Get your game notes: Penguins at Capitals, Rivalry Night

Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Washington Capitals hosting the Pittsburgh Pengins on Rivalry Night at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

TOP STORYLINES

• Last game: Both last played on Sunday…PIT won at home over FLA, 5-1…WSH lost at PHI, 3-2.

• WSH sits in the 1st wild card spot in the East, 9 points ahead of BOS (2nd WC).

• PIT won its division the last 2 seasons, but has never won 3 straight division titles (currently in 47th season).

• PIT: 7-11-4 vs. Metropolitan Division teams this season

• No other team currently in a playoff position has below a .500 points% within its own division.

• Caps dominating Pens this season (Potential Playoff Meeting?): This is the 4th and final meeting of the season; Washington has beaten Pittsburgh in all 3 previous meetings this season, scoring 3+ goals in each game and outscoring the Pens 10-1 including 2 shutouts…PIT was last swept by WSH in season series in 2009-10 (0-2-2).

• 3 of the top 6 scorers in the league will be on display in this one, including the league’s top goal scorer, Alex Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with 38 goals.

• Since Nicklas Backstrom entered the league in 2007-08, his teammate Alex Ovechkin leads the league in goals & points – Evgeni Malkin & Sidney Crosby rank 2nd & 3rd (Crosby 2nd in points; Malkin in goals – the other 3rd in each)…Backstrom ranks 8th in both goals & points.

• However, Crosby leads all NHLers in points/game since ’07-08 (Malkin – 2nd, Ovi – 3rd).

• 4 of 10 players with 550+ points since ’07-08

• Feb. for both clubs…WSH has gone 8-4-0 in the month…PIT is 6-4-1 in Feb.

• PIT comes in looking to win 3 straight for the first time since Dec. 15-20.

• WSH looks to win for the 5th time in the last 6 games (4-1-0 in last 5).

PITTSBURGH TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• PIT power play: 0-for-the-month (0-20) until its last 2 games when it went 1-3 in each (2-26 on PP in Feb.).

• Sidney Crosby is one goal shy of reaching the 20-goal mark for the 8th time in his 10-season career.

• Crosby had 2 assists vs. FLA to improve his points/game to 1.09 (1st in NHL).

• Evgeni Malkin recorded his first 2goal-1assist game of the season vs. FLA.

• He has 5 points (3G-2A) during a 3-game point streak.

• Career vs. WSH: 39 points (9G-30A) in 28 games

• Kris Letang had an assist vs. FLA to continue his hot stretch. He is tied with CGY’s Mark Giordano for most points among defensemen (47) and leads all blueliners in assists (37).

• Letang is 1 goal & 3 pts away from tying his career high in both (11G last season, 50 pts in 2010-11).

• Patric Hornqvist posted 2 goals & 1 assist vs. FLA to match a career high for points in a game (last done on Nov. 8 at BUF). The 1st-year Penguin is 2 goals & 1 assist shy of his 4th career 20-20 season.

• Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 34 of 35 shots vs. FLA for his 27th victory of the season.

• Fleury has allowed no more than 2 goals in each of his last 7 starts dating back to Feb. 4:

• 4-2-1 record, 1.00 GAA, .964 SV%

• Career vs. WSH: 16-10-2, 2.48 GAA, .916 SV%

• Fleury leads the league in shutouts with a career-high/franchise-record 8 this season

• The Rangers (9), Wild & Canucks (both 8) are the only teams w/ as many clean sheets as Fleury

• Braden Holtby (WSH), Ryan Miller (VAN) & Devan Dubnyk (MIN) are t-2nd with 6 shutouts.

WASHINGTON TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Alex Ovechkin (goals) & Nicklas Backstrom (assists & pts) are at the top of the league rankings this season.

• Despite 0 points in his last 2 games, Ovi still has 11 points (6G-5A) in his last 8 games.

• Ovi leads the NHL in Feb. with 9 goals and 16 points.

• Backstrom’s 4-game point streak was snapped at PHI but he has 7 points (2G-5A) in his last 5 games.

• The highest Backstrom has ever finished in the scoring race is 4th when he had 101 points back in 2009-10 (Ovi finished t-2nd that season w/ 109)… The highest Backstrom has ever finished in assists was 3rd – done 4 times. His career high in both was set in the 2009-10 season (68A-101PTS).

• Last season Sidney Crosby (PIT) led the league in assists (68) & points (104).

• Ovechkin has won the Rocket Richard Trophy 4 times including each of the last 2 seasons.

• Six players have won the league’s goal-scoring title 5 or more times including Maurice Richard himself.

• Ovechkin has won the Art Ross Trophy once in his career (2007-08) – it is the only season a Capitals player has ever led the league in scoring.
Ovechkin was the last player to win both the Rocket Richard and Art Ross Trophy in the same season, doing so in 2007-08 with 65 goals and 112 points (both career highs)…Jarome Iginla in 2001-02 with CGY is the only other player to have won both awards in the same season.

• Ovechkin is a 3-time Hart Trophy winner (MVP) – 2012-13, 2008-09, 2007-08.

• No two teammates have more points this season than Ovechkin & Backstrom (125).

• Not since Joe Thornton (assists & points) & Jonathan Cheechoo (goals), in 2005-06 as members of the Sharks, had two teammates ended the season leading the league in each of those categories.

• Braden Holtby has started the Caps last 4 games and despite giving up 3 goals vs. PHI, he has allowed only 7 goals total in those 4 starts (1.73 GAA, .938 SV%)

Look at what Rangers are up against right now

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You have to really squint to find bright sides to look on if you’re the New York Rangers.

