Today is Tuesday, March 20, 2018.
|Tuesday, March 20, 2018|
|National Hockey League|
|Kings||vs.||Jets||8:00 (EDT) Preview|
Laine leads Jets against visiting Kings
Tuesday, March 20 at 12:25 AM (EDT)
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Here's something the Winnipeg Jets have never been able to say this late in a season -- they have the leading goal scorer in the NHL on their roster.
Well, okay, tied for being the top sniper.
Finnish phenom Patrik Laine scored his 42nd and 43rd goals of the campaign on Monday night in a 4-2 victory over the Dallas Stars, pulling him even with his boyhood hero, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, who notched his 43rd earlier in the evening against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Laine, 19, has the longest point streak by a teenager in NHL history at 15 games (18 goals and 26 points) and has been particularly lethal against the Stars, with 14 goals, including two hat-tricks, in nine career games.
"It's too bad that we're not playing against Dallas any more this season," Laine told The Winnipeg Sun. "I think I'm just pretty lucky against Dallas. I don't know why."
The win solidified the Jets' position in second place in the Central Division with 96 points.
But it wasn't all good news for the Jets on Monday. Defenseman Jacob Trouba, who had missed eight weeks with a high ankle sprain before returning to the lineup last week, didn't finish the game after colliding heavily with Stars captain Jamie Benn and possibly suffering a concussion. Trouba's legs buckled after he tried to get up and he had to be helped to the bench by defensemen Tyler Myers, Ben Chiarot and winger Joel Armia.
Coach Paul Maurice told The Winnipeg Free Press that Trouba came to Bell MTS Place Tuesday morning feeling "pretty darn good" but that and a couple of bucks will get you a cup of coffee at Tim Hortons.
"That tells you nothing in these situations. We need to get a few days on him. Better to feel good than not, but it will take a few days before we fully understand the extent of it," Maurice said.
"He'll see the specialist (Monday) and they'll give us a good idea of where we're at. It's usually two or three days before you find out which direction it goes. Whether it's going to be longer term. Not always, but it's happened in the past."
The Kings come to town on the heels of a 4-3 overtime victory against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. Sniper Jeff Carter scored his second goal of the game with less than 34 seconds left in the extra period, ending a contest where the Kings had been up by two goals only to fall behind and then score in the dying seconds after pulling their goaltender.
"It was a roller-coaster game but for the most part we played really well," Carter said in a postgame interview. "We gave two (goals) back but we stuck with it. At this point in the year, two points is two points."
The win moved the Kings up into a tie with the Anaheim Ducks for third place in the Pacific Division with 86 points but because they have more regulation wins, the Ducks are bumped down into one of the wild-card spots in the Western Conference.
The Kings have been treading water all month -- winning one, losing one, winning one, losing one -- while in the midst of a dogfight with the Ducks, Calgary Flames, Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche.
|Avalanche||vs.||Blackhawks||8:30 (EDT) Preview|
Avalanche visit Blackhawks clinging to playoff spot
Monday, March 19 at 9:34 PM (EDT)
CHICAGO -- The Colorado Avalanche will look to maintain a foothold in the top eight spots of the Western Conference playoff race when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night at the United Center.
Colorado (39-25-8) has won four of its past five games and is in position to claim a wild-card playoff berth with 10 games left in the regular season. The Avalanche are seeking their first postseason appearance since the 2013-14 season.
"We're not worried about anybody coming out flat or not bringing their best, which is nice," Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon said to the team's official website. "Everyone is very confident in each other. That's what makes for a very good team. Everyone really trusts each other on this team. We have a full group of guys committed to the same thing."
For the past decade, such quotes have been common from Blackhawks players. But this season has been anything but common for Chicago (30-34-9), which will miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season. The previous decade has included nine straight playoff appearances and three Stanley Cup championships.
Despite the downturn, the Blackhawks insist they are determined to finish strong.
"A lot of guys this season have been humbled in a lot of ways with the way the season's going," Blackhawks right winger Patrick Kane said to the Chicago Sun-Times. "And for these young guys, they haven't really been around a winning culture yet. So it's important to try to keep that going, to try to keep winning games and get them to feel that feeling -- what it's like to win games in here and have that winning culture.
"I don't think that's anything we want to create in here, where losing is acceptable and it's OK if we lose a game because of the position we're in."
Kane leads the Blackhawks with 69 points (25 goals, 44 assists) in 73 games. He needs one more point to reach 70 for the seventh time in his career and the third season in a row.
Colorado is led by MacKinnon, who has 89 points (38 goals, 51 assists) in 64 games. The 22-year-old has set career highs in goals, assists and points and has garnered attention as a candidate for the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player.
"For me, if we get in the playoffs, he's the MVP," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. "I can't imagine there's another player that means more for their team and is doing more for their team than what Nate's doing for us. That's just the way I see it. I mean, he is the driving force to our offense."
Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov likely will make his 43rd start. He is 21-14-6 with a 2.73 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage. In 20 career games against Chicago, he is 11-6-2 with a 2.36 GAA and a .930 save percentage.
The Blackhawks will counter with Jean-Francois Berube or Anton Forsberg in net. Berube is 2-4-1 with a 3.70 GAA and an .897 save percentage in 10 games. Forsberg is 9-15-3 with a 3.04 GAA and a .905 save percentage in 31 games.
|Canucks||vs.||Golden Knights||10:00 (EDT) Preview|
Golden Knights end homestand vs. Canucks
Tuesday, March 20 at 1:05 AM (EDT)
LAS VEGAS -- After four consecutive home losses and a very shaky first period that saw them give up 20 shots, the Vegas Golden Knights seemed to finally regain their form in Sunday afternoon's 4-0 shutout of the Calgary Flames.
William Karlsson scored the first natural hat trick in team history with three goals in less than nine minutes in the second period and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, yanked for the first time all season after allowing four goals on 11shots in an ugly 8-3 loss to New Jersey four days earlier, bounced back to stop 42 shots for his 48th career shutout and 401st career victory, tying Chris Osgood for 12th on the NHL all-time victories list.
