KingsDucks

Kings of the road: L.A. beats Anaheim, takes 2-0 series lead

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It wasn’t pretty, but it was highly effective.

The Kings got the job done on Monday at the Honda Center, scoring three times on 17 shots while stifling Anaheim’s top scoring threats for a huge 3-1 win in Game 3 of their second-round series.

With the victory, L.A. has successfully gone into Anaheim and not just taken home ice advantage, but ripped it away — the Ducks now face the unenviable task of having to win four of the next five games, two of which must come at the Staples Center.

The majority of tonight’s scoring came in a 12-minute span during the first period, starting when Marian Gaborik scored his sixth of the playoffs — and third of this series — just 34 seconds in. Nine minutes later, Anaheim evened the score on the power play when Patrick Maroon scored his second of the postseason on an assist from Ryan Getzlaf.

But three minutes after that, L.A. scored what proved to be the game-winner.

Defenseman Alec Martinez notched his second of the playoffs on assists from rookies Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson… and that was pretty much it for offense from Los Angeles for the night, save Dwight King’s empty-netter with 58 seconds left. In addition to scoring two markers in the first period, the Kings also put eight of their 17 shots on goal in the first, registering five and four in the second and third periods, respectively.

L.A. sacrificed offense for defense over the final 40 minutes, and the plan worked. While the Ducks ended up with 37 shots on Jonathan Quick, most were from the perimeter and quality scoring chances were few and far between. What’s more, the Kings did a masterful job of clearing the front of net and denying second-chance opportunities.

For Anaheim, there will be frustration over how things transpired in Games 1 and 2. The Ducks blew a golden opportunity to win the series opener by allowing the Kings to tie it up with seven seconds left, then win in OT; in Game 2, the Ducks failed to get any of their big guns on track outside of Getzlaf (who has three assists this series). Corey Perry, Matthieu Perreault, Andrew Cogliano and Nick Bonino have now all failed to hit the scoresheet against Los Angeles.

Notes

With the win, the Kings have now won four straight road games dating back to Game 5 of the San Jose series…L.A. is now just two wins away from advancing to their third straight Western Conference final. The last team to go to three straight was Detroit, from 2007-09…King’s empty-net goal was his first of the postseason.

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.