The Rangers are currently on a five-game losing streak and have one shabby win to show for their first eight games of 2017-18, and they’ll shortly face a challenge in the Nashville Predators, who are riding a five-game point streak (4-0-1 after losing their first two games).

With six of those eight games coming at home, the Rangers are really squandering opportunities in the malicious Metro. About the only positive things you can say boil down to: a) scrapping two “loser points” out of the past two games and b) the team at least saying the right things, as Rick Nash notes according to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks.

“The bad teams I’ve been on, guys get away from the game plan, they don’t give the effort and there’s finger-pointing, whether in the room between guys; from the coach; or in the media. That’s what happens when things get away from you as a team.

“None of that is happening here,” Nash said. “We’re together and we’re focusing on taking this one step at a time.”

They might be wise not to look at the divisional standings. Just consider some of the teams they’re up against:

Devils (12 points in 8 games): New Jersey currently has a perfect road record and a fleet of young legs, something the transitional Rangers must envy. Even if they’re likely to slip (being blanked by the Sharks could be an early sign of regression), the Devils figure to be a tougher out this season.

Penguins (11 points in 8 games): Not much needs to be said, though it’s worth noting that they’ve won three in a row.

Blue Jackets (10 points in 7 games): All signs point to former Rangers coach John Tortorella’s group being very much the threat that once surprised us.

Capitals (9 points in 8 games): Finding ways to win, and scrappy in particular on the road so far (3-1-1 away record).

Flyers (8 points in 7 games): Might be better than their record indicates, at least judging by their +9 goal differential. Philly has the potential to at least be a pesky “bubble” team.

Hurricanes (7 points in 5 games): Light early schedule might keep them under the radar, for now.

Islanders (7 points in 7 games): Mixed results might not help the Islanders retain John Tavares, but a competent Isles team would only make it tougher for the Rangers.

Yeesh, kind of discouraging, right?

The Rangers currently sit at four points in eight games played, and like this post argues, they really need to wake up soon. They’ve already played six home vs. two road contests, and they face a similar saturation of MSG going forward.

Counting today’s game hosting the rising Predators, the Rangers play the next three in a row at home. After that, they play three of four on the road, but then enjoy a three-game homestand.

So, by Nov. 11, they’ll have played 13 games at home and just five on the road.

One gets the sense that the seat is getting hotter for Alain Vigneault by the day. Fair or not, it might feel like it’s boiling if the Rangers are still a wreck in mid-November.

(If he still has a seat at the table, at all.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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Devils fans help singer who forgot words to national anthem (Video)

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The biggest save of the night at Prudential Center on Friday didn’t come from either goaltender, but rather New Jersey Devils fans in attendance for their game against the San Jose Sharks.

Lauralie Mufute began singing the national anthem but midway through forgot the words. That’s when the crowd of 14,381 picked up where the 14-year-old left off and finished the song.

A great job by the crowd in what certainly was a terrifying moment for the young performer.

These flaps happen, as we’ve seen many times before in different situations. It’s always good to know the crowd can act as backup singers in times of need.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Ovechkin’s blast lifts Capitals in OT, Sheary speeds by Panthers

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Player of the night: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin has already reached double digits in goals scored in this new campaign. The Capitals’ star recorded his 10th goal of the season on Friday and it counted as the overtime winner against the Detroit Red Wings.

The Capitals trailed late in the third period, but T.J. Oshie scored the tying goal and Ovechkin won it on a power play less than two minutes into the extra period, as he deployed that famous one-timer slap shot from his off-wing. This time, Petr Mrazek was victimized by the wicked slapper.

Ovechkin is now only two goals behind the entire Montreal Canadiens team — in the same amount of games.

Highlight of the night:

What a weapon speed is in today’s National Hockey League. Conor Sheary illustrated that once again, as he saw a little bit of room down the left side and flew around Alex Petrovic before making a move to the backhand on James Reimer. That goal counted as the eventual winner, as the Penguins defeated the Panthers 4-3. Earlier in the third period, Sheary and Roberto Luongo came together near the Florida net, causing Luongo’s right hand to get caught against the post, injuring the Panthers’ netminder.

Factoid of the night:

It was a milestone night in Winnipeg for Blake Wheeler and coach Paul Maurice.

Scores:

Vancouver 4, Buffalo 2

San Jose 3, New Jersey 0

Washington 4, Detroit 3 (OT)

Pittsburgh 4, Florida 3

Winnipeg 4, Minnesota 3

Anaheim 6, Montreal 2

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Video: Price takes out his frustration, as the Habs were crushed again

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It’s gone from bad, to worse, to an absolute nightmare for the Montreal Canadiens.

A three-game trip through California is never fun for opposing teams, but this was misery for the Habs. They were outscored a combined 16-5 in three games against the Sharks, Kings and Ducks, with few, if any positives beyond the second period in a 6-2 loss in Anaheim on Friday.

Montreal hasn’t won since its season opener on Oct. 5, and is now on a seven-game losing skid, unable to generate much offensively with a league worst 10 goals scored through seven games before tonight, while giving up plenty of goals at the other end.

That is a recipe for disaster and even though it’s still early in the season, this has to be a major concern for coach Claude Julien and, in particular, general manager Marc Bergevin.

Read more: Is there a trade to be made between the Penguins and Canadiens?

Down by three after the first period, Montreal had 30 shots on goal during the middle frame and managed to trim Anaheim’s lead down to one heading into the third period. And then, just when it seemed like maybe they were on a path toward an inspirational comeback on the road, it all fell apart.

Three straight goals for Anaheim, with journeyman forward Derek Grant scoring the first two goals of his NHL career — in game No. 93.

As you can probably tell from the clip below, Carey Price was visibly irritated, as he whacked his goalie stick against the post after the sixth Anaheim goal.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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