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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.

UP NEXT

Blues: At New Jersey on Friday night.

Islanders: At Columbus on Saturday night.

A big night for the rookies and a big win for the Maple Leafs

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William Nylander helped get Toronto started on Thursday, extending his point streak to 10 games — a new Maple Leafs franchise record for a rookie.

Connor Brown finished it with his 17th goal of the season, securing a 4-2 win for the Maple Leafs over the New Jersey Devils.

Toronto has won three in a row and moves three points clear of Boston for third in the Atlantic Division, with a game in hand, which further helps the Maple Leafs’ playoff chances with nine games remaining on their schedule.

Just another big night for Toronto’s impressive crop of rookies.

Auston Matthews had a pair of assists.

— Nylander had a goal and an assist. He set one and tied another franchise rookie record on Thursday.

Mitch Marner had an assist, giving him 40 helpers this season, which ties the franchise rookie record set in 1943-44.

“They’re good players,” said coach Mike Babcock, per the Toronto Star. “I didn’t know Marner would make the team. I knew Matthews and Nylander were good players. I knew Brown and (Zach) Hyman were relentless. I had no idea (Nikita) Zaitsev was as close to how good he is.

“We have lots of good players.”

In May of 2015, Babcock predicted at his introductory press conference that the Maple Leafs would, during their massive rebuild, endure “pain.” This was, he said, to be a long process — a “massive, massive challenge.”

Approaching the two-year anniversary of that event — after all the losing that franchise and its fan base has gone through, which obviously helped them with the Matthews lottery last year — the Maple Leafs are poised to make the playoffs with a nucleus of young players that present even more promise for the future.

“We just want to get in to the playoffs, and give ourselves a chance,” continued Babcock. “We’re playing well, and finding a way to win games. That’s what we have to continue to do.”

Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers

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WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.

A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.

Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.

“When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”

Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

“His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.