Pittsburgh Penguins v Washington Capitals

Capitals cruise to 3-0 win against Penguins; game ends with more bad blood

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The Washington Capitals’ regular season dominance of the Pittsburgh Penguins continues with their 3-0 win this afternoon, as the game ended with the teams’ hatred boiling over in some ugly ways.

Washington 3, Pittsburgh 0

The game concluded with some controversy, as Matt Cooke delivered a dirty knee-to-knee hit on Alex Ovechkin with a few minutes left in the third period. Many Penguins fans were quick to point out the fact that Ovechkin delivered a knee-to-knee hit of his own on former Pittsburgh defenseman Sergei Gonchar during the teams’ 2009 playoff series, but such “eye for an eye” logic is dangerous. Ovechkin was able to play in the game’s waning moments, which might reduce the chances that Cooke will face some discipline from the NHL.

Cooke’s actions were both unfortunate and typical, but it wasn’t the only moment of tension in the game. While Nate Ewell explained that the fight was actually rooted in a college hockey rivalry, others will view Tim Wallace’s fight with David Steckel as payback for a Winter Classic collision between Steckel and Penguins star Sidney Crosby. You might remember that the much-debated check contributed greatly to Crosby’s current concussion conundrum.

While the Penguins and Capitals were feisty during the game, the Pittsburgh offensive attack was absolutely punch-less. Washington goalie Michal Neuvirth was sturdy when called upon, even if he wasn’t tested particularly often during the game. He made 22 saves to shut out the Pens.

Brooks Laich scored the first (and game winning) goal in the final minutes of the first period and Marcus Johansson gave the Caps a nice cushion by fluttering a backhanded shot past Marc-Andre Fleury on the penalty kill. Mike Knuble got revenge for goal disallowed by a goalie interference penalty and a missed high stick calling by icing the game with an empty-netter.

Fleury made some big saves to keep his team in the game, but they rarely punctured the Capitals’ stingy defense in this contest. If anyone wants proof that Washington is adapting their game to conform to the type of hockey that commonly works in the playoffs, this would be a good contest to point to.

It will be wise to keep an eye on two of the Capitals’ biggest stars over the next two days, as Ovechkin was shaken up by that knee-to-knee hit while Mike Green never returned to the game after taking a puck to the ear (or side of his head) in the closing seconds of the first period.

This win places Washington one point behind the Southeast Division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning, although the Bolts have more wins (32 to 29) and one game in hand. Still, the Caps must feel confident after beating the Penguins and Lightning in one strong weekend.

The Penguins remain three points behind the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference’s top team, the Philadelphia Flyers. Pittsburgh came into the game riding a five-game winning streak, but you have to wonder if this is the first sign of struggles for a team that won’t score many easy goals without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Raanta rewards Rangers for starts over Lundqvist by blanking Blackhawks

VANCOUVER, BC - NOVEMBER 15: Goalie Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers shares a laugh with teammate Antti Raanta #32 after defeating the Vancouver Canucks 7-2 in NHL action on November 15, 2016 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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If someone told you that the New York Rangers started a goalie on back-to-back nights, and that goalie wasn’t Henrik Lundqvist, you’d probably wonder if he was hurt or retired.

Nope. It just so happens that Antti Raanta is playing at an incredibly high level, Alain Vigneault noticed, and that decision paid dividends on Friday night. Raanta won both nights of a back-to-back, allowing a single goal (with the Rangers protecting him, being that he only needed to stop 43 of 44 shots during that span).

Raanta and the Rangers blanked the Chicago Blackhawks with a 1-0 overtime win, at least briefly climbing to first place in the massively competitive Metro Division:

1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP

Nick Holden ended up scoring the only goal of the game:

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks lost but at least salvaged a standings point and it seems like Patrick Kane is OK after this injury scare:

Raanta improved to 7-1-0 on the season, allowing two goals or less in all but one of his appearances so far this season. That’s the kind of work you’d expect to see if you’re going sit a guy who’s, you know, a living legend.

Blue Jackets remain in thick of things in Metro on tough night for Red Wings

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 01:  Boone Jenner #38 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by his teammates after scoring the go ahead goal against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on December 1, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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As the Columbus Blue Jackets keep rolling, the Detroit Red Wings are probably just happy to get Friday behind them.

For the second straight game, the Blue Jackets beat their opponent 4-1.

They’re now on a five-game winning streak, and like the climbing St. Louis Blues, things look great if you go back a little further. They’re 10-1-2 in their last 13 games and 13-2-3 since November began.

Columbus is now at 16-5-4, giving them 36 standings points. They’re once again in breathing distance of leading the Metro Division when you consider games in hand.

Update: Here’s how the standings look after the Rangers beat the Blackhawks 1-0 in overtime:

1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP

That’s a stout division, and the Blue Jackets remain shockingly effective. Then again, with results like these over and over again, it might be time to merely expect such impressive work.

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For Detroit, it was a rough night. Jonathan Ericsson couldn’t play, Mike Green was a little banged up and Petr Mrazek was pulled for Jimmy Howard. This goal summarized some of their struggles:

Blues blaze through Devils, even in New Jersey

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 09: (L-R) Brad Hunt #77, Robby Fabbri #15 and Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues celebrate Fabri's first period goal against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 9, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The New Jersey Devils have been incredibly difficult to beat at home. Lately, the St. Louis Blues have been on a roll just about anywhere.

On Friday night, the Blues were the hotter team, handing the Devils their first home loss in regulation in 2016-17. And it wasn’t particularly close, with St. Louis winning 4-1.

It’s a convenient time to note that the Blues rank among the hottest teams in the NHL. Most recently, they’re 5-1-1 in their last seven games, but they’ve been especially impressive since they flirted with .500 at 7-6-3. Beginning with a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 15, the Blues are on a 8-2-1 tear.

This leaves them second in the Central with a 16-8-4 record.

That’s impressive stuff.

This 4-1 win was quite the showcase for Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Tarasenko, in particular. Tarasenko collected three assists while Fabbri scored two goals on Friday night. His second goal was particularly slick:

The Blues are right in saying that this was a pretty fitting opportunity to drop a “Holy Jumpin.”

Oh yeah, don’t forget about Jake Allen, either.

Leon Draisaitl continues hot streak with silky smooth goal (Video)

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Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”

Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).

Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.

Read more about his rise here.

Update: The Wild were able to shake off that goal, ultimately beating the Oilers 3-2 via a shootout.