With red-hot San Jose still within striking distance, the Golden Knights will try to end their four-game homestand with a .500 record when they face the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Vegas (46-21-5, 97 points) still holds an eight-point lead over the Sharks (40-23-9, 89) in the Pacific Division but still must play San Jose two more times this season, including a nationally televised contest on Thursday night at SAP Center. So the Golden Knights can ill-afford a slipup at home against the Canucks (25-38-9, 59), who are battling the Arizona Coyotes to avoid finishing in the Pacific cellar and have already been officially eliminated from playoff contention.
"Just the bounce-back," Fleury said when asked what he was most proud of after picking up his fourth shutout of the season. "We had a few tough games prior to this one. We had a good talk the past couple of days, and I thought we played good, especially that second period when we came out flying and had a lot of good chances (scoring four times)."
"We weren't happy the way we played over the last couple weeks," Vegas coach Gerard Gallant admitted. "We had some real good games in there. We had some games where I thought we played okay and lost. ... It was important for us to bounce back, for sure."
Vegas, which has as many home wins (25) as Vancouver has overall, plays a Canucks squad that has lost six straight games since losing standout 21-year-old rookie forward Brock Boeser to a potential season-ending back injury.
Boeser, who leads Vancouver with 29 goals and 55 points, was stretchered off the ice in a 4-3 overtime win over the New York Islanders on March 5th after he fell into an open gate at the players' bench trying to make a hit on Cal Clutterbuck, fracturing a bone in his lower back in the process.
The Canucks have scored just six goals in the six games since Boeser's injury and were shut out in three consecutive games. A power-play goal by Nikolay Goldobin at the 10:12 mark of the first period in Saturday night's 5-3 home loss to San Jose snapped a scoreless streak that covered 222 minutes and 57 seconds and 118 shots.
This is the third of four meetings between the two teams. Vegas won each of the two previous contests, 5-2 on Nov. 16 at Rogers Arena and 6-3 on Feb. 23 at T-Mobile Arena. The teams also meet on April 3 in Vancouver.
|Devils||vs.||Sharks||10:30 (EDT) Preview|
Devils up next for streaking Sharks
Monday, March 19 at 10:28 PM (EDT)
After a late-season stumble and a first-round playoff exit in 2016-17, the San Jose Sharks are trying to ensure that history does not repeat itself.
The Sharks look for their fifth straight win and eighth in 10 games when they meet the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.
San Jose (40-23-9) returns to SAP Center after a three-game sweep through western Canada capped by a 5-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
"That was a huge trip coming away with six points," defenseman Justin Braun said.
With less than three weeks left in the regular season, the Sharks are in the second place in the Pacific Division. This game starts a three-game homestand that includes a matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday.
San Jose trails the first-year Golden Knights by eight points -- and at least one player thinks there is a chance to come away with a division title.
Last season, the Sharks dropped six in a row in the final weeks of the regular season and were sent packing by the Edmonton Oilers in six games. Perhaps all of that is something Logan Couture remembers too well.
"We're in a good spot, but there's still 10 games, there's still 20 possible points for us to go and get," the winger told the league's official website.
First, the Sharks go for a sweep of the season series with the Devils. Martin Jones posted the first of his four shutouts this season with 28 saves in a 3-0 win over the Devils on Oct. 20.
While with San Jose, Jones is 1-1-0 with a 1.01 goals-against in two career starts against New Jersey at SAP Center. He made 26 stops in a 4-0 win in San Jose in the most recent matchup on Nov. 21, 2016.
The Sharks have 37 goals in their last nine games, and the play of Evander Kane has helped fuel that surge. Since coming over from the Buffalo Sabres, Kane has five goals and five assists in nine games.
The fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft posted his first career hat trick after collecting four goals in Friday's 7-4 win over the Calgary Flames.
Kane is one of three Sharks to score five goals after the trade, joining Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier. Joe Pavelski leads San Jose with 12 points (three goals, nine assists) since Kane joined the club.
Pavelski has five assists in a four-game streak and 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 16 career games against New Jersey. Hertl is also red-hot with three straight multipoint games, totaling four goals and three assists.
New Jersey (37-27-8) is fifth in the Atlantic Division and holds the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. With 10 games to go, the Devils are just seven points behind the first-place Washington Capitals.
After taking the first three games of a six-game road trip, New Jersey dropped a 4-2 decision to Anaheim on Sunday. Kyle Palmieri notched his 20th goal and Patrick Maroon scored for the Devils, who were outshot 36-17.
"I think this is the time of year where it is the best time to play. You should be ready every night. No excuses," said Maroon, who has two goals and five assists in eight games since being picked up from the Edmonton Oilers last month.
One player who has slowed down some for New Jersey is winger Taylor Hall. He has a goal and two assists in five games after a 26-game points streak in which he logged 18 goals and 20 assists.
Hall has six goals and seven assists in 12 career games in San Jose.
Goaltender Keith Kinkaid has started every game on the road trip, surrendering nine goals on 152 shots. He needs one win to reach 20 for the first time in his career and had the first road shutout of his career on March 10, 2016, against the Sharks.
If Cory Schneider starts, he will be looking to snap an 0-8-2 slide. He's 4-3-0 with a 3.60 GAA all time in the Bay Area.
Regardless of who starts, Devils coach John Hynes has only one thing on his mind.
"We've got to find a way to win it. We got to find a way to be way better than we were (Sunday), and it' not about what's gone on the trip or 'what if.' Let's just be here to win hockey games," he said.
|Blue Jackets||vs.||Rangers||7:00 (EDT) Preview|
Rangers try to slow Blue Jackets
Tuesday, March 20 at 12:57 AM (EDT)
NEW YORK -- Now it's the New York Rangers' turn to try and do something that more than a quarter of the NHL has failed to do over the last two-plus weeks: Beat the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Rangers will attempt to slow the hottest team in the league Tuesday night, when the Blue Jackets visit Madison Square Garden for the final game this season between the Metropolitan Division rivals.
The Blue Jackets ran their winning streak to eight games Monday night, when they came back from a two-goal deficit to edge the host Boston Bruins, 5-4. The Rangers last played Saturday, when they fell to the host St. Louis Blues, 4-3, in overtime.
While the Rangers (32-32-8) are playing out the string after embarking upon a rebuilding project in February, the surge by the Blue Jackets (40-28-5) has dramatically enhanced their playoff prospects.
