The streak goes on: Capitals win ninth in a row and are crushing everybody

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This one was impressive.

For 40 minutes on Sunday the Washington Capitals looked to be sleepwalking through their game against the Philadelphia Flyers and might even need their backup goalie, Philipp Grubauer, to steal one for them.

Then they woke up just in time for the third period.

Thanks in part to a four-goal outburst in the first seven minutes of the third period, the Capitals were able to extend their current winning streak to nine games with a dominating 5-0 win over the Flyers.

That stretch of play perfectly demonstrated the firepower this Capitals team has and the ridiculous level it is currently playing at. It also showed what can happen when you don’t capitalize on the chances they give you, and how quickly they can capitalize on the chances you give them.

The Flyers had several opportunities to turn this game in their favor, and for most of the game were carrying the play. But an 0-for-4 performance from the Flyers’ power play through the first two periods kept the door open for the Capitals. All they needed was a couple of Flyers turnovers to kick the door open.

This goal from Matt Niskanen to make it 3-0 was probably the best of the game. Just look at the puck movement and the way Alex Ovechkin just completely freezes Flyers goalie Steve Mason.

The numbers during this streak are simply staggering for the Capitals. A few of them that stand out after Sunday’s game.

  • They are outscoring teams 40-11 during the streak
  • They have not allowed an even-strength goal in six straight games
  • During those six games, a stretch that has included games against Columbus, Ottawa, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Philadelphia, they are outscoring teams 26-3.
  • They are controlling more than 54 percent of the even-strength shot attempts in those games, which means they are not only dominating on the scoreboard but also outplaying some of the best teams in the league (specifically referring to Columbus, Montreal, Pittsburgh and Chicago) by a significant margin.
  • They have won three games by at least five goals, while six of them have been won by a multiple goal margin.

The other thing Sunday’s win did? It moved the Capitals back into the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

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They are in Pittsburgh on Monday for another game with the Penguins after beating them 5-2 on Monday.

As for the Flyers? Well … this game simply capped off a terrible weekend that saw them lose two games by a combined score of 11-3 and bring their current slump to 11 losses in their past 14 games.

They remain just a single point ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes for the second Wild Card spot and only two points ahead of the Ottawa Senators. The Hurricanes now have three games in hand on them. The Senators have five. That could be a problem.

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.