Flyers 2, Blue Jackets 1
COLUMBUS — The Philadelphia Flyers were glad to finally end their long losing streak in Columbus.
Sean Couturier scored 1:52 into overtime to lift the Flyers to a 2-1 victory Friday night, snapping a stretch of 11 consecutive losses on the Blue Jackets’ home ice.
Wayne Simmonds also scored for Philadelphia, and Michael Neuvirth — filling in for the injured Brian Elliott — stopped 35 shots to pick up his eighth win of the season. The Flyers’ streak in Columbus dated back to 2005.
“It’s a long time … that feels like an eternity,” Simmonds said. “We had a strong team effort tonight, and the boys showed up.”
Cam Atkinson tied it for Columbus late in the third period, and Sergei Bobrovsky finished with 23 saves in the Blue Jackets’ first overtime loss this season.
Columbus was held to 36 shots after getting at least 50 in each of their last three games — wins against New Jersey (50) and at the New York Islanders (51) and a loss at Toronto (57).
“We played two teams prior to this that didn’t play with much structure (and) gave us a lot of ice to play on,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “This was a structure team. We have to learn to play against a team that plays with structure. We’re going to have to play against teams that check tighter and tighter as each game goes by here.”
After a scoreless first period, the Flyers got on the board when Simmonds redirected Shayne Gostisbehere’s shot from the left hash mark and sneaked the puck through Bobrovsky’s legs for his 20th at 11:25.
Atkinson tied it with about 3 1/2 minutes left in regulation, as he buried the rebound from a wrister by David Savard.
“Really, this is a do or die for us right now,” Atkinson said. “All these points are so crucial. We can’t allow ourselves to take our foot off the gas pedal.
“I thought the third period we gained momentum. We started playing the way we are used to (and found) a way to get a point, which is big, but we need to get 2.”
The Flyers moved past New Jersey into third place in the Metropolitan Division, two points behind second-place Pittsburgh.
Columbus moved into a tie with Carolina, one point behind the New York Islanders — who beat the Hurricanes 3-0 to take over the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
NOTES: The Blue Jackets activated Sonny Milano off injured reserve Friday and assigned him to Cleveland of the AHL. … The Flyers have earned points in every game played since the Eagles won the Super Bowl, going 5-0-1. … Neuvirth recorded his third career victory against Columbus. … Philadelphia will host Columbus next Thursday (Feb. 22) and again on March 15.
Penguins 5, Blue Jackets 2
Riley Sheahan scored two goals in the first period and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2. Rookie Tristan Jarry had 35 saves in his first NHL action in a month.
By Mitch Stacy
AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS — The Pittsburgh Penguins won without goals from Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or the other three top scorers. Instead, they created opportunities for some guys who are usually in the background.
Third-line center Riley Sheahan scored twice in the first period and Pittsburgh went on to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 on Sunday night. Their fifth straight victory moved the Penguins past Washington into first place in the Metropolitan Division.
Rookie Tristan Jarry, who was in for starter Matt Murray on second leg of a back-to-back, had 35 saves for Pittsburgh. It was Jarry’s first NHL action in a month after going 3-0 in three starts for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL.
Sheahan’s goals were his seventh and eighth of the season. Defenseman Brian Dumoulin and rookie winger Zach Aston-Reese each picked up their fourth. Sheahan’s linemate Jake Guentzel picked up his 19th in the third period.
“We’ve liked that line,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said about the Guentzel-Sheahan-Phil Kessel grouping. “That line has the ability to generate offense with those three. Riley brings such a conscientious two-way game to the other two guys. It creates the balance, not only on the line but on the team.”
Pittsburgh, playing its third game in four days, won despite being outshot by the Blue Jackets 37-23.
“We’ve got some secondary guys who can contribute, too,” Sheahan said. “When you can have that depth and capitalize on maybe not as many shots, it’s dangerous.”
Artemi Panarin and Alexander Wennberg scored, and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 18 shots for the Blue Jackets. They have lost two straight and seven of the last nine.
In what is becoming the norm lately, Columbus piled up more shots than its opponent but couldn’t score enough to win. The Blue Jackets lead the NHL in shots per game but are lingering near the bottom of the division, unable to generate much traction.
“I’m certainly not putting this all on (Bobrovsky),” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “We had our chances. We can talk about the goalie, but you also have to talk about the other people, and the job they have to do.”
The Penguins had just seven shots in the first period but scored on three of them.
Sheahan got credit for a goal when he redirected a shot from defenseman Jamie Oleksiak.
Later in the first, Dumoulin scored with a slap shot from the left point off a beautiful no-look drop pass from Malkin.
Three minutes later, Panarin tapped in his 16th goal of the season, set up by Cam Atkinson, to make it 2-1. That’s as close at the Blue Jackets would get.
