Penguins-Capitals Winter Classic preview lives up to hype; Pittsburgh squeaks out 3-2 shootout win

Whenever people gripe about the hype heaped upon Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, I tend to half-agree. I think of it in the same way as a family would divvy up slices of pizza; Crosby and Ovechkin get too many pieces, but they still deserve the biggest ones because they deliver more often than not.*

The Pittsburgh Penguins came into this game with people expecting them to win, but they played against the Florida Panthers last night and were visiting a rested Washington Capitals team in this one.

While the Capitals dominated quite a few stretches of play, Marc-Andre Fleury and Crosby stood tall to help the Penguins earn a hard-fought shootout win.

Pittsburgh 3, Washington 2 (SO)

Crosby factored in both of the Penguins’ regulation goals, scoring the game’s first goal and then creating enough havoc to allow Chris Kunitz to score a 2-1 tally. Crosby extended his points streak to 23 games with that goal and assist, giving him the longest streak since Mats Sundin scored in 30 straight games during the 1992-93 season. That gives Crosby the longest post-lockout scoring streak, with 23 goals and 22 assists for 45 points in that span.

Sid was far from the only star to shine in this game, though. Convenient scapegoat/explosive offensive defenseman Mike Green was outstanding, as you can see from this tweet by Corey Masisak.

Mike Green ends up with 34:03 of ice time. Goal, six shots, eight hits, 5 blocked shots. Felt like he was hit 34 times. What an effort.

That’s quite the stat line for the brave souls who choose to give their Norris Trophy votes to Green (and not just because he tends to lead the NHL in scoring among defensemen).

Fleury is playing his best hockey since the Penguins’ first Stanley Cup run (he actually was average at best during many games in their Cup winning summer a year later), as he was the reason the team managed to get to the shootout in the first place. He made 32 saves overall and only allowed one goal through the first two periods despite the fact that Washington out-shot Pittsburgh 25-12 in that span. He also made a controversial stop in overtime, as it was unclear if Green scored an overtime winner because Fleury’s glove covered up a puck that may or may not have crossed the red line.

The Capitals kept applying pressure in the game, coming back from a 1-0 deficit with a Green goal and a 2-1 Penguins lead thanks to a sharp shorthanded goal by Mike Knuble, but couldn’t land a knockout blow because Fleury was on fire.

The game was hard hitting, competitive and about as captivating as any hockey fan could ask for. While it was disappointing that the contest ended in a shootout, Ovechkin and Kris Letang scored beauties in that setup to start things off. After that, Fleury and Michal Neuvirth lasted six more rounds until Pascal Dupuis roofed the puck to win the game for the Penguins.

It’s hard to imagine the Winter Classic topping this game, but considering the frequency Crosby, Ovechkin and with which these two teams deliver, it wouldn’t be shocking if the game earned its classic name.

* – Before you reply with some kind of “choking in the playoffs” comment, don’t forget that Ovechkin managed 10 points in that 7-game series against Montreal in the 2009-10 playoffs. One player cannot influence a game in the same way as a sport like basketball, so give Ovi a break.

Update: Evgeni Malkin is still a bad man

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Sometimes an angry Evgeni Malkin means a stray power play or two for his opponents, but it’s usually not the best idea to make him angry.

Giving a player that big and talented extra motivation just seems like a bad idea, right?

Joel Ward experienced that phenomenon on Tuesday, as Malkin responded to a blow from Ward with the goal you can see above.

This continues a red-hot streak for Malkin. Tonight’s goal and assist (and counting?) stretches his scoring streak to four games, each with at least one goal.

Malkin came into Tuesday with 10 points in his last six games as well, so … yeah, no. 71 is feeling it right now.

Of course: Ryan Suter wins it for Wild vs. ‘Hawks after those wild quotes

NBCSN screen

You know what they say: “What a difference a game makes.”

Even in the 82-game marathon that an NHL regular season is, that can be true.

Ryan Suter admitted he went too far with comments during tough times, yet there he was on Tuesday night, grinning ear-to-ear after scoring the 2-1 goal that ended up being the game-winner.

Heck, people were even joking about things. The healing powers of winning, right?

As of this writing, this win places Minnesota in the last wild card spot, and they’re close to elbowing in on the Chicago Blackhawks (who own a standings point advantage, but have played two more games so far in 2015-16).

Jeremy Roenick labels this 2-1 win as a “team win” for Minnesota, and it showed on that 2-1 goal, as the Wild showed off some picture-perfect passing and a willingness to crash the net for rebounds.

Let’s face it, though; Devan Dubnyk deserves plenty of credit, too.

It won’t be easy in the Central Division, and things may get heated again. Still, this is the sort of win that may just help Minnesota build up some confidence.

Hey look: Flyers reel off three straight wins for first time in 2015-16

Sean Couturier
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When you’re talking about bright sides, most people believe that they boil down to the light at the end of the tunnel for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Sometimes it’s nice to enjoy a little success in the present while waiting for that bright future, though.

The Flyers are providing at least a burst of sunshine lately, as Tuesday’s 4-2 win against the Ottawa Senators gives them … (drum roll) their first three-game winning streak of this season.

Joy abounded.

Even in recent darker moments, Philly’s been pretty impressive on offense, so Flyers fans are likely relieved to see a relative offensive outburst.

Sure, it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns – Radko Gudas might have gotten himself into some trouble, for instance – yet this is still a nice sign of life for a team expected to finish in the draft lottery.

If that fails … hey, the future may require shades.

This own-goal captures the start of Dougie Hamilton’s Flames career

Dougie Hamilton
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Here’s an understatement: things haven’t gone very well for Dougie Hamilton early in his first season with the Calgary Flames.

(It must feel like the opposite of Tyler Seguin in Dallas for Boston Bruins fans, but feel free to disagree in the comments.)

You could look at Hamilton’s meager offensive stats and break down his disappointing work through a very of “fancy” and traditional metrics …

… Or you could just fire up a projector and show this own-goal on a loop.

Update: Did Hamilton picture all the negative headlines and harness that energy for a greater good? He scored the game-tying goal as Calgary upset Dallas 4-3 via a shootout.