Columbus, which was tied for the Eastern Conference's second wild card before its winning streak began on March 4, is now six points ahead of the Florida Panthers, who are in ninth place in the East, and tied for third place in the Metropolitan with the Philadelphia Flyers. The two teams are two points behind the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins and four points behind the first-place Washington Capitals.
The Blue Jackets' streak appeared imperiled Monday, when they trailed the Bruins 3-1 late in the third period. The victory was the fourth one-goal decision over the eight-game run for Columbus.
"We're a resilient group -- I don't think we played nearly our best, found a way to just stick with it," said Blue Jackets right winger Cam Atkinson, who scored the game-winning goal 2:55 into overtime. "It was a huge two points."
The Blue Jackets' No. 1 goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky, will likely draw the start after backup Joonas Korpisalo earned the win Monday by recording 34 saves. Bobrovsky last played Saturday, when he stopped 23 shots and was credited with the win in Columbus' 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators.
The Rangers will shift away from evaluation mode for at least one game Tuesday, when star goalie Henrik Lundqvist returns to the lineup after sitting in favor of rookie Alexandar Georgiev the previous three games. Lundqvist hasn't played since March 10, when he made 32 saves and took the loss as the Rangers fell to the Florida Panthers, 4-3, in the shootout.
"Ten games to go, we've got to make the most out of this stretch here," Lundqvist told reporters following practice Monday. "Nobody knows who's going to be here next year. But right now, let's make the most of it as a group and we'll see how many wins we end up with in the end."
Bobrovsky is 7-10-2 in 20 career regular-season appearances against the Rangers. Lundqvist is 11-7-1 in 20 games against the Blue Jackets.
The home team has won each of the first three games this season between the Rangers and Blue Jackets. Columbus earned a 3-1 win at Nationwide Arena on Oct. 13 and a 2-0 victory on Nov. 17. New York notched a 5-3 win at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 6.
|Oilers||vs.||Hurricanes||7:00 (EDT) Preview|
Hurricanes, Oilers trying to stay in playoff picture
Monday, March 19 at 7:43 PM (EDT)
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Carolina Hurricanes will have to be efficient to make the necessary elevation in the Eastern Conference standings to reach the playoff level.
They play a team Tuesday night at PNC Arena that's in worse shape in the Western Conference. That's the Edmonton Oilers.
Just about every time the Hurricanes look to be down for the count, they give themselves a chance.
"I think our group has got mental toughness, I really do," Carolina coach Bill Peters said. "We've had a few gut punches this year. We've had a few here recently. You have to pick yourself up off the canvass and keep going."
Carolina snapped a three-game losing streak with Sunday's 4-3 road decision over the New York Islanders. That marked only the second victory for the Hurricanes during a seven-game stretch.
"I thought five-on-five we were real good," Peters said, noting that penalties have been troublesome. "If we clean that part of the game up, we'll be a better team coming down the stretch."
The game might have produced the best performance of the season from center Victor Rask, Peters said. That's the type of emerging efforts the Hurricanes will require in order to climb back into playoff position.
Carolina has only five home games remaining. The Hurricanes are 16-14-6 on home ice, so they must win their remaining games in front of their fans in order to win a majority of their home games for the season.
"Everyone knows how to play," said Peters, who gave the team Monday off. "If that's the matchup you draw, you have to go out and win that matchup."
Edmonton has shown some recent life with a 4-2-1 stretch in its last seven games.
"I try to give this team a chance," Oilers goalie Al Montoya said.
Yet frustration continues to mount for the Oilers because they've failed so often on power plays. They have the fewest power-play goals in the league, a situation that was magnified with the 0-of-5 performance in man advantages in Sunday's 3-1 loss at Tampa Bay.
"That's been the tale of the tape lately with the power play," Oilers coach Todd McLellan said.
Yet McLellan isn't calling for an overhaul on the power-play units.
"Sometimes it's asking them just to relax," McLellan said. "Right now, we're squeezing the sticks a little bit in that situation. We're so desperate for a power-play goal that when we do create an opportunity we're not finishing it. ... The power play has to get better."
It's certainly a topic that's festering.
"I don't know how much more we can do on the power play without scoring a goal," Oilers center Ryan Strome said. "We've been playing some good hockey lately, but (there's) a bad taste in our mouth."
On Monday, the Oilers recalled defenseman Dillon Simpson on an emergency basis from Bakersfield of the American Hockey League. He has played three career NHL games with the Oilers.
Perhaps Simpson can have a similar impact to right winger Ty Rattie, who was called up for Bakersfield last week and scored two goals in two games.
For the Oilers, Tuesday's game is the third stop on a four-game East Coast trip.
Carolina won the first meeting of the season with the Oilers, claiming a 5-3 decision on Oct. 17. That marked the team's first road victory of the season. Teuvo Teravainen registered two goals in that game.
|Penguins||vs.||Islanders||7:00 (EDT) Preview|
Fading Islanders remain at home to take on Penguins
Monday, March 19 at 9:11 PM (EDT)
NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders will get the first of two consecutive reminders of what once was and what could have been Tuesday night when they continue a five-game homestand by hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at Barclays Center.
The Islanders continued their months-long descent toward the bottom of the NHL on Sunday when they fell to the visiting Carolina Hurricanes 4-3. The Penguins last played Thursday when they beat the host Montreal Canadiens 5-3.
While the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins (41-26-5) enter Tuesday in the thick of a tight race for first place in the Metropolitan Division, the Islanders (30-32-10) are left to wonder how much farther they can sink after losing three in a row and 11 of their last 12 (1-7-4).
The skid has not only dropped the Islanders into last place in the Metropolitan, it could, by faceoff Tuesday, have them as close to last in the entire NHL as the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.
Such a scenario was hard to envision earlier this season for the Islanders, who appeared to be on the rise after giving the Penguins all they could handle in a 2013 playoff series, advancing to the 2016 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, whom New York hosts on Thursday, and missing the playoffs last season by one point.
"We take pride in what we do," Islanders center Anders Lee said after scoring two goals Sunday. "There's a lot of strong guys in this room. This is pretty painful. It sucks, but we come in and we work hard. We work extremely hard. We just don't have much to show for it, so that's why it feels as bad as it (does)."
