Mathieu Perreault

The Ducks are on fire — how are they doing it?

In case you hadn’t noticed, the Anaheim Ducks have shaken off their season-opening 6-1 loss to Colorado in rather impressive fashion.

Five straight wins. Twenty goals scored. Just eight surrendered.

Tonight, they’ll try to make it six straight when Phoenix, another team off to a good start, visits The Pond.

Here’s what the Coyotes will be facing:

—- A team that’s getting great goaltending. Particularly from Jonas Hiller, who’s 3-0-0 with a .959 save percentage and one shutout. Even with the other half of the tandem, Viktor Fasth, allowing six goals in one game to the Avs, the Ducks’ team save percentage stands at .922, the ninth highest in the NHL.

—- A team that’s been outstanding five-on-five. It’s had to be with a power play that ranks last in the NHL (4.3%) and a penalty kill that ranks 26th (72.2%). The Ducks’ excellent even-strength play is illustrated in their individual plus-minuses — veteran d-man Francois Beauchemin leads the team at plus-8, while Cam Fowler (-3), Saku Koivu (-1), and Matt Beleskey (-1) are the only minuses.

—- A team that’s getting scoring from its best players. Like Corey Perry (3G, 3A) and Ryan Getzlaf (2G, 3A). Those two are paid the big bucks for a reason.

—- A team that’s getting scoring from its newcomers. Like Jakob Silfverberg (4G, 2A) and Mathieu Perreault (2G, 3A). The former was acquired from Ottawa in the Bobby Ryan trade; the latter came to Anaheim in a deal with Washington. Even much-maligned winger Dustin Penner, signed as a free agent, has chipped in with a pair of goals and a pair of assists.

—- A team that’s getting off to good starts. Only San Jose (12) has more first-period goals than the Ducks (10). “Our first periods have been generous to us,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau. “We’ve gotten out to a lead and just had to protect it. Last season, we would usually have to come from behind.”

All that said, the Ducks didn’t play their best Wednesday, ultimately getting outshot 35-22 by the Flames in a game Anaheim managed to hang on and win, 3-2.

“I didn’t think we had much flow at all,” Boudreau said. “When you’re used to seeing what we saw the previous two games, it’s tough to take.”

Obviously, “tough to take” is a relative phrase. We assume most Ducks fans will take 5-1-0 after six games.

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.