Islanders continue uplifting (and well-timed) hot streak

NEW YORK (AP) The New York Islanders have started winning with regularity and Anders Lee‘s sudden scoring touch is a major reason why.

Lee’s second goal of the game with just over seven minutes remaining lifted the Islanders to a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Lee’s go-ahead score on a slap shot came after Casey Cizikas won a faceoff in the Blues zone and sent the puck back to Lee, who rifled it past Allen with 7:18 left for his eighth of the season.

“It was a great job by Casey. That one found its way,” said Lee, who now has seven goals in his last eight games. “What makes this little run special is they’ve all been team wins.”

John Tavares also scored and Thomas Greiss stopped 24 shots to help the Islanders improve their season-best stretch to 5-0-1 in their last six games.

“We’re playing with resiliency and emotion,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “We have that `no quit’ attitude.”

Robby Fabbri and Kyle Brodziak had goals for the Blues, who fell to 3-7-1 away from home while going 12-1-3 at Scottrade Center. Jake Allen, who came in with eight straight wins, finished with 24 saves.

Fabbri opened the scoring for the Blues at 4:36 of the first, knocking the puck past Greiss for his sixth of the season.

Lee answered for the Islanders at 6:51, just 12 seconds after Blues forward Jori Lehtera was penalized for high-sticking. Lee tipped Nick Leddy‘s shot from the point past Allen.

Tavares then scored his eighth goal with a shot from the high slot at 8:31 to put the Islanders ahead 2-1.

“We were pushing the whole game, it was intense until the end,” Fabbri said. “They are getting pucks in and playing hard.”

Tavares, who also has 13 assists this season and leads the Islanders with 21 points, has 492 career points. The 26-year-old center needs eight points to become the 10th player in franchise history to reach the 500-point mark.

Brodziak scored the only goal of the second at 3:33 to knot the score at 2. Fabbri and defenseman Joel Edmundson had assists on Brodziak’s third goal this season.

The Islanders came into the game off an emotional 4-2 win over the Rangers on Tuesday night at Barclays Center. They also defeated Pittsburgh and Washington last week.

“We’re playing hard and figuring it out. It takes time,” Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck said of this team’s recent surge. “The effort is there. We’re eliminated confusion and mental errors. It’s a sign of team maturity. ”

St. Louis also lost both meetings with the Islanders last season. The Islanders hadn’t won three straight from the Blues since a five-game winning streak from Feb. 23, 1984, to Oct. 26, 1985.

“They are a good team and they’re on a roll,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We need more from our top-end guys. We had a chance to win, we were it perfect position and didn’t take advantage of it.”

The Islanders are in a stretch where they will play 10 out of 14 games at home. By the time they host the Capitals on Dec. 27, they will have played 22 of their first 34 games at home.

They know they’ll have to made good use of playing at their home rink in Brooklyn, where they are 9-4-4 this season. Last year, they won 25 times at home and finished with 100 points.

“We have to compete, making sure we’re winning battles,” Capuano added. “It’s our work ethic and determination. That’s how we have to play.”

St. Louis opened a four-game, six-day road trip after a 4-0-1 homestand, capped by a 3-2 overtime win over Montreal on Tuesday night after the Blues rallied from two goals down.

NOTES: Forwards Nail Yakupov and Ty Rattie were healthy scratches for the Blues. … Islanders D Johnny Boychuk was back after missing the win against the Rangers on Tuesday because of the flu. … The Islanders scratched F Ryan Strome (flu) and D Scott Mayfield.


Blues: At New Jersey on Friday night.

Islanders: At Columbus on Saturday night.

The Buzzer: Kane net four; Preds first to clinch

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Players of the Night:

Evander Kane, San Jose Sharks: It took him 565 NHL games and three teams, but Kane now has his first NHL hat trick. Then he made sure to grab his first four-goal NHL game for the hell of it. Kane has five goals and 10 points in eight games since the trade deadline, the most of any player dealt this year on deadline day.

Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators: Hoffman had an assist in regulation and then one-timed his fifth game-winning goal of the season in overtime to help the Senators past the Dallas Stars.

Nashville Predators: For no other reason than they claimed first blood in a 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche, becoming the first team this season to clinch a playoff spot.

Highlights of the Night:

Bravo, Johnny:

Kane’s hat trick goal:



Factoids of the Night:


Senators 3, Stars 2 (OT)

Capitals 6, Islanders 3

Predators 4, Avalanche 2

Sharks 7, Flames 4

Ducks 4, Red Wings 2

Wild 4, Golden Knights 2

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Rangers getting a good look at the future, despite playoff disappointment

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Silver linings for teams far off the playoff line are few and far between at this time of the year.

But if there is one that can be taken for any team looking at re-tooling or rebuilding for next season, it’s the ability to take a look at the future crop against NHL adversaries.

The New York Rangers are one of these teams. They declared themselves open for business prior to the trade deadline and dealt away some big names, including Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh, for some younger talent.

They’re also facing a challenge with aging goaltender Henrik Lundqvist who, as great as he is, won’t win the battle with Father Time.

Needing to fill holes at several positions, the Rangers have been able to take a good look at a couple of promising prospects, including what may well be their future between the pipes.

