There are four weeks left in the 2022-23 NHL regular season. The end is nigh and there is much to determine in the Metropolitan Division. The Carolina Hurricanes was bested in Newark to make first place up for grabs for a moment. However, the Hurricanes remained in control of their situation and so they still own first over the New Jersey Devils with a three-point lead. The New York Rangers appear to be a mortal lock for third place as the wild card race beneath burgeons. The New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins remain ahead of the Atlantic Division chasers. It did not hurt that some of them have absolutely sputtered in recent weeks except for Florida - who is now the current threat. The Washington Capitals remain technically in the mix, but their hopes are fading as well. The Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets are spoilers with the Blue Jackets mathematically eliminated from the playoffs as of this past Friday. Here are the division standings after last night’s games:
With four weeks left, I am going to cut the wild card race down to teams within eight points of the second wild card spot. This would knock out a Detroit team who has sputtered big time since the beginning of the month. It could also knock out a sliding Ottawa team. As well as Buffalo in theory. It is not that eight points is impossible to overcome, but it is really, really, really unlikely now that there are 11-14 games left in the season for everyone involved. At this point, even a five or six point lead is huge. The real players in the race are the Islanders, Penguins, and Florida Panthers. The remainder are long shots at best.
Get ready for another busy week within the division. Almost everyone is playing on Tuesday. Everyone is playing on Saturday. The light days are on Monday and Wednesday except for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Games within the division? There are five of them and they are highlighted and in bold as usual.
Here is the week that was and week that will be for all eight teams in the division.
What Happened Last Week: Carolina began this week with a game in New Jersey and coming off a 4-0 loss to Las Vegas. A win in Newark would give them a big edge for holding onto first in the division. Unfortunately for them, Vitek Vanecek was hot and so the Canes went scoreless for the whole weekend. Jack Hughes beat Pytor Kochetkov five-hole, Jesper Bratt beat Kochetkov five-hole, and Bratt cleaned up a mess in front caused by Kochetkov misplaying a dumped-in puck. The Canes lost 3-0 and now have a Devils team to watch for even though Carolina has a game in hand on them. Fortunately for them, the Hurricanes would score a goal and get a result as the Devils lost to Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Carolina was at home to host Winnipeg. Jaccob Slavin ended the goalless run at 4:37 in the first period. While Dylan DeMelo scored just 19 seconds into the second period; Brady Skjei responded 39 seconds later to make it 2-1 again. Jesperi Kotkaniemi made it a 3-1 lead later in the second period. The Jets pulled a goal back in the third thanks to Nikolaj Ehlers, but the Canes went up by two again thanks to Jack Drury’s first of this season. Nino Neiderreiter made it interesting late with a goal to make it 4-3, but Kotkaniemi sealed the win with an empty netter for a 5-3 win. The Hurricanes were once again ahead of the Devils in points.
That took a tumble on Friday night. After the Devils lost in a shootout, the Hurricanes’ lead of one point remained at one after a visit to Toronto. Zach Aston-Reese scored early and Mitch Marner made it a 2-0 game later in the first. Skjei made it a one-goal game a little later - which lasted until Jordan Staal was given a boarding penalty. Auston Matthews made Carolina pay with a power play goal (PPG). A 3-1 deficit was cut to 3-2 when Martin Necas scored past the halfway mark of the second period. But Aston-Reese rose up to make it a two-goal game with his own two-goal game. In the third period, Morgan Reilly added an insurance goal in what would be a decisive 5-2 loss in Toronto. Carolina could not dwell on the defeat. They had to go to Philadelphia for an early evening game on Saturday. It was not a simple affair at all.
