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Every now and then, it’s convenient to group the highly competitive Metropolitan Division’s games into a lightning round post. That was especially true here, but it seems reasonable enough tonight, too.
Let’s start at the bottom: the New York Rangers are just short of waving the white flag, as they lost to the Montreal Canadiens. The most relevant thing they did on Thursday was to make Ryan McDonagh, Rick Nash, and Michael Grabner healthy scratches, a nod to the trade deadline. They’re stuck at 59 points in 61 games.
[BREAKING: Rangers reportedly send Grabner to the Devils(!)]
Now let’s rattle off the relevant results, going from the first-ranked Capitals and stepping down the ladder.
Inactive on Thursday: Penguins (74 points in 61 games played), Hurricanes (64 points in 60 GP)
Capitals drop emotional loss to Panthers, and (barely) in regulation
It seemed like Washington would shake off Roberto Luongo‘s much-see speech and grab a win during an emotional night in Florida. They had a 2-1 lead fairly deep into Thursday’s game.
The Panthers wouldn’t be denied. They ended up tying the game with less than four minutes remaining, and then Vincent Trocheck won it with just 20 seconds left in regulation. Leaving this one empty-handed stings for the Caps, although in the grand scheme of things, it was nice for Florida to get to W.
[Luongo’s speech, Panthers’ emotional ceremony.]
Flyers virtually tie second-ranked Penguins, beat Blue Jackets in regulation.
On paper, this wasn’t a pretty 2-1 win for the Flyers. Prevailing in regulation against a divisional opponent, thus limiting at least one threat from chipping away at their buffer? Now, that’s beautiful for Philly.
If you want a summary of how rapidly fortunes can change in the NHL, consider this: the Flyers have a very real chance to win this division mere months after losing 10 games in a row. Sports, everyone.
Both teams only managed 20 shots on goal, making for a pretty friendly way for Petr Mrazek to make his Flyers debut. Claude Giroux (goal, assist) and Shayne Gostisbehere (two assists) really powered the victory, too, as they were involved in both goals.
The Flyers are showing that they can win a variety of games … and with a variety of goalies. They’re now on a four-game winning streak, and are even better when you zoom out, going 8-0-2 in their past 10 games.
Mrazek got the Ric Flair treatment:
The bright side for the Blue Jackets is that they’re currently in the final wild-card position, even with frustrations piling up. Still, this was an opportunity to create some distance from opponents that are breathing down their necks …
Islanders fall to Maple Leafs, but it was in a shootout
… as the Islanders grabbed a “charity point.”
While the Blue Jackets are at 65 standings points in 61 games played for that final wild-card spot (and fifth in the Metro), the Islanders are close by with 65 points in 62 GP.
It was a thriller in Toronto, and while Doug Weight’s bunch deserves some kudos for hanging in there, they did see 2-0 and 3-2 leads dissolve.
The brightest side is probably that they might be making modest gains on defense, as they’ve limited opponents to 32 and 31 shots on goal during the past two contests. That’s progress for a team that recently saw goalies make 45 and 50-save shutouts.
Taylor Hall remains hot, but not enough for a win (again)
The New Jersey Devils fired 40 shots on goal, and Taylor Hall kept his remarkable scoring streak going. (Officially, his 26th goal of 2017-18 pushed him to 13 games, while others believe it’s 20 in a row.)
You’d think that would be a winning combination, but not exactly the quietly climbing Minnesota Wild, who ended up winning 4-2.
Still, that Hall kid is going to be OK, eh?
So, here is how the Metro looks after all of that action.
Capitals: 75 points in 61 games played (31 ROW)
Penguins: 74 points in 61 GP (33 ROW)
Flyers: 74 points in 61 GP (31 ROW)
Devils: 70 points in 61 GP (27 ROW)
Islanders: 65 points in 62 GP (26 ROW)
Hurricanes: 64 points in 60 GP (24 ROW)
Rangers, if you must: 59 points in 61 GP (24 ROW)
The Penguins also have 35 vanilla wins, while the Flyers are at 32.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.