Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers - Game Six

Lundqvist, Rangers complete comeback, knock Penguins out in Game 7

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On four occasions during this postseason, the New York Rangers saw their season at risk of ending with one loss. They answered the call all four times, including in Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, advancing to the conference finals with a 2-1 win.

To put it mildly, many will merely focus on the Penguins watching a 3-1 series lead slip away. You’ll see plenty of that fallout on PHT tonight.

Still, it’s easy to dismiss the triumphs of a team like the Rangers considering the juicier story like the Penguins “choking.” Make no mistake about it, though, the Blueshirts have been fantastic with their backs against the wall in these playoffs; NBCSN flashed the telling stat that the Rangers hadn’t trailed against the Penguins since Game 4 of this series.

Plenty of players stepped up for the Rangers, but Henrik Lundqvist really cemented his legacy as a guy who somehow finds another level in the biggest games (even if his team hasn’t made it to the Stanley Cup Final yet in his otherwise distinguished career). After all, the Penguins managed a 36-20 shot disparity in this do-or-die game.

The stupendous Swede limited opponents to one goal in each of his opponents’ four opportunities to eliminate the Rangers during these playoffs. Check out his work in greater detail:

vs. Pittsburgh:

Game 5: 36 out of 37 saves
Game 6: 31 out of 32 saves
Game 7: 35 out of 36 saves

vs. Philadelphia:

Game 7: 26 out of 27 saves

Lundqvist and the Rangers have won five Game 7 contests in a row.

While a visit from Mario Lemieux seemed to set Marc-Andre Fleury on the right path – despite a setback and a shaky bit of puckhandling here and there – it seems like it might have come too late for Sidney Crosby. The NHL’s far-and-away leading scorer failed to score a single point in three elimination opportunities against the Rangers.

Evgeni Malkin grabbed an assist on Tuesday and had a strong series, yet the two didn’t dominate enough collectively for the liking of many, prompting the posting of stats like these:

It’s easy to boil it all down to Crosby, Malkin and Fleury “not getting it done.” Plenty of people will.

That ignores great efforts by Lundqvist and turnarounds including the Rangers winning the special teams battle. After all the hand-wringing about New York’s man advantage struggles, the Rangers scored three power-play goals in this series while the Penguins only managed one.

Brad Richards’ PP goal stood as the winner:

Brian Boyle stood tall during many moments of Game 7, making some big plays and scoring the all-important first goal of this contest. The team who scored first won every contest in this series.

Whatever way you’d like to spin it, the Rangers are moving on to round three while the Penguins face another summer of questions, including what’s next for head coach Dan Bylsma:

As the Penguins ponder what’s next, the Rangers’ focus is simpler: they’ll await their next opponent as the Boston Bruins host the Montreal Canadiens in a Game 7 of their own on Wednesday.

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

Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov (15) scores a goal against Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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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

Boston Bruins' Brad Marchand celebrates after scoring on a penalty shot during the overtime period of the Boston Bruins 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres in an NHL hockey game in Boston Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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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.