Washington Capitals right wing Alex Ovechkin (8), of Russia, skates next to New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) during the first period an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

NHL on NBCSN: Islanders look to pull Capitals into their nightmare

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Washington Capitals host the New York Islanders at the Verizon Center at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

These are dark days for the Islanders. The forward momentum their franchise gained from finally making the playoffs last year seems to have been squandered. Their 10-3-0 run certainly has been over the course of their five game losing streak.

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It looks like teams will require around 90 points to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. If that’s the case then the Islanders need to get 40 points in their final 25 games, which obviously translates to a 20-5-0 record. Even if you assume that they won’t lose another game in regulation all season, the Islanders would still need to win a minimum of 17 contests.

So realistically, they’ve already missed the playoffs and to add insult to injury, they will probably lose Thomas Vanek too. Although New York gave up Matt Moulson, a first-round pick, and a second rounder to get him, the 30-year-old forward is expected be traded after he reportedly rejected the Islanders’ substantial offer.

With little hope and a team that’s likely to get worse before the season’s over, the Islanders don’t have much left to play for. Personal pride certainly has to rank high on their list of reasons to still give it their all. The belief, no matter how irrational, that they still have a shot, is likely another one. And for tonight, the desire to exact some measure of revenge against a Capitals’ squad that’s already beaten them twice this season.

Washington’s situation isn’t nearly as bleak as the Islanders. The Capitals are still very much in the battle for a playoff spot, but they’ve also watched their position degrade to the point where they’re on the outside looking in after their 6-9-6 run.

The Capitals managed to earn a 6-5 overtime win Sunday afternoon on the strength of an Alex Ovechkin marker and this has the potential to be an equally high scoring game. Washington netminders Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth haven’t been great lately and the Islanders’ goaltending has been consistently bad all season.

At the same time, these squads are certainly capable of putting on a show against anyone. That’s thanks in part to Ovechkin and John Tavares, but also do to their supporting casts that include the likes of Nicklas Backstrom in Washington and, at the time of writing, Vanek in New York.

Regardless of what type of game this evolves into, these two points will be critical for the Capitals. They haven’t drifted into the Islanders’ nightmare yet, but they need to move away from their lengthy slump if they want to keep it that way.

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.