The Penguins, meanwhile, are looking to achieve something that has eluded them during their consecutive championships: a division title.
Pittsburgh, which finished second to the Washington Capitals each of the previous two seasons, heads into Tuesday two points behind the division-leading Washington Capitals and two points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers.
"I just think it's important for us to try to put ourselves in the very best possible position to succeed and that's the way we look at it," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said after practice Monday afternoon. "We're going to control what we can. We're going to take each game as it comes and we're going to try to put our very best on the ice each and every game."
For the Penguins on Tuesday night, that could include Matt Murray at goalie for the first time this month. Murray has been sidelined since suffering a concussion on Feb. 26, but Sullivan said he looked good in practice Monday and is a candidate to start against the Islanders.
Pittsburgh has gone 5-3-1 with Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jerry splitting time at goalie in Murray's absence. Jarry had 17 saves in Thursday's win over the Canadiens.
Islanders coach Doug Weight said Sunday that he didn't know if starter Jaroslav Halak or rookie backup Christopher Gibson would draw the start Tuesday. Halak took the loss Sunday when he stopped 35 shots against the Hurricanes.
|Stars||vs.||Capitals||7:00 (EDT) Preview|
Stars search for elusive road win against Capitals
Monday, March 19 at 8:02 PM (EDT)
WASHINGTON -- The Dallas Stars visit the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night hoping to salvage the finale of a six-game road trip and boost their standing in the Western Conference wild-card race.
Dallas is 0-3-2 on the trip after dropping a 4-3 decision on Sunday in Winnipeg. Mattias Janmark and Jamie Benn scored for the Stars (38-27-8).
Adding injury to insult, goalie Ben Bishop left the game midway through the first period with a lower-body issue and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.
Kari Lehtonen came on Sunday and made 17 saves.
"He stepped up for us, made some huge saves," Stars defenseman John Klingberg told NHL.com. "We know we have two good goalies and they're probably our best players every night now, so we depend on both of them."
The Stars trailed 3-2 after two periods and pressed until the Jets scored on an empty-netter.
Despite the losing streak, Dallas is tied with the Los Angeles Kings for the second wild-card spot, but the Kings hold the tiebreaker having played one fewer game.
"We know we've got to win games, we know there is going to be movement," Janmark told the Dallas Morning News regarding the tight standings. "We're right there, and we've just got to stay alive here when we're going through this tough stretch. Then, I think once we can turn the page here, we can make a push."
To do so, they will have to start putting the puck in the net more consistently. The Stars outshot the Jets 30-24 and had numerous quality chances to score. Dallas has just 16 goals in the last eight games and is 1-4-3 in that span.
"I'm not sure," Hitchcock told the Morning News when asked about the offensive problems. "I think whether it's squeezing our sticks or just going through phases where you're missing chances, I'm not sure. In these games, we've needed a goal at the right time, and it hasn't happened. That's how close it's been."
Washington (41-24-7) holds two-point lead over Pittsburgh in the Metropolitan Division, but the Capitals squandered a chance to add the that lead on Sunday. Facing a Flyers team that played the night before, the Capitals dropped a 6-3 decision in Philadelphia.
Three Washington turnovers led directly Philadelphia goals as the Capitals' four-game win streak came to an ignominious end.
"We shoot ourselves in the foot, obviously," Alex Ovechkin told the Washington Post.
John Carlson had a goal and an assist, and Ovechkin and Chandler Stephenson scored for Washington. Philipp Grubauer made 29 saves.
"We have to start playing playoff hockey," Jay Beagle told NHL.com. "You have to start right now. Teams that are fighting for spots and teams that are a little more desperate, we have to match how desperate they are, and we have to go after them rather than sitting back and waiting for the game to come to us."
The Capitals are expected to again be without injured center Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper body) and defenseman Brooks Orpik (lower body) on Tuesday night.
Goaltender Braden Holtby, who was solid in Friday's win over the Islanders after sitting for four games, is expected to get the start Tuesday. Coach Barry Trotz indicated Monday that Holtby and Philipp Grubauer could split the final 10 games of the regular season.
"Whoever's going good and who we feel is the hottest at the right time we're going to go with," Trotz told the Washington Post.
Holtby has struggled in limited action against the Stars, posting a 1-4 record with a 4.32 goals-against average (GAA) and an .854 save percentage.
Lehtonen sits 12-10-3 this season with a 2.46 GAA and .913 save percentage. Against Washington in his career, he is 18-6-3 with a 2.61 GAA and .921 save percentage.
|Flyers||vs.||Red Wings||7:30 (EDT) Preview|
Mrazek returns with Flyers to face Red Wings
Monday, March 19 at 8:37 PM (EDT)
The Detroit Red Wings will welcome an old friend back to town Tuesday when they face the Philadelphia Flyers.
Flyers goaltender Petr Mrazek was traded to Philadelphia by the Red Wings on Feb. 19, and Mrazek is proving to be the gift that keeps on giving.
Philadelphia's 6-3 win Sunday over the Washington Capitals was Mrazek's fifth in a Flyers uniform. That, coupled with a Philadelphia playoff appearance this spring, will bump the 2018 fourth-round draft pick the Red Wings got for Mrazek up to a third-round choice.
"Petr is playing really well and I wish him all the best," Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard said.
Mrazek was plagued by inconsistency with the Red Wings and that has continued to be an issue during his brief tenure with the Flyers. He won his first three starts for Philly and then went 0-3-1 in his next four decisions.
The win Sunday ended Mrazek's two-game skid. Mrazek was pulled from his previous start against the Columbus Blue Jackets after allowing four goals on 10 shots.
"I think Pete had lots of success on the way up to the NHL, being a competitor and his moxie and I think as the years here went along," said Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill, who also coahced Mrazek with Grand Rapids in the American Hockey League. "I think he realized he had to work at his technique and really work at making that better and I think he's made a concerted effort.
"It didn't always show, but I think over the last little bit it really started to come where his technique was starting to get himself to that spot."
The Flyers have won two in a row, ending a 1-6-1 skid. Captain Claude Giroux has points in nine of his last 10 games and 11-15-26 totals in the past 19 games.
