Kuznetsov scores OT winner as Capitals down Rangers

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The Washington Capitals have chosen a fine time to get hot.

The Caps entered Wednesday with a five-point cushion on the top spot in the Metropolitan Division thanks to a four-game winning streak coupled with eight wins in their last 10 contests.

And by nights’ end, those numbers both increased to seven, five and nine of their past 10, respectively, after a late comeback to force overtime and a quick winner in the extra frame in a 3-2 win against the New York Rangers on Wednesday Night Rivalry, sweeping the home-and-home series.

Indeed, the Caps needed a big goal late to thwart what was looking like a 2-1 decision going New York’s way.

But Lars Eller was having none of that, producing the tying goal with 65 seconds remaining in regulation.

Eller’s goal forced overtime, and if Henrik Lundqvist didn’t appear properly defeated on Eller’s late equalizer, he sure did after Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s winner just 38 seconds into free hockey.

Who could blame him? Kuznetsov’s goal was a stunner and reversed the Rangers fortunes before they could catch their breaths.

The Capitals didn’t look especially special on the night but did what needed to be done to pick up the win. Braden Holtby, who has struggled in a mighty was lately, turned aside 35 of 37 shots for the win — just the second time he’s allowed two goals or fewer since Feb. 9.

The charity point and the loss meant nil to the Rangers, who are already eliminated from the playoffs.

But rookie Lias Andersson picked up his first NHL assist, two nights after picking up his first NHL goal in a 4-2 loss to the Caps.

New York’s season has turned into an evaluation camp for their final few games.

Andersson saw 12:20 of ice-time while fellow rookie Filip Chytil played 14:40, ending with a minus-1 and four shots on goal.

Washington can clinch a playoff spot providing the Philadelphia Flyers lose in any fashion to the Colorado Avalanche.

Currently, Philly is leading 2-1 in the second period.


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

Blues move closer to playoffs with OT win; Bruins clinch

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Maybe the St. Louis Blues aren’t dead in the water after all.

In fact, despite selling off Paul Stastny at the trade deadline following two brutal loses that were part of a larger free fall at the time, the Blues have found another gear with just weeks left in the NHL season.

The Blues pulled themselves to within one point of the second and final wildcard spot in the Western Conference with a 2-1 overtime win against the depleted Boston Bruins on Wednesday Night Rivalry on the NHL on NBCSN.

The Bruins held the lead for two periods and change before Jaden Schwartz scored mid-way through the third period to tie the game and then 30 seconds into overtime to seal the win and move one-point behind the Anaheim Ducks (who were still in action against the Calgary Flames.)

That’s three straight OT wins for the Blues, who were without Vladimir Tarasenko due to injury.

The point for the Bruins was important, despite the loss, as they have now clinched a playoff spot, moving four points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Atlantic Division lead.

The Bruins were still missing Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk and Rick Nash on Wednesday, yet still figured out a way to obtain something despite a stacked infirmary.

And part of that help is coming from a surprising place.

Last week at this time, Ryan Donato was a Harvard student, fresh off a five-goal performance at the Olympics for Team USA.

By Sunday, he was still a Harvard student but had signed an entry-level NHL contract with the Boston Bruins. On Monday, still a Havard student and now an NHLer for 24 hours, Donato scored his first NHL goal and added two assists in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

On Tuesday, Donato was back in class — you guessed it — as a Harvard student, an NHL player who had been excused from practice by the team that signed him two days earlier and scored his first NHL goal a night before.

On Wednesday, Donato scored again.

Meanwhile, the NHL could take a deeper look at a second-period hit to the head Brayden Schenn by on David Krejci.

Schenn was handed a two-minute charging penalty on the play, and Krejci stayed in the game, but judging by the above video, there was definite contact to the head and it appears Krejci was fortunate to be able to get up and skate away.

NBCSN’s Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones talked about if Schenn deserves to be suspended for the hit.


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

NHL on NBCSN: Penguins, Rangers meet on Wednesday Night Rivalry

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with Wednesday Night Rivalry as the New York Rangers play host to the Pittsburgh Penguins at 8 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here.

Despite a brief surge following their trade deadline sell-off, the Rangers can now focus on the future.

A western Canada swing that saw them take six points from three games inched them back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. But a trio of losses last week shoved them backward as they now sit nine points behind the final wild card spot. That means more rest for Henrik Lundqvist, who’s still committed to staying with the only NHL franchise he’s known, and more ice time for backup Alexandar Georgiev.

“For me, the rest of the year is about wanting to be able to feel good about myself and about us,” Lundqvist told The New York Post this week. “I don’t want to look at the big picture and break everything down. I’m not looking ahead to next year. I’m not thinking about whether to play in the World Championships. I just want to take it day by day and play my best for this team. That’s the challenge. When it’s over, there will be time to reflect about what happened and look ahead. But not so much now.”

[WATCH WEDNESDAY NIGHT RIVALRY LIVE – 8PM ET]

With Georgiev getting a chance, when will we see Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil get their feet wet at the NHL level?

