Evgeni Malkin

Tale of the Tape: Penguins vs Bruins

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On Sunday, the Boston Bruins will take on the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center (12:30 pm ET, NBC) – here’s a look at recent history between the two clubs.

Pittsburgh: 41-21-5, 2nd in Atlantic Division. Leading scorer: Evgeni Malkin (38G-43A-81PTS)

Boston: 40-24-3, 1st in Northeast Division. Leading scorer: Tyler Seguin (24G-31A-55PTS)/Patrice Bergeron (19G-36A-55PTS)

Dec. 5, 2011 – Bruins 3, Penguins 1. In what would be Sidney Crosby’s final contest before he returned to the sidelines due to concussion-like symptoms, Tim Thomas saved 45 shots, including 39 in the final 40 minutes.

The win extended the Bruins’ incredible run to 14-0-1. Just a day later, they lost in regulation for the first time in over a month. Crosby managed five shots on goal and logged 21:03 minutes of playing time, but was held off the scoresheet.

The Penguins also had a scary moment during the game when Crosby and teammate Chris Kunitz collided at center ice in the third period. Crosby was slow to skate back to the bench after the incident.

Following the game, Crosby was initially held out for what the team described as precautionary reasons, but it later became clear that he would be sidelined for an indeterminate amount of time. Although his collision with Kunitz was one of the last things to happen before Crosby was sidelined, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma later said that Crosby’s condition wasn’t caused by a specific hit.

Feb. 4, 2012 – Penguins 2, Bruins 1. Tim Thomas was solid once again, but that wasn’t enough as the Penguins’ struck back.

Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside 28 shots to earn his ninth straight victory.

“Marc was exceptional,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “He was able to control the rebounds and limit the opportunities they had.”

After failing to record a point in their previous match against Boston, Malkin netted a power-play goal with just nine seconds remaining in the first period to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead. Matt Cooke scored the game-winning goal, much to the ire of The Garden crowd, who booed him for his hit on Marc Savard nearly two years earlier.

Boston’s loss marked the first time since early December that they had suffered consecutive defeats. Boston was shaky throughout the month of February. On the flipside, this victory was the lone bright spot in the Penguins’ 1-2-1 road trip.

Two major Stanley Cup contenders clash

Although no playoff-bound squad, least of all the first place New York Rangers, should be counted out in March, an Eastern Conference Finals between the Penguins and Bruins certainly seems plausible. Boston has been mediocre lately, in part because of the absence of Nathan Horton (concussion), but they are still largely the same team that lifted the Stanley Cup in 2011.

Meanwhile, the Penguins have shown a remarkable ability to overcome injuries. They have the second best record in the Eastern Conference despite the fact that their best player has been limited to eight games. As they are, the Penguins seem poised to make a serious push for the Cup, but if they get Crosby back in time for the playoffs, then they might become the hardest team in the league to beat.

The Ducks look pretty mighty right now after six consecutive wins

Anaheim Ducks v Los Angeles Kings
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In what should be a disturbing trend for every other team in the Pacific Division, the Anaheim Ducks have now won six consecutive games, and eight of their last 10.

After dominating the shot clock for pretty much all of Friday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, the Ducks completely took over on the scoreboard in the third period. It seemed like only a matter of time before a breakthrough would occur.

Just 24 hours after beating the L.A. Kings, the Ducks earned a 5-2 victory over the Coyotes.

Ryan Kesler has eight points in his last six games. Corey Perry has seven points in his last six games. Patrick Maroon, who had only eight points all season prior to Friday, had a three-point night versus Arizona.

Again. Bad news for every other team in the Pacific.

The Ducks now have a three-point lead over the Coyotes for third place in the division. They’re one point back of second-place San Jose and eight back of division-leading L.A.

As for everyone else, more specifically the Canucks, Flames and Oilers, well it might be time to start focusing more on the upcoming trade deadline and, beyond that, the draft.

The Ducks had a terrible start to this season, one that started with so much hype about a team seen as an immediate Stanley Cup contender for 2015-16.

Count Corey Perry as one who believes those early season struggles could pay off at playoff time.

And remember all of that talk in October about Bruce Boudreau perhaps at the end of his days as coach of the Ducks?