Winger Wayne Simmonds scored twice in the victory over the Capitals. Philadelphia is 17-2-1 when Simmonds scores a goal.
Second-year center Travis Konecny has four points in the past four games, and rookie Oskar Lindblom netted his first NHL goal in the win over Washington.
"That's what winners are made of," Simmonds told Philly.com. "That's the type of effort we're going to need out of every single guy in this dressing room."
Nothing is going right for the Red Wings, who are winless in 10 games (0-9-1), the first time they've hit double digits without a victory since the 1981-82 season. Detroit is 0-8-1 in March, and the team hasn't gone an entire month without a win since November 1982 (0-8-5).
Blashill cited a Philadelphia source -- Eagles quarterback Nick Foles -- when assessing what his team is currently up against.
"Nick Foles talked about it after they won the Super Bowl, how much adversity he's had to fight through," Blashill told detroitredwings.com. "You hope to come out stronger on the other side. That's what life's about.
"This isn't supposed to be easy. This is the National Hockey League. Sports isn't supposed to be easy, it's supposed to be hard. That's why it feels so good when you win. So we've got to find a way to keep fighting here."
|Maple Leafs||vs.||Lightning||7:30 (EDT) Preview|
Another challenge awaits Lightning against Maple Leafs
Monday, March 19 at 8:54 PM (EDT)
TAMPA, Fla. -- On Saturday, the Tampa Bay Lightning were reminded that a short-handed team is still nothing to be taken lightly when they were soundly defeated 3-0 by the injury-depleted Boston Bruins.
They face much the same challenge on Tuesday when the Toronto Maple Leafs come to town, trying to build momentum for the playoffs without several key players.
Toronto (43-22-7) is in third place in the Atlantic, all but assured of a playoff spot with 12 games to play. But the Maple Leafs are still without star Auston Matthews, nearly back after a month out with a shoulder injury.
They'll play Tuesday without center Leo Komarov and defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, and potentially goalie Frederik Andersen as well.
The Maple Leafs have won four straight, scoring a combined 20 goals, but their next two are on the road against the top two teams in the NHL, with a game following Thursday at Nashville.
"A good test for us," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said Monday. "Obviously, we're going to have to get better. We know that. The urgency in our play has to be better if we're going to have success."
Tampa Bay (49-19-4) still leads the Atlantic, though Boston lurks four points back with two games in hand, and Nashville now has the lead for the overall points in the NHL. The Lightning bounced back from a two-game losing streak with a 3-1 win Sunday over the Edmonton Oilers.
That win saw a big step forward on special teams -- the Lightning went 5 of 5 in killing off Oilers power plays after giving up power-play goals in 11 of the previous 12 games. The penalty kill now ranks 26th in the league, a weakness big enough to help offset the NHL's No. 2 power play.
Even the power play had struggled, going 4 of 24 in nine games before getting a key power play goal from Nikita Kucherov as the go-ahead goal Sunday.
Kucherov continues to pace the league with 93 points, on 36 goals and 57 assists, and the league's top-scoring offense also has Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point with 27 goals each.
"Tonight, we won the special-teams battle, and we got a much-deserved win," said Stamkos, noting that the penalty-kill issues haven't been for a lack of effort but had remained a persistent struggle.
If Tampa Bay was to stumble and be overtaken by Boston -- the teams play two more times in the final 10 games -- it could fall into an opening-round playoff against Toronto.
The two teams have played close games this season -- Tampa Bay won 2-0 in January, Toronto won 4-3 in February, and the Lightning edged the Maple Leafs 4-3 in shootout later in February.
Babcock said it's important not to look ahead in a challenging week, and just play the game directly in front of them.
"Some nights, the matchups are easier than others," Babcock said. "I can guarantee the next couple of nights they won't easy."
|Panthers||vs.||Senators||7:30 (EDT) Preview|
It's crunch time for Panthers against Senators
Monday, March 19 at 11:50 PM (EDT)
OTTAWA -- Once again creeping close to a playoff spot, the Florida Panthers simply cannot afford to lose another game to the Ottawa Senators.
To that end, the Panthers are expected to go with backup James Reimer in goal when the teams meet Tuesday night at Canadian Tire Centre.
Reimer was on the bench watching Roberto Luongo post his 76th career shutout in Montreal against the Canadiens on Monday, just as he was when the Panthers fumbled away two points in Florida when the Senators visited March 12 and walked away with a 5-3 victory.
The Panthers, who are now three points back of the New Jersey Devils for the wild-card spot with two games in hand, are unlikely to go with the 38-year old Luongo in back-to-back games even if the Senators had not lit him up for five goals on 20 shots a week ago.
Luongo made 28 saves to tie Tony Esposito and Ed Belfour on the career shutout list in Montreal.
"The focus, for me, isn't on reminiscing," Luongo told reporters when asked about his place in history. "It's about what's ahead of us right now and winning hockey games."
Reimer, who had plenty of success at Canadian Tire Center when he played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, has a 12-5-2 lifetime against the Senators, including a 2.45 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage.
His last game was a 46-save shutout over the Boston Bruins on March 15.
The Panthers needed 40 shots to put two past Canadiens backup Antti Niemi on Monday.
"It was nice to see the guys stick with it and generating chances," Panthers coach Bob Boughner told reporters. "It was a big win."
Ottawa had a three-game winning streak stopped in a 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.
The Senators believe they literally dodged a bullet when 20-goal scoring winger Ryan Dzingel survived taking a shot from linemate Mike Hoffman in Saturday's 2-1 loss to Columbus without suffering a concussion.
Dzingel will be held out of Tuesday's game nonetheless.
"It's Hoffman's shot, it's a bullet," coach Guy Boucher told reporters on Monday. "With the protection he had there, he was lucky, because if it was lower it probably would have been right in the middle of the neck and that wouldn't have been a good place.
"That's hockey. It happens and you hope it doesn't, but over the course of an entire year, there's definitely moments where you're scared, and that was one of them."
The Senators recalled Filip Chlapik from their farm team in Belleville to take Dzingel's roster spot, but veteran Zack Smith is slated to step into his job on the team's top line with Hoffman and Matt Duchene.
