James O'Brien

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby, center, celebrates his goal in the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Crosby shines in return as Penguins beat Wild 3-1


ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist in his return after a one-game absence for a lower-body injury and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Minnesota Wild 3-1 Saturday night.

Eric Fehr and Patric Hornqvist also scored and the Penguins won back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 17-19. Pittsburgh beat Columbus 5-2 Monday night without Crosby.

Matt Murray made 25 saves and Pittsburgh won for just the third time in its past 10 games. Kris Letang had a pair of assists after missing the past six games with an upper-body injury.

Minnesota has lost six of its last seven against Pittsburgh. Jason Zucker had the Wild’s goal, and Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves.

Pittsburgh’s five-goal outburst Monday included two scores each by Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. Over their previous five games, the Penguins had scored just six times and earned just one point in the standings.

After a four-day layoff, the Penguins held an 11-4 shot advantage in the first period and started the second with a flurry. Pittsburgh had the period’s first five shots and finally capitalized with Crosby’s first goal in eight games and second in 12.

Wild defenseman Ryan Suter turned the puck over in the neutral zone, leading to a Pittsburgh rush. David Perron ultimately got the puck near the left corner and quickly passed to Crosby just above the left dot. His one-timer beat Dubnyk on the stick side.

Pittsburgh had nine of the period’s first 10 shots with Minnesota’s lone shot coming on a power play. The Penguins held a 20-5 shot advantage through 28 minutes. The difference was 27-12 after two periods.

Fehr made it 2-0 with 1:50 remaining in the second period when, charging down the slot, he tipped a pass from Kevin Porter past Dubnyk.

Zucker scored for Minnesota 45 seconds later when his shot from the left circle eluded Murray, but Pittsburgh went up 3-1 on Hornqvist’s power-play goal 31 seconds after that.

Letang’s shot from the top of the slot bounced off the end boards to Crosby at the right post. Dubnyk stopped Crosby’s stuff attempt, but the rebound trickled across the crease to Hornqvist. He swatted the puck in while fighting off a defender.

NOTES: Pittsburgh began a stretch where it will play seven of 10 games on the road. … Minnesota fell to 13-5-1 on home ice. … The Penguins recalled F Scott Wilson from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL. … Ryan Carter was a scratch for Minnesota. He’s nursing an upper-body injury.

Dirty or not? Jake Muzzin’s match penalty on Boyd Gordon

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However you feel about the match penalty and five-minute major Jake Muzzin received for his hit on Boyd Gordon, it clearly made a huge impact on the game.

The Arizona Coyotes took advantage of the situation – and also a delay of game call later on – to score two big power-play goals, erasing what was a 3-1 lead for the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

Plenty of Kings fans were likely unhappy (biased or not) about that situation, though Anze Kopitar‘s overtime-winner may have calmed some of their nerves.

The question, though: was this bad hit by Muzzin, or a bit of bad luck considering the circumstances? Perhaps it was a little of both, or did Muzzin get a bum rap by even getting a penalty?

Full video isn’t available for that sequence, but “My Regular Face” provided plenty of footage via GIFs:

Where do you stand on the hit and the resulting penalties? Should Muzzin receive supplementary discipline?

Again, the Kings grabbed the OT win while Arizona salvaged a standings point from the game.

Video: Shattenkirk saves the day for St. Louis

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In the hyper-competitive Central Division, a win or a loss can really come down to a matter of inches.

In the case of Saturday’s eventual 3-2 shootout win for the St. Louis Blues, the Dallas Stars seemed to be on the edge of winning multiple times.

Dallas held a 2-1 lead through much of the third period, yet Robby Fabbri managed to score the tying goal. The 3-on-3 overtime period featured some close calls, with Kevin Shattenkirk getting his stick on a would-be game-winner for the Stars:

The two teams engaged in a nine-round shootout that eventually went the Blues’ way.

(This post will be updated with the full overtime footage when it becomes available.)

Dallas sits alone in first place in the West and NHL with 55 points even despite this defeat.

Kings lose Jeff Carter to upper-body injury

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 31:  Jeff Carter #77 of the Los Angeles Kings waits to faceoff against the Nashville Predators at Staples Center on October 31, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Los Angeles is already ensnared in a lull, but things could get rocky if Jeff Carter‘s injury is significant.

All the Kings revealed was that he won’t return to Saturday’s contest against the Arizona Coyotes because of an upper-body injury.

At the moment, there’s no word regarding the severity of the injury beyond sidelining Carter for the remainder of this game.

Jewels from the Crown indicates that Carter was hurt during the opening faceoff.

The only safe bet is that Kings fans are concerned.

The Kings hope to avoid a third straight loss by coming back against the Arizona Coyotes, who currently hold a 1-0 lead.

Update: So far, not so good …

Opposite directions: Caps keep winning, hand Habs another loss


In early December, Capitals vs. Canadiens was a clash of division-leading titans. It sure feels like a different story as this month draws to a close, especially with Montreal’s Atlantic edge in peril.

Each team continued recent patterns on Saturday night via Washington’s 3-1 win against Montreal.

Winning Washington

This decision gives the Capitals an impressive seven-game winning streak, fattening edges in the Eastern Conference and Metropolitan Division. They’ve won seven in a row, and it goes deeper than that, as Washington is now 14-1-1 in its past 16 games.

If they’re not the best team in the NHL, they’re certainly the hottest.

… And Braden Holtby continues to be a factor.

Malaise for Montreal

Meanwhile, Montreal might just be the iciest bunch of them all, at least among contenders.

This marks six straight losses and and 10 regulation defeats in their past 11 games. What was once an enormous margin in the Atlantic is now a paper-thin edge; the Canadiens are only four standings points removed from sixth-ranked Tampa Bay as of this writing.

The Canadiens haven’t necessarily played poorly on a nightly basis, but there results leave the Habs hobbling into 2016.

This treacherous eight-game road trip ends with opportunities for their division foes to knock them down the ladder, too:

Monday: at Tampa Bay
Tuesday: at Florida
Friday: at Boston
Jan. 5: at Philadelphia


Maybe the message is really for the Capitals: things can go south quickly during an 82-game season. They needed only to look at their opponents on Saturday to see as much.

Alex Ovechkin getting a little banged up punctuates that thought.