NHL Wrap: Isles even series with Penguins

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NHL Wrap: Isles even series with Penguins

In evaluating the Flyers' defense for next season, Tim Panaccio examines which blueliners should say and which should go.

At the IIHF World Championship, Ilya Bryzgalov led the Russian to victory over the U.S. and four Flyers contributed in Canada's win over Norway.

Here's a wrap of Tuesday's playoff action:

Isles pull even with Pens
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- John Tavares scored with 9:49 left, and the New York Islanders tied their first-round series with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night with a wild 6-4 victory.

Only the final lead was safe in Game 4.

Tavares slammed in his own rebound in front after Brad Boyes fed him following a turnover by Penguins star Evgeni Malkin. It was the Islanders' third one-goal advantage in the game and the one that earned them a 2-2 tie in the highly entertaining series that has featured 5-4 and 6-4 finishes at Nassau Coliseum.

Tavares was serenaded with cheers of "M-V-P" from the frantic crowd that is believing an upset is possible. Casey Cizikas shoved in a shot with 1:16 left to add some much-needed insurance (see full recap).

-The Associated Press

Sens rally, top Habs in OT
OTTAWA -- Kyle Turris scored 2:32 into overtime, lifting the Ottawa Senators past the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 to grab a 3-1 lead in their playoff series Tuesday night.

Turris' shot from the sideboards sneaked past Montreal backup goalie Peter Budaj, who came on for the injured Carey Price at the start of overtime.

Cory Conacher scored with 22.6 seconds to go in regulation to force overtime. Mika Zibanejad had the other goal for the Senators, who got 26 saves from Craig Anderson.

P.K. Subban and Alex Galchenyuk scored 62 seconds apart in the second period for Montreal. Price made 30 saves two nights after allowing all six goals in Ottawa's 6-1 victory in Game 3. He was injured on Conacher's tying goal late in the third period.

Game 5 goes Thursday night in Montreal in a series that has seen a little bit of everything (see full recap).

-The Associated Press

Hawks take commanding lead
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Patrick Sharp scored two goals for Chicago, and the Blackhawks ratcheted up their defense, putting the Minnesota Wild on the brink of elimination with a 3-0 victory Tuesday night.

Bryan Bickell also scored and Corey Crawford made 25 saves for the Blackhawks, who built a 3-1 lead in this best-of-seven matchup.

The Wild had another goalie get hurt when Josh Harding's injury forced Darcy Kuemper into action after the first intermission. Sharp scored on Chicago's first shot at the rookie 62 seconds into the second period.

Minnesota, the only one of the 16 NHL playoff teams without a power-play goal this postseason, went scoreless in six man-advantage situations and is 0 for 15 in the series. Game 5 is back in Chicago Thursday night (see full recap).

-The Associated Press

Sharks sweep Canucks
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Patrick Marleau scored a power-play goal 13:18 into overtime and the San Jose Sharks completed their first playoff sweep in franchise history, beating the Vancouver Canucks, 4-3, Tuesday night.

Joe Pavelski scored his second power-play goal of the game to tie it with 4:27 left in regulation. Brent Burns also scored for the Sharks, who will now get a break before beginning the second round of the playoffs next week.

Mason Raymond, Alex Burrows and Alexander Edler scored for the Canucks, who were unable to hold onto a late third-period lead for the second time this series.

Cory Schneider made big stops early in the overtime, but gave up the rebound that led to Marleau's series-clinching goal (see full recap).

-The Associated Press

Best of NHL: Capitals blow lead, rebound for OT win over Bruins

Best of NHL: Capitals blow lead, rebound for OT win over Bruins

WASHINGTON -- Nicklas Backstrom scored 1:36 into overtime, helping the Washington Capitals beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 after blowing a three-goal lead Wednesday night.

Justin Williams scored twice and Daniel Winnik also had a goal to put Washington ahead 3-0 about six minutes into the second period.

After Winnik's tally, Washington went over 26 minutes without a shot on goal. Boston dominated the final five minutes of the second period, when Dominic Moore and David Pastrnak beat goaltender Braden Holtby. Colin Miller's power-play score 8:19 into third tied it at 3.