With 12 games to go in their season, the Penguins are battling with the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers for Metropolitan Division supremacy. The Caps have a game in-hand on their two division rivals

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

The Penguins have been keeping pace without the services of starting goalie Matt Murray, who hasn’t played since Feb. 24 and is recovering from another concussion. He’s been skating recently and head coach Mike Sullivan said he would be making the trip as they play the Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders all on the road before returning to PPG Paints Arena next Wednesday.

Also close to a return is Bryan Rust, who suffered a concussion last week against the Flyers. He shed a no-contact jersey towards the end of Tuesday’s practice and could also be back at some point in the next week.

“It’s a big relief,” Sullivan said via the Post-Gazette. “These guys are important players for us. The fact that they’re tracking the right way is really encouraging. We take each day as it comes with the nature of those injuries, but certainly we’re excited about the way they’re both tracking.”

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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.

NHL on NBCSN: Wednesday Night Rivalry pits Red Wings against Blues

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with Wednesday Night Rivalry as the St. Louis Blues play host to the Detroit Red Wings at 8 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here’

Given Tuesday’s 8-3 shellacking at the hands of the Minnesota Wild, it’s probably safe to assume St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong saw the writing on the wall.

While his former center Paul Stastny was debuting for the Winnipeg Jets, scoring a goal and adding an assist, Armstrong’s Blues were getting decimated for the third consecutive game. The Blues got shutout twice on the weekend, two 4-0 losses to the Jets and the Nashville Predators. Then Tuesday happened. And tonight, they’ll have to figure out a way to bounce back in the second half of a back-to-back against a Red Wings team that’s picked up a little bit of steam lately.

“You know what? It’s a matter of pride as far as I’m concerned,” Yeo told the St. Louis Dispatch, calling out a number of his players after the game. “You give up eight goals, c’mon. We’ve given up 16 in the last three games. We’ve always been one of the top defensive teams. The turnovers that we have and the lack of respect that we have for our goaltenders and for the game of hockey — that’s ridiculous.”

A loss to Detroit on Wednesday could turn the slump into a full-blown implosion. The Blues head off on a four-game road swing that will take them to Dallas, San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim following their game with Detroit.

The Blues are still just two points out of a playoff spot, despite trading one of their top centers and plummeting over the past week. But that ship needs to be turned around now if they have any hope.

The Red Wings’ hopes of making the playoffs sit comfortably between impossible and not going to happen. They’re seven points adrift of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who’ve found their winning ways once again and bolstered their lineup at the trade deadline. Detroit, meanwhile, traded away one of their best players in Tomas Tatar and goaltender Petr Mrazek.

“That’s a message to everyone,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall told the Detroit Free Press. “Had we played up to our potential, (Tatar would) still be here and we’d in a completely different (mode). We’d be buyers instead.”

But the Red Wings have strung together back-to-back wins and should be heading into St. Louis licking their collective chops given recent results in the Midwest. It may be their last good chance to get a win given an upcoming schedule that includes Winnipeg, Minnesota, Boston, Vegas and Columbus, just to name a few.

“We’ve just got to keep plugging away here,” Kronwall said. “We’ve been playing some decent hockey but it’s about winning. We’ve been on and off. We can’t be on and off. We’ve got to be on every game.”


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

NHL on NBCSN: Bruins, Rangers heading in opposite directions

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues with Wednesday Night Rivalry as the New York Rangers play host to the Boston Bruins at 8 p.m. ET. To watch the game online, click here.

As we inch closer to the Feb. 26 NHL trade deadline, the Bruins and Rangers are two teams heading in very different directions.

The Bruins have been one of the league’s hottest teams with a 17-1-4 record in their last 22 games, which has helped them rocket up the Eastern Conference standings. Heading into Wednesday’s matchup, Bruce Cassidy’s charges sit three points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for tops in the conference and have two games in-hand.

It’s been quite a turnaround from one year ago today when the Bruins decided to fire Claude Julien and replaced him with Cassidy, who hadn’t been an NHL head coach since 2004. A commitment to youth coupled with the influence of several Stanley Cup winning veterans has resulted in a new beginning in Beantown. The likes of Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk and Charlie McAvoy have made an impact to complement the contributions of Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, who returns from a five-game suspension Wednesday night.

“For younger guys he’s [in] more of a teaching role and he’ll let you know when you make a mistake, but he’s trying to show you how you can improve on that,” forward Noel Acciari told Amalie Benjamin of NHL.com. “Being able to play for him down in Providence and just knowing how he coaches and playing for him up here, nothing much has changed with him. If you give him everything you have, he’s not going to complain. You might make your mistakes — he knows everyone’s not perfect, and he’s just looking to correct some stuff here and there. But I enjoy playing for him and I know a lot of guys do too.”

Meanwhile, the Rangers may be still in the playoff mix — three points out of a wild card spot — but all signs are pointing to a big upheaval should general manager Jeff Gorton have a successful trade deadline. Rick Nash, Michael Grabner and captain Ryan McDonagh have all found themselves in the rumor mill, with Nash already submitting his no-trade list to management.

New York has 10 games before the deadline, and while that could give them time to grab a seat in the East playoff dance, it’s probably better that they attempt a re-tool on the fly to make the most out of what’s left of Henrik Lundqvist, who has three more seasons on his deal after this one.

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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.