PHT’s top 13 of ’13: Pens go cold in Eastern Conference final


The Pittsburgh Penguins looked unstoppable heading into the 2013 Eastern Conference final; instead, the Boston Bruins swept them in stunning fashion.

However you look at the numbers, the end result was a total offensive collapse for the Pens, who topped the NHL in scoring last season before lighting up the New York Islanders (scoring 25 goals in six games) and Ottawa Senators (22 in five games) in the opening two rounds.

One round later, a team built by GM of the Year Ray Shero — and loaded up with deadline acquisitions Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow — scored a measly two goals in a baffling four-game sweep.

Maybe most stunningly, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin failed to score a point.

Let’s take a game-by-game look at how this shocking series turned out.

Game 1: Boston wins 3-0

The B’s battered Pittsburgh in a game that was so wild, even Crosby, Malkin and the likes of Patrice Bergeron engaged in the nastiness. You know things are bad when the NHL’s 26-year-old poster child blames the officials for things getting out of control.

But boy, did things sure get out of control:

Game 2: Bruins dominate 6-1

Crosby’s assessment of the June 3 loss was succinct and sufficient.

“Tonight was terrible,” Crosby said. “There’s no other way to describe it.”

Rare relief for Crosby, Malkin and other Penguins scorers came with the distraction of a goalie controversy, as people debated whether Marc-Andre Fleury should get his starting job back from Tomas Vokoun.

Game 3: Penguins fall in double-OT thriller

The Penguins made some changes when the series shifted to Boston, including dumping Iginla to the third line. Pittsburgh pushed Boston to a second overtime period, yet a nice bit of work by Jaromir Jagr and a mistake by Kris Letang opened the door for another huge Patrice Bergeron game-winning goal:

After the contest, Letang’s assessment was blunt:

We’re not doing anything good at all.”

This seemed to stand in contrast to the all-out Bruins; their work ethic was highlighted most dramatically by Gregory Campbell during this memorable moment:

Game 4: Bruins end sweep with shutout

Fittingly, Boston ended the series by showing off its staunch defense:

Crosby believed that the Penguins deserved better, yet the sweep opened up a flood of criticism … which the Penguins’ front office mostly ignored.

And, hey, that patience has worked out lately … although many will argue that it won’t matter until the Penguins make it happen in the postseason.

Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan

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Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?

Hellebuyck debuts with victory as Jets best Wild

Connor Hellebuyck
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Dustin Byfuglien had a goal and assist, Connor Hellebuyck made 14 saves to win his NHL debut and the Winnipeg Jets spoiled left winger Zach Parise‘s return from a knee injury by beating the Minnesota Wild 3-1 on Friday.

Mathieu Perreault added his second goal in two games and Nikolaj Ehlers‘ goal late in the third put the game away.

The Jets won on the road for the first time in their last seven tries and for just the third time in their last 11 games.

Ryan Carter scored for Minnesota, finally getting a shot past Hellebuyck that made it 2-1 midway through the third period.

Hellebuyck was college hockey’s top goalie in 2013-14 and the goaltender on the U.S. team that won a bronze medal in the 2015 world championships.

Minnesota finished with a season-low 15 shots, which was also a season low in shots allowed for the Jets.

Wild fans at the Xcel Energy Center let out a roar when it was announced before the game that Parise would start, but not even his return could spark Minnesota.

After Jason Zucker was whistled for an elbowing penalty behind the net, Perreault took a pass from Byfuglien and zipped it past Devan Dubnyk to give Winnipeg a 1-0 lead with 3:34 left in the second period.

Byfuglien made it 2-0 early in the third when his odd-angle shot hit Dubnyk in the back of the skate and went in for his seventh goal.

Carter’s goal bounced off of Winnipeg defenseman Mark Stuart and past Hellebuyck to give Minnesota some momentum.

The rookie didn’t get rattled, however, stopping a big shot from Jason Pominville with 3:11 to play.

Just 11 seconds later, Ehlers got loose on a breakaway and put the game away.

Winnipeg’s defense came into the game ranked 29th in goals allowed, but had little problem preventing Minnesota from generating quality scoring chances.

The Wild have just one win in their last six games. Parise was Minnesota’s leading scorer when he sprained a knee ligament on Nov. 5.

NOTES: Wild F Justin Fontaine missed his 11th game with a sprained MCL, but has a chance to return for Saturday’s game against Dallas according to coach Mike Yeo. … The Wild went 4-3-1 without Parise. … Jets RW Blake Wheeler had an assist and now has points in 18 of 24 games.

Blackhawks baffle Ducks with late magic; Kane’s streak at 18 games


The Chicago Blackhawks may not be at peak-level right now, but they’re still a tough team to finish off.

For most of Friday’s game, it seemed like the story would be about John Gibson possibly elbowing into the Anaheim Ducks’ No. 1 role, continuing that franchise carousel.

Instead, it was about yet another tremendous comeback for Chicago, as the Blackhawks scored two goals in the final two minutes of the third period to erase a 2-0 deficit. Artem Anisimov than scored the OT GWG.

Stunning stuff … though definitely not unprecedented.

With less than 30 seconds remaining, Patrick Kane grabbed an assist on Duncan Keith‘s 2-2 goal. Kane extended his point streak to 18 games, tying a record for America-born players.

For the Ducks, it’s yet another gut punch, one that makes you wonder how they’d fare in another playoff series against Chicago (if they can even get there … a big if).

Bruce Boudreau is bummed:

Tyler Johnson’s injury: One of several ominous signs for Tampa Bay

Carl Gunnarsson, Tyler Johnson
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The gloom only seems to lift from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s cloudy season in small drizzles.

Sure, they’re on a three-game winning streak, but the Washington Capitals seem to be on the verge of ending that with a thud (they’re currently up 3-0 going into the third period).

Update: Washington managed a 4-2 win, giving the Capitals a four-game winning streak.

That’s the least of the Bolts’ concerns right now, really, as Tyler Johnson left Friday’s game seemingly injured.

The word seemingly comes into play because details are scarce, as reporters note.

/ominous music plays

If you look at Tampa Bay’s upcoming schedule, things could get downright stormy.

They face the Islanders at home, but they do so tomorrow so they won’t be well-rested. It gets worse from there.

Dec. 2 – 6: Three-game road trip against the California teams

Dec. 10 – 12: Two home games (one vs. Ottawa, one vs. Washington)

Dec. 14-18: Another three-game road trip

Long story short, they close up a back-to-back set at home tomorrow and then play six of eight on the road.

/even more ominous music

The end of 2015 looks friendlier, but for a team that seems to be cratering here and there … things look a bit morbid.

We’ll see if they can keep fighting, perhaps with a comeback tonight?