Penguins win 13th in a row in Pittsburgh by beating Caps

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It’s probably not fair to say that Sidney Crosby owns his much-hyped rivalry with Alex Ovechkin. Wednesday’s Rivalry Night game made a strong argument that Crosby’s team is clearly streets ahead, though.

The Pittsburgh Penguins fought back from a third-period deficit to beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 in an exciting contest on NBCSN tonight, generating quite the list of accomplishments against their opponents and the league in general:

  • The Penguins set a franchise record with their 13th consecutive win at home.
  • They’ve now beaten the Capitals six times in a row stretching back to 2011-12.
  • As of this writing, their lead in the Metropolitan Division is 18 points and they also hold a 10-point lead over the Eastern Conference overall.

It all sounds easy, but tonight’s contest was exciting and largely in doubt.

Pittsburgh generated a 17-10 shot advantage in the first period, yet Washington carried a 1-0 lead into the first intermission. The Penguins tied it up 2-2 through the second period. Ovechkin seemed to score a big one 4-on-4 when he found the net for a league-leading 34th goal, but Jussi Jokinen tied it up 3-3 and then Olli Maatta capitalized on Evgeni Malkin’s setup to win it with a little less than two minutes left.

The Penguins have now won two in a row, five of six and seven of nine games, only failing to gain a standings point in one game during that span (7-1-1). The Capitals have lost three in a row and seven of their last nine as they continue to search for answers in net and elsewhere.

The two teams didn’t seem like they were that starkly separated on the ice, yet tonight’s game shows how thin the line between success and failure really can be in the NHL.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.