It seemed that way at first. Sebastian Aho and Skjei scored less than two minutes apart in the first period for an early lead. But Philly generated life in the second period. Tyson Foerster scored his first of the season to make it a 2-1 game. While Aho made it 3-1 later on in the third period, Philly punished Carolina in an overlapping 5-on-3 situation with a Noah Cates PPG. The 3-2 game became a 3-3 game thanks to Joel Farabee early in the third. Brendan Lemieux added to the pain to make it 4-3 just over a minute and a half later. Philly was up and holding on for dear life. Then Carolina got a break. With seven seconds left, Scott Laughton was whistled for holding Kotkaniemi. With 0.3 seconds left, Martin Necas converted the power play to tie up the game. Carolina salvaged a point. They made it two just 28 seconds into the period when Aho completed his hat trick for the overtime winner. Carolina won 5-4 in overtime. The 2-2-0 week was enough to remain in first place for this snapshot. Thanks to New Jersey choking in Sunrise, they have a three point lead on the Devils once again. They remain in the driver’s seat to take the Metropolitan Division.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Hurricanes will get a slight respite for two days to start this week. Then they will start an end of season gauntlet where they will have no more than one day in between games until their season ends. Harsh. The gauntlet begins in Manhattan where the Hurricanes will begin a non-consecutive home-and-home with the Rangers. Tuesday is in NY, Thursday is in Raleigh. The Rangers are a solid team at worst and so the Hurricanes will be in for it. The Hurricanes begin a nasty weekend back-to-back on Saturday. While they are at home, the Hurricanes are hosting a very, very good Toronto team. The Leafs are a quality team and they want to continue to secure second in the Atlantic Division in their quest to win a playoff series. Also: The Leafs just smacked them down 5-2 last week, so that also favors Toronto. It will be a tough outing on Saturday. (P.S. The Sunday game is against Boston, but that’s for next week’s post.) Carolina is indeed in the driver’s seat but this week’s road could prove to be treacherous.
New Jersey Devils
What Happened Last Week: The Devils began this week with a home game against Carolina. While the Canes had the one game in hand, a Devils win in regulation would put them in a tie for points. It would make first place seem a lot more possible. The Devils got it done. Vitek Vanecek was perfect in net and goalied the Canes. Jack Hughes stole a puck from Calvin de Haan and beat Pytor Kochetkov for the game’s opening goal. Then Hughes set up Jesper Bratt for a second goal. In the second period, Kochetkov fumbled a dump in, fell due to Hughes’ pressure, and Bratt cleaned up the loose puck. The Devils held on in the third and did so for a massive 3-0 win at home. For at least two nights, the Devils were tied in points for first.
Then came the Florida portion of the week. Tampa Bay would play the Devils twice in Newark this week and then host them tonight. In Round #1 of 3, the Lightning took care of an increasingly listless Devils squad. Despite Damon Severson slamming in a rebound from a Timo Meier shot to open the scoring, a Devils power play went bad when Anthony Cirelli finished a rush up ice to tie it up in the first period. The Lightning went up 4-1 in the second period with a rush up-ice finished by Brandon Hagel, a rush up-ice finished by Alex Killorn, and a last-second rush up-ice finished by Nikita Kucherov. The Devils played out the string in a disappointing 4-1 loss. In Round #2 of 3, the Devils improved as the game went on. Ross Colton scored early by deflecting a Mikael Sergachev shot. The Devils responded in the second period with a lovely set of passes ending with a Tomas Tatar goal. Alas, after a goalless 5-on-3 man advantage, the two penalized Lightning players created a late second period goal - finished by Steven Stamkos. But the Devils tied it up in the third with Meier slamming in a rebound off a Nico Hischier shot. Then Jonas Siegenthaler was called for a late interference call and Stamkos slammed in a one-timer from the right circle to convert it. A 3-2 loss seemed to be destined. Then Nick Paul tripped up Kevin Bahl. During the power play, Akira Schmid was pulled for the extra skater and it worked with Meier converting the power play from the left side and tying the game. After overtime, a shootout was needed. Colton and Killorn scored, Yegor Sharangovich scored. The 2-1 result ended the game in a 4-3 defeat. But the Devils’ performance was better and gives some hope for Round #3.
Before the Devils can play that game, they went to Sunrise tonight to play the Panthers. Florida is very much in the wild card picture and need points to keep pace on the Isles and Penguins. The Devils opened the game and was generally outplayed by Florida. Akira Schmid had to be a star in the crease - and he was. In the second period, the Devils broke through during a penalty kill. Nico Hischier rushed up ice and beat Sergei Bobrovsky for the game’s opening goal. Minutes later, Bobrovsky was completely out of sorts as the Devils tried to beat him among the scramble. The puck came out, Damon Severson found Jesper Boqvist open, and Boqvist finished the play. The second period ended at 2-0 for New Jersey. A good position. Unfortunately, the Devils would choke it away in less than three minutes in the third period. Aleksander Barkov denied Schmid the shutout to get Florida on the board. After a Severson penalty, Sam Reinhart converted the power play to tie the game. Later, a cross-up of Carter Verhaegae and Matthew Tkachuk left the Panthers’ leading scorer wide open in front. He made it 3-2. The Devils did not muster nearly enough for an equalizer. A Severson turnover at the blueline with the extra skater yielded an ENG for Reinhart. A four-goal-against meltdown for a 4-2 loss. (Aside: A loss that the Islanders and Penguins do not appreciate.) The Devils ended their week at 1-2-1 and back to a worse position than where they were in last week’s snapshot.
