NHL on NBCSN: Red-hot Penguins host red-hot Avalanche

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Colorado Avalanche at CONSOL Energy Center at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

If fans in Nova Scotia seem to be a bit more interested in Monday night’s game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Colorado Avalanche, there’s good reason. A pair of Cole Harbour’s favorite sons will face each other for the first time in the NHL.

One you already know all about in Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. He leads the NHL in points, he’s tied with four others for the league lead in goals. He’s an all-world talent and perhaps the best player in the game today. Like you needed to be told all that already.

The other is Avalanche rookie Nathan MacKinnon. As a kid growing up in Cole Harbour, Crosby was his role model and now he’s one of a handful of Avs centers helping lead the team to a surprising 7-1-0 start. His seven points to start the year is strong, tying him for second on the team with P.A. Parenteau.

source: Getty ImagesOf course, Crosby’s Penguins are also 7-1-0 which makes Monday night’s game all the more interesting.

Pittsburgh’s only loss came on the road against Florida with backup Jeff Zatkoff in goal. Colorado’s lone defeat came at home against the veteran Detroit Red Wings, a loss that was overshadowed by Cody McLeod’s hit on Niklas Kronwall.

For the Penguins, the usual cast of characters are getting it done for them. Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, and Jussi Jokinen are off to strong starts as well.

Editor’s Note: ProHockeyTalk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $1,500 Fantasy Hockey league tonight (Monday). It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $400. Starts at 7:30pm ET. Here’s the link.

In Colorado, the play of Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly has had coach Patrick Roy gushing over them. It’s been a team effort for the Avalanche, however, as they have nine players with five points or more and play a speed game that puts pressure on opponents to make decisions quickly.

For the Penguins, they might feel like they’re looking in the mirror if the Avalanche offense gets rolling.

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.