Head coaches overwhelming support Price for Hart Trophy

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The Professional Hockey Writers’ Association gets to select the winner of the Hart Trophy, but before they cast their ballot, 20 NHL head coaches — 10 in the East and 10 in the West — were asked who their choice for the award would be and the results weren’t even close.

All 20 bench bosses said Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price would be their top pick for the Hart Trophy, per the survey conducted by TSN’s Bob McKenzie. Alexander Ovechkin, who leads the league with 52 goals, finished second on the ballot 19 times with the lone exception going to Ryan Getzlaf. John Tavares had six third-place votes to Sidney Crosby’s five.

Price would be the first goaltender since Jose Theodore in 2002 to take the Hart Trophy, but he’s been regarded as a favorite for the award for a while now. His dominant play is one of the big reasons the Montreal Canadiens might win the Presidents’ Trophy, but this is likely also a reflection of the relatively muted Art Ross Trophy race we’re witnessing.

While Ovechkin is far ahead of the pack in terms of goals, the points race is relatively open and no forward is likely to finish with 90 or more points. Not including lockout shortened seasons, that hasn’t happened since Stan Mikita won the scoring race with 87 points in 1967–68. It’s easy to assume that the lack of 90-plus point players is a byproduct of reduced scoring, but that’s not the case. The league has been averaging 2.74 goals per team per game this season, which is on par with what we’ve seen over the last four seasons, per hockey reference.

So scoring hasn’t gone down, it’s just become more spread out and that lack of dominance at the top might be playing into Price’s hands. At the same time, he wouldn’t be a contender either way if he wasn’t having an amazing season.

Caps edge Wings, inch closer to playoff berth

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The Washington Capitals moved closer to clinching a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings.

The Caps will clinch if Ottawa loses to the Toronto tonight.

Washington’s win moves them into second in the Metropolitan Division one point up on the New York Islanders.

Detroit’s loss leaves a log jam in the Atlantic Division as three points separate the Wings, Bruins and Sens.

Mike Green had a goal and an assist in the win. Evgeny Kuznetsov had Washington’s other goal. Braden Holtby, who made a franchise-high 23rd straight start, stopped 35 shots for the win. Holtby’s win was his 40th of the season and the 100th of his career.

The 25-year-old is the second goaltender in Caps’ history to record 40 wins in a single season joining Olaf Kolzig.

With his assist on Green’s goal, Alex Ovechkin has 80 points tying him for second place with John Tavares in the Art Ross race.

Darren Helm had the lone Wings goal. Petr Mrazek made 26 saves in the loss.

There was a scary moment in the third.

Protecting a one-goal lead, Caps’ forward Tom Wilson went down to block a Niklas Kronwall slap shot and took it off the side of the head. Wilson stayed down momentarily, but was able to skate off under his own strength. He left the game and did not return.

Tavares scores 35th goal, but Jackets late rally keeps Isles slump going

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The New York Islanders haven’t won back-to-back games since Feb. 24-27. They came close to ending that slump tonight, but ultimately suffered a 4-3 shootout loss to Columbus.

At no point prior to the skills competition did the Blue Jackets lead in this game. Enforcer Eric Boulton, playing in his 644th career contest, was the unconventional source of the Islanders’ first goal just 2:54 minutes into the game. John Tavares gave the Islanders a 2-1 edge in the second period by netting his 35th goal of the season:

The Islanders took a 3-1 lead early in the third period, but Columbus rallied back with Ryan Johansen tying the contest just 3:43 minutes prior to the end of regulation time.

The skills competition proved to be one-sided with Mark Letestu and Johansen each beating Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak to end the shootout after two rounds.

With eight straight wins, Columbus has tied its franchise record, although the squad won’t make the playoffs this season regardless. The Islanders almost certainly will, but they are coasting off of their past success. After this loss, New York is 4-7-4 since its last two-game winning streak.

Isles’ Tavares: ‘We needed two points, especially at home’

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The New York Islanders moved into the second seed in the Metropolitan Division with a 5-4 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

The Islanders win coupled with the Ottawa Senators loss means New York’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot is six points.

After falling behind 2-0, New York scored three straight to take a 3-2 lead. The Islanders chased Red Wings’ started Petr Mrazek 16 seconds into the second period when Frans Nielsen gave New York a 4-3 lead.

Mrazek allowed four goals on 11 shots and was replaced by Jimmy Howard.

“It wasn’t the way we wanted to start, but I think credit to our team and everyone digging deep and sticking together,” said captain John Tavares, who had three assists in the win. “We responded right away.”

Brock Nelson, Kyle Okposo and Ryan Strome had first period goals. Cal Clutterbuck had the game winner.

New York’s power play went 3-for-4 in the win.

“Our power play is pretty underrated,” said Okposo. ”Everyone is yelling shoot all the time but we have pretty good structure.”

Added Tavares: “Our power play… it was good to see we got rewarded. We’ve been doing some decent things, I think. Obviously when you don’t score, sometimes the pressure can mount.”

Tomas Tatar and Drew Miller scored on Detroit’s first two shots giving the Wings a 2-0 lead before the two-minute mark of the first period. Niklas Kronwall and Pavel Datsyuk had to other Wings’ goals.

With the loss the Wings remain seven points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division. Detroit has a three-point lead on the Boston Bruins.

Howard made 15 saves in relief and was saddled with the loss.

Jaroslav Halak improved to 36-16-2 with a 25 save performance.

The win snapped the Islanders’ three-game losing streak. It was the Islanders first home win since Feb. 27 snapping a streak of seven straight losses.

“We really needed two points, especially at home,” said Tavares. “Just a character win. I don’t think it’s the way we drew it up, but we did some really good things again. The second half of the game we didn’t give up much. We need to build on it now.”

Wings’ Mrazek hooked after allowing 4 goals on 11 shots

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After falling behind 2-0 before the two minute mark of the first period, the New York Islanders scored three straight to take a 3-2 lead.

The Islanders added a fourth goal 16 seconds into the second period to end Wings’ starter Petr Mrazek’s night early.

Mrazek allowed four goals on 11 shots and has been replaced by Jimmy Howard.

Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome and Kyle Okposo scored first period goals.

Frans Nielsen added his 14th of the season early in the second.

Islanders captain John Tavares has three assists moving him one point back of Sidney Crosby for the league-lead.