NHL Wrap: Isles spoil Crosby's return

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NHL Wrap: Isles spoil Crosby's return

PITTSBURGH -- Kyle Okposo's first career playoff goal with 7:37 remaining lifted the New York Islanders to a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night, evening their playoffs series at one game each.

Matt Moulson, Colin McDonald and Matt Martin also scored for the Islanders, who spoiled Sidney Crosby's comeback from a broken jaw by rallying from an early two-goal deficit.

Crosby scored twice in the game's first eight minutes as the Penguins raced to a quick 3-1 lead. But they couldn't hold it as the Islanders bounced back from a lifeless performance in Game 1.

Evgeni Nabokov overcame a sluggish start to stop 30 shots as the Islanders won their first playoff game in more than six years.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 38 saves for Pittsburgh, which allowed the speedy Islanders to effectively counterpunch all night (see full recap).

Canadiens top Senators to tie series
MONTREAL -- Ryan White started a three-goal second period and goalie Carey Price was back in top form with 29 saves and the Montreal Canadiens downed the Ottawa Senators 3-1 to even their playoff series on Friday.

The best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal is tied 1-1 heading into Game 3 on Sunday in Ottawa.

Brendan Gallagher and Michael Ryder also scored for Montreal. Milan Michalek scored for Ottawa, which was let down by a power play that went 0-for-4.

There was anticipation of rough play after Eric Gryba's hit that saw Montreal's Lars Eller carried off the Bell Centre ice on a stretcher with a concussion and some missing teeth in Ottawa's 4-2 win in the series opener on Thursday night. Eller spent the night in hospital and was released Friday morning (see full recap).

Blackhawks roll over Wild
CHICAGO -- Patrick Sharp and Michael Frolik had two goals apiece, and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild 5-2 on Friday night in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series.

Patrick Kane added two assists as Chicago put together a strong start and impressive finish to open a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Bryan Bickell added an empty-net score to his winning goal in the Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime victory in the postseason opener Tuesday night.

Game 3 is Sunday afternoon in Minnesota.

Devin Setoguchi and Marco Scandella scored for the Wild, who are making their first postseason appearance in five years (see full recap).

Sharks beat Canucks in OT
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Raffi Torres scored at 5:31 of overtime to give the San Jose Sharks a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 2 of their playoff series Friday night.

The Sharks took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, which shifts to San Jose for games Sunday and Tuesday. San Jose was 17-2-5 at home this season.

Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, whose goal in the final minute of the third period forced overtime, also scored for San Jose.

The Canucks took their sixth consecutive loss in a home playoff game. Now, they might not get another one after winning their fifth consecutive Northwest Division title.

Ryan Kesler scored two third-period goals for Vancouver, helping the Canucks overcome a 1-0 deficit that stood since the first period (see full recap).

AHL allowing players on minor-league deals to go to Olympics

AHL allowing players on minor-league deals to go to Olympics

Players on American Hockey League contracts will be eligible to play in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

President and CEO David Andrews confirmed through a league spokesman Wednesday that teams were informed they could loan players on AHL contracts to national teams for the purposes of participating in the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The AHL sent a memo to its 30 clubs saying players could only be loaned for Olympic participation from Feb. 5-26.

The Olympic men's hockey tournament runs from Feb. 9-25. Like the NHL, which is not having its players participate for the first time since 1994, the AHL does not have an Olympic break in its schedule.

The AHL's decision does not affect players assigned to that league on NHL one- or two-way contracts. No final decision has been made about those players.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly denied a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation report that the league had told its 31 teams that AHL players could be loaned to play in the Olympics. It was an AHL memo sent at the direction of that league's board of governors.

When the NHL announced in April that it wouldn't be sending players to South Korea after participating in five consecutive Olympics, Andrews said the AHL was prepared for Canada, the United States and other national federations to request players.

"I would guess we're going to lose a fair number of players," Andrews said in April. "Not just to Canada and the U.S., but we're going to lose some players to other teams, as well. But we're used to that. Every team in our league has usually got two or three guys who are on recalls to the NHL, so it's not going to really change our competitive integrity or anything else."

The U.S. and Canada are expected to rely heavily on players in European professional leagues and college and major junior hockey to fill out Olympic rosters without NHL players.

With AHL experience, Flyers prospect Nicolas Aube-Kubel out to score again

With AHL experience, Flyers prospect Nicolas Aube-Kubel out to score again

VOORHEES, N.J. — At the junior level, scoring was second nature to Nicolas Aube-Kubel, like riding a bike after you figure out the balance aspect.

Goals came in bunches and points piled up — that was his game and it came effortlessly at times, especially over his final two seasons with the QMJHL's Val-d'Or Foreurs, posting back-to-back campaigns of 38 markers and 80-plus assists.

"Usually in junior, scoring was always coming naturally to me, having points and goals," he said last week at Flyers development camp.

On the AHL ice last season, it was a whole new ballgame. For Aube-Kubel, Year 1 of pro hockey was a feeling-out process from start to finish. His prolific scoring didn't carry over much at all, as the speedy 5-foot-11 winger finished with nine goals and nine assists in 71 regular-season games for Lehigh Valley.

"Guys are better with the puck," he said of the AHL. "I've always been strong on the ice and skating-wise, too, but translating to the AHL, guys are faster, guys are quicker with the puck and less turnovers."

This was part of toeing the waters in a new surrounding. Not many prospects jump from the junior ranks to the AHL without missing a beat. Aube-Kubel, who turned 21 in May, wanted to fulfill his role and duties first before worrying about scoring. He finished the season as a plus-10, tied for fourth best on the team and tops among Phantoms with 70 or more games played.

"I've always been an offensive player," Aube-Kubel said. "From being my first year in the pros, I was trying more to focus on details and what the coach was telling me. I'm excited for next year and I'll try to step up my game, for sure, and try to do what I was doing in junior."

Following his fourth development camp, Aube-Kubel finds himself heading into an interesting second season with Lehigh Valley. A lot has changed since he was taken by the Flyers in the second round of the 2014 draft. With time, the organization has significantly built up its prospect pool and added depth at forward. 

Aube-Kubel is just fine with that.

"Since I've been drafted, there was depth," he said. "Any way I'm going to play in the NHL, I'm going to make my own spot. No one is going to give it to you. If there are more drafted players, it doesn't change anything."

He's also enjoyed working with the Phantoms' staff, led by head coach Scott Gordon. More development off the ice and a greater workload during games should help moving forward.

"I liked it. They treat you like a pro," he said. "Everyone does their own thing. If you cheat or if you're not serious about it, it's you to pay off. If you're not serious, it's going to be you that gets penalized."

If Aube-Kubel needs any comfort in the quiet start to his pro career, he can look back at his first season of junior play. He tallied just 10 goals and 27 points in 64 regular-season games. Then he jumped to 53 points (22 goals, 31 assists) in 65 games in 2013-14 before scoring at will over his third and fourth seasons with Val-d'Or.

Maybe easing his way in is just part of his hockey DNA.

If so, keep an eye on Aube-Kubel next season.

"This year, I was maybe more focusing on having a role and trying to do what the coach was asking of me," Aube-Kubel said. "Now that it's all set, I'm going to focus on offensive play. I don't want to put pressure on myself, but last year wasn't my best offensive year. It was also my first year. I think I was trying to learn a lot of it and we'll see what happens next year."