Capitals home-ice dominance continues with OT win over Flyers

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WASHINGTON (AP) Nicklas Backstrom scored a power-play goal in overtime to lift the Washington Capitals over the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 on Saturday night and extend their franchise-record home winning streak to 15.

Backstrom ended the Capitals’ power-play frustrations by beating Steve Mason 3:25 into overtime for his 20th goal of the season. It came with Flyers defenseman Michael Del Zotto in the penalty box for holding, the 12th minor penalty of the game.

Dmitry Orlov also scored for NHL-leading Washington, which got 30 saves from Braden Holtby. Mason stopped 22 of 24 shots, while Sean Couturier snapped out of his offensive slump to score Philadelphia’s goal.

The Flyers went 0 for 6 on the power play and are 0 for 15 this season against the Capitals.

The teams’ playoff series last spring and two contentious recent meetings turned up the intensity from the drop of the puck. Not surprisingly, Capitals disturber extraordinaire Tom Wilson and big Flyers wing Tom Wilson were part of some pushing and shoving in the first minute.

Justin Williams, feisty in facing the team he began his career with, got into it with Philadelphia’s Nick Cousins a couple of shifts later. There were plenty of big hits, extra taps and hard feelings, and Wilson and Simmonds even spent a commercial break jawing at each other on the benches.

When they calmed down with the antics and played hockey, the Capitals and Flyers traded offensive chances at even strength even as they played two periods without a goal.

Philadelphia finally cracked Holtby 1:19 into the third period when Couturier redirected a pass from Matt Read into the net for his first goal since Feb. 2. The lead lasted just 81 seconds until Orlov busted in over the blue line and fired a long-range shot that beat Mason clean at 2:40 of the third.

Mason made a series of jaw-dropping saves over the course of the game, including one with his mask in overtime. But there wasn’t much he could do on Backstrom’s 4-on-3 winner, when the Swedish center snapped a shot from near the right faceoff dot.

Into the fire: Halak, recalled yesterday, starts for Isles in Pittsburgh

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A little scene setting for you.

New York heads into tonight’s massive game in Pittsburgh sitting two points back of Boston for the final wild card in the Eastern Conference. The Isles have two games in hand on the B’s — who are idle tonight — so a win could move them into a playoff spot.

As such, the Isles will start a goalie that hasn’t played in the NHL in 85 days.

Against the league’s highest-scoring offense.

The goalie in question is Jaroslav Halak, who’s spent the last three months playing for the Isles’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. Recalled yesterday, Halak will now face big league competition for the first time since Dec. 29, when he allowed four goals on 24 shots in a loss to Minnesota.

(Afterward, then-head coach Jack Capuano ripped Halak, saying he gave up “some soft goals to start” and “wasn’t sharp at all.”)

But Halak’s been really good in Bridgeport.

He’s posted a 17-7-1 record with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. And given how spotty Berube’s play has been as Greiss’ backup, the Isles really had no other choice than to recall Halak.

The club is in the midst of a compacted part of the schedule. Greiss was excellent in Wednesday’s win over the Rangers — stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 victory — but he was also busy.

The Isles are in Pittsburgh tonight, then host the Bruins on Saturday — another massive game — then host the Preds on Monday. It’s a compact part of the schedule, and Berube’s struggles have rendered him virtually unplayable, given how meaningful the games are (and, to borrow a timeless cliche, how vital points are at this time of the year.)

So it’s Halak tonight, and possibly more down the stretch.

For Tuukka Rask and the Bruins, a ‘bad goal’ at the worst possible time

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The growing ranks of Tuukka Rask detractors gained some serious ammunition during last night’s loss to Tampa Bay.

The deciding goal in the 6-3 defeat was a “bad one,” according to Rask and most anyone else who was watching.

It may have been a hard shot by Jonathan Drouin, unleashed at the top of the circle, but it still should’ve been stopped.

After the game, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters that Rask “needed to be better tonight.”

In fact, Rask hasn’t been very good the past few months. Since Jan. 1, his save percentage is just .888. But with nobody trustworthy behind him, he’s had to just play through his struggles.

It’s impossible to say if Rask’s numbers would be better if the Bruins had a more capable backup. He’d be more rested, though. And when he was struggling, the coach would at least have another option to consider. With an .897 save percentage on the season, Anton Khudobin simply hasn’t been reliable enough to garner that consideration.

Don’t expect Rask to get the next game off. Saturday in Brooklyn, the Bruins — losers of four straight in regulation, and suddenly on the verge of falling out of the playoff picture — face the Islanders in arguably the biggest game of both teams’ seasons.

Bolts recall Koekkoek, putting Garrison’s status into doubt

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The Tampa Bay Lightning, after earning a big win last night in Boston, may not have defenseman Jason Garrison tonight in Detroit.

The Bolts recalled d-man Slater Koekkoek from AHL Syracuse this morning — a move that would seem to put Garrison’s status into doubt against the Red Wings.

Garrison was forced to leave the Bruins game in the second period with a lower-body injury.

Koekkoek has played 29 games for the Lightning this season, recording no goals and four assists.

Melnyk blasts ‘whiner’ Crosby, who won’t face hearing for Methot slash

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Sidney Crosby won’t face a disciplinary hearing for his slash on Ottawa d-man Marc Methot, an NHL spokesman confirmed — news that won’t be welcomed by Sens owner Eugene Melnyk.

The incident occurred during Ottawa’s 2-1 win on Thursday night, and forced Methot from the game with a bloodied, lacerated finger. The club later announced that Methot would be “out for weeks” with the injury.

Crosby’s slash came two nights after he speared Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly below the belt. It should be noted that neither the O’Reilly spear or Methot slash resulted in penalty calls, and neither was subjected to supplementary discipline.

One individual that’s guaranteed to be upset with today’s news is Melynk. He appeared on TSN 1200 radio this morning and seemed to suggest the league was looking into the Crosby-Methot incident.

He also had a few choice words for No. 87: