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New Jersey Devils, GM Lou Lamoriello receives harsh criticism for dressing less than 18 players

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Maybe it was salary cap circumventing deals such as Marian Hossa’s with the Chicago Blackhawks. Perhaps instead it was the fact the New Jersey Devils keep winning the Atlantic Division only to get kicked out of the first or second round of the playoffs. Or it could just be that GM Lou Lamoriello saw the team’s window closing and made a desperate move.

Either way, signing Ilya Kovalchuk to that wacky $100 million deal really backed the Devils into a salary cap corner, culminating in the team being forced to play less than 18 players on Monday. It was something of a perfect storm as Brian Rolston and Anton Volchenkov dealt with short-term injuries while enforcer Pierre-Luc Letorenau-Leblond received a one game suspension. Chances are that the team won’t be dealing with the same exact circumstances soon, although those injuries might not clear up too soon.

The situation hurt the team on the ice (they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1), but they might have been dealt an even bigger blow in the court of public opinion.

It’s important to note that the league probably won’t fine or reprimand the Devils for dressing only 15 skaters (barring the NHL pulling a 180, which is an undeniable possibility in the Wild West-like league justice system). That hasn’t stopped the winds of controversy from swirling, though. Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy provides a nice roundup of the viewpoints on the subject, with Derian Hatcher saying that “(Lamoriello)’s mocking the league” while others go as far as to wonder if it’s an issue that the NHLPA might want to intervene on.

Again, chances are this will just be a source of embarrassment for Lamoriello and the team. Honestly, I feel like the well-respected general manager has had his missteps over the years (letting too many valuable defensemen depart, signing Rolston to that ridiculous contract), so it’s not as if he was infallible until this summer.

All of that being said, his moves will be judged by how well New Jersey fares this season. If Kovalchuk helps the team lift the Stanley Cup for the fourth time, he’ll look like an evil genius. Yet if the Devils fall short of the mark again – or dare I wonder, even maybe miss the playoffs – then he’ll truly have egg on his face.

Either way, this isn’t exactly a shining moment for Lamoriello’s legacy as one the NHL’s shrewdest team builders. Too bad Lamoriello doesn’t care.

Latest way the Wild lost? Killed by penalty kill

Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk sits on the ice after giving up a goal to St. Louis Blues' Jori Lehtera, of Finland, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.

As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?

Actually …

If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.

Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.

Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.

The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.

On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.

Statement in Blackhawks’ blowout of Stars? Coach Q says they’re even

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Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.

The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.

You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.

At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.

Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.

(Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)

As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.

Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.

Brad Marchand wins it … on a penalty shot … in overtime

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Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.

Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.

Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:

That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.

Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.

Crosby kills the Cats: Penguins end Panthers’ winning streak

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) collides with Florida Panthers' Connor Brickley (86) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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For quite some time, it looked like the Florida Panthers would keep the Pittsburgh Penguins under wraps.

Florida nursed a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 margin almost halfway through the third period, looking to win its sixth consecutive game. That looked great … and then Sidney Crosby + Kris Letang happened.

Let’s put it this way: this GIF of Crosby being frustrated is amusing, yet it doesn’t exactly tell the story of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins:

Instead, Crosby grabbed his 900th point assisting on a Letang goal, and finished the night with 902 by collecting the game-tying goal and grabbing a helper on Letang’s overtime game-winner.

Crosby crossing that barrier is indeed special, even if it prompts “What if?” questions about No. 87’s health.

The resurgence of Crosby and Letang already played a big role in the Penguins going from disjointed and frustrating to sneaky and scary, so it  shouldn’t be that surprising to see them play so well. Doing so in such brisk order is a little bewildering, however.