Craig Anderson is expected to tend goal for the Senators against the Panthers. In 25 career games versus Florida, Anderson has a 15-7-2 record with a 2.24 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.
|Monday, March 19, 2018|
|National Hockey League|
Carter's second goal gives Kings 4-3 OT win over Wild
By BRIAN HALL - Associated Press
Tuesday, March 20 at 12:10 AM (EDT)
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Jeff Carter's return from ankle surgery has been a big boost for the playoff-hopeful Los Angeles Kings.
Carter scored his second goal of the game with 33.8 seconds left on the clock in overtime and Los Angeles recovered after giving up a two-goal lead to beat the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Monday night.
''The puck just finds that guy,'' said defenseman Drew Doughty, who had three assists. ''It's unbelievable. It really is unbelievable. Two big goals again for us tonight. He's scored in almost every game he's been in, I feel like, since he got back. He's a goal scorer. He does it every single night, so he did a great job for us there once again.''
Tanner Pearson and Dustin Brown also scored for the Kings, who pulled into a tie with Anaheim for third place in the Pacific Division with 86 points - and they hold the tiebreaker over the Ducks.
Jonathan Quick made 24 saves for Los Angeles, which appeared headed to a second straight loss until Brown tipped home a point shot from Doughty with 46.5 seconds left in regulation after Minnesota had taken a lead with 2:31 remaining.
''To come back, that's a huge two points for a team that we're quite honestly fighting with for position in the conference,'' Kings coach John Stevens said. ''It had its ebbs and flows for sure, but I thought the guys showed a lot of professionalism in terms of staying with it.''
Joel Eriksson Ek scored for the first time in 13 games to give the Wild a short-lived lead. Eric Staal added his 39th and Zach Parise had his second goal in three games for Minnesota.
Devan Dubnyk stopped 26 shots for the Wild, who are third in the Central Division, four points ahead of Colorado.
''They need points; so do we,'' Staal said. ''But when you have that lead with a minute left, you want to be able to execute and get that job done. Tonight, we didn't and they got the extra one in overtime.''
Pearson scored his 15th with 1:13 left in the first and Carter added his first of the game on the power play in the second. Carter has eight goals and two assists in 12 games since returning on Feb. 24 from surgery to repair a tendon in his ankle.
''I've been in the right place at the right time for a lot of my goals,'' Carter said.
Parise started Minnesota's comeback with his ninth of the season and Staal tied the game with 56 seconds remaining in the second. Staal has 13 goals in the past 14 games.
''Every point you get right now is great,'' Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. ''To get into the next category, the 90 points, is really big. Again, we had the lead with a minute to go and then we didn't do the right things in the overtime.''
NOTES: Los Angeles F Trevor Lewis left the game with an upper body injury and did not return. ... Kings D Derek Forbort left the game in the first after he was cut near his ear by Zach Parise's skate but did return in the second. ... Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Staal could join Gordie Howe as the only players in NHL history with at least nine seasons between 40-goal campaigns. Staal has his most since scoring 40 in 2008-09. ... Los Angeles C Alex Iafallo was scratched for the first time since Jan. 4, a span of 32 games. Andy Andreoff was in the lineup after being scratched 11 games in a row. ... Minnesota got three assists from its defensemen. Wild defenseman have now accounted for 36 goals and 142 assists this season. Their 178 points from the blue line is second only to Nashville's 181 this season.
Kings: At Winnipeg on Tuesday night.
Wild: Are off until hosting Nashville on Saturday.
More NHL hockey: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey
Ekman-Larsson's two late goals lead Coyotes past Flames
By JOSE M. ROMERO - Associated Press
Tuesday, March 20 at 2:07 AM (EDT)
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Oliver Ekman-Larsson and the Arizona Coyotes aren't going to the NHL playoffs this season. However, that doesn't mean they're taking it easy against contending teams.
Ekman-Larsson scored twice late in the third period, including his 100th career goal, to lead the Coyotes to a 5-2 win over the Calgary Flames on Monday night.
The 26-year-old is just the second Coyotes defenseman to reach the milestone and the 18th player in franchise history to do so.
''That just means I'm doing something good out there,'' Ekman-Larsson said.
The Coyotes previously hung tough into the third period before losing against playoff-bound Nashville and Minnesota, and beat Los Angeles in a shootout.
''We understand we are not in the playoffs, but we understand we are playing teams that are going in the playoffs,'' Coyotes assistant coach John MacLean said. ''We understand we have to match their intensity ... we didn't back off all night.''
Max Domi also had two goals for Arizona, including an empty-netter with 21 seconds left, and had an assist on Ekman-Larsson's tiebreaking goal. Richard Panik scored early in the second period for the Coyotes, and Antti Raanta stopped 42 shots.
Dougie Hamilton had a goal and an assist, and Sean Monahan also scored as Calgary - with its wild card hopes fading - lost for the fourth time in five games. Mike Smith finished with 25 saves.
Domi stole a pass in the Calgary zone and beat Smith to tie the score at 2-2 with about 2 1/2 minutes left in the second period.
Both teams missed several scoring chances in the third period until Ekman-Larsson put the Coyotes ahead with 3:41 remaining, then added an empty-netter 2:04 later for his 13th of the season to double the lead.
Smith started his first game at Gila River Arena since the Flames acquired him from Arizona last summer. A video tribute to the Coyotes' all-time leader in games played and shutouts among goalies was shown during a stoppage in play in the first period, and Smith offered a quick wave after being welcomed back.
''It's disappointing, frustrating, you think you have an opportunity to get some points here tonight and you let it slip away,'' Smith said. ''So it hurts. We needed tonight's game. It was a big game for us and we let it slide again.''
Arizona went up 1-0 on Panik's goal at 5:15 of the second. Panik fired in a wrist shot from his knees off Clayton Keller's cross-ice pass. Keller, a rookie, scored a point in his fifth straight game and has nine in his last 10 games. His 53 points lead the Coyotes this season.
The Flames tied it on Hamilton's goal at 9:05 of the second, his 16th of the season. Hamilton's 43 points lead Calgary defensemen.
The Flames took the lead with 4:32 left in the middle period as Monahan put in a rebound for his team-leading 31st. The advantage lasted just two minutes.
