Rick DiPietro, Brent Johnson

Mike Milbury’s Hat Trick: Rick DiPietro should really know better

Each week here at ProHockeyTalk, NHL on NBC’s Mike Milbury gives us his take on three hot topics of discussion around the league. We’re happy to have Mike join us and give us his unique and fiery opinions on what’s going on in the NHL.

1. Brent Johnson and Rick DiPietro throwing punches during last night’s 3-0 Penguins win. What in the world is Rick DiPietro thinking there and how much did coach Jack Capuano and GM Garth Snow hold their breath watching that?

You know, Ricky’s a great competitor and he’s gone through a lot and I think might’ve been frustrated giving up a soft goal earlier in the game. You know, when it got to be 3-0 you should probably just let it go but he ended up stepping into Cooke. From what I gather, he gave the little glove shake to indicate to Johnson he wanted to go.He bit off more than he could chew and he looked like he wasn’t even ready to go.

It was odd and Johnson gave him exactly what he deserved. He gave him a good, swift slap in the head and that was the end of the story. DiPietro came looking for it and Johnson delivered it. As Keith Jones pointed to me off the air, DiPietro saved 21 shots in the game but he made 22 with the last one being the punch.

By all means DiPietro should know better. He should just simply know better. With all his injuries all he needs is another problem that’s self imposed and starting a fight that’s absolutely meaningless in the course of a game qualifies as that.

2. Jordan Staal didn’t have to sit for his punch on Brandon Prust. Did the league make the right call on that in not suspending him for the match penalty?

Absolutely. Keith Jones and I talked about it on Versus after it happened. You saw the incident unravel. You saw Prust make a run at Tyler Kennedy and Staal approached him and he hit him in the mouth with his elbow. The reaction was maybe it was a milisecond of delay on Staal’s part but I thought it’s what any other hockey player would’ve done.

Prust was being a little bit of an agitator and wound up whacking Staal first. Staal quickly retaliated with a big first hit and Prust embellished it big time. It’s hard for me to say because I’m not inside of his skull, but he looked fine to me afterwards and he’s the guy that initiated the hit.

I thought it was terrific the league rescinded the five-minute major and I thought it was great from the league perspective to do that. Not that they’re looking for my endorsement or anything.

3. The Rangers are getting healthy. They’ve gotten Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan back and they get Vinny Prospal back tonight. Are the Rangers a legitimate Cup contender?

Based on Montreal’s success last year, they can go a long way with the way the Rangers are playing. They play as a team, they play hard, they pursue the puck well, they’re gritty enough, and they get great goaltending.  In either case, I don’t know that they’ve got the explosive talent to get them to the promised land. I think the Rangers are a fun club to watch and they’re milking their talent for almost all that it’s worth.

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

Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov (15) scores a goal against Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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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

Boston Bruins' Brad Marchand celebrates after scoring on a penalty shot during the overtime period of the Boston Bruins 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres in an NHL hockey game in Boston Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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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.