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The goals are starting to come for Andrew Ladd

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NEW YORK (AP) Andrew Ladd is hoping a couple of goals Tuesday night can get him and the New York Islanders rolling headed into the second half of the season.

“When pucks start going in, your confidence is a lot higher,” Ladd said after he and Anders Lee scored 43 seconds apart early in the third period to lift the New York Islanders over the Washington Capitals 4-3 on Tuesday night.

Ladd had two goals and Cal Clutterbuck added another for New York, which improved to 14-14-6 overall and 11-7-4 at home. Jaroslav Halak stopped 31 of 34 shots for the Islanders.

“You’re probably looking to shoot more than you are when things aren’t going your way,” said Ladd, who has seven goals in his first season with New York. “I’ve been around long enough to know that when things start to go your way, you’ve got to ride that as long as you can.”

While the Islanders are talking about building from the ground up, the Capitals left New York as an irritated group.

Despite getting goals from Justin Williams, Alex Ovechkin and Andre Burakovsky, Washington fell to 20-9-4 with its third loss in four games. Braden Holtby stopped 27 shots.

New York never trailed in the third meeting this month between the longtime rivals.

Still it took a 1-2 combination from Ladd and Lee to put New York in position to win its third straight game.

Ladd broke a 2-2 tie 4:41 into the third by shoveling Alan Quine‘s pass into the net. Signed to a seven-year, $38.5 million free agent contract on July 1, Ladd scored two goals in a game for the first time as an Islander.

“Once you’re a scorer, you’re a scorer,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “They’re (going to) come. Even last year, it came in bunches for him after Christmas. He works hard. If you continue to work hard, good things are (going to) happen.”

Lee followed with a breakaway score at 5:24 for a two-goal lead. Lee snapped a wrist shot that beat Holtby cleanly.

“A move that’s beaten me a few times this year,” Holtby said. “I can deal with different goals here and there, but when it’s a pattern like that and I haven’t fixed it, that’s frustrating.”

Burakovsky cut the deficit to 4-3 with his fourth goal with 6:55 left. After Burakovsky’s score, New York killed two minor penalties to close up shop. The Islanders killed all four Washington power plays for the game.

Ovechkin opened the third period by scoring on a backhander at 1:17 to tie it at 2.

Ladd’s sixth goal gave the Islanders their second lead of the game, 2-1, at the 14:03 mark of the second. Stationed at the far post, Ladd was able to tap in Thomas Hickey‘s shot from the left side.

New York took a 1-0 lead 8:02 into the game on Clutterbuck’s third of the season, his first since Nov. 7, and the 99th of his NHL career.

“You think it’s going hard, it goes soft and handcuffs you,” Holtby said. “I didn’t really know where it was.”

Williams tied it 5:22 later by poking a rebound of Ovechkin’s shot past Halak. After the goal, Halak appeared to complain that he had been interfered with by Williams.

Williams was called for goaltender interference midway through the second period after colliding with Halak behind the New York net.

NOTES: Holtby entered with a career record of 12-2-3 with a 2.18 goals against average and .928 save percentage in 17 games against the Islanders. … New York scratched G Thomas Griess and RW Stephen Gionta. … Islanders C Casey Cizikas missed his fifth straight game with an upper-body injury. … Washington scratched D Taylor Chorney, LW Zachary Sanford and LW Daniel Winnik. … The Islanders and Capitals will end their regular season series Jan. 31 in New York.

UP NEXT

Capitals: Host New Jersey on Thursday night in the first half of a home-and-home.

Islanders: Begin a four-game trip Thursday night at Minnesota.

Blues re-sign goalie Binnington

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Jordan Binnington, the netminder taken 88th overall by the Blues in 2011, has signed a one-year, two-way extension, the club announced on Friday.

Binnington, 24, has played almost exclusively with St. Louis’ AHL affiliate since turning pro four years ago, though he did spend some time in the ECHL.

Last year he worked alongside Ville Husso and Pheonix Copley in the Wolves’ goal, and will likely do so again with Husso moving forward (Copley was traded to Washington as part of the Kevin Shattenkirk deal.)

Binnington’s NHL body of work is brief — one 13-minute relief appearance during the ’15-16 campaign. Right now he’s jockeying with Husso to be the organization’s No. 3 netminder, a potential call-up should either Jake Allen or Carter Hutton get hurt.

Chris Neil wants a one-way deal, and says he’s received offers

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Here’s what we know about veteran tough guy Chris Neil.

He won’t be back in Ottawa, the city where he’s spent his entire 15-year career. But he does want to keep playing. What’s more, he’s not ready to accept a two-way deal or training camp PTO, because offers for a one-way deal have already come in.

“The offers I’ve had so far haven’t been [two way or PTO]. They’ve been a one-way deal,” the 37-year-old forward said, per the Ottawa Sun. “For me, that’s what I’d be looking for.

“It’s up in the air right now. There’s some interest. There’s some teams you’d prefer over others.”

