WASHINGTON – Dale Hunter’s NHL coaching career began with a thud in Washington on Tuesday, and Kirk Muller fared no better in his debut behind Carolina’s bench.
St. Louis forwards T.J. Oshie and Matt D’Agostini scored as the Capitals struggled again in a 2-1 loss to the Blues. Meanwhile, Muller’s Hurricanes fell 3-1 to Florida.
St. Louis won its fourth straight game to improve to 8-1-2 under Ken Hitchcock.
Nicklas Backstrom got the lone goal for the Capitals, whose attack was as ineffective under Hunter as it had been recently under fired coach Bruce Boudreau. Washington was outshot 30-19 by the stingiest defence in the NHL.
Hunter was hired Monday to replace Boudreau, who won 200 games faster than any coach in modern NHL history but couldn’t find sustained success in the playoffs.
Making his debut behind an NHL bench—he spent the last 11 years coaching in the Ontario Hockey League—Hunter got a better defensive effort from the Capitals but not much offensive spark. Washington was outplayed until desperation time in the third period, but at least it didn’t suffer the odd-man rushes in the uninspired routs of Boudreau’s last days.
“You can’t set a timeframe to it,” Hunter said, “but I want them to get better and better every game. … By watching them live now, we’ve got some stuff to work on.”
PANTHERS 3, HURRICANES 1
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)—Shawn Matthias scored with 3:19 left to help Florida spoil Kirk Muller’s debut as the Hurricanes’ coach.
Tomas Fleischmann also scored and Matthias added an empty-netter for the Southeast Division-leading Panthers. Jose Theodore made 26 saves.
Florida went more than 20 minutes between shots before scoring late to snap a two-game losing streak.
Jeff Skinner scored and Cam Ward stopped 18 shots—and stuffed Jack Skille’s penalty shot midway through the third period—for last-place Carolina, which lost its fourth straight.
Muller took over after Paul Maurice was dismissed by Carolina on Monday for the second time in a decade.
Muller’s post-game message was positive despite the loss.
“I said to them, ‘You guys did your part. You came, played hard.'” Muller said. “It’s been probably the way some of the games have been for them this year, and you want to give them hope. I just told them, ‘It wasn’t tonight, but … when you go through these things, it can drain you so much.’
“I said, ‘You know what, as an athlete, if you give it all you got, you have to feel good—especially in these times now.'”
RANGERS 4, PENGUINS 3
NEW YORK (AP)—John Mitchell and Brad Richards scored 90 seconds apart in New York’s four-goal second period, and the Rangers held on to beat Pittsburgh for their third consecutive win.
Ryan Callahan and Marian Gaborik both had a goal and assist in the period, and Richards added two assists as New York won its seventh straight at home and 10th in 12 games overall. The four goals in the period matched a season high, done three previous times—including twice in three games.
Henrik Lundqvist made 24 saves for his 10th win in 17 outings.
Sidney Crosby helped set up James Neal’s first-period goal that gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead and assisted on Pascal Dupuis’ goal that made it 4-3 early in the third. Crosby has at least one point in four of five games since returning from a concussion that sidelined him since January. Crosby, who played at Madison Square Garden for the first time in exactly one year, has two goals and nine assists this season.
Crosby wasn’t forgotten by Rangers fans during his long absence, and heard boos nearly every time he touched the puck.
COYOTES 4, BLACKHAWKS 1
CHICAGO (AP)—Mike Smith made 24 saves and Ray Whitney had a goal and two assists to lead Phoenix to the victory.
Daymond Langkow, Shane Doan and Radim Vrbata also scored as the Coyotes improved to 7-3-1 on the road.
When Whitney scored Phoenix’s second goal in the final period, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville pulled goalie Corey Crawford, who gave up four scores on 21 shots.
Smith missed his second straight shutout when Patrick Sharp scored with 42.9 seconds left in the game. Smith blanked Dallas 3-0 on Saturday night.
ISLANDERS 2, SABRES 1
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP)—Brian Rolston scored the go-ahead goal 9:23 into the third period and Al Montoya stopped 30 shots to send the Islanders to their second straight road win.
Matt Moulson also scored for New York, which opened the season 0-5-2 away from Long Island before starting its four-game road trip with a 3-2 win at New Jersey on Saturday. Montoya was particularly solid in the third period, when he stopped 14 of the 15 shots he faced.
Jochen Hecht scored for the banged-up Sabres, who dropped to 6-7-1 at home this season. Buffalo was missing seven regulars, and lost defenceman Jordan Leopold to an upper body injury in the first period.
The Sabres now have lost to the worst team in each conference in less than a week, including a 5-1 decision at Western Conference cellar-dwelling Columbus on Friday.
SENATORS 6, JETS 4
WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP)—Zack Smith and Milan Michalek had two goals apiece to lift Ottawa to the victory.
Smith broke a 4-4 tie with his second score of the night on a power play with 6:15 left. He cut in off the boards and sent a shot past Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec.
Jason Spezza had the tying goal in the third period and Nick Foligno added an empty-netter with 1:08 remaining. Craig Anderson had 39 saves.
Evander Kane had two goals for the Jets, and Blake Wheeler and Alexander Burmistrov also scored. Pavelec finished with 28 saves in the opener of Winnipeg’s five-game homestand.
FLAMES 1, PREDATORS 0
CALGARY (AP)—Flames defenceman Derek Smith scored his first NHL goal and Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 26 shots for his first shutout of the season in Calgary’s victory over Nashville.
Smith scored with 1:10 left in the first period. Rookie defenceman T.J. Brodie skated in from the point and sent a perfect pass through the slot to Smith, who neatly steered the puck behind goaltender Pekka Rinne.
Kiprusoff finished strong for his 41st career shutout. Rinne made 28 saves.
The Flames have won consecutive games for the second time this season. Nashville dropped to 1-3-0 on a five-game road trip.
CANUCKS 4, BLUE JACKETS 1
VANCOUVER (AP)—Cory Schneider stopped 47 shots for his fifth straight victory as Vancouver beat Columbus.
Schneider, filling in spectacularly for injured Roberto Luongo, has given up just four goals during his winning streak, including two shutouts. Daniel Sedin, David Booth, Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows scored to help the Canucks win their fifth in a row.
Samuel Pahlsson had the only goal for the Blue Jackets, who outshot the Canucks 48-34.