What’s Coming Up This Week: For the third straight week, the Devils will play four games. This time, there will be a very welcome break in the middle of it with two days off on Wednesday and Thursday. Before that, they have two tough games. They will play Tampa Bay for the third time in five days in Tampa Bay tonight. It’s Round #3. After finally being done with the Lightning, the Devils will host a Minnesota team that was in very good form on Tuesday. Then the break happens. Then they will have a back-to-back. They will go to Buffalo on Friday and then host Ottawa on Saturday. Those two teams have faltered in the wild card race, so they are teams the Devils can add to their respective miseries. But they are far from doormats and they will be competitive. The Devils need to keep on rolling to keep pace with Carolina and to further ensure there is no late season comeback from the Rangers. It has become unlikely once again, but a push up top is possible if Carolina slips up more often. Of course, this means the Devils need to win games themselves. And with three winless games in a row going into tonight’s game, the Devils really could use a win real soon.
New York Rangers
What Happened Last Week: The Rangers had a four-game week wherein they played Pittsburgh three times. It began on Sunday in Pittsburgh. Rickard Rakell opened the scoring with a power play goal, but Barclay Goodrow found the response later in the first period. Jason Zucker scored early in the second and the Pens held onto that 2-1 lead all the way into the third period. That ended with Chris Kreider tying up the game with just under 11 minutes left in the game. That score held up to require overtime. There, Artemi Panarin was caught tripping Evgeni Malkin. It did not take long for Kris Letang to end it with a 3-2 overtime loss to kick off the week’s series and the week. The Rangers would rebound in their one and only non-Pittsburgh game on Tuesday. They hosted Washington and got off to a great start with a three-goal first period. Mika Zibanejad scored twice, sandwiching a Nicolas Aube-Kubel goal. Late in the first, Patrick Kane converted a power play for a 3-1 lead. A lead that became 4-1 thanks to Jacob Trouba in the second period. The Caps would make a game of it as Matt Irwin made it a 4-2 game in the second period and Nic Dowd made it 4-3 with just over eight minutes left. But the Rangers kept cool and Jimmy Vesey ended the evening with an empty net goal. New York won 5-3 as they prepared for two more home games with Pittsburgh.
On Thursday, the Rangers were engaged in another close game. Zibanejad provided an early goal in the first period. Pittsburgh would have no answer until Rakell provided one with 5:20 left in the second period. No matter, Tyler Motte put the Rangers up a score shortly thereafter. Jake Guentzel tied up the game at 2-2 with less than eleven minutes left. But Kreider would provide the difference almost three minutes later to make it 3-2. Krieder added an ENG to secure a 4-2 win for the Rangers. This led to Saturday night’s rematch at MSG. The Rangers took a larger lead in the first period. Zibanejad, once again, scored first and fairly early in the period. A double minor for Evgeni Malkin with only one one minor matching it by Ben Harpur led to a power play late in the first period. Panarin punished the Pens for the foul to make it 2-0 with 11 seconds left in the first. The Rangers went from strength to strength in the second period. Vladimir Tarasenko made it 3-0 early. minutes later, Kreider scored again to make it 4-0 and send Tristan Jarry packing. On Casey DeSmith’s first shot against, Jacob Trouba scored to make it 5-0. That was not enough; Panarin added another goal for the touchdown before the second intermission. The score held up and the Rangers ended their week with an authoritative 6-0 win. They had the best week of results in the division at 3-0-1. and have all but secured third place in the Metropolitan.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Another four game week in seven nights. The Rangers did well in this past week with the heavy schedule. It will continue. Tonight, they are hosting Nashville. It is a game they should probably win but the Preds have the capability to annoy teams for losses. The bigger tests will be on Tuesday and Thursday. The Rangers are having a non-consecutive home-and-home with Carolina. Carolina wants to keep winning to secure first, so the Rangers should expect a Canes team to perform quite well. The Rangers’ week ends in Florida against a Panthers team that is far from out of the wild card race. They could be caught by a hungry team on the road as it is their eighth game in fourteen days. A break will follow. The Rangers may cheer hard for New Jersey’s opponents for a shot at second place; but they just need to stay the course and avoid any injuries. Much less any unlikely collapses.
