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Stastny leaves game with lower-body injury, Blues prevail over Maple Leafs in OT

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TORONTO (AP) Vladimir Tarasenko strode through the neutral zone, dipped around a Toronto forward, deked out another and fired a shot past Frederik Andersen for another victory for the surging St. Louis Blues.

The Blues improved to 4-1-0 under new coach Mike Yeo, beating the Maple Leafs 2-1 in overtime at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday night. St. Louis has allowed only six goals in five games under Yeo – including one in the last three outings – with goaltending from Jake Allen primarily taking a big leap forward.

Allen stopped 31 shots against the Leafs after posting a 30-save shutout two nights earlier.

“I think guys are all just jumping on board, playing hard for each other and doing the little things,” the 26-year-old Allen said about the energy around the group since the coaching change that saw Yeo replace Ken Hitchcock last week.

An assistant coach with the club previously, Yeo was due to take over the St. Louis bench next season, getting a head-start when the 65-year-old Hitchcock was dismissed amid a shaky first few months this season. The Blues had the third-best record in the NHL last season and went all the way to the Western Conference final, unable to hit those notes consistently this year.

“I really appreciate the mindset of our players right now,” Yeo said. “We recognized that that was an area of our game that we needed to improve. You can see that the commitment’s there as far as how we’re blocking shots, how we’re paying a price and doing the little things.

“But I’m going to keep saying this: we’re not there yet, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Among the better defensive clubs in hockey last year, the Blues were surrendering more than three goals per-game at the time of Hitchcock’s firing. The worst goaltending in the league – from Allen and backup Carter Hutton – was largely to blame, though players have noted an uptick in defensive details along with some strategic tweaks from Yeo, who served as Minnesota’s head coach for five seasons.

“I think just more commitment, more discipline,” Allen said.

Playing their third game in four nights, the Blues persisted without Paul Stastny for much of the game, the 31-year-old center leaving the game with a lower-body injury after one shift in the second period. The team had no update on his status after the game.

Yeo was pleased not only with Allen’s performance but his team’s response to a “little adversity”, namely losing Stastny, who leads the team’s forward group in ice-time at nearly 20 minutes per game.

Patrik Berglund also scored for St. Louis. Morgan Rielly scored for Toronto, and Andersen made 38 saves.

The Blues outshot Toronto 17-4 over the first 20 minutes, grabbing the first goal from Berglund. The 6-foot-5 Swedish center pounced on a blocked shot in the high slot and whipped a shot under Andersen’s glove.

The Leafs finally got one past Allen with 1:04 left in the second. Nazem Kadri drove down the right side and fired a shot at Allen, the rebound trickling off William Nylander toward the weak-side to Rielly.

It was only the second goal of the season for Rielly and the first since Nov. 11.

Capitals preparing to be without Burakovsky for ‘some time’ due to hand injury

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The Washington Capitals were victorious once again, but there is now concern about an injury to one of their young forwards.

Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky left Thursday’s game versus Detroit in the first period after taking a shot off his right hand. He didn’t return, and is now expected to miss “some time,” according to coach Barry Trotz following his team’s 6-3 victory.

That said, the coach didn’t yet know if the injury will require surgery, per CSN Mid-Atlantic.

The Capitals play the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday, before their bye week kicks in, giving them six days in between games.

“We have one game until our break, so Zach Sanford will go in,” said Trotz, per the Washington Post. “He’s done a really good job in Hershey. We’ll reassess it after that point. We’ve got five days to sort of figure out what we’re going to do there.”

The high-scoring Capitals now have an eight-point lead in the Metropolitan Division. Burakovsky has 11 goals and 29 points in 52 games this season.

Panthers fall victim to bye-week ‘hangover’

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How bad did things get for the Florida Panthers on Thursday?

Well, James Reimer got the start and was then pulled and replaced by Roberto Luongo after giving up three goals on eight shots. Luongo didn’t fare any better, surrendering three goals on 12 shots before he was given the hook, meaning Reimer was put back in the Panthers net for the duration of the game.

In the end, the Panthers came back from their bye week and were handed a 6-3 defeat at the hands of the L.A. Kings.

That ends a three-game winning streak for Florida, which only finally got back to full health and is looking to climb the Eastern Conference standings in the playoff race.

“It wasn’t pretty. Everyone knows it wasn’t pretty. We’re going to forget about it and move on. It was a bad game from start to the end of it,” said Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe, per the Sun Sentinel.

