Atlantic Watch: Pens at the top of the Eastern Conference, Islanders clinch playoff spot, Rangers hanging on to eighth

Image courtesy of Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

After learning that they wouldn’t be in the playoffs for the second time in the last 18 seasons, the Flyers pulled off two straight wins. The Orange and Black look to end the campaign on a strong note with one more home game and one more away game.

The Flyers were shut out by Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils on Thursday in a 3-0 loss at the Wells Fargo Center. Brodeur stopped 23 shots from the Flyers to end the Devils’ 10-game losing streak, while the trio of Ryan Carter, Matt D’Agostini, and Adam Henrique scored in Jersey’s first victory in April. Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 28 of 30 in the loss, while Oliver Lauridsen earned his second fighting major of his NHL career with a scrap against David Clarkson in the third period. The loss was the final game the Orange and Black played before they were eliminated from playoff contention.

Philly won their third game in four contests on Saturday with a 5-3 decision over the Hurricanes in Carolina. Wayne Simmonds recorded his first career hat trick and added on an assist for his first four-point game in the NHL, while Matt Read had two assists in a three-point performance. Steve Mason stopped 26 of 29 in the win, while Justin Peters allowed five goals on 38 shots against for the loss.

The Orange and Black finished their week with a 5-2 win over the Boston Bruins in Philly. Claude Giroux had two assists in the win, while Lauridsen potted his first NHL goal thanks to Zdeno Chara accidentally passing it into his own net. Scott Hartnell, Jakub Voracek, and Simon Gagne also scored for the hosts, while Mason earned his third straight win. Andreas Lilja had four hits and two blocked shots in 19:14 TOI in his second game of the season for the Flyers, as he took place of Kimmo Timonen, who is out for the rest of the year with a fractured right foot.

Philadelphia ensured team toughness for the next couple of years by signing both Zac Rinaldo and Jay Rosehill to two-year contract extensions.

Rinaldo, who hasn’t played since he suffered a high ankle sprain in Philly’s win over the Montreal Canadiens on April 3rd, has three goals and two assists in 32 games this year along with 85 PIMs.

Rosehill, who was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks’ organization earlier this season, has one goal and 52 PIMs in nine games with the Flyers this year.

Philadelphia finishes their season with a home game against the New York Islanders tomorrow night and a game in Ottawa against the Senators on Saturday.

Image courtesy of Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

Pittsburgh Penguins: 3-1-0. The Pittsburgh Penguins saw another winning streak come to an end this week thanks to the Buffalo Sabres. With the top spot in the Eastern Conference locked up, both of the Pens’ final two games come against two teams outside of the playoffs.

The Pens won their fifth straight game last Wednesday with a 6-4 decision over the Montreal Canadiens in Pittsburgh. Brenden Morrow had two goals and an assist, while Kris Letang had three helpers, as the pair both recorded three-point tilts in the home victory. Brandon Sutter had two goals and Matt Niskanen had two assists, while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 31 of 35 for his fourth straight win. Peter Budaj was pulled after a period when he let three goals in on nine shots against, while Carey Price stopped 17 of 20 shots against.

Jussi Jokinen helped the Pens earn a 3-2 decision over the Boston Bruins on Saturday at TD Garden. The former Hurricane had one goal and two assists, while Tomas Vokoun denied 38 of 40 shots from the Bruins. Jarome Iginla and Letang both beat Tuukka Rask in the victory, as the Pens won their fifth straight road game and sixth game overall.

On Monday, Pittsburgh recorded their seventh straight contest against the Senators in Ottawa by the score of 3-1. In his second straight start in place of Fleury, who missed a pair of contests due to personal reasons, Vokoun stopped 34 of 35 to help the Pens to another victory. Morrow had two assists for his third multi-point contest in a four-game span, while Iginla extended his point streak to three games with his first game-winner as a Penguin. Tyler Kennedy ended an 11-game goal drought with his sixth goal of the year in the third period for his first tally since his overtime-winner against the Flyers on March 24th. Steve MacIntyre had 12 PIMs in 4:31 TOI in his first NHL game this year.

The Buffalo Sabres ended another Pens’ winning streak, as the squad visited the CONSOL Energy Center last night and beat Pittsburgh 4-2. After missing two games due to personal reasons, Fleury suffered the loss with three goals on 32 shots. The trio of Letang, Beau Bennett, and Evgeni Malkin returned to action in the loss after missing time. Letang, who missed one game due to food poisoning, had an assist and five shots on net in 28:16 TOI. Bennett, who missed one game with an upper-body injury, was minus-1 in 12:44 TOI. Malkin, who missed four games with an upper-body injury, was minus-1 with an assist in 21:18 TOI. Chris Kunitz and Iginla scored in the loss.

As for transactions, the Penguins signed forwards Matia Marcantuoni and Anton Zlobin to amateur tryout contracts.

Marcantuoni, who was picked 92nd overall by the Pens in the 2012 NHL Draft, had 25 points in 64 regular season games for the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL this season. He has yet to play a game for the Wilkes/Barre-Scranton Pens.

Zlobin, who was picked 173rd overall by Pittsburgh in the 2012 NHL Draft, had 91 points in 61 regular season games this year for the Val-d’Or Foreurs of the QMJHL.

The Penguins finish the season with contests at home tomorrow against the New Jersey Devils and on Saturday in Carolina against the Hurricanes.

Image courtesy of Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

New York Islanders: 2-0-1. Thanks to their lengthy point streak, the Islanders were able to clinch their first trip to the playoffs since 2007. New York has two more home games before they hit the road to start their postseason journey.