Domi recorded his second three-point night of the season.
''I'll take it, but all that matters is the two points,'' Domi said.
Neither team scored in the first period, but a goal by Monahan at with about seven minutes to go was disallowed because of a delayed penalty. The Coyotes totaled six penalty minutes in the first, all related to physical play and scuffles with Flames players.
Domi was called for high sticking and raised his penalty-minute total to 67, which leads the Coyotes.
NOTES: The Coyotes were without head coach Rick Tocchet on Monday, as he left the team to attend his mother's funeral near Toronto. Tocchet is expected to rejoin the Coyotes on Wednesday when they visit Buffalo. ... The Coyotes embark on a six-game road trip after Monday's game and will play eight of their final 10 regular-season games away from home. ... Flames D TJ Brodie missed his first game of the season, scratched due to an upper-body injury suffered Sunday at Vegas. ... F Matthew Tkachuk was also scratched, missing his fourth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... C Sam Bennett served four penalty minutes for roughing.
Flames: Host Anaheim on Wednesday night.
Coyotes: At Buffalo on Wednesday night.
|Blue Jackets||5||vs.||4||Bruins||Final Recap|
Atkinson scores in OT to lift Blue Jackets past Bruins, 5-4
By KEN POWTAK - Associated Press
Monday, March 19 at 11:24 PM (EDT)
BOSTON (AP) The Columbus Blue Jackets felt like they were lucky to get a victory in their late-season push for one of the Eastern Conference's playoff spots.
Cam Atkinson scored 2:55 into overtime to lift the Blue Jackets to a 5-4 comeback victory over Boston on Monday night for their eighth straight win, spoiling a splendid NHL debut for Bruins forward Ryan Donato.
''We stuck with it and that's what good teams do,'' Atkinson said. ''It wasn't our prettiest by no means, but we found a way to get two huge points.''
Sonny Milano, Boone Jenner, Thomas Vanek and Artemi Panarin also scored for the Blue Jackets. Nick Foligno and Ryan Murray had two assists, and Vanek and Jenner each added one. Joonas Korpisalo stopped 34 shots.
Columbus moved into a tie with Philadelphia with 85 points, but the Flyers hold the tiebreaker for third place in the Metropolitan Division and the Blue Jackets hold the first wild card in the East. New Jersey,which has the second wild card, is three points behind.
This one, though, may have been the Blue Jackets' ugliest during the current run.
''It just looked like as a whole group we didn't seem to have our legs,'' Columbus coach John Tortorella said. ''The turnovers hurt us, we turned the puck over quite a bit. But give them credit, they just ended up finding a way.''
Atkinson cut in on the left wing and fired a wrister past Tuukka Rask for the game-winner.
''You see it, there's no traffic in front of you, but there's more clear-cut chances,'' Rask said of the 3-on-3 overtime format. ''Even that goal there, it looks like he's going high-stick, but it goes under my hand.''
Donato had a goal and two assists for Boston, which moved a point behind idle Tampa Bay for first in the Atlantic. Riley Nash, Brad Marchand and David Krejci also scored for the Bruins, and Rask finished with 20 saves.
''It kind of felt like a dream,'' Donato said. ''I really didn't really get too warmed up because I was focused everything else.''
The Blue Jackets trailed by two late in the second period before scoring three consecutive goals to take a 4-3 lead.
Just 25 seconds after Nash had given the Bruins a 3-1 lead, Milano redirected Ryan Murray's slap-pass from the right point to pull Columbus within one with just over three minutes remaining in the middle period.
Vanek tipped in a shot from the slot, tying it 5:38 into the third, and Panarin put the Blue Jackets ahead off a faceoff with 8:30 left in regulation.
However, Donato slipped a short pass from the right circle to Krejci, who got the tying goal 20 seconds later while falling to one knee.
Jenner got Columbus on the scoreboard first when he redirected Vanek's pass by Rask 4:15 into the game.
The Bruins scored three straight goals in the second to take the lead. Marchand tied it with his team-leading 31st of the season when he got the puck at the end of a 2-on-1 break, shifted to his right and tucked it behind Korpisalo 5:41 into the middle period.
Donato, a Hobey Baker Finalist after leading Harvard in scoring this season, pushed Boston ahead with a one-timer that slipped inside the near post from the right faceoff circle at 7:28. The leading scorer on the U.S. team at the Pyeongchang Olympics signed a two-year, entry-level contract on Sunday.
Nash's power-play goal increased it to 3-1 as he banged home a rebound from the top of the crease with 3:28 remaining.
NOTES: Boston F David Pastrnak got his 70th point on Marchand's goal, matching his career-high. ... Bruins F Rick Nash was a late scratch with an upper-body injury. ... The Blue Jackets entered with the league's second-worst power play and went 0 for 2 against the Bruins. ... Local Olympians, including eight from the women's Gold medal-winning hockey team, were honored during a ceremonial puck drop. ... Bruins captain Zdeno Chara missed his third straight with an upper-body injury. ... Columbus D Seth Jones missed his second straight with an upper-body injury.
Blue Jackets: At the New York Rangers on Tuesday. Columbus won the only other meeting, 3-1 at home on Oct. 13.
Bruins: At St. Louis on Thursday in the first of a four-game road trip.
Rinne gets 40th win as Predators beat Sabres 4-0
By JOHN WAWROW - AP Hockey Writer
Monday, March 19 at 11:52 PM (EDT)
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Predators stalwart Pekka Rinne briefly stopped to marvel when informed of the elite NHL goaltending company he joined in becoming a three-time 40-game winner - and after a shutout, no less.
Only six players - Martin Brodeur and Terry Sawchuk, among them - had previously done that.
''When you say that, it sounds pretty cool,'' Rinne said, after stopping 35 shots in a 4-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night. ''Those guys are legends of this game. They've done so much not only for the game of hockey but for the position of being a goalie. That's great. That's a credit to my teammates, big time, and also my coaching staff.''
Rinne has been nearly unbeatable in winning his 11th straight game and improving to 40-9-4. And the 12-year veteran is carrying the NHL-leading Predators along with him in approaching numerous franchise milestones.