New York Islanders
What Happened Last Week: The Islanders were in California all week long. They were to play all three teams in the Golden State. It began with a back-to-back in Los Angeles on Tuesday and Anaheim on Wednesday. The game in Los Angeles was a lot like the 5-1 loss to Washington prior to this trip in that the game got away from the Isles. Unlike that game, this happened in the second period. After a first period where Pierre Engvall scored, the Kings put up a four-spot in the middle frame. Blake Lizotte, Drew Doughty on a power play, Alex Iafallo on a power play (back-to-back penalties on Isles, including a rare kneeing call on Zach Parise), and Trevor Moore. All within 12 minutes of each other. Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s late period goal was just a consolation goal at that point. Quinton Byfield added a third period goal in what would be a 5-2 defeat to start this trip. Bummer. Wednesday night in Anaheim was more fruitful, though. Not that it started that way. Max Jones scored 25 seconds into the game. While Kyle Palmieri scored later on in the first, a late period goal from Kevin Shattenkirk meant the Isles were down 2-1 to the Ducks after one period. The Isles seemingly said “Enough!” and took over the game from then on. Hudson Fasching tied it up before the halfway mark of the second period. Within the final minute of the second, Brock Nelson broke that tie. Early in the third, Engvall made it a 4-2 game. Nelson would finish a third assist from Palmieri for his second goal of the night to make it 5-2. Parise made it 6-2 minutes later. A Shattenkirk PPG only made it a 6-3 final score. A crucial comeback to at least get one win on this trip.
The Islanders ended their run in California by going to the Bay. They visited San Jose on Saturday night, the team with the dubious distinction of being the first team mathematically eliminated from the playoffs this season. Take that, Columbus. What this means is that the Isles should win this game for their own playoff life’s sake. The start was auspicious with Kevin Labanc scoring first in the game that had plenty of penalties. Cal Clutterbuck boarding Matt Benning was bad, but Pageau turned a negative into a positive with a shorthanded goal to tie up the game. It did not take long in the second period for the Isles to pull ahead. Palmieri scored early on and Ryan Pulock punished Labanc’s cross-check of Noah Dobson with a PPG to make it a 3-1 game. That score held until the third period where Zach Parise added a goal of his own. The Isles cruised to a 4-1 win. They beat the teams they should have on this trip and their 2-1-0 week was enough to retake the first wild card spot with a two point lead on Pittsburgh and a three point lead on Florida.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Islanders return home on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, it is against a mighty Toronto team. A tough one to return home to, but it is what it is. The Isles will have a back-to-back set two days after that game. They will visit Columbus on Friday and then host Buffalo on Saturday. These are games the Isles really need. Dropping points to the worst team in the division is just not good at this point. Beating Buffalo, even if they are becoming distant in the playoff race, will help their cause for a wild card spot. The Islanders’ successful week is big in the face of Pittsburgh flopping to the Islanders’ hated rivals and Montreal last week. But they can still be mathematically caught by the Penguins and Panthers by games in hand alone. One of them will be used up in this week. All the Isles can do is take care of their own business and hope for help from whoever is playing Pittsburgh and Florida this week.
What Happened Last Week: The Pittsburgh Penguins became very familiar with the Rangers as they played them three out of four games in this past week. It started off well enough with a Rikard Rakell power play goal. However, Barclay Goodrow tied it up later in the first period on Sunday in Pittsburgh. The home team was thrilled when Jason Zucker made it 2-1 for Pittsburgh early in the second. Alas, Chris Kreider would provide an equalizer near the midway mark of the third period. Overtime was necessary. The Penguins would get the benefit of a tripping call on Artemi Panarin for taking down Evgeni Malkin. It did not take long after for Kris Letang to end the overtime with a PPG for the 3-2 win. Not ideal to give the Rangers a point, but the win will do. Unfortunately, that would be the last of it for this week.
