(The Sports Xchange) – Highlights of National Hockey League games on Thursday:
Golden Knights 2, Penguins 1
The historically successful start for the expansion Vegas Golden Knights got even more rich Thursday night as they beat the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1.
Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves against his former team and defenseman Jon Merrill scored the game-winner at 8:17 of the third period for his first goal of the season. The Golden Knights improve to 20-9-2, reaching the 20-win plateau the fastest for an expansion team in NHL history.
The sellout crowd included a strong contingent of Penguins fans, who along with the Golden Knights backers gave Fleury a loud round of applause when he was introduced. Fleury played his previous 13 seasons with Pittsburgh before he was taken by Vegas in the expansion draft in June.
Murray also made 24 saves for the Penguins, who have lost three consecutive games.
Capitals 5, Bruins 3
Alex Chiasson scored two third-period goals — the second short-handed — to help Washington defeat Boston for the 11th straight time.
The Capitals’ Braden Holtby stopped 34 shots to raise his career record against the Bruins to 13-2-0. Rookie Jakub Vrana, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin (empty net) also scored for Washington, which has won nine of its last 11 games.
Patrice Bergeron scored twice — including a power-play goal 4:22 into the second period to tie the game for Boston, which had its three-game winning streak snapped and lost for only the third time in its last 11 games.
Brad Marchand set up Bergeron’s first goal, notching his 400th NHL point and extending his points streak to seven straight games (four goals, seven assists).
Lightning 4, Coyotes 1
Nikita Kucherov scored for a third consecutive game and set up one of two goals in a 41-second span of the first period, and league-leading Tampa Bay won its season-high sixth straight game.
Kucherov took over the NHL scoring lead by one point (44-43) over teammate Steven Stamkos, who had an assist, and the Lightning improved to an NHL-best 23-6-2 while dropping Arizona to a league-worst 7-22-5. The Coyotes lost their fifth in a row and eighth in nine games.
Tyler Johnson and Brayden Point also had a goal and an assist each to support goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who excelled again by stopping 32 shots. Vasilevskiy has given up only eight goals while winning his last five starts, and is a league-best 21-4-1.
Predators 4, Oilers 0
Juuse Saros stopped 46 shots as Nashville improved to 15-2-2 in its last 19 games despite recording only 23 shots.
Pontus Aberg, Kevin Fiala, Kyle Turris and Roman Josi scored in the second period for the Predators. Aberg scored on their first shot of the second period and Nashville’s fifth of the game.
Laurent Brossoit made 19 saves in his sixth straight start for Edmonton. It has been a maddening four-game stretch for the Oilers, who scored 13 goals in defeating Montreal’s Carey Price and Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky, but were stymied by backups Saros and Toronto’s Curtis McElhinney, who beat them 1-0.
Flyers 2, Sabres 1
Valtteri Filppula scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period and Brian Elliott turned aside 19 shots to help Philadelphia win its fifth straight game.
Travis Sanheim also netted his first NHL goal for the Flyers, who have won five straight games in regulation after stumbling through an 0-5-5 stretch from Nov. 11 through Dec. 2.
Ryan O’Reilly scored for the Sabres, who saw their modest four-game points streak (2-0-2) come to an end. Robin Lehner made 25 saves for Buffalo (8-18-6), which has the NHL’s second-worst record behind Arizona.
The Sabres have scored one or fewer goals in 12 of their 32 games this season and rank last in the NHL with 68 goals (2.1 per game).
Blackhawks 5, Jets 1
Vinnie Hinostroza and Tommy Wingels scored on Chicago’s first two shots as the Blackhawks routed Winnipeg.
Patrick Kane, Nick Schmaltz and Michal Kempny also scored for the Blackhawks, who won their fourth straight game. Corey Crawford stopped 27 shots in the Chicago net.
Nikolaj Ehlers scored for the Jets, whose home winning streak was snapped at seven games. Connor Hellebuyck, who entered the game with the best home save percentage in the NHL, made 25 stops.
Wild 2, Maple Leafs 0
Goals by Tyler Ennis and Mikael Granlund supplemented a 28-save performance by goaltender Alex Stalock as Minnesota defeated Toronto.
Stalock, playing in place of the injured Devan Dubnyk, picked up his fifth win of the season (5-3-1) and fifth career shutout in his first appearance against his former team. Stalock denied Tyler Bozak’s blast from the center hash marks at 2:22 of the third period and a redirect by James van Riemsdyk at 6:12 to preserve the lead until Granlund scored at 8:06.
Frederik Andersen made 24 saves in seeing his record fall to 17-10-1 on the season for the Maple Leafs.
Ducks 3, Blues 1
Kevin Roy scored a pair of goals and John Gibson stopped 29 shots to lead Anaheim past St. Louis.
For the second consecutive game against the Blues, Gibson’s bid for his first shutout of the season was spoiled late in the third period, this time on a goal by Patrik Berglund with 5:53 to play. On Nov. 29, Gibson stopped the first 36 shots before St. Louis’ Kyle Brodziak scored twice in the final four minutes in a 3-2 Ducks victory.
Andrew Cogliano broke a scoreless duel at 11:11 of the second period when he won a battle for a loose puck in front of the St. Louis net and poked it past goaltender Jake Allen (15 saves) to help improve the Ducks to 3-0-3 in their last six games.
Blue Jackets 6, Islanders 4
Columbus gave away a three-goal lead but recovered by scoring twice in the second period and holding on to defeat New York.
Zach Werenski, Markus Nutivaara, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Seth Jones, Nick Foligno and Josh Anderson each had a goal to help keep the Blue Jackets in first place in the Metropolitan Division. Oliver Bjorkstrand had three assists, and Artemi Panarin and Wennberg two each for Columbus.
Josh Bailey had a hat trick and Casey Cizikas added a goal for the Islanders, who played for the third time in four days. Captain John Tavares had three assists for New York, which was coming off a 5-2 loss at home to Dallas on Wednesday.
Sharks 3, Flames 2
Joonas Donskoi scored at 17:12 of the third period to lead San Jose over Calgary.
Donskoi, who missed the past six games with a lower-body injury, added a first-period assist. Chris Tierney and Timo Meier also had a goal and an assist for the Sharks while Aaron Dell made 32 saves.
Michael Frolik and Johnny Gaudreau scored for the Flames, who had gone 2-0-2 in their previous four games. Mike Smith stopped 26 shots.
Canadiens 2, Devils 1 (OT)
Carey Price made 31 saves and Tomas Plekanec scored at 1:52 of overtime as Montreal snapped a three-game losing streak.
Andrew Shaw also scored for the Canadiens, who last won 10-1 over Detroit on Dec. 2. Plekanec’s fourth goal of the season was assisted by Charles Hudon and Alex Galchenyuk while Jordie Benn and Phillip Danault had helpers on Shaw’s tally.
Stefan Noesen scored for the Devils, who have lost three of their last four games. Cory Schneider made 34 saves while Andy Greene and Jesper Bratt recorded assists.
Avalanche 2, Panthers 1
Nathan MacKinnon had two goals and Semyon Varlamov made 32 saves as Colorado defeated Florida.
It was MacKinnon’s third two-goal game this season and it helped the Avalanche beat the Panthers for the second time in five days. Colorado won at Florida 7-3 on Saturday night.
Aleksander Barkov scored for the Panthers and James Reimer had 28 saves. MacKinnon was denied a goal by Reimer’s glove at 4:44 of the third, but got the best of the goalie two minutes later for the game winner.