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.

Goalie nods: Prized Jets prospect Hellebuyck makes NHL debut

Joshua Morrissey, Jason Pominville, Connor Hellebuyck
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The future of Winnipeg’s goaltending will be on display tonight in Minnesota.

Connor Hellebuyck, the highly-touted prospect that starred for Team USA at the 2015 World Hockey Championships, will make his NHL debut today when the Jets take on the Wild at Xcel.

Hellebuyck is up with the Jets following an injury to No. 1 (or, “No. 1”) netminder Ondrej Pavelec, who’s out until January with a lower-body injury. An AHL All-Star a year ago, Hellebuyck arrived in Winnipeg with great fanfare and it’ll be interesting to see how he responds to the hype and pressure that come along with his first-ever big league start.

For the Wild, Devan Dubnyk‘s in goal.


Corey Crawford goes for Chicago in Anaheim. No word yet on who the Ducks will have in goal.

Braden Holtby starts again for Washington, as the Caps host the Bolts. Tampa Bay has yet to name a starter, much like the Ducks.

Marc-Andre Fleury takes on Sergei Bobrovsky in Columbus tonight, as the Blue Jackets host the Penguins.

Mike Condon is back in the starter’s role for Montreal with Carey Price sidelined, and his first order of business is a road date against Cory Schneider and the Devils in New Jersey.

Cam Ward faces Chad Johnson as Buffalo welcomes the ‘Canes.

— The Isles will start Jaroslav Halak in Florida. The Panthers will counter with Roberto Luongo.

Cam Talbot finally gets back into the starter’s role tonight in Detroit. Jimmy Howard will go for the Wings.

— It’s Ryan Miller versus Antti Niemi as the Canucks take on the Stars in Dallas.

— Even though Jonas Hiller is healthy and Joni Ortio‘s in the minors, Calgary will stick with Karri Ramo in Arizona. The Coyotes are going with their No. 1, Mike Smith.

‘We’re still right in the hunt for everything’ — Parise will play tonight versus Jets

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For the first time since Nov. 5, Zach Parise will suit up for the Minnesota Wild.

The team confirmed today that Parise will be in the lineup tonight at home versus Winnipeg. The 31-year-old forward has missed the last eight contests with a sprained MCL.

The Wild were 7-2-2 before Parise got hurt. They lost the game against Nashville in which he suffered the injury, then went 4-3-1 without him.

“I’m just hoping to get back to form as quick as possible and go from there,” Parise told the Star Tribune. “I’m not thinking I need to score right out of the gate, I just want to play. … We’re still right in the hunt for everything. We’ll be fine.”

After ’embarrassing’ loss to Sens, Stars motivated for Canucks

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The Vancouver Canucks will face a pretty motivated Dallas Stars team tonight at American Airlines Center.

Blame the Ottawa Senators. They were the ones who smoked the Stars, 7-4, on Tuesday.

“It brings you back down to earth,” captain Jamie Benn told the Stars’ website. “You learn that any team can come in here and whip your butt. It was embarrassing for us, especially in our home rink and in front of our home fans. We don’t want that to happen again.”

The Stars have had their way with the Canucks in recent years. The last time Vancouver won in Dallas was Feb. 21, 2013. Since then, victories have included scorelines like 5-1, 4-1, 6-1, and 6-3.

The Stars have already hosted the Canucks once in Dallas this season. On Oct. 29, they fought back from a 3-1 third-period deficit to win, 4-3, in overtime.

Dallas (17-5-0) has yet to lose consecutive games this season.

Video: Beleskey rocks Stepan, fights McIlrath (Update: Stepan won’t return)


Well, Matt Beleskey sure made his presence felt in the Thanksgiving Showdown.

With the Rangers leading the Bruins 2-1 midway through the second period, Beleskey delivered a huge hit on Rangers forward Derek Stepan, then had to answer the bell as he was immediately confronted by towering Blueshirts d-man Dylan McIlrath.

Needless to say, it had a pretty profound effect on the game.

McIlrath got the instigator penalty for the fight, which sent the B’s to the power play. Not long after, Brett Connolly scored his fifth of the year to even the score at 2-2.

Then, later in the period, Stepan was spotted going down the Rangers’ tunnel.

We’ll keep tabs on Stepan’s condition moving forward, and if the comes out for the third period.

There’s a pretty good chance New York bench boss Alain Vigneault will be asked for his thoughts on the hit, too, so stay tuned.

Update: The Rangers have ruled out Stepan for the remainder of the contest.