Best of NHL: Maple Leafs blank Lightning, gain in wild-card chase

Best of NHL: Maple Leafs blank Lightning, gain in wild-card chase

TAMPA, Fla. -- Morgan Rielly and Matt Martin scored 15 seconds apart during Toronto's four-goal second period, Frederik Andersen made 33 saves and the Maple Leafs moved into the lead for the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-0 on Thursday night.

Roman Polak, Connor Brown and James van Riemsdyk also scored for Toronto, which was coming off a 7-2 loss Tuesday night at Florida. The Maple Leafs hold a one-point advantage over Tampa Bay and the New York Islanders.

Tampa Bay, 12-3-3 over its last 18 games, pulled Andrei Vasilevskiy six minutes into the second after he allowed four goals on 15 shots. The goalie had gone 6-0-1 over his previous seven games.

After Rielly scored 2:24 into the second, Martin made it 3-0 on the next shift. Brown, on the power play, and van Riemsdyk added goals later in the period (see full recap).

Little scores twice, Hellebuyck solid as Jets beat Isles
NEW YORK -- Bryan Little scored twice, Connor Hellebuyck made 27 saves and the Winnipeg Jets beat the New York Islanders 4-2 on Thursday night to snap a four-game skid.

Mathieu Perreault and Adam Lowry also scored for the rested Jets, who had their game Tuesday in Newark, New Jersey, against the Devils postponed because of a snowstorm.

Little scored twice in the first period after Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech opened the scoring 38 seconds in. Perreault and Lowry each scored in the second.

The Jets came into the game 0-3-1 in their last four games and 2-8-2 against Metropolitan Division opponents this season. Winnipeg had also lost four straight to the Islanders.

But after Pelech scored his second goal of the season on a floating shot that eluded Hellebuyck, the Islanders couldn't capitalize on momentum generated by their 3-2 comeback win in overtime at Carolina on Tuesday a night after they lost 8-4 at home to the Hurricanes (see full recap).

Rask leads Hurricanes to win over Wild
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Victor Rask scored the tiebreaking goal with 3:24 to play and the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Minnesota Wild 3-1 Thursday night.

Teuvo Teravainen added an empty-net goal with 1:24 remaining. Derek Ryan also scored for the Hurricanes and Eddie Lack stopped 21 shots. Carolina has points in five straight games (3-0-2).

Mikael Granlund scored for Minnesota and Devan Dubnyk finished with 31 saves. The Wild had won six straight overall against the Hurricanes, who improved to 6-1-2 against Minnesota at home.

The Wild finished a 1-4 road trip to give them five losses in their last six (see full recap).

Arvidsson scores as Predators buck OT trend to beat Capitals
WASHINGTON -- Viktor Arvidsson scored 1:05 into overtime and the Nashville Predators bucked their season-long trend of OT struggles by beating the Washington Capitals 2-1 on Thursday night.

Arvidsson's goal improved the Predators to 4-7 in the 3-on-3 period this season and 7-19 over the past two years. Pekka Rinne made 22 saves but didn't face a shot in overtime from the Capitals, who lost for just the eighth time in 36 home games.

James Neal also scored his 21st goal for Nashville, which extended its winning streak to three and its point streak to five.

Brett Connolly scored the Capitals' regulation goal, and Braden Holtby stopped 22 of the 24 shots he faced. Washington fell to 7-3 in overtime this season (see full recap).

Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier know Flyers by now, ready for anything at NHL draft

Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier know Flyers by now, ready for anything at NHL draft

CHICAGO — Nico Hischier was nervous, swaying a bit as he spoke to the media, admitting he had some jitters as this NHL draft approaches on Friday.

About 60 feet away, Nolan Patrick leaned on a stick and said not only was he not nervous, he also really couldn't care less whether he's picked first overall Friday by New Jersey or second by the Flyers because his goal is just to get into the NHL.

"Doesn't matter to me," Patrick said Thursday. "A lot of guys will tell you what you want to hear. That they don't care, but deep down, they do.

"I don't care. It's not going to change my chances in the NHL if I go No. 1 or 4. I'm gonna take it. Where I go is not gonna help me any more. At the end of the day, I've got to work hard."

That said, Hischier is poised to become the highest-drafted Swiss player ever and if he went first overall …

"I would make history and that would make me proud," Hischier beamed. "Really happy, for sure."

Both players participated in Thursday's ball-hockey clinic in a parking lot just across the street from United Center where one of them will go to the Devils and one to the Flyers on Friday night.

"Yeah, I little bit nervous," Hischier admitted. "It's not up to me. I just have to enjoy it."

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall took both players out to dinner separately in Buffalo, New York, earlier this month at the NHL Scouting Combine to try and get a peek behind their personalities (see story).

"We talked about Philadelphia, talked about the club, the goals, what's important for them," Hischier said. "It was good dinner and went well."

Patrick, who is from Winnipeg, Manitoba, said he was impressed with the steakhouse and said what he liked best about the meal was getting into arguments with fellow Manitoban, Hextall, who is from Brandon.

"He's a really nice guy," Patrick said. "It was a fancy steakhouse. I'll take those dinners any day. He knows what he is doing in Philly. If I were lucky enough to go there, I'd be happy.

"I know all about him. He's a Brandon Wheat King. Us Manitobans always going at each other. We got into a few arguments about some of his guys. Manitoba is the best place in the world."

Right now, for a couple hundred hockey players, Chicago is the best place in the world because this is the NHL draft and what happens Friday and Saturday will impact their lives forever.

Which is why Hischier brought his older brother, Luca, here. He plays for Bern in Switzerland where Hischier also was before transferring to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to play for Halifax this past season.

"My idol is my brother," Nico said. "He is playing pro in Bern. We have a good relationship. I'm happy he is here because I can ask him everything, on and off the ice."

Both players have some Flyers familiarity.

Hischier skated with Mark Streit last summer but hasn't talked to him since.

"Last summer, I skated with Streit, [Roman] Josi, [Shea] Weber and those guys," Hischier said. "It was fun."

Patrick played with Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov two years ago in Brandon.

"Talked to Provy two weeks ago," Patrick said. "I was talking to Brayden Schenn the last couple days. Provy works out 10 hours a day."

A few weeks from now, one of these guys will be at the Flyers' developmental camp working out in Skate Zone.

"It's not up to me," Hischier said. "I don't focus on expectations, I don't focus on teams. Everything can happen.

"I'm going to be open for everything and happy, for sure. If it's No. 2 or 3, I'm gonna be happy anyway."

Flyers begin 2017-18 season out West, face Vegas for 1st time in February

Flyers begin 2017-18 season out West, face Vegas for 1st time in February

For the second straight year, the Flyers are beginning the season out West.

The NHL on Thursday released its 2017-18 schedule and as reported Wednesday, the Flyers open the season in San Jose on Oct. 4 as part of a four-game road trip that includes games in Los Angeles, Anaheim and concludes in Nashville on Oct. 10.

They'll return home on Oct. 14 for their home opener against the Washington Capitals that kickstarts a five-game homestand (see story). The Flyers will host the Islanders on Black Friday.

Flyers fans will have to wait a while for their first taste of the Vegas Golden Knights. The Flyers will face the Golden Knights for the first time on Feb. 11 in Vegas.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and the Golden Knights come to Philadelphia on March 12

The Flyers will end the season at home against the New York Rangers.

You can see the Flyers' full schedule here (and buy tickets here).