On Tuesday, the Penguins hosted a Montreal team with just about nothing to play for this week. The first five minutes went well with Jake Guentzel scoring 21 seconds into the game and Malkin scoring a PPG. Then the Canadiens blew away the Pens. Mike Hoffman, Jesse Ylonen, Denis Gurianov, and Joel Edmundson rocked the Penguins with four goals in the first period. Goodness. Tristan Jarry was pulled and replaced by Casey DeSmith. In the second period, the Pens would make a comeback. Letang scored past the halfway mark and Guentzel scored a late period PPG to make it 4-4. All would be well, right? Wrong. Anthony Richard ripped a shot early in the third period to make it 5-4. And Pittsburgh had no answer for that. None. Josh Anderson put in an empty netter to hand Pittsburgh a spoiler of a 6-4 loss.
Then came two more games with the Rangers, both in Manhattan. The Thursday night game was close. Mika Zibanejad scored early in the game to put the Pens down early. Rakell provided an equalizer, which lasted for all of 2:13 as Tyler Motte made it 2-1 going into the third period. Guentzel would tie it up again with 11:41 left to play. Alas, Chris Kreider would be the difference maker once again. He broke the tie later in the period. He added an ENG. The Penguins lost 4-2 in regulation to the Rangers. Saturday night would be even worse for Pittsburgh. Zibanejad once again got the scoring started early. A double minor for Malkin to Ben Harpur’s minor led to a late first period power play - and a Panarin PPG with 11 seconds left. A big hole to climb back from. The Penguins suffered further in the second period. Within the first 10 minutes, Vladimir Tarasenko, Kreider, and Trouba all scored to make it a 5-0 game. Jarry was pulled after the Krider goal and DeSmith literally gave up a goal to Trouba on his first shot against of the game. Panarin added one more goal near the end of the period. The Penguins were grounded. Not even a consolation goal in a 6-0 loss. Pittsburgh ends their week at 1-3-0. They fell to the second wild card spot. And they now have to worry a lot about Florida, who is now a point behind them in the standings.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Pittsburgh has an edge in the standings for a wild card spot. But they still have to get results in games and this week is a mix of challenges for those needed results. On Monday, they will host an Ottawa team that has played their way out of the playoff picture as of late. The Pens should win that one. The Penguins will get a nasty back-to-back on the road at Colorado on Wednesday and at Dallas on Thursday. Those are two quality opponents with their own playoff fates in their hands. The Pens need to come away with something instead of just hoping the teams behind them fall apart. On Saturday night, the Penguins will host Washington. Washington’s playoff hopes are longshots at best. The Penguins need to deny them and prevail to keep them back and to help their own cause regardless. Pittsburgh fans will not only cheer for their team to avoid an extended slump, but also cheer against whoever is playing Florida. Such is their situation.
What Happened Last Week: Washington needed points to stay relevant in the wild card race. They earned just two out of six, which is not going to cut it even with Ottawa, Detroit, and Buffalo failing to make moves up the standings. On Tuesday, the Capitals visited the New York Rangers. The game started poorly and it was enough to put the Caps down. Mika Zibanejad scored early. While Nicolas Aube-Kubel tied it up at 14:29, Zibanejad answered back at 14:45 - right on the next shift. Ouch. To make matters worse, Patrick Kane punished the Caps for an Aliaksei Protas tripping penalty to make it 3-1 with a PPG. Jacob Trouba added a fourth goal. There was signs of a comeback. Matt Irwin cut the deficit to two in the second period and Nic Dowd made it a one goal game with just over eight minutes left in the third. Alas, Washington needed more than six shots on net (really) and Jimmy Vesey sealed the 5-3 loss with an empty netter. The Caps could not feel bad about that. They had to go home to host Buffalo. Once again, the Caps found themselves down 3-1 after the first period. Ilya Lyubushkin, John-Jason Peterka, and Tyson Jost all scored for the Sabres. A T.J. Oshie PPG in between the latter two goals was the one in 3-1. Washington would make a comeback though. Evgeny Kuznetsov made it a one-goal game early in the third. While Zemgus Girgensons put the Sabres back up two, Alex Ovechkin scored with 9:30 left to make it a one-goal game. During a Buffalo power play, Alex Tuch was given a roughing call against Irwin. After the 4-on-4 ended, the Caps had a power play. Tom Wilson converted it to make it 4-4 with 1:08 left in regulation. Overtime solved nothing, but the shootout was perfect for the Caps: two saves, Kuzenstov and Oshie scored, and so the Capitals won 5-4. They got a win out of the back-to-back.
