Cam Tucker

Read bumps the slump, Flyers stifle the Habs

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) Matt Read scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period to end his long drought and lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.

Claude Giroux also scored and Sean Couturier had an empty-netter in the final seconds for the Flyers, who opened a five-game homestand – their longest of the season – by winning their fourth in the last five.

Nikita Nesterov scored for the Atlantic Division-leading Canadiens. Montreal’s 16 shots were a season low and also marked the fewest Philadelphia has allowed in a game this season.

Following Tuesday’s disheartening 5-1 loss at Carolina in which the Flyers had just six shots through 2 1/2 periods, coach Dave Hakstol benched 23-year-old defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and 19-year-old forward Travis Konecny.

Hakstol kept Read in the lineup, however, even though the Philadelphia forward hadn’t scored a goal since Nov. 3.

Read put Philadelphia in front with a perfectly placed slap shot from the slot on a 3-on-2 break with 16:28 left. Couturier set up the chance and Read finished it by beating Carey Price over his right shoulder into the top corner of the net.

Michal Neuvirth kept Philadelphia in front with a strong save on Paul Byron from close range 3 1/2 minutes later.

Neuvirth didn’t have a lot of work, finishing with 15 saves to help the Flyers improve to 10-0-1 in their last 11 home games against Montreal.

Price stopped 21 shots.

This is an important homestand for the Flyers, who began the day with a tenuous hold on the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot. Philadelphia was one point in front of Toronto for the second wild card, but eight teams were within seven points of the Flyers.

Giroux tied it on the power play with 2:10 left in the second period. The captain’s wrist shot from the top of the left circle trickled through Price’s legs.

Nesterov, playing his second game for the Canadiens, scored his fourth of the season and first since being acquired from Tampa Bay last Thursday on a slap shot 4:51 in.

Alex Galchenyuk, returning from a three-game absence due to a knee injury, made a cross-ice pass and Nesterov fired the puck past Neuvirth.

Video: Patrick Marleau’s 500th career goal was a beauty

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Welcome to the 500-goal club, Patrick Marleau.

The 37-year-old Marleau beat Ryan Miller with a perfect wrist shot in the first period against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday to hit the career milestone. Great pass, too, from Joe Pavelski for the assist.

Marleau’s path to 500 goals — he’s the 45th player in NHL history to achieve the feat — has accelerated in recent days. He scored four goals against Colorado on Jan. 23, and now has seven goals in his last five games. He’s up to 19 goals on the season.

Lundqvist and the Rangers rebound to defeat Sabres

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Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers struggled in their first game back from the All-Star break. That was Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Thursday’s contest against the Buffalo Sabres presented a totally different story for both goalie and team.

After getting pulled against the Blue Jackets — three goals allowed on 16 shots — Lundqvist was outstanding for the Rangers in a 2-1 overtime road victory over the Sabres. Chris Kreider scored the winning goal with just over a minute remaining in the extra period.

Despite the low score, the two teams combined for 81 shots on goal and it was the goalies that came up huge for their respective clubs. Robin Lehner made 42 saves and had no chance on the Kreider winner — a quick one-timer. That’s goal No. 20 for him this season.

Lundqvist made some key saves, especially in the third period as the Rangers tried to maintain the lead. He was beaten only once as Cody Franson tied the game on a wrist shot through a screen. Still, a 36-save performance is what the Rangers needed, especially after their loss to Columbus.

The Rangers move to within two points of Pittsburgh for third in the Metropolitan Division.

Video: Looks like another long night in Arizona as Hossa dangles through Coyotes

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Difficult first period for Mike Smith and the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday.

Smith allowed three goals on 14 shots, as the visiting Chicago Blackhawks opened up a 3-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes. Maybe the term ‘difficult’ doesn’t quite capture it all.

Marian Hossa wrapped up the scoring for Chicago, as he took a pass in the neutral zone, then zipped through the Coyotes defense and beat Smith stick side. It looked all too easy for Hossa. Shaping up to be another long night in Arizona for the rebuilding Coyotes.

Oh, and how about the season Hossa is having? With the increased speed and talented, youthful players, the NHL game these days is always referred to as a young man’s game.

There are exceptions, of course. Hossa being one of them.

He’s 38 years old, but now has 19 goals this season, which is a huge improvement from his 13-goal campaign a year ago. Hitting the 30-goal mark is definitely a possibility. He last achieved that single-season milestone in the 2013-14 season.

Report: Pierre Lacroix interested in NHL comeback with Avalanche

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Some interesting news surrounding the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday. And no, this doesn’t involve any big-name players potentially on the trading block.

Not yet, anyway.

Pierre Lacroix, now 68 years old, is reportedly open to an NHL comeback, according to Adrian Dater of Bleacher Report, adding his preference is with the Avalanche. Lacroix stepped down as GM of the Avalanche in May of 2006, essentially saying at the time that he wanted to spend more time with his family.

He left behind a legacy as the architect of a Colorado team that won two Stanley Cups (1996 and 2001) and always seemed to contend for the Western Conference during his tenure.

More from Bleacher Report:

The Avs currently are led by franchise icon Joe Sakic, and it might be too awkward for owner Josh Kroenke to oust him in favor of his old boss, Lacroix. Many critics of the way the Avs have run things the past few years say the team has gone back to the well of nostalgia too much already, bringing in Sakic as GM and Roy as coach for three years. 

This would be a bit different, though. Unlike Sakic and Roy at the time of their respective hires by Colorado, Lacroix has plenty of experience at the job. He also deeply cares about the franchise, and, the NHL sources said, is saddened by its decline. He is a man of immense pride, so he would not even consider coming back and tarnishing his great legacy if he thought he wasn’t up to the job.

This report comes with the Avalanche enduring another disastrous season.

Patrick Roy abruptly quit as the team’s head coach in the summer before the season began. Colorado has only one win in the new year and sits at the bottom of the NHL standings — by 10 points.

This could be a historically bad team in the salary cap era by the time this season is done.

For Sakic, he has quite a mess to clean up in Colorado. Meanwhile, Jarome Iginla has made public his hopes to get traded to a playoff team ahead of the deadline.