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In this Feb. 2, 2020, file photo, Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8), of Russia, skates next to Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Washington. The NHL is embarking on a 56-game regular season with all divisional play in a knock-down, drag-out battle for the Stanley Cup unlike any other in hockey history.  (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File) **FILE**

NHL embarks on season that will be like ‘56 playoff games’

- Associated Press

When the puck drops on the regular season in five rinks Wednesday, it will be the start of a 56-game sprint to the playoffs with all divisional play until the semifinals. That will ramp up the rivalries, reduce travel during the pandemic and make this a once-in-a-lifetime chase for a title.

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Edmonton Oilers' Alex Chiasson (39) tries to tip the puck in past Montreal Canadiens goalie Jake Allen (34) during second-period NHL hockey game action in Edmonton, Alberta, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Allen, Weber lift Canadiens over Oilers 3-1

Associated Press

Jake Allen made 25 saves in his first game with Montreal, Shea Weber got his first goal of the season and the Canadiens beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 Monday night.

New York Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov (40), of Russia, saves a shot from Boston Bruins' David Krejci (46), of the Czech Republic, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Uniondale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Varlamov stops 27 shots, Islanders beat Bruins 1-0

- Associated Press

Semyon Varlamov stopped 27 shots, Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored with 4:09 remaining and the New York Islanders beat the Boston Bruins 1-0 in their home opener Monday.

Carolina Hurricanes goaltender James Reimer (47) celebrates defeating the Nashville Predators 4-2 with defenseman Haydn Fleury (4) after an NHL hockey game in Nashville, Tenn., Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. (Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP)

Hurricanes score 3 in third to beat Predators 4-2

- Associated Press

Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho and Vincent Trocheck each had a goal and an assist as the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Nashville Predators 4-2 Monday night.

New York Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov (40), of Russia, makes a glove-save against the Boston Bruins during the second period of an NHL hockey game Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Uniondale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Varlamov, Pageau lead Islanders to 1-0 win over Bruins

Associated Press

Semyon Varlamov stopped 27 shots for his 29th career shutout, Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored with 4:09 remaining, and the New York Islanders beat the Boston Bruins 1-0 in their home opener Monday.

Pittsburgh Penguins' Jake Guentzel, left, puts a shot under the glove hand of Washington Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov (30) for a goal during a shootout in an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Jake Guentzel lifts Penguins past Capitals in shootout

- Associated Press

Jake Guentzel beat Ilya Samsonov in the fourth round of a shootout and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 on Sunday for their first victory of the season.

Washington Capitals' Nicklas Backstrom (19) celebrates his goal with Evgeny Kuznetsov during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Guentzel's winner lifts Penguins by Capitals 4-3 in shootout

- Associated Press

Casey DeSmith felt the puck at his feet, looked down to confirm it was indeed the case then exhaled as his Pittsburgh Penguins teammates poured over the bench in the middle of an empty arena to congratulate their backup goaltender, the one hardly playing like a backup.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, left, greets International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel during their meeting in Minsk, Belarus, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. (Nikolai Petrov/BelTA Pool Photo via AP)

Decision on Belarus hockey worlds near amid sponsor pressure

- Associated Press

The International Ice Hockey Federation will make a decision in the coming days on whether to pull its world championship from Belarus as pressure increases from sponsors over a crackdown on opposition groups in the country.