Author: Mike Halford

Sabres ‘gut it out’ in win over Panthers, move to .500 on the year

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It wasn’t an oil painting from Buffalo, but it was good enough to get the win.

The Sabres won their third straight and fifth in their last seven on Thursday night, defeating the Panthers 3-2 in Florida to move to .500 on the year with an 8-8-0 record.

Buffalo wasn’t terrific, getting out-shot 38-19 and significantly outplayed in stretches. But unlike previous seasons, this year’s Sabres seem to have a resiliency and determination to grind out wins from less-than-stellar efforts, something head coach Dan Bylsma alluded to after the game.

“It wasn’t the strongest game from us in a lot of other areas,” Bylsma said, per the club website. “But we were able to gut it out, and get goals where we could get them.”

Buffalo got its goals from captain Brian Gionta — his first of the season — along with Sam Reinhart and Cody Franson. Reinhart’s third-period goal came on the power play, snapping a three-game pointless streak in the process.

Florida, meanwhile, also saw one of its skaters score his first of the year: Jonathan Huberdeau, the former Calder winner that’d been snakebitten through his first 15 games. The Panthers also got a goal from Vincent Trocheck late in the third, a frame in which they put 13 shots on Buffalo goalie Linus Ullmark.

Speaking of Ullmark, he put forth another solid effort by stopping 36 of 38 shots. The Swedish ‘tender is now an impressive 4-2-0 on the year, with a .924 save percentage and 2.45 GAA.

Zucker stays hot, nets OT winner as Wild top ‘Canes

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Jason Zucker scored his second goal of the game with 1:10 left in overtime, giving the Minnesota Wild a 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night.

Minnesota had to kill off an overtime power play to set up the winner.

It was Minnesota’s first win in three overtime games this season and the Hurricanes first loss in four extra-period games. It was the third straight win for the Wild, which has also won three straight in the series.

Thomas Vanek scored the other Minnesota goal.

Andrej Nestrasil scored his first goal of the season for Carolina and Justin Faulk had the other.

Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk stopped 37 shots, while Carolina’s Cam Ward saved 18.

Faulk scored his sixth power-play goal of the season, ranking him first among NHL defensemen in that category.

The Hurricanes led 2-0 after a first period in which they outshot the visitors 19-5.

Faulk gave Carolina the lead on a power play at 4:26, beating Dubnyk glove side from the high slot with Eric Staal on the assist.

At 8:17, Nestrasil followed a Jay McClement rebound and scooped the puck over a prone Dubnyk’s skate to make it 2-0. The original call of goalie interference was overturned on video review.

Zucker cut the lead in half at 15:50 on a wrister from the left circle with Ryan Suter on the assist.

And the Wild tied the score at 9:41 of the second when Vanek buried a rebound of Mikael Granlund‘s shot.

The Wild has won five of the last nine games against Carolina, but is 2-5-1 all-time in North Carolina.

NOTES: This was the opener of a five-game homestand for the Hurricanes and the first of the Wild’s four-game road trip. … Carolina’s next game is at home on Saturday night against Philadelphia. … Minnesota visits Dallas on Saturday night. … C Brad Malone and D Michal Jordan were healthy scratches for the Hurricanes. … D Marco Scandella, D Gustav Olofsson and G Niklas Backstrom were healthy scratches for the Wild. … The teams’ only other meeting will be on March 19 in Minnesota.

Philly’s funk continues with eighth loss in nine, this time to Caps

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Two teams going in very different directions met on Thursday at Wells Fargo, and continued on their respective paths.

The Washington Capitals beat the Flyers 5-2 for their 11th victory of the season, and third win in four games. For the Flyers, it was their second straight loss, and eighth in their last nine.

It was a balanced effort from the Caps, with goals from four different scorers — one of whom was not Alex Ovechkin, who remained tied with Sergei Fedorov for most goals by a Russian in NHL history.

Jason Chimera netted a pair, both on the power play, while T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams and Nicklas Backstrom added singles.

For the Flyers, Scott Laughton got them off to a good start with his third of the year at the 3:34 mark, but things went downhill from there. Philly could only muster four shots on goal in the first period and seven in the second, compared to the 23 the Caps put on Steve Mason through two.

Simply put, there are dark times in Philadelphia.

The team has just five wins through its first 16 games and the offense continues to sputter, with just two goals in its last two. Jakub Voracek is still without a tally this year, while the likes of Michael Raffl and Sean Couturier remain stuck on one.

Things are considerably brighter in Washington, where the Caps are 11-4-0 on the year and keep getting contributions from everyone on the roster. That includes goalie Braden Holtby, who after tonight’s victory sits second in the NHL with nine wins and sixth in GAA, at 2.01.

What goalie duel? Rangers chase Allen, beat Blues as teams combine for nine goals

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As noted in today’s Goalie Nods, the starting netminders for tonight’s Rangers-Blues game boasted two of the NHL’s best save percentages:

St. Louis’ Jake Allen, who led at .950, and New York’s Henrik Lundqvist, who was second at .949.

And then, just as everybody expected… the teams combined for one of the highest-scoring games of the year.

The Rangers beat the Blues 6-3 at MSG on Thursday night, winning their seventh straight while chasing Allen just 15 minutes in, after scoring three times on their first five shots on goal.

Mats Zuccarello led the way with three points for New York, while Dan Girardi, J.T. Miller, Derick Brassard, Derek Stepan and Rick Nash all had a pair. Miller’s goal midway through the second period was the eventual game-winner.

The Blues, meanwhile, did a decent job of getting after Lundqvist, who allowed three goals for just the second time this season. Dmitri Jaskin, Troy Brouwer and Vladimir Tarasenko all found the back of the net.

Tonight, though, was mostly about the Rangers.

The team moved to a sparkling 12-2-2 on the year, and did it in style by beating Allen early and often. The Blues netminder came into tonight’s action having posted back-to-back shutouts over the Preds and Devils and, accordingly, was named the NHL’s second star of the week on Monday.

But Thursday wasn’t his night.

His replacement, Brian Elliott, fared slightly better. He only allowed two goals on 16 shots — the Rangers’ final tally was put into an empty net by Girardi — and the Blues did claw their way back into the game when Brouwer’s late second-period goal made it 4-3.

In the third, though, the Rangers salted away victory early when Ryan McDonagh scored on the power play. New York also did a nice job of keeping the Blues at bay in the final frame, holding them to just eight shots on net.

Video: Latta, White throw down in spirited scrap

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Things got heated midway through tonight’s Flyers-Caps game at Wells Fargo.

Each club’s respective energy guy — Philly’s Ryan White and Washington’s Michael Latta — managed to find one another during a second-period scrum, and what transpired didn’t come as much of a surprise.

As a few people on Twitter noted, good on Latta for allowing White’s head to reappear after getting jersey’d mid-fight.

This was just Latta’s second fight of the year (to be fair, he’s only played in five games). It was also White’s second fight of the year, having previously thrown down against Florida’s Shawn Thornton.