Alas, Friday night saw the Capitals get undone by a non-playoff St. Louis team. On St. Patrick’s Day, it was the Blues that gave the Capitals, well, the blues. Sammy Blais scored early in the first period. In the second period, a ten minute run of goals from Jordan Kyrou, Kasperi Kapanen, and Blais made it 4-0 St. Louis. In Washington D.C. The Capitals were in consolation mode for the third period. Martin Fehervary scored and Nicklas Backstrom put home a PPG late in the game. All that PPG did was cause Washington to pull their goalie, which ended with Brayden Schenn making it a 5-2 loss. The Capitals went 1-2-0 in a week where a winning week would have put some more distance between them and Buffalo, Ottawa, and Detroit. As well as a little closer to the Penguins, Islanders and Panthers. That did not happen and so the Capitals’ playoff hopes are swirling down the proverbial drain.
What’s Coming Up This Week: The Capitals will have their final four-game week of the season this week. They will visit Minnesota for an afternoon game. This one is tricky as the Caps need every point to stay alive and the Wild have higher aspirations than just getting into the postseason. The Wild have also been hot and the Caps are coming off a rough home loss to St. Louis. The Capitals will return home to face Columbus and Chicago on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. On paper, the Caps should prevail. On the ice, who knows. The week ends with a difficult road game in Pittsburgh. It is pretty much a must-win for the Capitals if they want to keep their playoff dreams alit. The challenge is that the Pens have as much incentive to win that game as the Caps do. The season is winding down but the Caps are at least in a position to go down with a fight. They are not completely off the bubble. Florida remains a problem - as does the number of games played for the Capitals. A hot week and help will make the end interesting. Continue to scoreboard watch, Caps fans. Especially after this week.
What Happened Last Week: The Flyers began a homestand where they can spoil several teams this week. Their first attempt was on Tuesday night against Las Vegas. They made it interesting late, but they would not do it. Pavel Dorofeyev scored in the first period for the G-Knights and Ivan Barbashev added a PPG in the second period. Travis Sanheim got the Flyers on the board, but a Teddy Blueger goal later in the second period seemingly put the game out of reach. Moreso when Jonathan Marchessault made it a 4-1 game early in the third on a power play goal. Hope sprung briefly for Philly when Nick Seeler and Morgan Frost scored less than two minutes apart to make it a one-goal game. But there would be no equalizer; Barbashev put in an empty netter to seal a 5-3 loss for Philly. Their second attempt on Friday night against Buffalo would go much better. Which is bad news for the Sabres’ fading playoff hopes. Owen Tippett opened the scoring with a PPG in the first period. The second period saw the Flyers put three past Craig Anderson while Carter Hart remained perfect. Joel Farabee, Tippett, and James van Riemsdyk made it a 4-0 game. Surely, the game was safe, right? Well, Buffalo made an attempt. They brought the house against Hart. Victor Olofsson converted a power play to get the Sabres on the board. But Tippett put in one of just four Philadelphia shots in the third period for his hat trick and a 5-1 lead. Buffalo kept peppering Hart with 21 shots in the third, but Olofsson was the only one to beat him again with a last second PPG - which just meant it was a 5-2 win for Philly instead of a 5-1 win for Philly. Buffalo, this is not how you do it down the stretch.
Fresh off a win to spoil someone’s week, the Flyers geared up to face a more quality opponent in Carolina on Saturday. Carolina lost 5-2 to Toronto on Friday night as the Flyers rattled the Sabres, 5-2. Philly would put a real fear in the Hurricanes. Not at first. Sebastian Aho and Brady Skjei scored within two minutes of each other in the first period to put the Flyers down two goals. Tyson Foerster would get his first of the season to get Philly on the board. The 2-1 score held until Aho scored his second of the night to make it 3-1. Then Carolina took a penalty and then a second one during the first power play. The abbreviated 5-on-3 was a success thanks to Noah Cates. The Flyers ended the second period down 3-2. They would go up early. Farabee added his fourth goal in his last two games to tie it up at 3-3. Shortly after that, Brendan Lemieux put the Flyers up 4-3. Felix Sandstrom was holding on. The Flyers were weathering the storm. Then a huge call went against them: Scott Laughton was given a holding penalty with seven seconds left. Carolina had one last chance - and they tied it up with 0.3 seconds left on the clock thanks to Martin Necas. The Flyers fumbled the regulation win and were forced to overtime. And in OT, Aho completed his hat trick just 28 seconds into the period. The Flyers lost 5-4 in OT. They were seconds away from a second spoiling this week and instead come away with a needless point.
