Penguins take over first place in tight Metropolitan race

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The Pittsburgh Penguins are in first place in the Metropolitan Division again.

Tomorrow that could change, but for tonight, they’re safe and sound atop the summit.

The Penguins, now winners of three straight after a three-game losing streak, produced a 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night on NBCSN, leapfrogging the Washington Capitals to lead the division by a single point.

While the Tampa Bay Lightning have a firm grasp on the Atlantic Division, and the Nashville Predators have a nice hold on the Central, and with the Vegas Golden Knights owning a stranglehold in the Pacific, there is no division race at the moment quite like the one going on in the Metropolitan.

There was a scenario, coming into Wednesday’s game between the second and third place teams in the division, where a three-way tie for atop of the division was possible at the end of the night. Philly would have had to win in overtime or a shootout for that to be the case, but it outlines just how close the race for first place has become.

Alas, that wasn’t the case.

Phil Kessel, skating in his 900th NHL game, scored his 28th of the season to open the scoring.

The Flyers would respond, scoring the next two goals — on from Jakub Voracek, the other from Travis Konecny — to take a 2-1 lead in the second period.

And that would be it for the Flyers, who dropped their fourth straight after a six-game winning streak.

Pittsburgh rattled off three in a row starting at the midway point of the second period, including two markers from Conor Sheary in under five minutes.

Evgeni Malkin scored the Penguins’ fourth unanswered into an empty net near the end of the game. The goal from Malkin, his 38th of the season, moved him into a tie for second in NHL goal scoring with Winnipeg Jets sniper, Patrik Laine. Both players are two behind Alex Ovechkin in the race for the Maurice Richard Trophy.

Sidney Crosby, meanwhile, registered his 1,100th NHL point after grabbing a pair of assists in the game.

Washington will have a chance to reclaim the throne on Thursday away to the Los Angeles Kings. The Capitals have two games in hand on the Penguins.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Philadelphia Flyers vs. Montreal Canadiens

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Monday night, as the Montreal Canadiens host the Philadelphia Flyers at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here

PROJECTED LINES

Philadelphia Flyers
Claude GirouxSean CouturierTravis Konecny
Jordan WealNolan PatrickJakub Voracek
Oskar LindblomScott LaughtonMichael Raffl
Jori LehteraValtteri FilppulaDale Weise

Ivan ProvorovShayne Gostisbehere
Robert HaggAndrew MacDonald
Brandon ManningRadko Gudas

Starting goalie: Petr Mrazek

WATCH LIVE – 7:30 p.m. ET

Montreal Canadiens
Max PaciorettyJonathan Drouin – Artturi Lehkonen
Alex GalchenyukPhillip DanaultCharles Hudon
Paul ByronJacob De La RoseBrendan Gallagher
Nicolas DeslauriersLogan ShawDaniel Carr

Victor MeteJeff Petry
Karl AlznerNoah Juulsen
TBD – Jordie Benn

Staring goalie: Charlie Lindgren

NHL on NBCSN: Flyers looking to make first-place jump vs. Canadiens

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Monday night, as the Montreal Canadiens host the Philadelphia Flyers at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here

The Flyers have had quite a weird season. After losing 10 in a row in December, they reeled off six straight wins. Since Jan. 1, they’re 17-5-2. That run has put them in an interesting place as they visit Bell Centre tonight. A win coupled with a Washington Capitals loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets would put the Flyers in first place in the Metropolitan Division.

Just wild.

“We always believed in ourselves, and we know we have a good team here,” said defenseman Robert Hagg last week. “Obviously, we’ve proved that in the last couple months. Hopefully, we can keep it going and make a push for the first spot and get into the playoffs with a good feeling.”

They face a Canadiens team that has an eye toward next season and is selling assets as they look to regroup for 2018-19. Tomas Plekanec is gone and there could be others heading out the door before puck drops tonight as captain Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk have found themselves in the rumor mill. This is a team already without Carey Price (concussion) and Shea Weber, who’s done for the year with a foot injury.

This should be an easy two points for the Flyers, who have been rolling with six wins in a row and have a No. 1 goalie in Petr Mrazek with Michael Neuvirth and Brian Elliott sidelined. Of course, we’ve seen crazy things happen and teams taking opponents lightly. Considering the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference, it would be wise for Philadelphia not to do that, especially with a big jump in the standings as a possible result of a win on Monday night.

MORE: Pro Hockey Talk 2018 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers

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WATCH LIVE on NBC – 12 PM ET

PROJECTED LINES

Philadelphia Flyers

Forwards
Claude GirouxSean CouturierTravis Konecny
Jakub VoracekNolan PatrickWayne Simmonds
Michael RafflScott LaughtonJordan Weal
Jori LehteraValtteri FilppulaDale Weise

Defensemen
Ivan ProvorovShayne Gostisbehere
Robert HaggAndrew MacDonald
Brandon ManningRadko Gudas

Starting goalie: Michal Neuvirth

New York Rangers

Forwards
Rick NashMika ZibanejadMats Zuccarello
Michael GrabnerKevin HayesJ.T. Miller
Jimmy VeseyDavid DesharnaisJesper Fast
Paul CareyPeter HollandPavel Buchnevich

Defensemen
Brady Skjei – Neal Pionk
Nick HoldenAnthony DeAngelo
John Gilmour – Ryan Sproul

Starting goalie: Henrik Lundqvist

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Flyers’ Shayne Gostisbehere reacts to shooting at old high school

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Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday meant a heavy heart for Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere.

The 24-year-old Pembroke Pines, Florida native spent two years at the high school before transferring his junior year to a prep school in Connecticut. He only learned of the horrible tragedy after receiving a text message from a friend and then watched the coverage at home with his girlfriend.

“They always say it [hits] close to home, but when it’s actually home it’s pretty tough to see,” said Gostisbehere, who grew up a 10-minute drive from the school. “I haven’t really processed it yet. I still can’t believe it. I was just in that school. I was only in there for two years, but I felt safe at that school every day I was there. Just to see something like that happen and to those kids and those teachers and whatnot, it sucks.”

[Canucks, Panthers hold moment of silence after Florida school shooting]

Authorities say that 17 people died in the shooting and 14 were wounded before 19-year-old suspect Nikolas Cruz was apprehended by police. Cruz has since been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

Gostisbehere said he knew of one of the victims, Aaron Feis, a football coach who witnesses said used himself as a shield to protect students during the shooting.

“It’s your high school you went to. It’s obviously a tragic event,” Gostisbehere said. “These things keep happening. It just sucks.”

MORE: Anthony Rizzo leaves Cubs camp to be with friends, family in Parkland, Florida

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.