Crosby and Giroux

Weekend preview: Flyers-Pens rivalry renewed, Bruins look to stay hot

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A quick look ahead at some of the narratives at play this weekend…

Keystone state clash

It’s going to be a big 48 hours in Pennsylvania as the Flyers and Penguins play back-to-back games this Saturday and Sunday. The first affair will go at Wells Fargo (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET), where the two teams have already met once this season — a 4-1 Penguins win, in which Sidney Crosby notched 1G-1A while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 24 of 25 shots for the  victory.

On Sunday, the two teams will meet at Consol Energy Center (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC), where the Flyers have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success over the last three regular seasons. Philly is 4-1-1 in the last six head-to-head matchups in Pittsburgh and has been led by young forward Brayden Schenn, who has five points in the six games.

Streaking B’s

The NHL’s hottest team out of the Olympic break — the Boston Bruins — will look to stay scorching this weekend when they host the Hurricanes at TD Garden on Saturday.

Boston has won seven straight and is 7-1-1 since players returned from the Winter Games in Sochi, collecting 15 of a possible 18 points to open up a massive lead in the Atlantic Division.

Consider this: heading into the Olympic break, the B’s had 78 points, seven clear of second-place Tampa Bay in the division.

Now, Boston has 93 points and is 13 up on second-place Toronto.

Elsewhere…

— The latest installment of the Freeway Faceoff will go in Los Angeles on Saturday, when the Kings host the Ducks. These two heated California rivals are headed in opposite directions at the moment, as the Ducks are 3-5-2 over their last 10 games while the Kings are 8-2-0 over the same span. The third Cali-based team, San Jose, will be keeping a close eye on this tilt as the Sharks enter the weekend tied on points with the Ducks for top spot in the Pacific Division, with 93.

— On Sunday night, NBCSN brings the latest installment of the Detroit-Chicago rivalry (7:30 p.m. ET). This will be a rematch of last year’s classic Western Conference semifinal playoff, in which the ‘Hawks rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Wings in overtime of Game 7.

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.