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Crosby, Malkin help troubling year for Pens end on high note

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Pittsburgh has surprisingly been one of the worst teams offensively this season, but every now and then they have a game that reminds you of the Penguins of old.

Tonight’s contest against Detroit certainly didn’t start off like an example of that as the Red Wings got off to a 2-0 lead. Despite that, the Penguins rallied back to earn a 5-2 victory, making this just the fourth time in 2015-16 that Pittsburgh managed to earn a win after going into the first intermission with a deficit.

Better still, it was a case of their superstars living up to that title. Evgeni Malkin played a big role with a goal and two assists while Sidney Crosby netted the game-winner as he continues to rally back after his slow start to the season.

Pittsburgh’s special teams also played a key role. The Penguins entered this game with the 26th ranked power play in the league, but Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang both found the back of the net with the man advantage.

This all allowed the Penguins to close out the month on a high note, but it has still been a challenging time for them. The Penguins went 5-8-2 in December and will enter the new year behind in the Wild Card race.

Suffice it to say they’ll need to provide more examples of what they’re capable of going forward.

‘No confidence issue’ for Bernier

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When the dust settles on Jonathan Bernier’s career, you might be able to name the low point as Dec. 17 when the San Jose Sharks pulled off a 5-4 come-from-behind win against him in overtime to drop his record to 0-8-3. Things have been going better for Bernier lately, but it was in danger of all falling apart again.

Bernier surrendered six goals on 15 shots against the New York Islanders Tuesday night before mercifully being pulled. However, he was still given the nod just a day later against the Pittsburgh Penguins and responded by making 39 saves en route to a 3-2 shootout victory.

After that disastrous start to the season, which included an AHL conditioning stint, his win against the Penguins showed that maybe he’s finally turned a corner.

“There’s no confidence issue now,” Bernier told Sportsnet 590, per Sportsnet’s website.

The season is far from over, but Toronto is already looking like a long shot to make the playoffs. However, the rest of the season will help define the Leafs’ goaltending situation going forward. James Reimer is in the final season of his contract and given how he’s played when healthy in 2015-16, he might be due for a substantial raise. If Bernier proves himself to be capable for the remainder of the season though, it might give the Maple Leafs confidence enough in him make a long-term commitment, even at the expense of Reimer.

Video: Highlights from Boston’s 5-4 SO win over Habs in alumni game

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The latest incarnation of the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins are set to play in Gillette Stadium tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. ET, but today the outdoor rink was tested out by some of the two franchise’s all-time greats for an alumni game.

It proved to be an even affair with Boston earning a 5-4 shootout victory after rallying back from a 2-0 deficit. Mark Recchi led the charge for the Bruins with two goals and an assist in regulation before finding the back of the net again in the shootout. It was Ray Bourque, though, who netted the shootout goal that pushed the Bruins over the top.

You can watch highlights of the action below:

Canucks’ Tanev should return on New Year’s Day

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It looks like defenseman Chris Tanev‘s foot injury won’t keep him out of the lineup for long, which is great for the Vancouver Canucks at a time when they need all the help they can get.

Tanev has missed the Canucks’ last two games, but was able to participate in Thursday’s practice. The hope now is that he’ll be available for Friday’s contest against Anaheim, per the Vancouver Province.

The Canucks will be entering the new year with a 14-15-9 record that would put them significantly behind in the playoff race if not for the fact that they’re in the dreary Pacific Division. As it is that record puts them just outside of the third seed as they’re tied with Arizona in terms of points, but behind in the standings because Vancouver has played in two more contests.

So circumstances have provided the Canucks with a reason to stay hopeful, but it will be tough for them to make the playoffs unless they improve at home, where they’re currently 6-7-3. That’s what makes their current seven-game homestand so critical.

Tanev has been providing the Canucks with 21:33 minutes per game so far this season and losing him for any significant length of time might have been a costly blow to the team. It seems they’ll be able to avoid that one though.

Lehtonen only lasts one period vs. Blue Jackets


Kari Lehtonen wasn’t able to build off Sunday’s 22-save shutout.

Facing the slumping Columbus Blue Jackets, Lehtonen surrendered three goals on 14 shots in the first period and was consequently replaced by Antti Niemi for the second frame.

Lehtonen’s outing got off to a bad start as Boone Jenner scored just 35 seconds into the contest. It’s hard to blame that one on the goalie though as his teammates didn’t do enough to take the pressure off him:

That being said, you could argue that defenseman Kevin Connauton‘s first goal of the season is one Lehtonen would like to have back and the netminder didn’t look great on Matt Calvert‘s marker either:

Going into tonight’s game, Lehtonen had a 2.48 GAA and .915 save percentage in 17 contests this season.