James O'Brien

New Jersey Devils' Kyle Palmieri (21) celebrates his first of two goals in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Thursday, March 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP

Devils end Penguins’ six-game winning streak with a thud

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Whether a playoff run is a long-shot or not, the New Jersey Devils could be a tough out going down the stretch.

The Pittsburgh Penguins experienced that firsthand on Thursday, seeing their six-game winning streak snap in an authoritative fashion via New Jersey’s 3-0 decision.

Kyle Palmieri scored both of the Devils’ goals in the first period, giving him an impressive 29 on the season. Adam Henrique added another insurance goal, but Scott Wedgewood only needed that first one, stopping a whopping 39 shots for his first NHL shutout.

Wedgewood is now on a two-game winning streak, and the Devils are pretty hot overall. While their two losses were lopsided (a combined score of 13-4), they’re winning overall, with five victories in seven tries.

Few teams were riding as high as the Penguins were coming into this game, with a big victory over Philly on Saturday and what some might view as a statement win against Washington a day later.

A nice rest wasn’t enough for Pittsburgh tonight, and it’s quite clear that the Devils must be taken seriously.

Dirty or not? Brendan Smith’s hit on Stefan Matteau (Video)

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Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith didn’t get penalized for a hard hit on Montreal Canadiens forward Stefan Matteau, but that doesn’t mean it was clean.

There’s plenty of debate on social media about it being dirty or not, but watch that check in the Sportsnet video above to decide for yourself.

As far as Matteau goes, he left the ice and appeared to be shaken up, yet it’s too early to tell if he’s injured. Smith was suspended back in 2011 but otherwise has a clean record in the NHL.

Here’s a taste of the back-and-forth:

All of a sudden, the Canucks are scoring (and Henrik Sedin makes history)

Vancouver Canucks' Sven Baertschi, Daniel Sedin, Linden Vey and Henrik Sedin, from left, celebrate Vey's goal against the New York Islanders during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 1, 2016, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
AP

At this point in the season, the Vancouver Canucks probably face a fork in the road: “Save face” or “Tank to oblivion.”

They saved some face on Thursday, breaking their franchise-record scoring drought when Bo Horvat scored about seven minutes into tonight’s game against the red-hot Nashville Predators.

The Canucks seemed relieved right down to their Twitter feed:

It’s easy to see why, too:

It’s probably an exaggeration to say that this opened the floodgates, but Henrik Sedin DID add another goal to make it 2-0 in the first period. In doing so, Sedin is now 88th all-time in scoring, passing legend Maurice “Rocket” Richard in the process.

Dust off your “break up the Canucks” jokes …

Wild warmly welcome Backstrom back (Parise’s less kind, though)

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Hey, there are limits to how polite you can be to a teammate-turned-opponent.

So far, the Minnesota Wild are presenting a different take on “Minnesota Nice.”

On one hand, the franchise provided a great nod to Niklas Backstrom as he dresses for the Calgary Flames, acknowledging a run that made him the Wild’s franchise wins leader (among other categories):

On the other, there’s the actual playing part, and the Wild simply can’t afford to do him a solid.

Zach Parise has been particularly effective so far against Backstrom, scoring two goals in less than a minute against the goalie he likely saw frequently in practice.

If the Flames don’t watch out, Backstrom might struggle to finish the night against his old cronies.

Update: Parise managed a first-period hat trick in this one. Harsh. You can see the videos at the top of this post.

Video: Belichick, Ortiz, other Boston notables honor Bruins’ Julien

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The Boston Bruins gave one great salute to head coach Claude Julien on Thursday, celebrating the fact that he now owns the franchise’s record for coaching wins.

(It seems fitting that it comes against Roberto Luongo‘s team in a big game, doesn’t it? Even if it’s with the Florida Panthers this time … maybe?)

Anyway, one of the highlights was a video tribute, which included Boston sports icons like David “Big Papi” Ortiz and Bill Belichick. Also interesting to see other coaches pop up and praise Julien:

The veteran head coach said he’s humbled by the great response:

It wasn’t the only noteworthy presentation by the Bruins, as they also held a moment of silence for the attacks in Brussels.