Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa, of Slovakia, celebrates with Andrew Shaw (65) after Hossa scored against the Nashville Predators in the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Blackhawks stay hot in 5-2 win over Washington

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Andrew Shaw had the best game of his young NHL career and Chicago improved to 7-1-1 in their last nine games as they earned a 5-2 victory over the Washington Capitals.

Chicago set the tone of this game early with goals from Shaw and Viktor Stalberg within the first 7:44 minutes of play.

Washington’s Mike Knuble cut the Blackhawks lead in half with a goal early in the second period, but Patrick Kane answered back roughly five and a half minutes later. Kane has stepped up with captain Jonathan Toews (concussion) sidelined, and this goal extended his current point streak to five games.

Still, it was Shaw, not Kane, who was the hero of this contest. Shaw scored his second goal of the game midway through the second period and later added an assist. In Shaw, Chicago has a fine secondary scorer who is more than willing to throw his body around. This was the first time that Shaw scored twice or had three points in a single NHL game, but it definitely isn’t the only example of him contributing to a victory.

Alex Ovechkin scored a highlight-reel worthy goal late in the second period. He has now reached the 30-goal milestone in each of his seven NHL seasons, but his efforts were not enough to save Washington this time.

This is an unfortunate setback for the Capitals, who are is a very tight three-way race with the Winnipeg Jets and Buffalo Sabres for the final playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. It also further hurts their increasingly slim chances of dethroning the Florida Panthers in the race for the Southeast Division title. You can check out Ovechkin’s goal and all the highlights below.

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Washington is now 1-2-0 on their current road trip and things won’t get any easier for them as they’re scheduled to play in Detroit on Monday and Philadelphia on Thursday. They will then come home for a critical matchup against the Jets on Friday.

From Chicago’s perspective, this win helps to push them out of reach from the teams scrapping by for a final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks currently hold the sixth seed and are firmly in control of their own destiny. They still have a chance to steal fifth or even fourth place from the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings respectively.

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.