At the end of October, GM Bob Murray vowed to be patient despite such a poor start just a few months after being one win away from the Stanley Cup Final last June.

There is still plenty of hockey remaining in the regular season. The Ducks have 32 games remaining on their schedule. But it appears that patience Murray showed in October is paying off.

Jets can’t complete the comeback after miserable start against Hurricanes

Colorado Avalanche v Winnipeg Jets
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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) Phillip Di Giuseppe, Andrej Nestrasil, Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk scored in the first period, and the Carolina Hurricanes held on for a 5-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night.

The Hurricanes scored four times on their first nine shots, taking a 4-0 lead just 10:04 into the game. Nestrasil added another goal in the third period, and Cam Ward made 33 saves. Staal and Joakim Nordstrom each had a pair of assists.

Alexander Burmistrov, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler scored for Winnipeg.

Jets rookie Connor Hellebuyck allowed three goals while facing only six shots before being replaced by Michael Hutchinson after Staal’s power-play goal just 4:33 in. Hutchinson, who hadn’t played since a 4-1 loss in Anaheim on Jan. 3, finished with 21 saves.

The loss wrapped up Winnipeg’s season-high six-game homestand, which included just one victory.

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Carolina’s first goal came after the Jets turned over the puck and Di Giuseppe scored on a sharp-angled shot at 1:43.

Hellebuyck then kicked out a bad rebound and Nestrasil tallied his 16th goal of the season in his 100th NHL game from almost the same angle at 3:05.

With Byfuglien in the penalty box for delay of game, Staal’s shot beat Hellebuyck, ending the young goalie’s night.

Faulk made it 4-0 when his team’s third shot at Hutchinson went between his pads at 10:04.

The Jets came out at a faster, more aggressive pace to start the second period and it paid off with 1:25 remaining.

Andrew Copp and Chris Thorburn were battling a pair of Hurricanes behind the net when Thorburn poked the puck out front as he was falling and Burmistrov got his sixth goal of the season.

Ladd, who hit the post late in the second period, banged home a rebound with Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner off for hooking at 9:07 of the third.

Byfuglien one-timed a pass from Nikolaj Ehlers that Wheeler deflected to make it 4-3 with 6:12 remaining.

Nestrasil sealed the win with his second goal at 18:40.

NOTES: Ehlers’ assist extended his point streak to six games, with four goals and four assists. … Winnipeg heads out for a two-game road trip starting in Colorado on Saturday. Carolina visits Montreal on Sunday.

Video: Zatkoff robs Condra with sprawling paddle save

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All Erik Condra had to do was lift the puck off the ice.

He didn’t, and as a result, he was robbed by sprawled out Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff, who made a spectacular desperation save with the paddle of his stick on the Lightning forward.

The save occurred just past the midway point of the third period. That kept the Penguins in the game, down by a goal at the time.

However, the Penguins couldn’t get the equalizer. The result was a 6-3 loss for Pittsburgh, as Tampa Bay scored twice later in the period.

Defending Eastern Conference champion Bolts continue hot streak

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Remember those distractions the Tampa Bay Lightning had to endure?

— The future of captain Steven Stamkos, who is a pending unrestricted free agent and whose contract situation has been an ongoing discussion point for months now.

Jonathan Drouin‘s camp publicly requesting a trade, then having the 20-year-old forward sent to the minors and then suspended by Tampa Bay, etc.

Well, through it all, the defending Eastern Conference champions have emerged and are now one of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League . Since the start of January, the Bolts have lost twice. In 13 games.

They continued their hot streak Friday, defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins — another of those teams on an impressive streak — by a final score of 6-3, with Tyler Johnson leading the way with three points. He was one of six Tampa Bay players to record a multi-point night.

Penguins’ goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled in the second period after allowing four goals on 14 shots.

Tampa Bay is now five points behind the Florida Panthers for first in the Atlantic Division.

For the Penguins, the loss keeps them on the outside of the playoff bubble for now. They remain one point back of New Jersey for the final Wild Card spot in the East.

Sidney Crosby extended his point streak to nine games. He also has goals in five straight and is one point shy of 900 for his career.