Best of NHL: Lowly Coyotes damage Lightning's playoff hopes

Best of NHL: Lowly Coyotes damage Lightning's playoff hopes

TAMPA, Fla. -- Oliver Ekman-Larsson had a goal and an assist during Arizona's three-goal third period, Louis Domingue stopped 36 shots and the Coyotes damaged Tampa Bay's playoff hopes with a 5-3 victory over the Lightning on Tuesday night.

Arizona, with the NHL's second-worst record, also got goals from Christian Fischer, Christian Dvorak, Radim Vrbata and Connor Murphy.

Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov scored for the Lightning, who remained four points behind Toronto for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 30 saves.

Ekman-Larsson and Vrbata scored two minutes apart early in the third as the Coyotes went up 4-3. Murphy had a late empty-netter that went off Hedman's glove (see full recap).

Penguins win to clinch 11th straight playoff berth
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Nick Bonino scored the go-ahead goal with 5:29 left and the Pittsburgh Penguins clinched their 11th straight playoff berth with a 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.

Sidney Crosby and Conor Sheary also scored, and Matt Murray made 29 saves. The Penguins (46-17-9) improved to 8-1-1 in their past 10 and are in the hunt to finish with the NHL's best record.

Sam Reinhart scored for a Sabres team that's sputtering on offense. Coming off a 2-1 win at Detroit on Monday, Buffalo has just five goals in regulation in its past five games, including a 2-0 shutout loss at Los Angeles on Thursday.

The score would've been more lopsided if not for Buffalo goalie Robin Lehner, who made 31 saves. Lehner foiled Tom Kuhnhackl and Chris Kunitz on a pair of breakaways in the opening three minutes of the second period (see full recap).

Blandisi gives Devils OT win over Rangers
NEWARK, N.J. -- Joseph Blandisi scored on an odd-man rush with 54.6 seconds left in overtime and the New Jersey Devils handed the New York Rangers a rare road loss, 3-2 on Tuesday night.

John Quenneville set up Blandisi's third goal of the season, and Quenneville and Taylor Hall also scored for the Devils. New Jersey got just its second win in 14 games (2-10-2) behind 38 saves by Cory Schneider, including a stop on Kevin Hayes in close just before Blandisi's winner.

The win was the Devils' first in four games with the Rangers this season.

Oscar Lindberg and Rick Nash scored for the Rangers, who lead the NHL with 26 road wins. Antti Raanta made 26 saves, but he had no chance on Blandisi's backhander after the forward took a pass from Quenneville and got behind defenseman Ryan McDonagh (see full recap).

Flyers blank lowly Avalanche in final game before trade deadline

Flyers blank lowly Avalanche in final game before trade deadline

BOX SCORE

If only every game for the Flyers down the stretch could serve up the Colorado Avalanche. Were that to transpire, Dave Hakstol's club would be a lock to make the playoffs.
 
Tuesday was the final time the Flyers will see Colorado this season. Too bad for the Flyers because they threw snowballs at the Avs to the tune of a 4-0 win at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).
 
The Flyers finished February with just four wins in 11 games. Now the team gets set for the post-trade deadline portion of its schedule, which features 20 games in 40 days to end the regular season.
 
How the Flyers fare will determine their playoff fate.
 
Amid this rout, general manager Ron Hextall was spending a lot of time on the phone while assistant GM Barry Hanrahan, his capologist, was on his computer much of the night as the deadline hits Wednesday.
 
According to a report by ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, the Flyers had contract talks with pending unrestricted free agent Michal Neuvirth. Sources said Neuvirth did not agree to a contract. His agent, Patrik Stefan, did not comment.

Hextall is apparently trying to work a deal, and you would have to think it was something larger (see story).
 
The opening period was all Wayne Simmonds on Tuesday, who briefly appeared to have a natural hat trick midway into the first period before it was determined the Flyers' third goal went off an Avs player and was credited to Jakub Voracek (see feature highlight).
 
"I hope it's the first and last time I get booed for scoring a goal," Voracek said after it was taken away from Simmonds.
 
The Avs are the worst team in the NHL. This win was certainly welcome news for the Flyers, who played a fast and energetic game in which they seemed relaxed.
 
"Twenty games left … a good step but the thing is not to get too high," said goalie Steve Mason, who picked up his first win this month. "It's one win, but we have a lot of work to do."
 
It gets harder immediately with Florida and Washington up next.
 
"We had the same type of start tonight we had the last couple nights and tonight we had some reward for it," coach Dave Hakstol said. 
 
Simmonds came into this game with one of the club's two shorthanded goals this season. He now has two himself after Matt Duchene coughed up a puck to Andrew MacDonald to start a rush that ended with Simmonds scoring on goalie Jeremy Smith.
 
His next goal was a redirect on the power play off a point blast from Shayne Gostisbehere. Voracek's goal was actually a pass intended for Simmonds on the power play when it glanced off of Francois Beauchemin to make it 3-0 at 10:35.
 