Tyson Foerster scored his first of the season to make it a 2-1 game. While Aho made it 3-1 later on in the third period, Philly punished Carolina in an overlapping 5-on-3 situation with a Noah Cates PPG. The 3-2 game became a 3-3 game thanks to Joel Farabee early in the third. Brendan Lemieux added to the pain to make it 4-3 just over a minute and a half later. Philly was up and holding on for dear life. Then Carolina got a break. With seven seconds left, Scott Laughton was whistled for holding Kotkaniemi. With 0.3 seconds left, Martin Necas converted the power play to tie up the game. Carolina salvaged a point. They made it two just 28 seconds into the period when Aho completed his hat trick for the overtime winner. Carolina won 5-4 in overtime.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Philadelphia will continue their home stand with three more games this week. They will host Florida on Tuesday and could damage their fading playoff hopes. They will host Minnesota on Thursday, who has been riding high in the Central Division recently. Their week will end when they host Detroit in a game where it may not mean much since the Red Wings have done enough damage to their own wild card hopes by not winning a whole lot of games this month.
Columbus Blue Jackets
What Happened Last Week: Columbus began a five-game road trip by going to California this week. No, they did not cross paths with the Islanders. Their schedule had them start in San Jose on Tuesday night. This one would be a high-scoring affair. The two basement squads went off with goal after goal after goal. The first period: An Alexander Barabanov PPG and a Johnny Gaudreau goal that would be the first of a five point night for him. The second period: a Kent Johnson PPG and a Boone Jenner brace with William Eklund’s first NHL goal and Logan Couture scoring a last-second goal in the period. The third period: Liam Foudy puts the Jackets up by two, only for Kevin Labanc and Nikola Knyzhov to erase that lead. 5-5 by the end of regulation. In overtime, it was dramatic and it ended at 4:17 with Gaudreau’s second of the night to make it a 6-5 OT win. This was the game that mathematically eliminated the Sharks from the playoffs - and the Jackets remain behind them in the standings. A win-win, I’m sure.
Columbus continued on south in the state for a back-to-back in Los Angeles and Anaheim. On Thursday, the Kings put the Jackets to the sword. A four-goal second period was all that was needed to lock up a solid win. Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Viktor Arvidsson, and Carl Grundstrom all scored at even strength to put the Kings up big time. Kirill Marchenko’s third period goal only denied a shutout for Pheonix Copley in a 4-1 loss. On Friday, the Jackets visited another lottery-bound team in Anaheim. This one would end up being like the San Jose game in that a lot of goals were scored. But the story was far grimmer.
The first period featured both teams trading goals. Trevor Zegras got it started, Nick Blankenburg tied it up, Scott Harrington put the Ducks up 2-1, and Jenner made it 2-2 with 31 seconds left in the period. The trade-off continued in the second period: Max Comtois for Anaheim and Cole Sillinger’s first in a very long time on a power play late in the period for Columbus. At 3-3, it was anyone’s game. Less than three minutes into the period, Troy Terry made it a 4-3 game. About four minutes after that, Patrik Laine scored a PPG. The score held at 4-4 - until there was 2:37 left in the game. Max Jones broke the tie on a breakaway with a dandy backhand. Columbus pulled their goalie for a late response - only to be served a Harrington ENG. They did it again only for Ryan Strome to score an ENG. The Blue Jackets ended up losing 7-4 in a game that was tied with less than three minutes left in regulation. A crushing loss against a fellow lottery competitor. And with that loss, the Columbus Blue Jackets have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. This was known for a while. Now it is official after a 1-2-0 trip through California.
What’s Coming Up This Week: Columbus will continue to be away from home in what will be a busy and now totally meaningless week. They will be in Las Vegas tonight. Then they will return to the East Coast on Tuesday to visit the Capitals in D.C. After that, the Jackets will get two days off before a back-to-back where they will host the Islanders and then go up to Montreal. It is three games where they can spoil someone followed by a game where the Jackets can further mess with Montreal’s draft lottery odds by losing. Just count the games remaining. It will be over soon.
That was the twenty-third Weekly Metropolitan Division Snapshot of the 2022-23 season. Will Carolina continue to drive away with first place in the Metropolitan Division? Can the Devils end their winlessness before the New York Rangers become a real concern? How will Pittsburgh rebound after their bad week? What will the bottom three teams do? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the eight teams in the week that was and the week ahead in the comments. Thank you for reading.