Pascal Dupuis, Sidney Crosby

Bylsma on Dupuis: “He’s been outstanding in a lot of different roles for us”

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On a star-studded Penguins team featuring the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury, it’s easy to overlook a guy like Pascal Dupuis.

One guy not guilty of that? Pittsburgh’s head coach, Dan Bylsma.

“He’s been outstanding in a lot of different roles for us,” Bylsma told the Canadian Press. “He’s turned himself into a leader in how we play.”

Dupuis, 32, is playing arguably the best hockey of his his 11-year NHL career. He’s scored a career-high 23 goals, is two assists shy of tying his career-high in assists (28) and recently set — yep, you guessed it — a career-high in points, with 50.

The personal benchmarks are great, but what might be most impressive are Dupuis’ game-winning goals. He’s scored eight this season, tying him for fifth in the NHL, ahead of All-Star snipers like Marian Gaborik, Jamie Benn, Daniel Sedin and Corey Perry.

Amazingly, he’s just one back of Evgeni Malkin for the team lead.

“That’s a career let alone one season,” Bylsma said.

But for all of Dupuis’ statistical accomplishments, his biggest contribution is versatility. He started the season playing alongside Malkin and Chris Kunitz before switching roles to skate with Crosby when No. 87 made a brief return in November.

When Crosby went back on the shelf, Dupuis was put on a line with Jordan Staal and Steve Sullivan — and all they’ve done lately is combine for 15 goals during Pittsburgh’s recent 11-game winning streak.

“We have a little bit of everything on that line,” Dupuis said. “Jordan can do anything. Steve is really poised, really patient. It seems to be working.”

Dupuis is just one of several Penguins enjoying a renaissance year. Matt Cooke’s scored a career-high 19 goals, Sullivan has his highest point total since 2006-07 and Staal has more power play goals than the last two seasons combined.

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.