"It was good for us. We need that," Simmonds said. "It was a good win. I thought we played well. We didn't play perfect but well enough to get the win."
 
Asked about losing a natural hat trick, Simmonds didn't want any part of taking credit for the goal. 

"No, not a chance," he said. "I knew it was Jake's goal."
 
All those hats on the ice went to no good, too. Feel any responsibility to return them to their rightful owners?
 
"What am I supposed to do?" Simmonds said. "Go give every single one their hat back? It's not my fault, sorry."
 
Simmonds is on pace to score 35 goals this season. Of his 27 so far -- most of which have come in the crease -- he has 13 on the power play, which places him second behind Brayden Schenn (14) for the NHL lead.
 
"I'm lucky, I'm getting some bounces right now," Simmonds said. "But the whole idea is to try to disrupt the goalie's flow and to take his eyes away and get some rebounds.
 
"Whether I am scoring goals or not scoring goals, I am doing the same thing. I got a good bounce on the first one and G (Claude Giroux) and Ghost made a great play on top of the second one."
 
Now Mason, who sat six straight games, certainly wasn't going to be in game shape. Yet he had several good stops and finished with 33 saves. His last win, Jan. 25, was a shutout, as well.
 
He also had to handle a penalty shot from Mikko Rantanen, who was hooked from behind by Radko Gudas early in the second period. Mason knocked Rantanen's penalty shot away into the corner with his stick. 

This was Mason's 216th game played, third most of any Flyers goalie all-time.
 
"It's been a tough month, a lot of practice," he said of being benched in favor of Neuvirth. "When you're practicing, you're not getting game action and practices become tedious. … Pretty much every game now is must-win.
 
"It's hard to make up ground with three- and four-point games and people playing each other. For us, we have to focus on one game at a time and understand the importance of each."
 
Jordan Weal's first NHL goal early in the second made it 4-0. The Flyers had not scored four goals since Jan. 12 when they came from behind to stun Vancouver, 5-4, in a shootout.
 
"It felt really good," Weal said. "It was a long time coming. I'm just trying to work as hard as I can and create as many chances when I'm out there."
 
He again played on the top line with Giroux and Simmonds.
 
"It's awesome when you get to play with guys like that," Weal said. "First couple games, I was playing with Coots (Sean Couturier) and Jake and when you play with guys like that, you play your own game and work with them.
 
"If you can get your give and go and cycle game going with them, you'll create a lot of offense. When you get to play with guys like G and Simmer, you just have to get open and good things will happen."

Best of NHL: Bruins pull away from Coyotes after scary hit on Burmistrov

Best of NHL: Bruins pull away from Coyotes after scary hit on Burmistrov

BOSTON -- Riley Nash scored a short-handed goal after Colin Miller was ejected for a bone-rattling hit that sent Arizona's Alexander Burmistrov to the hospital, and the Boston Bruins pulled away with a three-goal second period to beat the Coyotes 4-1 on Tuesday night.

Miller was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for knocking Burmistrov out of the game in the second period. The Coyotes center remained motionless on the ice for several minutes but gave a thumbs-up with both hands as he was wheeled off on a stretcher.

The Coyotes said he was taken to a hospital for further evaluation.

Boston has won six of seven games since firing coach Claude Julien and replacing him with Bruce Cassidy.

Tuukka Rask stopped 22 shots for the Bruins. Mike Smith stopped just 10 of Boston's 14 shots in the first two periods. He was replaced at the start of the third by Louis Domingue, who had 11 saves (see full recap).

Johansson, Capitals cruise past Rangers
NEW YORK -- Marcus Johansson had two goals and an assist to help Washington beat the New York Rangers 4-1 on Tuesday night in Kevin Shattenkirk's first game with the Capitals.

Brett Connolly and Nicklas Backstrom also scored and Braden Holtby stopped 29 shots as the NHL-best Capitals gave Barry Trotz his 700th career victory. Evgeny Kuznetzov and Matt Niskanen had two assists each.

Shattenkirk, acquired from St. Louis on Monday night, had four shots on goal in 17:57 of ice time.

Brady Skjei scored in the first period and Henrik Lundqvist finished with 34 saves as the Rangers lost for the second time in three days on home ice after going 5-0-1 in their previous six at Madison Square Garden (see full recap).

Streaking Predators rally for OT win over Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Filip Forsberg scored 2:45 into overtime and the Nashville Predators came back to beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-4 on Tuesday night for their fourth straight win.

Forsberg had a goal and an assist in the final nine minutes of the third period to lead the Predators back from a 4-2 deficit. Forsberg has 10 goals and four assists during a six-game point streak.

Ryan Johansen, Colin Wilson and Mike Fisher also scored for the Predators.

Kyle Okposo, Brian Gionta and Jake McCabe each had a goal and an assist for the Sabres. Evander Kane also scored and Robin Lehner made 36 saves. Buffalo has lost four in a row (see full recap).