Nashville set a team record by extending its point streak to 15 games (14-0-1). And the Predators won their ninth consecutive road game as part of a run in which they're 12-0-3 in their past 15 to break yet another team record.
''He's unbelievable,'' teammate Ryan Johansen said of Rinne. ''In our opinion, he's been the most valuable player for us.''
The rest of the Predators have been no slouches during a stretch in which they haven't lost in regulation since a 3-1 setback against Detroit on Feb. 17.
Johansen and Mike Fisher scored goals 4:34 apart in the second period. Filip Forsberg and Ryan Hartman then sealed it by scoring in the final four minutes.
First-year Sabres coach Phil Housley could only tip his hat to Nashville, where he spent the previous four seasons as an assistant. Though the final score didn't reflect it, Housley was pleased with how the Sabresm last in the Eastern Conference, held their own against the Predators for mostly two periods.
''I can't fault the way our guys played. I thought they brought their best game,'' Housley said. ''One thing I'd like to see our guys do better is stop in front of the net and start pounding it, whacking at some loose pucks there.''
Then again, Housley is all too familiar with how well Rinne can play when he gets into a groove.
''If we could rattle him early and get him off his game a little bit, that's the time we've got to take advantage,'' Housley said. ''But once he settles in, he's tough to beat.''
Buffalo's Jack Eichel burst up the left side and behind the Predators' defense to drive across the crease only to have his shot stopped by Rinne's left pad four minutes in. Rinne also got an assist from teammate Kevin Fiala, who got his stick out to stop Justin Bailey's attempt to tap in a bouncing puck in the crease.
Rinne kicked out his right pad to foil Nicholas Baptiste's snap shot from the slot 2:30 into the second period. With the game still scoreless, Rinne snapped his glove to snag Jason Pominville's rising slap shot from the right circle.
Buffalo's minor-league call-up Linus Ullmark stopped 28 shots, starting in place of Robin Lehner, who was sidelined with an undisclosed injury.
Ullmark had little chance on Fisher's goal that opened the scoring 12:29 into the second period.
Fisher and teammate Scott Hartnell were both parked in front when Fisher deflected in Mikka Salomaki's shot from the blue line. The Sabres challenged the goal by arguing Fisher interfered with Ullmark. The goal was allowed to stand despite a replay showing Fisher nudged the back of Ullmark's skate in the crease and also got a hand on the goalie's glove.
Housley questioned the ruling.
''I don't know what you call goalie interference anymore,'' Housley said. ''His skate hits Linus' skate, which doesn't allow him to get down into the butterfly and make the save.''
There was no disputing Johansen's goal. Ullmark stopped Viktor Arvidsson's initial shot from the right circle. The rebound fell at Ullmark's his feet where Forsberg chipped the puck to Johansen, who snapped it in the open left side.
NOTES: Brodeur leads the list of 40-game winners by having done so eight times. Washington's Braden Holtby is the only other active goalie to win 40 games three times. The other three-time 40-game-winners were Sawchuk, Jacques Plante, Mikka Kiprusoff and Evgeni Nabokov. ... Sabres RW Kyle Okposo returned after missing three games with a concussion. ... With 10 games left, the Predators inched closer to matching franchise records for most wins (51) and points (110) set in 2006-07.
Predators: Host Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.
Sabres: Host Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday in matchup of NHL's two worst teams.
More NHL hockey: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey
Luongo gets 3rd shutout, Panthers beat Canadiens 2-0
Tuesday, March 20 at 12:27 AM (EDT)
MONTREAL (AP) Roberto Luongo got another shutout and helped the Florida Panthers inch closer to a playoff spot.
Luongo stopped 28 shots for his third shutout of the season and 76th of his career, leading the Panthers to a 2-0 victory over the injury-riddled Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.
Aaron Ekblad and Aleksander Barkov scored to help Florida pull three points behind idle new Jersey for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference with two games in hand on the Devils.
''As a team we have to remember to just stay in the moment,'' said Luongo, whose club is 10-2-1 in its last 13 games. ''Right now we'll enjoy tonight but we have another big game (Tuesday night at Ottawa).
''Sometimes you get frustrated when you're trying to chase teams and they seem to keep winning, so we just want to focus on our job and make sure we put our best game forward on a nightly basis and that stuff will take care of itself in the end.''
Luongo tied Ed Belfour and Tony Esposito for ninth place on the NHL's career list for shutouts.
''It doesn't mean much now,'' he said. ''Our goal is to make the playoffs and get some wins down the stretch. ... so 100 per cent of my focus is on that.''
Antti Niemi finished with 38 saves - including two stops on Evgenii Dadonov on breakaways - for Montreal, which was shut out for the second straight game and 12th time this season - including three against the Panthers. The Canadiens were coming off a 4-0 loss at Toronto on Saturday.
Missing key players including defenseman Shea Weber and forwards Max Pacioretty, Phillip Danault and Andrew Shaw, nearly half the Canadiens' lineup was call-ups from the AHL and they at times looked overwhelmed by the Panthers.
''To me it's evident - we don't have our team,'' coach Claude Julien said. ''Right now we're not a good team. It's not that the players aren't good. We have a lot of injuries and even some of the players who aren't (inexperienced) are getting more ice time than they're used to.''
The opening 10 minutes saw two fights, one of which had Ekblad sparring with Nicolas Deslauriers. It may have fired up the big defenseman because he stole a puck from Michael McCarron, deked past defenseman Jeff Petry and beat Niemi with a move to the backhand for an unassisted goal with 1:29 left in the opening period.
Jacob De La Rose thought he had tied it for Montreal 17 seconds later, but a video review showed Alex Galchenyuk was offside by a toenail and it was waived off.
Barkov got his 26th of the season at 6:23 of the third when his shot from the left side went in off Montreal forward Logan Shaw.
''There's a lot of confidence in this room,'' said Ekblad. ''Wins never come easy, but a lot of us are feeling very confident, making smart plays and doing the right things.''
Star goalie Carey Price returned to the Montreal lineup after a concussion suffered Feb. 20. He backed up Niemi, but may be ready to start when the Canadiens visit Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
Panthers: At Ottawa on Tuesday night as they continue a stretch of seven of eight on the road.
Canadiens: At Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.