New York Rangers  v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Two

Penguins grind out Game 2 win, tie series with Rangers

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The Pittsburgh Penguins faced down an unsettling scenario of going down 0-2 at home against the New York Rangers and instead gutted out a 3-0 win in Game 2, tying the second-round series at 1-1 on Sunday.

For those breathlessly wondering: no, Sidney Crosby didn’t score his first goal of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, so have at it if you’re dying to linger on that “crisis.”

Luckily for the Penguins, Crosby isn’t the only star they can turn to. Evgeni Malkin (one goal, one assist) and Kris Letang (one goal and two assists) demonstrated that much quite emphatically on Sunday night. It’s also worth noting that Crosby made his presence felt even if he didn’t score; he fired six shots on goal and often gave fantastic Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh fits in Game 2.

Letang’s pretty pass ended up being the game-winning goal:

The more pressing slump revolves around the Rangers’ revolting power play. The Rangers went 0-for-4 on the man advantage for the second straight game, prompting inevitable “decline the power play” jokes. After connecting on three of 12 power-play opportunities in their first two games in a first-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Rangers have now gone seven straight games without a power-play goal (0-for-25 in that span).

Marc-Andre Fleury grabbed his seventh career postseason shutout, breaking Tom Barrasso’s franchise mark for the Penguins. The Rangers didn’t force him to sweat all that much; he only needed to make 22 saves. Henrik Lundqvist often kept his team in the game in making 32 out of 34 stops, yet he faces down a loss.

***

The Rangers must once again show some resiliency as Game 3 happens on Monday. Even with home-ice advantage at Madison Square Garden, they’re still the less-rested team.

Interestingly, the Flyers beat the Rangers in Philly in Game 6 on Tuesday before New York wrapped things up at home in Game 7 on Wednesday. This isn’t as huge of a back-to-back for the Blueshirts, yet it may still be deflating to go from being up 1-0 against the Penguins to down 2-1 in a matter of 48 hours.

On paper, the quick turnaround benefits the Penguins, but we’ll see which team will gain the 2-1 advantage tomorrow.

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.