The Isles started their five-game homestand to finish the season with a 5-3 decision over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. John Tavares had two goals and a helper, while Brad Boyes had a tally and two assists in the win, while Evgeni Nabokov made 18 stops on 21 shots against for the decision. Matt Moulson had a goal and an assist in the victory, while Frans Nielsen added on his fifth of the year in the third period to extend the Islanders’ point streak to nine games.

New York made it 10 straight games on Saturday by beating the Winnipeg Jets 5-4 in a shootout on Saturday. Tavares answered Andrew Ladd’s goal in the third round of the shootout to hand the Islanders the additional point. Boyes also scored in the shootout for the Isles, while the pair of Blake Wheeler and Mike Santorelli missed their opportunities in the skills’ competition. Josh Bailey and Nielsen each had a goal and an assist in the win, while Lubomir Visnovsky and Kyle Okposo recorded two-assist tilts. The victory was the Islanders’ third straight win and improved their record to 8-0-2 in the month of April.

The Isles may have lost last night, but the point they gained in their 4-3 shootout loss to the Hurricanes let them clinch a playoff spot. With 1:01 left in regulation, Tavares beat Dan Ellis for his 27th goal of the season and a 3-3 contest. Both Riley Nash and Jeff Skinner beat Nabokov in the shootout, but the Islanders already grabbed the necessary point. Boyes and Bailey also scored in the loss, as the Isles pushed their point streak to 11 games.

On top of ensuring their second trip to the playoffs in the last seven seasons, the Islanders signed Joey Diamond to a one-year entry-level contract. Diamond had two goals and three assists in 10 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers this year. He has yet to play a game in the NHL.

The Islanders will host the Flyers tomorrow night and the Sabres on Friday night to conclude their regular season campaign.

Image courtesy of Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

New York Rangers: 3-1-0. The Rangers haven’t clinched a playoff spot yet, but they are holding on to the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. With two games remaining against teams outside the playoff picture, New York hopes to hang on for a postseason berth.

The Blueshirts pounded the Florida Panthers on Thursday by a score of 6-1 at Madison Square Garden. Rich Nash had a goal and two helpers, while both Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard had two-tally tilts. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 34 of 35 shots against, while Scott Clemmensen tied his season high of six goals against on 30 shots against. Brad Richards also had a goal and an assist in the win, while the Rangers ended their four-game stretch without a regulation win.

New York won their second straight contest on Friday with an 8-4 rout of the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center. Lundqvist didn’t provide his best game with 24 saves on 28 shots, but the tandem of Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth embarrassed the Sabres. Miller allowed four goals on 14 shots before being pulled early in the second period, while Enroth stopped 11 of 15 shots in relief. Richards recorded a hat trick, while both Nash and Ryane Clowe registered a tally and a helper in the victory. Derek Stepan posted a two-assist performance.

The Rangers earned their third straight decision on Sunday with a 4-1 win over the Devils on Sunday. Ryan Callahan scored 34 seconds into the game and Stepan put home the game-winner exactly 12 minutes into the affair. Taylor Pyatt potted a goal in the second period and Callahan added on his second tally of the tilt early in the third period, while Andrei Loktionov was the only visitor to beat Lundqvist in the Rangers’ home win. For the fifth time in his last six starts, Brodeur stopped less than 20 saves, as he denied 18 of New York’s 22 shots on net.

The Blueshirts short winning streak was ended by the Panthers last night in Florida by a score of 3-2. Jacob Markstrom had another huge performance against the Rangers, as he stopped 36 shots for the win, while Lundqvist allowed two goals on 15 shots against. Tomas Fleischmann had a goal and an assist in the win for Florida, while Pyatt and Brassard potted New York’s tallies. Arron Asham and George Parros dropped the gloves in the loss, as the Rangers look forward to their final two games in hopes of reaching the playoffs.

In transaction news, New York signed Michael Kantor to a three-year entry-level contract. Kantor had 33 points in 56 games as the captain of the Sudbury Wolves in the OHL this season. He hasn’t played a game for the Connecticut Whale or in the NHL yet.

The Rangers take on the Hurricanes in Carolina on Thursday before finishing the season on Saturday against the Devils.

Image courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

New Jersey Devils: 3-1-0. The Devils managed to win three of their four games this week, but it wasn’t enough to keep their playoff hopes alive. New Jersey will take on two teams from the Atlantic Division to close out the regular season.

The Devils followed up their win against the Flyers with a decision over the Panthers on Saturday by the score of 6-2 at the Prudential Center. After Marcel Goc and Brian Campbell put Florida up by two just 7:05 into the game, New Jersey scored the contest’s final six goals. Both Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac potted two goals, as five Devils registered two-point games. The trio of Stephen Gionta, Carter, and Clarkson each had a goal and a helper in the tilt, while Brodeur made a whopping 11 saves for the win.

After their loss to the Rangers, the Devils beat the Canadiens 3-2 on Tuesday night in Jersey. Elias, Jacob Josefson, and Steve Sullivan scored for the Devils, as Brodeur made 19 stops for the win. Sullivan’s tally in the second period put the Devils up 3-0 before Max Pacioretty and Lars Eller scored to make it a one-goal game before the start of the third period. Alexander Urbom was minus-1 in 14:11 TOI in his first game in the NHL this year with the Devils.

The Devils last home game is on Thursday against the Penguins and their last road game is on Saturday against the Rangers.