Sheahan got his second tally of the game with 8:31 left in the first on a wrist shot from top of the right circle. Bobrovsky got a piece of it but couldn’t keep it out of the net.
Aston-Reese made it 4-1 when he tipped in a rebound off Zach Werenski’s skate in traffic in the second period.
The Blue Jackets seemed to come out with a little more juice in the third period, and Wennberg, open in front of the goal, swept in a Boone Jenner pass 2:21 into the frame. But they couldn’t sustain it. Guentzel capped it for Pittsburgh with 5:51 left.
“It’s tough traveling and playing back to back games, so we did a good job bearing down,” Sheahan said. “It was a really important game for us.”
NOTES: The Columbus captain, Nick Foligno, suffered a “lower-body” injury and didn’t play for most of the third period. … Pittsburgh’s 16-4-1 record since the beginning of the calendar year leads the NHL. … Blue Jackets D Dean Kukan suffered an “upper-body” injury in the first period and didn’t return. … Columbus D Markus Nutivaara didn’t play after he was injured in Friday night’s game against Philadelphia. Scott Harrington replaced him in the lineup.
Gionta, Wisniewski could be NHL-bound right after Olympics
By Stephen Whyno
AP Hockey Writer
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — The next flights Brian Gionta and James Wisniewski take could land them back in the NHL.
As the longtime NHL veterans try to win a medal for the United States at the Olympics, their agents are talking to teams about getting them contracts once the tournament is over. Gionta and Wisniewski will have about a day and a half to sign between the end of the Olympics and the deadline to be eligible for the playoffs. They are ready to jump back in.
“If somebody wanted me, I’m ready to go,” Wisniewski said Monday, Feb. 12. “Hopefully I can come out here and have a great Olympics. It’s not like I’m going to be expensive. You don’t have to give up future considerations. I’ve played in the highest level for over a decade and now playing in the Olympics, so it’s not like I haven’t been playing good, competitive hockey.”
Not far removed from the NHL, Gionta and Wisniewski are drawing interest to sign for the rest of this season. Gionta could give a contending team some scoring in a top-nine role on right wing, and Wisniewski is a right-shooting power-play defenseman who, correctly, would come cheap.
“Gio, he looks like hasn’t missed a beat,” forward Brian O’Neill said. “He hasn’t played that much hockey this year, but he looks as sharp as ever. It’s a testament to their work ethic, and it’s not a coincidence they’ve had such great careers. They take their health, their fitness, extremely important and they’re ready to go and James Wisniewski’s in the same boat as Gionta. … I’m sure they’ll have a couple of offers once the Olympics are over.”
Gionta played the most recent of his 15 seasons in 2016-17 and has been practicing with the American Hockey League’s Rochester Americans. Wisniewski was limited to 15 NHL games since March 2015 because of knee injuries and has since played in the minors, Russia and Germany.
Neither player feels ready to call it a career, and neither looks finished. Wisniewski might not have the burst of his youth, but coach Tony Granato said the 33-year-old “can still shoot it,” and the 39-year-old Gionta is zipping around in practice with the U.S. college kids.
“He looks pretty young,” 21-year-old forward Ryan Donato said. “He’s one of those guys that although he may have a lot of NHL experience and played in the league for a long time and played with my dad even, he’s one of those guys that always keeps the energy up and is flying around during practice and probably is one of the guys that’s still in the best shape out of all of us, too.”
Gionta feels fresh and in game shape after playing in the pre-Olympic Deutschland Cup in November and one game for Rochester. The U.S. captain has been planning for the Olympics since the summer but has spoken with agent Steve Bartlett to prepare for the tight turnaround to try to get something done before the afternoon of Feb. 26.
“We have been in touch with a few teams that have expressed interest, but they know my main focus is over here and we’ll cross that bridge when it comes to it after the tournament’s over,” Gionta said. “This is the focus now, and when this is over, I’ll look to that.”
Wisniewski has been looking to get back since the Carolina Hurricanes bought him out in the summer of 2016. Three ACL tears in his right knee and most recently one in his left knee slowed Wisniewski but didn’t stop him, and he said playing in Germany and preparing for the Olympics brought back his passion for the game.
“Finally it paid off,” Wisniewski said. “If I would’ve had to hang ‘em up on that, it would’ve been pretty disappointing, but now it’s a dream come true for me.”
As Wisniewski lives out the dream of being an Olympian, he certainly sees it as a showcase for NHL scouts and has thought about what the 36 hours after the final could be like.
“Hopefully we’re playing for the gold medal and then what a better way than to sign another NHL contract,” Wisniewski said. “It’s really up to me. I’ve got to show that I can play and catch somebody’s eye.”
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