Bill Daly, Dustin Brown

Discover ‘Road to the Cup’: Los Angeles Kings

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For the second time in just three years, the Los Angeles Kings will play in the Stanley Cup Final.

They needed just 12 games to get this far back in 2012. It was a very different story this time around…

Round 1: Beat San Jose 4-3

The Kings didn’t exactly start the playoffs off on the right foot. The Sharks outscored them 13-4 over the first two contests, shifting the talk away from Los Angeles and towards the possibility of San Jose making a serious run at the Stanley Cup. When the Sharks edged out the Kings in overtime in Game 3, it seemed like Los Angeles’ elimination was all-but inevitable.

Only three teams had ever overcome a 3-0 series deficit, but Los Angeles wasn’t deterred. The Kings not only won their next four games, but they did so by wide margins, outscoring San Jose 18-5.

Round 2: Beat Anaheim 4-3

The Ducks and Kings had a long-standing rivalry fueled by geography, but this was the first time the crosstown rivals were actually pitted against each other in the playoffs. They made it a series to remember.

Los Angeles took the first two games, prompting Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau to shake things up by starting goaltender Frederik Andersen over Jonas Hiller. Andersen was solid in Game 3, leading to Anaheim’s first victory of the second round, but the netminder suffered a lower-body injury in the process.

Rather than go back to Hiller for Game 4, Boudreau decided to start 20-year-old John Gibson, who shut out the Kings in Game 4 and led Anaheim to a third straight victory in Game 5 with his 39-save performance.

Once again the Kings were on the brink of elimination, but they rallied back. For the second straight time, the Kings’ Game 7 wasn’t even close as they scored three goals in the first period en route to a 6-2 victory.

Western Conference Final: Beat Chicago 4-3

Since Darryl Sutter took over as the Los Angeles Kings head coach, only one team has managed to beat them in a playoff series, and that’s the Blackhawks. The defending Stanley Cup champions took Game 1 against the Kings and held a 2-0 lead late in the second period of Game 2.

It looked like the Kings might have finally met their match, but they broke out with six unanswered goals to even the series. From there they jumped to a 3-1 series lead — their largest margin of the 2014 postseason.

Chicago gave the Kings a taste of their own medicine though by taking Game 5 and then overcoming a 3-2 deficit in the third period of Game 6 to win on the strength of a Patrick Kane goal.

Los Angeles consequently had to play in a third Game 7 and this time they were against an opponent that wouldn’t wilt under the pressure as Chicago got off to a 2-0 lead. When the Kings rallied back with two goals in under a minute, Patrick Sharp responded just 12 seconds later to reestablish Chicago’s edge.

By the third period, Chicago had a 4-3 lead, but Marian Gaborik tied it with 7:17 left to play in regulation and defenseman Alec Martinez gave the Kings their first lead of the contest with the game-winning overtime goal.

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.