Philadelphia Flyers v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Two

And then there were 13: Powerhouse Pens fall flat

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What began as a promising Stanley Cup run ended humbly on Sunday as the Pittsburgh Penguins lost 5-1 to the Philadelphia Flyers, losing their Eastern Conference quarterfinal four games to two.

In the end, the Pens were unable to dig themselves out of an 0-3 series hole — though they did make things interesting by winning Games 4 and 5.

What happened?

The Penguins fell apart defensively, especially on the penalty kill. Philadelphia set a franchise record with 12 power play goals in the series, scoring on over half its opportunities with the man advantage (finishing at a stunning 52 percent.)

Such an anemic power play would’ve been bad under normal circumstances, but in this series? It killed the undisciplined Pens, who accumulated nearly 150 penalty minutes and had three players (Craig Adams, James Neal and Arron Asham) suspended.

All told, the Penguins allowed 30 goals in six games.

Who takes the blame?

Lots of fingers will be pointed at Marc-Andre Fleury, and rightfully so. He let in a series of questionable markers and finished with horrific numbers (.832 save percentage, goals-against average over four). Pittsburgh’s leading penalty killers — Brooks Orpik, Zbynek Michalek, Pascal Dupuis and Adams — also have to shoulder some of the blame as well.

Evgeni Malkin will likely want to forget this series as well after being outplayed by 19-year-old Flyers rookie Sean Couturier.

What will they do about it?

The Pens need to find a capable backup netminder. Even though Fleury was nightmarish at times, Brent Johnson — who’d fallen out of favor earlier this season — only made one appearance this series, which spoke volumes of Dan Bylsma’s lack of faith in him.

Other than this, there’s not much Pittsburgh can do. It has 18 players on the books for $59 million next year — including maligned defenseman Paul Martin, signed until 2015 with an average annual cap hit of $5 million.

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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.