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NHL On NBC: Capitals go for nine in a row against struggling Flyers

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Due a scheduling change with the NFL playoffs there is going to be a bonus NHL on NBC game on Sunday afternoon when the Washington Capitals play host to the Philadelphia Flyers at 1 p.m. ET

Right now the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers are two teams going in very different directions.

The Flyers, winners of 10 games in a row just a little over one month ago, are now suddenly a team that can not seem to get out of their own way. They have lost 10 of their past 13 and now find themselves just one point ahead of a Carolina Hurricanes team that, after Sunday, will have three games in hand on them for a wild card spot, and only two points ahead of an Ottawa Senators team that still has four games in hand.

They are coming off of a brutal 6-3 loss in Boston less than 24 hours ago that saw them make their best young player a healthy scratch.

In other words, it is a complete 180 from what we saw from the Flyers just one month ago.

The Capitals meanwhile are starting to hit their stride and once again resemble the team that cruised to the Presidents’ Trophy with the league’s best record a year ago.

Washington comes into Sunday afternoon’s game riding an eight-game winning streak that has probably been as dominant as any of the NHL’s many lengthy winning streaks this season. The Capitals are not just winning games at the moment, they are completely blowing teams out. During this current eight-game streak they have outscored teams by a 35-11 margin, and have had wins over Columbus, Toronto, Montreal, Pittsburgh and Chicago, all teams currently occupying playoff spots. Their past three wins against the Canadiens, Penguins and Blackhawks have been especially convincing, outscoring three of the NHL’s top teams by a combined score of 15-3.

Right now pretty much everybody is playing well for the Capitals but there is perhaps no bigger individual story than the play of goaltender Braden Holtby who is somehow playing at a level higher than he was a year ago when he won the Vezina Trophy.

Entering play on Sunday Holtby is carrying a .933 save percentage (he was “only” at .922 a year ago when he won the award) and has been at his best during the current winning streak.

Dating back to Dec. 31 when this streak started for the Capitals, Holtby is 6-0 and has stopped 163 out of 170 shots (.958). That stretch includes a pair of shutouts and only two games where he has allowed more than one goal.

In front of him, the Capitals have five players that are averaging more than a point per game over the past eight games, including Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Justin Williams.

That is what the Flyers are going to have to slow down on Sunday.

‘I wasn’t good enough,’ says Lundqvist after double OT loss to Senators

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The task wasn’t impossible, but certainly daunting.

The Ottawa Senators needed five goals on Henrik Lundqvist just to send Game 2 into overtime.

The Rangers goalie had been spectacular for most of this post-season entering Saturday’s contest, but the Senators, led by a sensational four-goal performance from Jean-Gabriel Pageau, found a way to break through for a 6-5 double overtime win to take a 2-0 series lead against New York.

They did so on just 34 shots through almost 83 minutes against Lundqvist.

“I wasn’t good enough,” said Lundqvist, per the New York Daily News. “Coming up with the extra save there in the end, that’s my job. Even though it’s tough plays on deflections, I’ve got to find a way.”

On three occasions, the Rangers held a two-goal lead. That includes with under five minutes remaining in regulation. They even had a pair of shorthanded goals. But they couldn’t hang on, as Pageau scored twice in the final 3:19 of regulation to record his hat trick.

That set the stage for the eventual winner, as he beat Lundqvist over the left shoulder with a shot from his off-wing on a two-on-one rush.

With the Senators in control, the series returns to New York for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday.

“We played well enough to win this game, there’s no question about it,” said Lundqvist. “It’s really tough to lose this one. Clearly they’ve gotten the bounces here in the first two games.”

Capitals’ Holtby begins third period on the bench, Grubauer takes over in net

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Braden Holtby began the third period of Saturday’s Game 2 on the bench, giving way to Philipp Grubauer.

The Washington Capitals fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 after two periods, with Holtby allowing three goals on just 14 shots. It will be interesting to hear the reason for this decision from coach Barry Trotz following the game.

The Capitals had dominated on the shot clock, but gave up a pair of quick goals to fall further behind Pittsburgh in this game, while trailing in the series 1-0.

Phil Kessel — on a great play from Sidney Crosby — and Jake Guentzel scored 3:10 apart to give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead.

Penguins’ Hornqvist hurt after blocking shot vs. Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have had to shuffle their forward combinations in the second period, after Patric Hornqvist was hurt blocking a shot in the first period of Game 2 versus the Capitals.

The Penguins forward was in obvious pain after taking a shot right around the ankle, which is a concerning development for Pittsburgh.

Per reports, he didn’t re-join the Penguins at the bench when the second period began.

Hornqvist can be a frustrating player to go up against, and he’s productive, too, with two goals and five points in six playoff games prior to Saturday.

Moving on up: Devils win NHL Draft Lottery, secure No. 1 overall pick

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The New Jersey Devils entered the Draft Lottery with an 8.5 per cent chance of winning it. They will leave with the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NHL Draft.

The Devils finished the regular season with just 70 points, tied with Arizona for the third fewest in the overall standings. They’ve also had plenty of difficulty scoring goals in recent years, and this provides them with an opportunity to land a player — forwards Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier are expected to be the top two players selected in June — that can help remedy that.

It’s become quite a close race between the two heading into the draft, which goes June 23-24 in Chicago.

From Bob McKenzie of TSN:

For TSN’s Draft Lottery edition, five scouts ranked the 6-foot-2, 198-pound Patrick No. 1; five scouts ranked the 6-foot-1, 176-pound Hischier No. 1. The Swiss pivot has closed the gap with his dynamic play, which came at a time when Patrick’s injury-riddled season was ended prematurely by an upper-body ailment that wasn’t related to the groin/abdominal issues that plagued him for the first half of the season.

While the Devils emerged as the overall winners, the Philadelphia Flyers had an enormous rise up the board. So, too, did the Dallas Stars.

The Flyers had just a 2.2 per cent chance of winning the lottery, yet they moved all the way up into the No. 2 selection spot when it was over. The Stars, with a 5.8 per cent chance of winning the lottery, also had a good day, moving up into the No. 3 overall spot.

Here is the 2017 draft order:

  1. New Jersey Devils
  2. Philadelphia Flyers
  3. Dallas Stars
  4. Colorado Avalanche
  5. Vancouver Canucks
  6. Vegas Golden Knights
  7. Arizona Coyotes
  8. Buffalo Sabres
  9. Detroit Red Wings
  10. Florida Panthers
  11. L.A. Kings
  12. Carolina Hurricanes
  13. Winnipeg Jets
  14. Tampa Bay Lightning
  15. New York Islanders

As you see, there were a few other key developments in this lottery.

Vegas was given a 10.3 per cent chance at winning the top pick — the same odds given to the 28th place team — however, the Golden Knights will pick sixth overall. The Colorado Avalanche, which finished with a miserable 48 points and had the best odds to win lottery, now pick fourth overall.

And once again, the Canucks endured more disappointment at the lottery.

Last year, they dropped two spots, from third to fifth. Needing an impact forward in order to help kickstart their rebuild, they dropped three spots, from No. 2 to No. 5 overall, on Saturday.

Related: Report: Devils GM plans to reach out to Kovalchuk’s agent next week