Mats Zuccarello, Benoit Pouliot

PHT Morning Skate: Rangers hope home ice helps in Game 3

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It may not seem like it’s time to call Game 3 a “must-win” game for the New York Rangers, but that’s the situation they’re in tonight at home.

After the Los Angeles Kings fought back in Games 1 and 2 to win in overtime in each game, the Rangers are back at home in Madison Square Garden for the first Stanley Cup Final game there in 20 years. They’ll have the crowd whipped into a fury just because that’s how it goes, and they’ll need that support to make sure they can strike back in a series where they’ve let things slip away.

Game 3: New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles Kings [Los Angeles leads series 2-0] (8:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

The Cup Final has to be frustrating for the Rangers. They’re the only team that’s held a lead in either game, they’ve held multiple two-goal leads (one in Game 1, two in Game 2) and yet they sit down 2-0 in the series.

They may be down, but they’re not far from making this series a lot more interesting. Henrik Lundqvist has played strong, their third line of Benoit Pouliot-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello looked dangerous in Game 2, and the “A” game coach Alain Vigneault said was missing in Game 1 was there on Saturday night.

One thing the Rangers will need to get figured out is stronger play from the blue line. Dan Girardi has struggled and Marc Staal has to a degree as well. Despite the points from Ryan McDonagh and steady play of Anton Stralman, the Kings are still getting a lot of chances.

If the Kings are going to be up 3-0 after tonight it’s going to be because they’ve cut down on the turnovers. So many of the Rangers chances are occurring because L.A. is forking the puck over and no one has been absolved of that. Everyone from Drew Doughty through Anze Kopitar have had blunders. If those get corrected tonight, it could be a tough game for the Rangers.

What to look for: Whether or not Matt Greene stays in the Kings lineup. Greene had a rough Game 2 as he coughed the puck up at inopportune moments and was getting routinely skated by Rangers forwards. His play there might be enough to inspire Darryl Sutter to get Robyn Regehr back in the lineup.

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.