“We’ve been off four or five days so you saw the hangover from that. It’s not an excuse, just the reality. … [The tape’s] already being burnt.”

The loss means Florida stays four points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the East.

The Panthers now begin a five-game road trip, and it’s shaping up to be a difficult one. They’re in Nashville on Saturday, before flying out to California for games (three in four nights) against San Jose, Anaheim and L.A., before the trip concludes on Feb. 20 in St. Louis.

Corey Perry bumps scoring slump in win over Sabres

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Corey Perry scored twice and added an assist, and the Anaheim Ducks snapped a three-game skid with a 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.

Rickard Rakell scored to break a 1-1 tie 55 seconds into the third period, Antoine Vermette and Andrew Cogliano, with an empty-netter, also scored for the Ducks, who were 0-2-1 in opening a six-game road trip. John Gibson stopped 22 shots to earn his second win in his past six appearances. Anaheim also picked up its 68th point to move two ahead of third-place Edmonton in the Pacific Division standings.

Perry broke out of a major slump by ending a six-game goal drought and scoring for just the fourth time 26 games. It also marked his first multigoal game since scoring three times in a 4-2 win over Los Angeles last Feb. 28.

Jack Eichel and Rasmus Ristolainen scored for Buffalo, which lost in regulation at home for the first time since a 4-2 defeat to Boston on Dec. 29. The Sabres had gone 6-0-1 since, including a 5-4 overtime win over San Jose on Tuesday in which Buffalo overcame a three-goal deficit in the final 12 minutes of the third period.

The Sabres were out of rallies against an Anaheim opponent that broke the game open with three goals to build a 4-1 in the first 5:46 of the third period.

And Ducks coach Randy Carlyle’s decision to provide a boost to Perry by having Rakell center the line paid off immediately.

Perry set up Rakell’s go-ahead goal. Rakell skated from his own zone untouched and crossed Buffalo’s blue line. He fed a pass to Perry, who drove into the slot before sending the puck to Rakell in the lower left circle, where he roofed a shot inside the post before goalie Robin Lehner could get across.

Vermette made it 3-1 with a power-play goal just under five minutes later, when he was parked in front and deflected in Brandon Montour’s shot from the right point. And Perry capped the surge by converting a rebound after Lehner whiffed in stopping Rakell’s shot from the left circle.

Perry, who has topped 30 goals six times in 11 seasons, has 11 goals this season.

He opened the scoring with a great individual effort with 3 seconds left in the opening period. Stripping defenseman Jake McCabe of the puck along the right boards, Perry skated behind the net, came out the other side and wound his way untouched into the slot from where he beat Lehner through the legs.

Lehner made 39 saves.

The Sabres tied it on Eichel’s power-play goal 6:04 into the second period – and 2 seconds after Ducks defenseman Brandon Montour was penalized for tripping. Ryan O'Reilly won the faceoff in the right circle, and Kyle Okposo drew the puck back to Eichel, who snapped in a low shot inside the left post.

The shot beat Gibson, who had just returned to the ice after missing the start of the second period because of an equipment issue. Backup Jonathan Bernier stopped the two shots he faced in place of Gibson.

Bruins defeat Sharks in first game since firing Claude Julien

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Facing the top team in the Pacific Division, the Boston Bruins won their first game since firing coach Claude Julien on Tuesday.

The decision to fire Julien drew criticism for the timing of the news, which occurred during the New England Patriots championship parade the same day. But it also put Bruins management under further scrutiny for the club’s numerous shortfalls on its roster.

Yet despite the tumultuous times of the past few days and weeks, the Bruins came away victorious on a snowy night in Boston.

The Bruins capitalized early against the San Jose Sharks, chasing goalie Martin Jones from the net after taking a 3-1 lead in the first period. On this night, at least, the goals continued to flow as Boston scored a 6-3 victory to get back into the final wild card spot, getting a win for Bruce Cassidy in his debut behind the bench.

“I feel great. It’s been a busy two or three days. I’ll sleep well tonight. Everyone likes to win,” said Cassidy.

David Pastrnak scored twice, giving him 24 goals on the season.

The Bruins now lead the Philadelphia Flyers by a single point, and the New York Islanders by two points.

But despite their success tonight, Bruins president Cam Neely has acknowledged that this team’s roster still needs improvement.

“Getting in (the playoffs) gives you a chance, so yes, we want to get in, and I think it would be silly for us to say we’re not a playoff team with the bulk of the players that we have. Do we need to get better? One hundred percent,” Neely told a Boston radio station.

“The roster needs help. No question.”