Pittsburgh Penguins tie Washington Capitals atop the East standings thanks to tonight’s games

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(Technically, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals might be considered the No. 1 teams in the NHL if the Detroit Red Wings only come away with a point or less against the Los Angeles Kings tonight. That being said, I simply cannot call either one superior to Detroit considering the fact that the Red Wings will finish Saturday with 24 games played to Pittsburgh and Washington’s 28. So let’s keep the discussion to the Eastern Conference then, OK?)

Pittsburgh 7, Columbus 2

It seems like Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are flat-out unstoppable right now. Crosby scored two goals to push himself into the NHL lead in goal scoring with 23 (Steve Stamkos is stuck at 21, even though his Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Colorado Avalanche) while the Pens pushed their dominant winning streak to nine games.

The game was almost over after the first period, a time frame in which the Penguins took a 4-0 lead and out-shot the hapless Blue Jackets 16-2. Steve Mason only managed to play a little under 16 minutes in this game, allowing four goals and then making way for Mathieu Garon (who allowed three more). Marc-Andre Fleury continued his streak of being the other ridiculously torrid Penguin, stopping 21 out of 23 shots to win his 11th.

Crosby wasn’t the only Pittsburgh player to score two goals, either, as Paul Martin managed two unassisted power-play goals in the first period.

This win puts the Penguins at 18 wins and 38 points on the season, which would tie them with the Washington Capitals if they lost in regulation to the still-very-hot Atlanta Thrashers.

Atlanta 3, Washington 1

… Which is exactly what happened.

Only Alex Ovechkin could solve Ondrej Pavelec, who continues to operate on a whole other plane of hockey existence. He stopped 45 out of 46 shots against one of the most explosive offenses in the NHL. Semyon Varlamov wasn’t half-bad himself (30 out of 33 saves), but he was no match for Pavelec.

Rich Peverley, Alexander Burmistrov and Andrew Ladd scored for Atlanta.

While the Caps are suffering from a slight hiccup (two losses in a row), the Thrashers have won seven of eight games, only losing to (wait for it) the Penguins on Thursday.

After PTO, Upshall signs one-year deal with Blues

Florida Panthers v Ottawa Senators
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Scottie Upshall has parlayed his training camp tryout into a contract with St. Louis.

On Monday, the Blues agreed to a one-year, two-way deal with the veteran forward, worth $700,000 at the NHL level. The deal comes after Upshall spent all of training camp and the preseason impressing the Blues his speed and skating ability, no small feat for a 31-year-old veteran with over 500 NHL games on his odometer.

But where Upshall fits in the Blues lineup — and within the organization — remains to be seen.

The club has plenty of depth up front and Upshall isn’t coming off a terrific campaign, having scored just eight goals and 15 points in 63 games with Florida last season. That said, he showed enough to be just one of a handful of veterans on PTOs to score a contract.

Panthers’ Crouse is going back to junior

2015 NHL Draft - Round One
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Lawson Crouse is going back to junior. The big 18-year-old winger confirmed it today on Twitter.

Crouse was drafted 11th overall in June by the Florida Panthers. Despite the club’s belief that Crouse could make “an immediate impact” on the roster, he finished the preseason with just two shots and one assist in three games.

Crouse will return to the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs, with whom he’ll look to improve on his modest point totals from last season.

“I don’t think there’s any pressure on the kid,” coach Gerard Gallant said last week. “If he doesn’t make the team this year he goes back to junior … and will have a lot of success.”