New York has played rookie Alexandar Georgiev six times and owns a 3-2-0 record since he played his first NHL game on Feb. 22. Despite picking up the loss, Georgiev allowed just two goals on 40 shots for a .950 save percentage.

He’d give up four in his next start the following night, but since then has amassed three straight wins, including a 37-save performance on Wednesday against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. He’ll be called upon again on Saturday, another test and another chance for evaluation.

The inital analysis is promising. Georgiev is sitting on a very respectable .929 save percentage in his brief time in the NHL and he’s already turning heads around the league.’s Kevin Woodley’s wrote that Georgiev is taking after the likes of Andrei Vasilevskiy, Semyon Varlamov and Sergei Bobrovsky — some pretty good company.

Blueshirt Banter’s Tom Urtz Jr. took a really deep dive in Georgiev, concluding by calling him a “pleasant surprise.”

There’s a lot to like about him, his potential is visible, and the circumstances are set up in his favor for him to be able to prove himself more in an extended setting next season,” Urtz Jr. wrote.

Shifting to the men in the rearguard, Neal Pionk is making the most the big minutes he’s been getting over the past 17 games, and he’s starting to produce.

Pionk is on a three-game point streak with five assists during that span.

Also 22 and also undrafted, Pionk, like Georgiev, is showing real promise on defense.

“He competes hard and he’s got a good skill set,” Vigneault told on Friday. “He can make that good pass and there’s no doubt that in his college and prior to that, he was considered an offensive defenseman. He’d join the rush and was good on the power play, so there is some upside there with him. We need to continue to work at his game and continue to improve it.”

The Rangers appear to have some budding young talent and an array of players to build around with the likes Pavel Buchnevich, Vladislav Namestnikov and Jimmy Vesey — assuming they sign the latter two who are set to become RFAs at the end of this season.

And perhaps most importantly, the Rangers, who have long held the distinction as a team where old players go to get older, seem to finally be favoring youth over past-their-prime talent.

That’s good news for Rangers fans.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Ducks lose Bieksa for 2-5 weeks


ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Anaheim Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa will be out for two to five weeks after surgery to remove scar tissue from his left hand.

Bieksa is having surgery Friday, the Ducks announced.

The 36-year-old Bieksa has eight assists in 59 games this season for Anaheim, which is fighting to get into playoff position with three weeks left in the regular season.

Anaheim recalled defenseman Korbinian Holzer from its AHL affiliate in San Diego before facing the Detroit Red Wings at Honda Center on Friday night.

The Ducks have won five consecutive Pacific Division titles and made five straight postseason appearances, reaching the Western Conference finals last season. But Anaheim (35-24-12) began this weekend out of playoff position and in fourth place in the Pacific.

More AP NHL:

Canadiens need to look in mirror before moving forward


The Montreal Canadiens have been a colossal disappointment in 2017-18. Instead of building on their first-round playoff exit from last year, the Habs have bottomed out as one of the worst teams in the league from day one of the season.

The highs have been short and the lows have been long, but it sounds like current general manager Marc Bergevin will get an opportunity to improve his underwhelming roster. As owner and team president Geoff Molson reiterated at a team foundation event on Friday morning, Bergevin isn’t going anywhere.

“It has not been a satisfactory season so far,” Molson told PHT on Friday morning. “Marc and I both know that, the whole organization knows that. And I think if you asked every player, every coach and every person that’s involved, they’d all say the same thing. We have to get better. Marc knows that and I tell him that. He acknowledges that and he agrees with it, of course.

“There’s no question that I think Marc is very capable of accomplishing that, but he and I both know that this season’s been unsatisfactory.”

Don’t be mistaken, Molson also said the team will make adjustments to the way they operate before the start of next season. Someone is going to take the fall for this disaster, but it won’t be Bergevin.

When asked if the Canadiens have to make the playoffs next season, Molson hesitated before saying that he wasn’t sure how he wanted to express himself regarding next season. Those are things he wants to answer closer to next fall, but he also added that it’s important for the team to always do everything they can to be competitive every year.

Like most teams, the Habs will be in the mix for John Tavares if he becomes a free agent on July 1st. Whether or not they rebuild or retool might depend on if they can land Tavares, which has be considered a serious long shot at this point. But if he does decide to join former Team Canada teammates Carey Price and Shea Weber in Montreal, the Canadiens would once again be seen as legitimate playoff hopefuls.

“Do we need a franchise player? Probably,” said Molson, without ever mentioning the Islanders forward’s name. “And that’s something I see as an opportunity for us.”

Who knows what the plan is if they can’t land Tavares in free agency. All we really know for sure, is that the owner expects everyone to be better heading into next season. Molson isn’t putting the blame on any one particular person, but he acknowledged several times that the way this season unfolded was not acceptable.

“I’m not really going to point any fingers,” said Molson.

“So you can look at players, you can look at coaching, you can look at scouting, you can look at player development, you can look at the general manager, you could look everywhere and say there are areas to improve, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

It’ll be interesting to see just how long it takes for those improvements to turn into on-ice success for a that hasn’t won a Stanley Cup in 25 years.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.