Pittsburgh Penguins v Chicago Blackhawks

NBC Game of the Week: Chicago beats Pittsburgh 3-2 in the shootout thanks to Patrick Kane’s winner

After trading momentum and goals through two periods, it only made sense that the Blackhawks and Penguins did the same in the third period and overtime before deciding the game in a shootout.

Bryan Bickell scored a freakish goal 1:09 into the third period, just throwing it towards the net. The shot caught Marc-Andre Fleury by surprise and beat him over the shoulder to give Chicago a 2-1 lead. The Blackhawks would hang on to that lead until late in the period when Pittsburgh newcomer due to injury Brett Sterling scored stuffing home a Jordan Staal rebound with 3:28 left in regulation.

Chicago and Pittsburgh traded off power play opportunities at the end of the third and into overtime resulting in some fantastic chances for both teams highlighted by a spectacular save for Marc-Andre Fleury on Michal Frolik and the Penguins making Corey Crawford stand on his head during the 4-on-3 power play in overtime. Nothing would get decided there as the game headed to the shootout.

In the shootout, Patrick Kane would score the only goal in the event while Pittsburgh’s Pascal Dupuis was denied by the post on his attempt. Even in spite of the loss in the shootout, Fleury’s play was brilliant throughout making 29 saves. Without his effort today, the Penguins likely don’t even get to go to the shootout. Corey Crawford was brilliant on his own in stopping 24 shots during the game and all three shots in the shootout.

One injury note from the game, however, as Pittsburgh’s Jordan Staal left the game during overtime after being struck in the face by a shot. Staal went right to the locker room after the shot and did not return. After the game, coach Dan Bylsma said he assumes that Staal is OK. If there’s anything the Penguins don’t need now it’s to have their best center to go out of the lineup at all with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby out already.

The win is huge for Chicago as it gets them closer to the pack in the hunt for the playoffs in the Western Conference. Dropping a couple more in a row would’ve made things a bit tougher to handle in the ultra competitive West. For Pittsburgh, they’ll slip back a little bit behind Philadelphia in the East as the Flyers picked up a win earlier over the Rangers. The Pens have now lost five of their last seven games.

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

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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

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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.