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Stars shatter Leafs’ six-game winning streak 7-1

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Onlookers bicker endlessly about whether the Toronto Maple Leafs are a legitimate playoff team or not, but there seems to be at least two things people should agree upon: they’re rarely boring or predictable. Maybe it’s fitting that equally up-and-down Dallas Stars ended Toronto’s winning streak by an emphatic 7-1 margin on Thursday, then.

The Stars came into the second period with a 2-1 lead, which is when things really unraveled for Toronto. The Stars bumped their lead from 2-1 to 6-1 with four goals in about nine minutes, makng it a miserable night for Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer.

Valeri Nichushkin also got the last laugh considering that pair of collisions with Sergei Gonchar, as the Russian Olympian scored two goals and one assist. Jamie Benn was the true standout, however, as he collected four points (one goal, three assists).

The one bit of bad news for Dallas is that Cody Eakin suffered an upper-body injury during the contest, although Stars Inside Edge’s Mark Stepneski reports that Lindy Ruff believes the forward is OK.

The Maple Leafs have been about as streaky as you can get in the last couple months. Just soak in their highs and lows since Nov. 25:

Nov. 25 – Dec. 3: Five straight losses
Dec. 5 – 14: Two wins, three losses and then one win.
Dec. 16 – 23: Losses in four of five.
Dec. 27 – Jan.1: Three straight victories.
Jan. 4 – 10: Four losses in a row
Jan. 12 – 21: Six wins in a row

And then they lost today.

At this point, the only thing we can safely know is their record: 27-21-5 for 59 points in 53 games played, which keeps them in the thick of the playoff hunt, whether they’re genuine contenders or just lucky.

Royal beating: Lucic, Kings crush Bruins 9-2

As Boston Bruins' Patrice Bergeron (37) looks on Los Angeles Kings' Milan Lucic waves to the crowd after a tribute to him was played on the screen during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Boston Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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The Boston Bruins welcomed Milan Lucic back on Tuesday. Maybe they shouldn’t have extended such a warm welcome to the Los Angeles Kings overall, however.

You won’t see many games as lopsided as this one, at least in 2015-16, as the Kings walloped the Bruins by a humbling score of 9-2.

Lucic wasn’t just there, either, as he scored a goal and an assist in his quite triumphant return to Boston.

Tuukka Rask had a short night in Boston’s net, yet it wasn’t as if Jonas Gustavsson enjoyed his time. It was a pretty sound beating by all accounts.

This dominant win is a heck of a way for the Kings to begin an imposing seven-game road trip, which continues against the New York Islanders on Thursday. The Bruins probably want to burn the tape on this one themselves, as they’re about to head on a six-game road trip.

Video: Evander Kane believes he won his fights vs. Alex Petrovic

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The Florida Panthers are beating up the Buffalo Sabres where it counts – on the scoreboard – but Evander Kane was happy to highlight his perceived victories in a couple bouts.

Buffalo’s power forward fought Alex Petrovic twice on Tuesday, and Kane wasn’t shy about holding up a “2-0.”

You can watch the second fight above, and the first one below, via Hockey Fights by way of MSG:

This GIF might just say it all, really:

Update: Apparently they fought again moments after this post went up.

Probably safe to call it a rivalry between the two, right?

The Panthers ultimately won 7-4.

Fight video: Yes, a visor-breaking punch

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Some hockey players resist the urge to wear a visor, at least if they’re given that choice.

Perhaps a few will say “Hey, Nathan Beaulieu will just punch it off anyway.”

Maybe not, but Beaulieu provided a rather unique moment in his fight with Cedric Paquette during the Montreal Canadiens – Tampa Bay Lightning game. You can watch that bout in the video above, and see a cut on the Lightning pest’s face from that blow.

Want it in GIF form? OK then:

Sending a message: Flames scratch Gaudreau, Monahan, Bouma

Calgary Flames' Sean Monahan, left, celebrates his goal with teammate Johnny Gaudreau during the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes in an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Calgary, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau figure to be a big part of the Calgary Flames’ forward group, both in the present and the future.

That said, it the very specific present, they’ll be watching Tuesday’s game from the press box.

After an unsatisfactory practice amid flailing playoff hopes, Flames head coach Bob Hartley made a big statement tonight, taking Monahan, Gaudreau and Lance Bouma out of the lineup as healthy scratches against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Wow.

It’s amusing timing, too, as the Maple Leafs will roll with a bit of a skeleton crew of their own after that splashy Dion Phaneuf trade.

Some background

Sportsnet’s Mark Spector was there for the practice, which was unusually short at 25 minutes.

“He wasn’t happy with the way we were practicing,” David Jones told Spector. “It’s a little embarrassing when we’re not (making) five-foot passes.

“I think he was pretty pissed off about the way things were looking.”

Call it a combination of poor execution and maybe a tardy arrival … perhaps from a Super Bowl party or two?