutout intact. Kris Letang, who missed three games with a lower-body injury, had two shots on net in 24:20 TOI in his return.

The biggest news of the week for the Pens were the additions of Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray.

Pittsburgh added the Dallas Stars’ captain, as well as third-round pick in this year’s draft, in exchange for Joe Morrow and a fifth-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. The older Morrow, who had 11 points in 29 games with the Stars, saw 12:55 TOI in his Pens’ debut last night. The younger Morrow had 15 points in 57 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

As for Murray, the Penguins added the physical blue liner from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for their 2013 second-round pick and a conditional pick in the second round of next year’s NHL Draft. After he had three assists and a minus-8 rating in 29 games with the Sharks, Murray has yet to play a game with the Pens.

In terms of other roster news, the Pens are still without Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh also signed blue liner Clark Seymour to an amateur tryout contract.

Malkin was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury he suffered after taking a hit from James van Riemsdyk on February 9th. He has missed nine straight games.

As for Seymour, the defenseman had 13 points in 62 games this season with the Peterborough Petes of the OHL. Selected by the Pens 143rd overall in the 2012 NHL Draft, Seymour has yet to play a game with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pens since joining them earlier in the week.

The Penguins look to extend their winning streak in the final three games of their five-game homestand, as they host the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday, the Isles on Saturday, and the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday.

Image courtesy of Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

New Jersey Devils: 2-1-0. The Devils not only worked themselves back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, New Jersey worked their way up to the seventh spot. They look to keep climbing with two of their three games this week coming against two teams at the bottom of the conference.

After he missed 10 games due to a back injury, Martin Brodeur returned to the crease for Jersey and posted 17 saves in a 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday. Not only did he earn the victory, Brodeur was also credited with the game’s first goal due to an unfortunate play by Carolina that resulted in the puck going into their net with a delayed penalty coming to Jersey. The trio of Adam Henrique, Peter Harrold, and Andrei Loktionov, who made his return to action after missing a pair of games with an undisclosed injury, actually beat Dan Ellis in the road win, while Travis Zajac earned a two-assist night. The win away from the Prudential was their first on the road since their 3-2 decision over the Caps on February 21st.

The Devils made it two straight on Saturday with a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers, but they lost a key player in the process. Ilya Kovalchuk crashed into the boards in the victory and injured his shoulder, as he is expected to miss two-to-four weeks due to the incident. As for the scoring, both Patrik Elias and David Clarkson beat Scott Clemmensen in the middle frame before Peter Mueller potted Florida’s only tally in the final seconds of the same period, as Brodeur stopped 17 for the decision.

Jersey’s week concluded with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place on Monday. Mika Zibanejad beat Brodeur in the fourth round of the skills’ competition, while Ben Bishop stoned Loktionov to hand the hosts the additional point. Loktionov did beat Bishop in regulation, however, and Marek Zidlicky had his fourth of 2013 to give Jersey the charity point in the loss. Despite seeing 20 less shots than Bishop, Brodeur managed to allow the same number of goals, as he saw two pucks pass him on 14 shots against. Harri Pesonen, who was sent down to the Albany Devils and missed Saturday’s contest, was minus-1 with a shot on net in the loss.

After they play the Lightning in Tampa on Friday night and the Florida Panthers on the road Saturday, the Devils return to the Prudential Center to host the Islanders on Tuesday.

Image courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

New York Rangers: 1-1-1. After losing their first two games of the week, the Rangers dominated the Flyers last night in Philly. Hanging on to the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, the Blueshirts will look to stay in the playoff picture against three teams who will most likely make the postseason.

New York started the week with a 3-1 loss at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night against the Florida Panthers. Jacob Markstrom made 44 saves to steal the game for the visitors, as Brian Campbell and Scottie Upshall beat Henrik Lundqvist in the first two periods before Tomas Kopecky tacked on an empty-netter in the game’s final minute. Lundqvist allowed two goals on 23 shots, as the only Ranger to beat Markstrom in the loss was Marian Gaborik. Chris Kreider saw 12:03 TOI in his first game with the Rangers since February 26th, while Miller suffered the injury to his left wrist that caused him to miss the game against the Caps.

