The Pittsburgh Penguins aren't letting a little thing like a couple of missing superstars slow them down.
The Penguins continue to find ways to win without Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Evgeni Malkin (knee surgery). On Tuesday, the Pens cooled off red-hot Buffalo 3-1 as both forward James Neal and defenseman Zybnek Michalek scored their first goals in a Pittsburgh uniform.
Despite playing without Crosby for more than two months and Malkin for more than four weeks, the Penguins have gotten enough points to continue to press Philadelphia for first place in the Atlantic Division and the top spot in the East. The Flyers had to beat Edmonton on Tuesday to keep their two-point lead in both races.
In the West, Minnesota pulled even with eighth-place Los Angeles by beating the struggling Colorado Avalanche 5-2. Phoenix had to settle for one point after losing 4-3 in overtime to Vancouver.
Here's a look at how the races in each conference shape up after Tuesday night's games:
Philadelphia (88 points after Tuesday's 4-1 home win against Edmonton) righted the ship after a four-game losing streak that included a 7-0 wipeout by the New York Rangers on Sunday. Jeff Carter scored twice to reach the 30-goal mark for the fourth consecutive season, and rookie Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 24 shots to keep the Flyers on top in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.
Boston (84 points after Tuesday's 4-1 loss at Montreal) lost in regulation for the first time in nine games when the Canadiens dominated them at the Bell Centre. Milan Lucic's third-period goal spoiled Carey Price's shutout bid, but the Bruins were beaten soundly as they began a stretch of three games in four nights that continues at home Thursday against Buffalo.
Washington (84 points) had a welcome night off after sweeping a two-game swing through Florida that moved them into first place in the Southeast Division. The Caps host Edmonton on Wednesday.
The next five:
Pittsburgh (86 points after Tuesday's 3-1 home win against Buffalo) continues to find ways to win without its big guns. Against the Sabres, recently acquired James Neal and summertime signee Zybnek Michalek both scored their first goals with Pittsburgh as the Pens stayed right on the heels of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Tampa Bay (82 points) had the day off after Monday's 2-1 shootout loss to Washington on Monday. Chicago visits the St. Pete Times Forum on Wednesday.
Montreal (81 points after Tuesday's 4-1 home win against Boston) dominated the Northeast Division-leading Bruins from start to finish. The Canadiens are just five points in back of the Bruins. However, they may be without forward Max Pacioretty for a while -- he was taken off on a stretcher after being rammed into the glass between the benches by Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara.
New York Rangers (74 points) had two days off before beginning a two-game trip to California with a visit to Anaheim on Wednesday.
Buffalo (72 points after Tuesday's 3-1 loss at Pittsburgh) lost in regulation for the first time in five games on their seven-game trip. The best news for the Sabres' playoff hopes may be that they're done with the Penguins, who won all four games in the season series.
On the outside looking in:
Carolina (71 points) finally gets back on the ice at home on Wednesday night against Atlanta. The 'Canes have been idle since Friday's 5-2 loss at Chicago.
Toronto (68 points after Tuesday’s 4-3 OT loss at the New York Islanders) ran out of comebacks on Long Island. But the Leafs got a point from a game in which they were dominated for most of the night. Nikolai Kulemin's third-period goal got the Leafs to overtime -- and within four points of eighth place.
Atlanta (65 points) visits Carolina on Wednesday. The Thrashers play 10 of their last 16 on the road, where they are just 12-14-5.
New Jersey (64 points after Tuesday's 2-1 home loss to Ottawa) dropped a game it couldn’t afford to lose when Eric Condra scored his second of the game with 2:13 remaining for the last-place Senators. It was just the third regulation loss for the Devils in 25 games (20-3-2), but kept them from gaining ground on a night when other contenders lost or were idle.
Florida (63 points after Tuesday's 3-2 home win against Chicago) scored three times against the defending Stanley Cup champs, then held on behind Tomas Vokoun, who made 27 of his 37 saves in the final 40 minutes. The Panthers can make up some ground by winning at home -- they have their next five games at the BankAtlantic Center.
Vancouver (95 points after Tuesday's 4-3 OT win loss at Phoenix) seems to have gotten out of the doldrums by hitting the road. Dan Hamhuis' second goal of the night midway through overtime gave the Canucks a 3-0-0 record on their road trip after a 3-3-0 homestand. Vancouver's lead in the Presidents' Trophy race is up to seven points.
Detroit (86 points) has had a couple of days to get over the shock of Saturday's 5-4 shootout loss at Phoenix, a game the Wings led 4-1 after two periods. Detroit is back home Wednesday against Los Angeles.
San Jose (84 points after Tuesday's 3-2 home OT win against Nashville) got a brilliant individual effort from Patrick Marleau to get the extra point against Nashville. The Sharks couldn't hold a pair of one-goal leads, but got the win when Marleau went coast-to-coast before beating Pekka Rinne for their ninth win in 10 games.
The next five:
Chicago (80 points after Tuesday's 3-2 loss at Florida) was brilliant for the final 40 minutes -- but paid the price for a horrible first period that saw the Panthers take a 3-0 lead. The Hawks don't have any time to fret about the loss; they're in action Wednesday night at Tampa Bay.
Dallas (79 points) has a chance to help itself -- the Stars play their next seven games at home, beginning Wednesday against Calgary.
Calgary (79 points) has a nasty back-to-back -- Wednesday in Dallas, Thursday in Phoenix. At least the Flames are well-rested; they were off Monday and Tuesday after beating Nashville at home Sunday night.
Phoenix (79 points after Tuesday's 4-3 OT home loss to Vancouver) couldn't hang on to an early 2-0 lead and wound up losing in overtime even after Ilya Bryzgalov stopped a penalty shot in OT. The Coyotes lost another defenseman on Tuesday when newcomer Rostislav Klesla was hit in the face by a deflected shot.
Los Angeles (77 points) starts a four-game trip in Detroit on Wednesday after a disappointing end to a homestand -- the Kings lost 3-0 to Vancouver and 4-3 in OT to Dallas.
On the outside looking in:
Minnesota (77 points after Tuesday's 5-2 home win against Colorado) was missing two of its best scorers but got some help from the "old guys" to beat Colorado. Andrew Brunette tied the game late in the second period and fellow 37-year-old John Madden scored the go-ahead goal in the third.
Nashville (76 points after Tuesday's 3-2 OT loss at San Jose) got a point by getting to overtime in San Jose thanks to goaltender Pekka Rinne, who was flawless in the third period as the Sharks outshot the Predators 13-4. The Preds start a five-game homestand Thursday night against Minnesota and play 12 of their next 14 at home.
Anaheim (75 points) has to beat the visiting New York Rangers on Wednesday; they play six of their last 10 this month on the road.
Columbus (70 points) had a welcome day off after finishing off a winless road trip with a 5-4 shootout loss at St. Louis on Monday. The teams meet Wednesday at Nationwide Arena in the back end of a home-and-home.