Philadelphia Flyers v New York Islanders

Isles prep for ‘huge’ final home game of regular season

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Schedule makers didn’t do the New York Islanders any favors with their end-of-season stretch.

But for now, the team isn’t focusing on the negatives.

The Isles will play their final home game of the regular season on Tuesday against Florida — then set out on a five-game road swing to finish the year.

Needless to say, New York recognizes the importance of tonight’s affair.

“It’s huge,” forward Keith Aucoin told Newsday. “We had a real physical and emotionally draining game against the Rangers [on Saturday]. We have to make sure we play with the same effort.

“We need to finish our home games with a win, not only that it’s important to the standings. It’s almost a must-win game for us.”

After tonight’s game, the Isles will set out on a trip through Toronto, Winnipeg, Carolina, Philadelphia and Buffalo, with the final two contests of the year coming in a back-to-back situation (Flyers on Apr. 25; Sabres on Apr. 26).

It’s not an ideal schedule — no team wants to play its final home game 10 days before the end of the regular season — but few teams are better equipped to deal with an extended period away from home.

The Isles have one of the best road records in the East this season (12-5-2) and have secured at least a point in seven of their last eight road games.

Speaking of points, New York heads into tonight’s action holding the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference, three points clear of ninth-place Winnipeg and one up on the eighth-place Rangers.

Needless to say, points are at a premium. There are 12 left for grabs, and leading scorer John Tavares wants them all.

“Obviously, 12 is what we’d like to get,” he said. “Obviously, earn as many of these 12 as we can. Every game, we need results. It’s a big game, it’s our final game at home.

“We want to take advantage of that, finish the year at home on a good note.”

Game on: Penguins even series with rival Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will head back home with a split of their second-round series with the rival Washington Capitals.

Former Capitals forward Eric Fehr came back to burn his hold team, as he scored with under five minutes remaining in regulation to help lift the Penguins over Washington with a 2-1 victory in an eventful Game 2 on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin threw the puck toward the net and Fehr was able to re-direct it by Braden Holtby.

Oh, this was an eventful game, indeed.

It started early in the first period with Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik catching Penguins blue liner Olli Maatta with a late and high hit that warranted — at least for now — only a minor penalty for interference. Maatta, clearly in distress following the hit, didn’t play another shift and saw only 31 seconds of ice time in total, as Pittsburgh was reduced to five defensemen for the remainder of the game.

It continued in the third period. Kris Letang was furious after getting called for a trip on Justin Williams, and even more ticked off when the Capitals tied the game on the ensuing power play.

For two periods, the Capitals couldn’t get much going. Only four of their players had registered a shot on goal through 40 minutes, while the Penguins held the edge in that department and held the lead.

Washington came out with more jump in the third period, testing rookie netminder Matt Murray with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes. But the Penguins got the late goal to break the deadlock.

Video: Penguins’ Letang was furious after Capitals tie up Game 2 with power play goal

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Kris Letang watched from the penalty box as the Washington Capitals tied up Game 2 with a power play goal in the third period. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman was called for tripping after he appeared to muscle Justin Williams off the puck as he entered the zone.

Letang let his disagreement with the call be known at the time, and was furious after the Capitals capitalized on a goal from Marcus Johansson.

The Capitals started the period down a goal and being outshot 28-10 by the Penguins, who need a win to even the series.

Also, it seems this is worth mentioning:

Video: Hagelin goes top shelf to give Penguins the lead in Game 2

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In their quest to even the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins had done a nice job through two periods of suffocating the Washington Capitals, while gaining the lead on a beautiful goal.

Carl Hagelin took advantage of a vast amount of space that opened up in front of the Washington net, finishing off a nice pass from Nick Bonino, burying his shot just under the cross bar on the glove side of Braden Holtby.

Through two periods, the Penguins were outshooting Washington 28-10. Only four Capitals players — Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen — had registered shots on goal.

Video: Orpik penalized after catching Maatta with late, high hit

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The Pittsburgh Penguins were without defenseman Olli Maatta for most of the first period of Game 2 after he was on the receiving end of a high, late hit from Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik.

The hit occurred early in the first period, well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck on a rush into the Washington zone.

Maatta, who nearly fell over as he tried to stand back up, was in obvious distress as he went to the dressing room. Orpik was given a minor penalty for interference on the play.