The Nashville Predators extended their NHL lead with a 5-1 home win against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday as nearest rivals the St Louis Blues suffered a heavy defeat on home ice.
The Predators won their sixth straight game to move six points above division rivals St Louis, who were three goals down in the opening minutes against the Dallas Stars and never recovered. The Blues are level on points with Eastern Conference leaders the Montreal Canadiens.
Elsewhere, Alex Ovechkin scored his league-leading 37th goal of the season to lead the Washington Capitals to victory in a feisty encounter in Pittsburgh, while the New York Islanders moved within a point of the East lead by downing the Carolina Hurricanes.
Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA Today
Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne made a season-high 42 saves, Craig Smith scored twice, while Shea Weber scored and had an assist.
Paul Gaustad and James Neal each had a goal for the Predators.
Matt Irwin scored the sole goal for the Sharks, who have won just one of their past six games.
Washington’s Ovechkin scored on a breakaway in the first period to set the Capitals en route to a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The three-time MVP then helped set up Joel Ward’s first career goal against the Penguins as Washington improved to 3-0 against Pittsburgh this season. John Carlson added a short-handed, empty-net goal with 11 seconds remaining.
Steve Downie scored for the Penguins, who are now only a point above Washington in the closely contested Metropolitan Division.
Dallas’ Jamie Benn had his first career hat-trick to lead the Stars to a 4-1 win in St Louis, Missouri.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock yanked goalie Brian Elliott after the Stars took a 3-0 lead before the midway mark of the first period, the last two goals coming in a 20-second span.
By contrast, Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen was again supreme, extending his shutout streak to 1 hour, 45 minutes, 48 seconds before Patrik Berglund scored late for the Blues.
The New York Islanders got goals from four players in the 4-1 win in North Carolina.
Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Michael Grabner and John Tavares scored, while backup goalie Chad Johnson made 37 saves for the Islanders, who took a 3-0 lead in the season series between the first and last-placed teams in the Metropolitan Division.
Carolina outshot New York 18-8 in the second period and 38-30 overall, but could not find a way past Johnson until Jiri Tlusty’s goal with 8 minutes, 46 seconds remaining.
Florida’s Nick Bjugstad scored the go-ahead goal on a power play early in the second period as the Panthers won 3-2 at the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs.
Columbus’ Matt Calvert scored twice, including the winner midway through the third period, to lift the Blue Jackets to a 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.
The New Jersey Devils ended a four-game skid by beating the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 after a shootout, with Scott Gomez and Jacob Josefson scoring in the tiebreaker.
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