Neil was informed by the Sens last month that he wouldn’t be brought back next season, which marked the end of an era. Ottawa took Neil in the sixth round of the 1998 draft, and he made his NHL debut three years later. He went on to become one of the club’s most recognizable players, in large part to his pugilistic ways — during the 2003-04 campaign, he fought a remarkable 24 times.

That trademark toughness could be something teams are interested in bringing aboard. There were rumblings St. Louis was eyeing him after trading Ryan Reaves to Pittsburgh, with Fox Sports Midwest reporting that Neil had three offers on the table.

If there’s one thing that’s for certain, it’s that Neil believes he can still play. After learning that he wouldn’t be brought back to the Canadian capital, he had some choice words for Sens head coach Guy Boucher and the perceived lack of opportunity Boucher afforded him.

“I have a lot of respect for Randy [Lee, Sens assistant GM] and Pierre [Dorion, GM] … I think, if it was up to them, I’d be back,” Neil explained, per the Citizen. “But they kind of put it in the coach’s hands and that had a lot to do with it. For whatever reason, Guy [Boucher] never really gave me the chance to show I can play.

“Even before I got hurt, I was a healthy scratch for a couple of games and I saw the writing on the wall.”

After tough year in Florida, Smith ready to reunite with ‘players-first’ Gallant

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For Reilly Smith, the anticipation of playing for Las Vegas next season goes beyond playing for the league’s newest team.

It’s also about playing for his old coach, Gerard Gallant.

“I think he kind of embodies the motto that it’s a players-first league and everything kind of revolves around that,” Smith said, per the Golden Knights website. “I know particularly last year in the Florida Panthers organization, there was a lot of change and things going on and I know one of the main messages that he always put forth was that whatever goes on outside, make sure you guys are a tight-knit group inside and play for each other.

“That was one thing that he definitely tried to convey to the team and try to get us to rally behind.”

Smith’s time in Florida was a two-part tale.

After coming over from Boston as part of the Jimmy Hayes swap — Marc Savard’s contract was also shipped to Florida — Smith had a terrific ’15-16 campaign under Gallant, posting career highs in goals (25) while helping the Panthers qualify for the playoffs.

In the postseason, he was a consistent scoring threat, finishing the series with four goals and eight points in six games.

Year two wasn’t nearly as successful.

Gallant was fired early on — controversially so — and Smith’s production dropped off. He ended with just 15 goals and 37 points, disappointing figures that were exacerbated by the big five-year, $25 million extension he signed in the offseason.

Reading between the lines, fair to suggest Smith struggled with the coaching change from Gallant to Tom Rowe. Things came to a head in early March, when Rowe called out Smith following a loss to Dallas.

On the Stars’ first goal, Smith seemed to lose his man in front of the net. Rowe was asked about it, and responded.

“We went over that exact play in team meeting and we haven’t learned our lesson yet,” he said. “That is the problem.”

Rowe wasn’t done there. Later, he was asked about Dallas’ winning goal, which may have been deflected in off a skate. The criticism went back to Smith.

“I don’t know,” said Rowe. “All I know is Reilly Smith was blowing the zone doing exactly what he is not supposed to be doing.”

Smith will certainly be a guy to watch this season. He’s still only 26 years old, looking for a bounce back, and noted that Gallant gave him the opportunity to play a larger role than he had with the Bruins (and, prior to that, the Stars).

One wonders if that’ll happen again, this time in Vegas.

Subban ‘can’t really envision’ Habs without Markov

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The Montreal Canadiens’ defense looks a lot different than it did two years ago.

For the second offseason in a row, the Canadiens have walked away from a seemingly important puck-moving defenseman. Last summer, they traded P.K. Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber, and yesterday they announced that they were parting ways with Andrei Markov.

Markov and Subban played a lot of minutes together during their time time in Montreal. The two even became good friends (Subban attended Markov’s wedding earlier this month).

Needless to say, when Subban found out that Markov wasn’t going to be returning to the Canadiens, he was pretty surprised.

“I can’t really envision the Montreal Canadiens without Andrei Markov on the blue line. That’s No. 1. Even before I played for the team, I watched him play for the team and be their best defenseman,” The Preds defenseman told NHL.com’s Arpon Basu. “Even while I was there, I still thought he was our best defenseman, even though a lot of people thought because of what I got paid it was me. You can’t really put a price tag on how he plays because he’s so smart, the way he sees the ice.”

With those two players no longer on the team, it’ll be interesting to see who moves the puck for the Habs. Shea Weber is still playing at a high level, but carrying the puck up the ice isn’t his strongest attribute.

GM Marc Bergevin added Mark Streit, Karl Alzner and David Schlemko this offseason, but none of those guys can do the things Markov is capable of doing when it comes to moving the puck efficiently.

Is there another move on the horizon?

Well, Montreal has a huge hole on the left side of their defense and they have over $8 million in cap space. Maybe there is something brewing.

Related:

Andrei Markov opts for KHL after saying goodbye to Canadiens

Habs president pens glowing farewell letter to Markov

Habs sign Streit–is he Markov’s replacement?