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NHL 12 produces biggest launch week in series’ history

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For the most part, critics raved about NHL 12, the latest installment in EA Sports’ popular hockey video game series. That’s great and all, but critical success doesn’t always allow companies to reap huge profits; simply look at the ratings for the defunct but beloved sitcom “Arrested Development” if you need to drive the point home.

Whether you pinpoint the reasoning based on strong word of mouth, a creative wave of marketing (including installments regarding the title’s nine legends) or the recent gains made by the sport itself, NHL 12 came charging out of the gate as far as sales are concerned. EA announced that the game broke first week records for the series, with the European version receiving a Sept. 9 release while the North American copy came out on Sept. 12.

Estimates indicate that more than 451,000 copies were sold, bringing in more than $27 million in retail. Chris Pereira of 1up.com reports that EA hopes to capitalize on this success by releasing a “free-to-play” Facebook game called NHL Superstars in October. (I have to admit I cringe a bit at the idea without knowing the details, as it makes me picture a hockey version of incessant “Farmville” updates. Hopefully it will be more promising than that, though.)

Here are more details about the strong first week for the game.

Electronic Arts has announced that NHL 12 enjoyed a “record-breaking launch.” After its release on September 13 in North America, EA’s internal figures peg it as having the biggest launch week in the franchise’s history. Sales were up 19 percent in North America and Europe (where it launched on September 9) as compared with last year, resulting in it bringing in more than $27 million at retail worldwide.

Record amounts of time was spent playing online, too; over 6.9 million online matches took place between September 13 and September 19. That’s the most during one week in the franchise’s history and 17 percent more than last year.

Hopefully those impressive figures will encourage EA Sports to maintain their aggressive (if subtle) approach to improving the NHL titles from NHL 12 to NHL 13 … although some might believe it’s hard to say what, exactly, they need to improve.

Penguins push Capitals to brink of elimination with OT win

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The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a long run of playoff overtime struggles on Wednesday … and are now one win away from ending the Washington Capitals’ season.

Many expected the Penguins to crater on defense without Kris Letang (they were 2-8-1 in the regular season without him). While there were shaky moments, Pittsburgh emphasized its speed and other strengths in taking a 3-2 overtime thriller against Washington.

With that, the Penguins’ series lead grows to 3-1.

It was a thrilling, sometimes nasty contest, from Sidney Crosby shaking off an Alex Ovechkin slash, to Evgeni Malkin delivering a hit some thought was over the line and plenty of typical playoff skirmishes.

Ultimately, Matt Murray played another strong game and Patric Hornqvist scored the overtime-winner to put the Capitals in a tough spot.

The Penguins lost their previous eight playoff overtime games, so maybe it was just a matter of time before such a game went their way?

Then again, the history between the two teams is a little different:

If the Capitals want to advance beyond the second round for the first time in the Ovechkin era, they’ll need to accomplish quite the feat against arguably the hottest team in the NHL.

Sidney Crosby looks hurt (and furious) after Alex Ovechkin slash

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Sidney Crosby is known to get fiery, but even for his feisty standards, he was furious during the third period of Game 4.

An Alex Ovechkin slash caught Crosby on the hand, leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins star shaking his mitt and pleading for a call.

After that, Crosby left to get his hand looked at … but not before flipping out and destroying his stick.

You can watch it happen in the GIF and the videos above.

Crosby was able to return not that long after that moment, although we can only speculate regarding how his overall game will be affected if his hand isn’t 100 percent.

Dirty or not? Evgeni Malkin’s hit on Daniel Winnik

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Tensions seem to rise with every passing game in the playoffs, particularly in a series with bad blood like the one between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

Kris Letang was suspended for his hit in Game 3, and some wonder if Evgeni Malkin should suffer a similar fate for his check on Daniel Winnik on Wednesday.

Winnik left the contest and has not yet returned during the third period.

Take a look at the hit in the video above and decide for yourself.

Blues aim to raise money for victims of Fort McMurray fires

An evacuee puts gas in his car on his way out of Fort McMurray, Alberta, as a wildfire burns in the background Wednesday, May 4, 2016. The raging wildfire emptied Canada's main oil sands city, destroying entire neighborhoods of Fort McMurray, where officials warned Wednesday that all efforts to suppress the fire have failed.  (Jason Franson /The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
AP
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Fires devastated the Canadian city of Fort McMurray, and the St. Louis Blues are doing their part to help those who were affected.

Here’s what the team is doing to raise money during Game 4 against the Dallas Stars:

Proceeds raised through the team’s 50/50 raffle and the Blues for Kids silent auction will benefit families who have been misplaced by the fires.

Blues forward Scottie Upshall shared his thoughts with the Associated Press regarding several family members being among those evacuated from the area.

“It’s been a great city, a city that’s survived for many years through some tough times and for me, growing up there doesn’t seem too long ago,” Upshall said. “Places that probably aren’t standing anymore will be really, really tough to take. But as long as everyone’s OK, that’s the main thing.”

Other people from around the hockey world weighed in on the scary scene, including Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips, who told the Ottawa Citizen that “it hurts a lot.”

People shared some scary sights from the evacuation.