The goals are starting to come for Andrew Ladd

AP
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NEW YORK (AP) Andrew Ladd is hoping a couple of goals Tuesday night can get him and the New York Islanders rolling headed into the second half of the season.

“When pucks start going in, your confidence is a lot higher,” Ladd said after he and Anders Lee scored 43 seconds apart early in the third period to lift the New York Islanders over the Washington Capitals 4-3 on Tuesday night.

Ladd had two goals and Cal Clutterbuck added another for New York, which improved to 14-14-6 overall and 11-7-4 at home. Jaroslav Halak stopped 31 of 34 shots for the Islanders.

“You’re probably looking to shoot more than you are when things aren’t going your way,” said Ladd, who has seven goals in his first season with New York. “I’ve been around long enough to know that when things start to go your way, you’ve got to ride that as long as you can.”

While the Islanders are talking about building from the ground up, the Capitals left New York as an irritated group.

Despite getting goals from Justin Williams, Alex Ovechkin and Andre Burakovsky, Washington fell to 20-9-4 with its third loss in four games. Braden Holtby stopped 27 shots.

New York never trailed in the third meeting this month between the longtime rivals.

Still it took a 1-2 combination from Ladd and Lee to put New York in position to win its third straight game.

Ladd broke a 2-2 tie 4:41 into the third by shoveling Alan Quine‘s pass into the net. Signed to a seven-year, $38.5 million free agent contract on July 1, Ladd scored two goals in a game for the first time as an Islander.

“Once you’re a scorer, you’re a scorer,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “They’re (going to) come. Even last year, it came in bunches for him after Christmas. He works hard. If you continue to work hard, good things are (going to) happen.”

Lee followed with a breakaway score at 5:24 for a two-goal lead. Lee snapped a wrist shot that beat Holtby cleanly.

“A move that’s beaten me a few times this year,” Holtby said. “I can deal with different goals here and there, but when it’s a pattern like that and I haven’t fixed it, that’s frustrating.”

Burakovsky cut the deficit to 4-3 with his fourth goal with 6:55 left. After Burakovsky’s score, New York killed two minor penalties to close up shop. The Islanders killed all four Washington power plays for the game.

Ovechkin opened the third period by scoring on a backhander at 1:17 to tie it at 2.

Ladd’s sixth goal gave the Islanders their second lead of the game, 2-1, at the 14:03 mark of the second. Stationed at the far post, Ladd was able to tap in Thomas Hickey‘s shot from the left side.

New York took a 1-0 lead 8:02 into the game on Clutterbuck’s third of the season, his first since Nov. 7, and the 99th of his NHL career.

“You think it’s going hard, it goes soft and handcuffs you,” Holtby said. “I didn’t really know where it was.”

Williams tied it 5:22 later by poking a rebound of Ovechkin’s shot past Halak. After the goal, Halak appeared to complain that he had been interfered with by Williams.

Williams was called for goaltender interference midway through the second period after colliding with Halak behind the New York net.

NOTES: Holtby entered with a career record of 12-2-3 with a 2.18 goals against average and .928 save percentage in 17 games against the Islanders. … New York scratched G Thomas Griess and RW Stephen Gionta. … Islanders C Casey Cizikas missed his fifth straight game with an upper-body injury. … Washington scratched D Taylor Chorney, LW Zachary Sanford and LW Daniel Winnik. … The Islanders and Capitals will end their regular season series Jan. 31 in New York.

UP NEXT

Capitals: Host New Jersey on Thursday night in the first half of a home-and-home.

Islanders: Begin a four-game trip Thursday night at Minnesota.

Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

avalanche injuries
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

“Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

“He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

“I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

“I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

“I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

“It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

“Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
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The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

“I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.