Mathieu Perreault, Jake Muzzin, Drew Doughty, Mike Richards

PHT Morning Skate: Ducks fight to avoid falling 2-0 at home

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Chicago earned a 4-1 victory yesterday to become the first, and potentially only, squad to jump to a 2-0 lead in the second round.

Last year the final four teams in the playoffs were also the last four Stanley Cup winners — Chicago, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and Boston. While the 2014 second round is still young, it’s entirely possible that we will see the same Conference Final matchups again this year.

It will still be a bit before we know if that’s going to happen, but we’ll be one step closer to finding out after NBCSN’s doubleheader tonight.

Game 3: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers [Series tied at 1-1] (7:30 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

The Penguins and Rangers were given an uncommon series schedule in the sense that they have been asked to play three games in four days. Pittsburgh and New York fought last night, with the Penguins earning a 3-0 victory.

It was Pittsburgh’s first shutout of the postseason and they frustrated the Rangers by denying them on four power-play opportunities. The Rangers are now 0-for-25 with the man advantage in their last seven games.

The Penguins got a bit of a breather before this series started, but the Rangers’ first round matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers went to seven games. This will consequently be New York’s fifth contest in seven days. That’s brutal and while Rangers coach Alain Vigneault insists it shouldn’t be a factor, it’s hard to see how it’s not taking its toll on the Rangers.

This is a great opportunity for the Penguins to take the lead before this series’ schedule gets a little lighter.

Game 2: Los Angeles Kings vs. Anaheim Ducks [Los Angeles leads series 1-0] (10:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

This might not be a must-win for the Anaheim Ducks, but it’s pretty close. Los Angeles is a tough team to win a series against under any circumstances, but if the Ducks drop their first two games at home, then it would take a substantial effort on their part to get back into this.

The good news for the Ducks is that winning Game 2 would not be a monumental task. They know they can beat the Kings after going 4-0-1 against them in the regular season and coming within a hair of beating them in the series opener. It took a historic effort by Kings forward Marian Gaborik to change the outcome of that game.

“It’s a 3-2 overtime game where both teams battle and no one dominated. Either team could have won,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau remarked after the game.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the Ducks and Kings look fairly even tonight as well.

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.