Sidney Crosby, Brent Johnson power Penguins past Flyers; Could there be a goalie controversy in Pittsburgh?

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Is it too early to wonder if there might be a goalie controversy in Pittsburgh?

Probably, but that won’t stop many from wondering if Brent Johnson should be “the man” in net for the Penguins. The team’s dirt-cheap backup (he’ll register a $600K cap hit for the next two seasons) is now 3-0 in this young season while $5 million starter Marc-Andre Fleury is 0-3.

It’s overly simplistic to lay all the praise at Johnson’s feet and make Fleury the scapegoat for those losses, but Johnson has been outstanding. He stopped 81 out of 85 shots in his three appearances so far, allowing only four goals in three games. In a stark contrast, Fleury allowed 10 goals from only 68 shots, registering an abysmal 85.8 save percentage so far this season.

Yes, it’s beyond hasty for the Penguins to crown Johnson their new king in net. Yet in an 82-game season, there’s nothing wrong with riding the hot hand.

Pittsburgh 5, Philadelphia 1

While I’ve voiced my disapproval of the Penguins playing gifted but defensively suspect forward Evgeni Malkin on the point, it’ll look like Pittsburgh’s power play was dominant, going 2-for-7 thanks to two slap shot goals by Sidney Crosby. I’m not the only one to point this out, but the “Crosby sucks” chant in Philadelphia is taking on comical levels of desperation, as the Penguins forward now has 26 goals and 59 points in 33 career games (both in the regular season and playoffs) in the City of Brotherly Love.

Crosby also assisted on Chris Kunitz’s first goal, as the Penguins came back from a 1-0 deficit to score five unanswered goals and win this one to the frustration of their cross-state rivals. Mark Letestu continued his impressive start to the season in place of an injured Jordan Staal, scoring his third goal of the season (and what would stand as the game-winner) in the last minute of the second period. Matt Cooke poured a little salt in the Flyers’ wounds with an empty net goal.

One bright spot for Philadelphia was the play of Danny Briere. The small forward scored his fourth goal of the season in the first period and would have had another if Johnson hadn’t robbed him with two outstanding successive saves.

Despite going 1-3 at home so far this season, the Penguins will probably be tied with the New York Islanders for the Atlantic Division lead once tonight is over (the Islanders are up 4-1 against Colorado while the New Jersey Devils are down 4-1 against the Boston Bruins at the moment). Of course, the Islanders have played one less game – five to the Penguins’ six – so they’ll technically be ahead at the moment. Either way, the Penguins will take it.

The question is, could Johnson take Fleury’s job?

Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’

Alain Vigneault
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Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.

The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.

He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)

But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.

“Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”

Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)

The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).

Benn, Holtby and Galchenyuk are NHL’s three stars of the week

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Stars winger Jamie Benn, Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.


Benn shared the League lead in goals (4) and points (6) as the Stars (19-5-0, 38 points) won two of three games to continue their best start to a season in the franchise’s 48-year history.

Holtby posted a 4-0-0 record with a 1.75 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and one shutout to backstop the Capitals (17-5-1, 35 points) to the top of the Metropolitan Division standings.

Galchenyuk tied for first in the NHL with four goals and added one assist to help the Canadiens (18-4-3, 39 points) earn five of a possible six points and reclaim first place in the League standings.

As much as the injuries to Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher have been frustrating for the Canadiens, those are short-term issues that should be forgotten soon enough. Galchenyuk’s play, in contrast, is reason for long-term optimism. The 21-year-old is trending towards becoming the elite No. 1 center the Habs have needed so badly. He’s not there yet, but when’s all said and done, he could turn out to be the best forward (or player, period) taken in the 2012 draft.

Stepan to miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs


Derek Stepan is out 4-6 weeks with broken ribs, the New York Rangers announced today.

Stepan was hurt Friday on a controversial hit by Boston’s Matt Beleskey. The Bruins’ forward did not receive any supplemental discipline for the check, despite admitting it was “maybe…a little bit late.”

At any rate it’s a big loss for the Rangers, who suddenly find themselves on a three-game losing streak. Considering the timeline, New York could be without one of its top centers for 12-18 games, give or take.

The Rangers host Carolina tonight.

Related: Yep, Alain Vigneault went there — ‘I remember Aaron Rome in this building’

Price to miss minimum six weeks, so no Winter Classic for him

Carey Price,
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Carey Price will miss a minimum of six weeks with a lower-body injury, the Montreal Canadiens announced today.

That means Price will miss the Winter Classic against the Bruins on New Year’s Day. The 28-year-old goalie has only appeared in 12 games this season.

On the bright side, the reigning Hart Trophy winner will not require surgery. And considering the Habs have already built up a 13-point playoff cushion in the standings, well, if something like this were going to happen during the season, now is as good a time as any.

Related: The latest on Price’s injury