Boston arrived in Washington 4-0-1 over its last five games with three wins in a row, including a 4-3 overtime triumph against Florida on Monday night.

Evgeny Kuznetsov had two assists for the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin got his first point since Nov. 26.

Boston outshot Washington 34-20. The Capitals have won two straight following a three-game losing skid (see full recap).

Staal scores on Leafs again in Wild win
TORONTO -- Eric Staal scored yet another goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs, lifting the Minnesota Wild to a 3-2 victory on Wednesday night.

Staal has 47 points in 43 career games against Toronto, and three of his six goals this season have come against the Leafs.

Jason Zucker and Chris Stewart also scored for the Wild, who wrapped a five-game trip 2-1-2.

Ben Smith and Tyler Bozak had goals for the Maple Leafs, who dropped to 8-4-0 at Air Canada Centre.

Devan Dubnyk made 35 saves for Minnesota and Frederik Andersen stopped 17 shots for Toronto (see full recap).

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

VOORHEES, N.J. — They are among the very best – and highest scoring — lines in the NHL this season.
 
And they’re gunning for the Flyers on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
Connor McDavid’s unit with Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl have a combined 30 goals and 78 points worth of offense. 
 
Among them, the lightning quick McDavid leads the NHL with 36 points. All 11 of his goals are even strength. 
 
He doesn’t have a single power-play goal, but is tied for the league lead with several players, including Claude Giroux, with 10 power-play assists.
 
You can expect to see Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s unit with Chris VandeVelde and Dale Weise against this line with defenseman Ivan Provorov drawing McDavid for the first time this season.
 
“Speed and skill that Edmonton has up front presents a real good challenge for our team,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “We have to be better with the puck tomorrow. 
 
“We didn’t do enough when we had the puck. Gave it up a little too easily and because of that, you end up playing defense a lot of the night and that’s what happened last night to us.”
 
Bellemare, who had his share of forward battles with Jaromir Jagr in Tuesday, likes to analyze the matchups against McDavid.
 
“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Bellemare said of the 19-year-old McDavid. “It’s tough not to be excited when playing against a guy who plays like this. He competes every second he is on the ice. That line is an impressive line.”
 
The Flyers better have some bad, choppy ice to slow McDavid down. Edmonton has some of the fastest ice in the league and the Oilers use it to their full advantage. 
 
Asked of McDavid’s tendencies, Bellemare said, “Is that a tendency? To be super fast?”
 
Yes it is. 
 
“When you play against them, he is a kid who is freaky fast right from the start,” Bellemare said. “Against that line, you saw [against Buffalo] that everyone knows how fast he is and he still had two breakaways.”
 
Which means the Flyers need to watch their turnovers, especially in the neutral zone where McDavid can go 60 feet in a flash.
 
“Even blue line to the top of the circle, you can’t turn the puck over,” Bellemare said. “Or he’s gone. This is a tendency we have to be careful of. All of the ice, you can’t give him any time or space. The less time you give him, the bigger chance you have to frustrate a player like this.”
 
Bellemare did some talking with Jagr a couple times in Tuesday’s game. So did Provorov. Bellemare says it helps to add psychology to the mix.
 
“You try to be in his face,” Bellemare said. “If you can win that battle against that line and our first line can win the battle against their fourth line, then it’s a win-win situation. I was trying to be in [Jagr’s] face.”
 
Jagr actually got angrier at Provorov and it showed with his hooking calls. But when Bellemare and Jagr went into the corner, Jagr got testy with his stick there as well.
 
“He was trying to give it to me a little harder,” Bellemare said. “Exactly what I need. If he is less focused on the puck, then maybe I have a chance to win that puck.”
 
McDavid’s focus will be solely on the puck.
 
“McDavid has been playing some pretty good hockey,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “They’re a high-tempo team. A smart team. We’ve got to be ready.”
 
Loose pucks
Boyd Gordon came off long term injured reserve onto the active roster to give the Flyers 13 forwards. In doing that, Matt Read (oblique pull) went on injured reserve. … Defenseman Michael Del Zotto will sit against the Oilers while Radko Gudas returns from an illness. Gudas will be paired with Mark Streit, as Ivan Provorov remains with Andrew MacDonald for now. … Steve Mason, who did not practice Wednesday, will start in goal.