Although they lost again on Sunday, the Rangers at least grabbed a point in their 3-2 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals in New York. Nicklas Backstrom beat Lundqvist in the fourth round of the shootout to grab the additional point for the Caps, while Braden Holtby made 25 saves in regulation and five in overtime for the win. Arron Asham, who made his return after missing 15 games with a back injury, potted his second goal of the year off a feed from Kris Newbury, who recorded his first point in the NHL this season in just his second game with the Blueshirts in 2013. Derek Stepan had the other goal for New York, as he converted on a power-play chance in the opening frame for his ninth of the season to tie it a two and ultimately give the Rangers a point.

The Rangers then beat the Flyers 5-2 last night.

In transactions for New York, the Rangers waived both Jeff Halpern and Stu Bickel. The Blueshirts also assigned Micheal Haley to the Connecticut Whale.

Halpern was picked up by the Montreal Canadiens. After he had one assist and minus-5 rating in 30 games with the Rangers this season, Halpern had four hits and won 11 of his 18 faceoffs last night in his return to the Canadiens.

As for Bickel, the blue liner cleared waivers and was sent to the Whale. He was minus-1 with six shots on net and two PIMs in his first game with the Whale, which was a 6-1 win over the Binghamton Senators on March 24th.

Haley was plus-3 with three shots on net in three games with Connecticut this week since being sent down to the AHL.

In addition to all these moves, the Rangers also re-signed Mats Zuccarello to a one-year contract. The 25-year-old had 28 points in 44 games with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL this season.

The Blueshirts visit the Ottawa Senators on Thursday and the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday before they return to New York to host the Jets on Monday.

Image courtesy of Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

New York Islanders: 2-2-0. The Islanders earned four points in four games this week to finish in the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference. Within reach of the final spot for the playoffs, New York will take on three divisional rivals before finishing the week against the Southeast-leading Winnipeg Jets.

The Isles started the week with a 5-2 loss to the Canadiens on Thursday in New York. Kevin Poulin allowed three goals in the third period to earn the loss, as he stopped 24 of the 29 shots the Canadiens threw on net. John Tavares and Lubomir Visnovsky potted the goals for the Islanders in the defeat, while Matt Moulson recorded a two-assist performance. Both Matt Carkner and Michael Grabner returned to action in the loss, as Carkner had two PIMs in 14:07 TOI after missing 20 games with a groin injury and Grabner had two PIMs with a shot on net in 12:28 TOI after missing three games with a shoulder injury.

After their loss to the Pens on Friday, the Islanders ended their three-game losing streak with a 3-0 victory at home over the Panthers on Sunday. Nabokov stopped all 26 of the Panthers’ shots on net for his third shutout of 2013, as Andrew MacDonald scored the only goal that actually beat a goaltender in the contest. Tavares and Casey Cizikas each had an empty-net goal in the final minute of regulation, as Markstrom stopped 34 of 35 for the loss.

The Isles concluded their seven-day span with a 3-2 decision over the Washington Capitals last night at the Verizon Center. Tavares had the game-winner with 5:18 left in regulation to Nabokov the win on a night where he had 20 stops. After Grabner and Bailey scored goals in the game’s first 7:56, the Caps responded with tallies from Mike Ribeiro and John Carlson in a span of 3:23 in the second period. The win extends the Islanders winning streak away from Nassau Coliseum to three games, as they beat the Lightning on March 14th and the Panthers on March 16th.

The Isles conclude their four-game road trip this week with games in Philly on Thursday, Pittsburgh on Saturday, and New Jersey on Monday before they return to Nassau Coliseum to take on the Jets.