James O'Brien

Rangers end road rut by edging Lightning

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For the first time since Nov. 21, the New York Rangers managed to win a game on the road.

Let’s face it, things have been bumpy for more than a month at home or away; the Rangers have gone 6-10-2 since that 5-4 overtime win against the Florida Panthers.

This was the sort of win the Rangers wanted to see, though: a hard-working performance against the Tampa Bay Lightning, one with a smaller margin of error than the score might indicate.

(Two Rangers goals came with an empty Lightning net in that 5-2 victory.)

The Rangers seemed pleased with their collective efforts.

The Lightning now look like the team with greater struggles, as they’ve struggled to really take advantage of a six-game homestand.

They’re currently 2-2-1 with one game left on this string of contests in Tampa Bay. If the Lightning fall short of the playoffs, they’ll kick themselves for dropping games like these.

Capitals gains: Ninth straight win leaves Washington on top of NHL

Washington Capitals right wing Justin Williams (14) celebrates his goal with teammates Marcus Johansson (90), Karl Alzner (27), and  Evgeny Kuznetsov (92) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

When you put together a streak of nine consecutive wins – remarkably, all in regulation – it usually involves taking games in multiple ways.

The Washington Capitals have enjoyed some absolutely stellar work from Braden Holtby during this stretch, but their 5-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres had a different feel to it.

For one thing, it was a brutally physical affair at times.

Beyond that, the Capitals found themselves heading into the third period fighting a deficit thanks to Buffalo’s 2-1 lead.

That clearly didn’t matter much, as Alex Ovechkin and especially Evgeny Kuznetsov could not be contained in the final frame, leading the charge back to a 5-2 win with plays like these:

( … Hey, whatever works, right?)

With this latest victory, the Capitals stand atop not just the East standings – where they hold healthy margins – but also the NHL.

They’ve managed to outpace the Stars in more ways than one, as Washington has played two fewer games so far this season.

Will the Capitals remain the cream of the crop when it matters the most? That remains to be seen, but just about every sign points to this team being the NHL’s best heading into 2016.

Chris Neil’s leaping check is quite the sight


You don’t see hits like these everyday … thankfully.

Ottawa Senators tough guy Chris Neil received a two-minute charging minor for the leaping hit (see above) on New Jersey Devils forward Sergey Kalinin.

From the look of things, Neil might have gotten the worst of that blow, and it could have been even worse if he landed differently.

We’ve seen Brad Marchand go very low during a recent hit, so Neil opted for the opposite.

Update: Backstrom’s injury may be minor, Beagle could need surgery

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The expectation was that tonight’s Buffalo Sabres – Washington Capitals game would be physical. That’s certainly been the case, to the point where the game may also be costly.

So far, the biggest loss might be that of Nicklas Backstrom, who’s questionable to return because of an upper-body injury.

There are other bumps and bruises, as Tyler Ennis won’t return and Jay Beagle will not either, both dealing with upper-body ailments. (You can see the Alex Ovechkin hit that sidelined Ennis in the video above.)

Tom Wilson may have been a little beaten up, although he did manage to return during the game.

Some of these issues may be cropping up because of the intensity surrounding this contest, but others may just be a matter of coincidence.

Regardless, the Sabres and Capitals may limp into 2016 at this pace.

Note: It’s not sheer ugliness, though, as Alex Ovechkin and Jack Eichel have been putting on a show at times. Check out this Eichel setup:

Update: While Backstrom may play as soon as Thursday, Beagle may require surgery.

John Carlson didn’t play tonight, and he may not play again for some time.

Washington managed a ninth consecutive win, but the way injuries are stacking up, their could be some challenges ahead.

Video: Letang takes another big hit, some vintage Crosby


Even relatively good nights for the Pittsburgh Penguins often tend to mix a little bad in with the good.

As you can see above, there was a scare in Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, as Leo Komarov delivered a scary hit on frequently injured defenseman Kris Letang.

Early indications are that Letang is OK, but we’ve seen plenty of players see negative effects later on, Letang included.

It’s not all gloomy for Pens fans tonight, though, as we’ve also seen some “vintage” Sidney Crosby. He scored a nice goal, but it’s his assist on a Chris Kunitz power-play tally that really screamed No. 87 at his best:

As of this writing, the good with the bad extends to the score: a 2-2 tie.

Update: The Maple Leafs ended up winning 3-2 via a shootout.