All season the Pittsburgh Penguins have shown they can excel even without their superstar captain, Sidney Crosby. They were on a nine-game winning streak before Crosby’s return – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t grateful to have him back. Crosby immediately made his mark with two assists, including one that was awarded to him after the fact, in his return and another three assists in Saturday’s game. His performance has reinforced the notion that, when they’re at full strength, the Penguins should be regarded as a serious Stanley Cup contender.
Odds are that the Philadelphia Flyers would like to prove that they’re more than capable of beating the Penguins, regardless of Crosby’s status. They’ll get the chance to do just that on Sunday (12:30 pm ET, NBC). Philadelphia currently has a 2-1 series lead, but Crosby didn’t play in any of those contests. To make matters more difficult for the Flyers, they’ll have to compete against them without a couple of key players, including Chris Pronger, who is out for the rest of the season with a concussion. Fortunately for Philadelphia, like the Penguins, they have demonstrated that they can find ways to win even under less than ideal circumstances.
This game will be a matchup between two of the NHL’s league leaders in points, Evgeni Malkin and Claude Giroux, plus an extended cast of skilled forwards and offensive defensemen. That being said, depending on the goaltending matchup, this might not be a high-scoring game. Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury is on a nine-game winning streak and Philadelphia’s Ilya Bryzgalov has been even hotter lately. Although Bryzgalov suffered his first loss since Feb. 28 on Saturday, he’s less than a week removed from establishing a new franchise record for consecutive shutout minutes.
This is the first of three meetings between the Flyers and Penguins in the final three weeks of the season. With the two teams currently occupying the fourth and fifth seeds in the Eastern Conference, it’s entirely possible that these upcoming contests will serve as the setup for a first round series between the bitter rivals.
Pulling Anders Nilsson didn’t stop the bleeding for the Edmonton Oilers. Instead, it really just spread the “wealth.”
The New York Islanders are up 7-1, so don’t be surprised if there’s some ugly stuff in the final frame.
Zack Kassian is an author of at least one outburst, as he was tagged with 19 penalty minutes for a display that included fighting Brian Strait, as you can see in the video above.
It’s not the only fight stemming from the blowout, either, as Eric Gryba just tangled with Matt Martin.
Could there be more?
There was a time when Anders Nilsson seemed like the best bet in the Oilers’ net this season. This … is not that time.
Less than 12 minutes into Sunday’s game, the New York Islanders roared to a 3-0 lead, and that was enough for Edmonton to give Nilsson the hook.
He allowed those three goals on 10 shots, so to be fair, that’s a pretty impressive chunk of chances (almost a shot on goal per minute).
Still, the Oilers were likely hoping to give Cam Talbot a breather, and instead he was rushed into action. Nilsson hadn’t played since Jan. 19, and he’s only appeared in three games in 2016.
As if this didn’t sting enough for Nilsson, consider the fact that he began his NHL career with the Islanders, who eventually decided he wasn’t worth keeping.
Alex Ovechkin scored to join Wayne Gretzky and Mike Gartner as only players with at least 30 goals in each of their first 11 NHL seasons, and Matt Niskanen netted the game winner as Washington beat the Flyers 3-2 at Verizon on Super Bowl Sunday.
Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz replied for the Flyers, who suffered their second straight loss.
The win was the Capitals’ third in a row.
It didn’t always look as though Washington would emerge the victor, however. The Caps were out-shot 35-30 on the day and looked disjointed at times, finishing with 12 giveaways (Philly was credited with just five, for comparison’s sake).
But good teams find ways to win when they’re not playing especially well, and the Caps are a pretty good team — especially when Braden Holtby is on his game.
Holtby, atop many Vezina lists at the moment, had another terrific outing on Sunday, making 33 saves, perhaps none better than this one on Mark Streit in the second period:
Holtby’s counterpart, Steve Mason, had a solid outing as well, finishing with 27 stops.
Looking ahead, the Caps will now head out on a three-game Western Conference swing through Minnesota, Nashville and what promises to be a high-octane game in Dallas on Feb. 13.
The Flyers, meanwhile, will now kick off a three-game homestand against Anaheim, Buffalo and New Jersey.
Winnipeg forward Drew Stafford will meet with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for his high stick on Colorado’s Nick Holden on Saturday night, the DoPS announced this afternoon.
There was no immediate video of the incident available. Stafford wasn’t penalized on the play, which occurred during the third period; Holden finished the final frame with 10 shifts for 6:46 of ice time.
Stafford, 30, has a clean disciplinary history and hasn’t been fined or suspended during his 10-year NHL career.