Penguins on a roll with fifth win in a row

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It was sad to learn of the passing of former Islander great Clark Gillies on Friday as he passed away from cancer at the young age of 67.

Gillies was the heart and soul of those Islander teams that won four straight Stanley Cups from 1980-83, the last team in the four major North American sports to win four in a row.

Seventeen players played on all four teams and that just doesn’t come close to happening anymore.

Gillies was drafted fourth overall in 1974, the third year of the Islanders existence and never failed to make the playoffs in his 12 years with the Islanders. He had 304 goals with New York and finished his career with a couple of seasons in Buffalo but it was the Islanders where he compiled his Hall of Fame career, including six 30-plus goal seasons.

Condolences go out to the family on the passing of Clark Gillies.

There were five games in the NHL on Sunday.

PITTSBURGH 3 WINNIPEG 2 (Shootout)

Sidney Crosby scored the only goal in the shootout as the Pittsburgh Penguins prevailed over the Winnipeg Jets 3-2.

It was the fifth win in a row for the Penguins (and 16th win in their last 18 games) who are just one point in arrears of the Metropolitan Division leading New York Rangers with one game in hand. Plenty of pundits had the Penguins not making the post-season this year, especially with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin out of action to start the season, but nothing could be further from the truth at this stage of the season.

Blake Wheeler opened the scoring with the only goal of the opening stanza. After going the first 21 games without a goal, Wheeler has two goals in his last three games. He was injured on Dec. 10 and missed six weeks, returning on Saturday and has 19 points in 24 contests.

The Jets made it 2-0 with the only goal of the second as Kyle Connor scored on the power play, his 22nd of the season. Connor has been the Jets top goal scorer since his rookie season and this year has been no exception.

But the Penguins struck back in the third as Kasperi Kapanen and Jeff Carter scored nine seconds apart to tie the game at 2 apiece and send it into extra time.

Tristan Jarry turned aside 27 shots for the win and did not allow a goal in the shootout. He is 22-7-4 with a 2.09 GAA and a .928 save percentage.

Connor Hellebuyck was making his 11th straight start and 20th in the last 21. The Winnipeg netminder made 36 saves as he saw his record go to 14-12-6 with a 2.80 GAA and a .913 save percentage.

Connor had seven shots on goal while Wheeler had six.

Neal Pionk had nine hits.

Nathan Beaulieu and Brian Boyle fought with less than a minute left in the opening period. Beaulieu later picked up another minor in the second.

Ted Blueger took a hit courtesy of Brenden Dillon in the first period and did not return.

Kris Letang played in his 900th career NHL game. He did not pick up a point, ending a career-best 10-game points streak.

OTTAWA 2 COLUMBUS 1

Tim Stutzle scored an absolutely beautiful goal as he took the puck at center, split the defense and deked Columbus goaltender Elvis Merzlikins, to give the Ottawa Senators the victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets by a 2-1 score.

The game winner was Stutzle’s seventh of the season and second in the last three games. The just turned 20-year-old has 19 points in 34 games and reminded everyone why he was selected third overall in 2020. Stutzle has struggled at times this season but that was not the case on Sunday.

Artem Zub with his fourth of the season, opened the scoring for Ottawa in the first period and Sean Kuraly with his sixth of the season, evened the score with 34 seconds remaining in the first for the Blue Jackets.

Stutzle’s beauty goal was the only one of the second and the scoreless third halted the Senators losing streak at three.

Anton Forsberg made 35 saves and redeemed himself for Thursday’s start as he was pulled after giving up a pair of goals to Pittsburgh by the 14:22 mark of the first, on only seven shots. Forsberg is now 7-6-1 with a 3.01 GAA and a .912 save percentage.

Elvis Merzlikins made 31 saves and deserved a better fate as he gave up only a pair of goals. Merzlikins is 14-10-1 with a 3.06 GAA and a .912 save percentage.

LOS ANGELES 3 NEW JERSEY 2

Cal Petersen made 23 saves to lead the Los Angeles Kings to a 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils.

Petersen had won three of his last four games heading into the contest with the Devils and is 9-6-1 with a 2.69 GAA and a .900 save percentage in his 16th appearance of the season.

The Kings trailed 2-1 after the first period as Jesper Bratt sandwiched a pair of goals for the Devils around a marker from Alex Iafallo.

Bratt has been the Devils top offensive producer as he has 13 goals and 36 points in 37 games. He set a career high Sunday in points as he had 35 in his rookie campaign of 2017-18.

For Iafallo, it was his 12th of the season and 26th point in 40 games. Iafallo has two goals and six points in his last six games.

The Kings evened the score in the second when Viktor Arvidsson potted his 10th of the season. He was dealt from Nashville in the off-season and while he may never equal the outstanding season of 2018-19 when he had 34 goals in 58 games, he has been a solid contributor for the Kings with 25 points at the halfway mark of the season.

Carl Grundstrom picked up the winner as he took a pass from Dustin Brown, spun and shot the puck past Jon Gillies in the Devils net. It was his sixth of the season.

Gillies was not supposed to start but Mackenzie Blackwood was unable to go, so Gillies got the start. He made 34 saves in taking the loss as he is 1-3-0 with a 3.34 GAA and a .888 save percentage.

Damon Severson assisted on both of Bratt’s goals.

Nathan Bastian and Mikey Anderson each had six hits.

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SEATTLE 5 FLORIDA 3

The Seattle Kraken upset the league-leading Florida Panthers by a 5-3 score, winning their 13th game of their short existence. The Panthers have been outstanding at home as they are 21-3-0 but have struggled on the road as the loss on Sunday, gave them a 7-6-5 mark away from home.

The Panthers opened the scoring as Anthony Duclair scored his 18th of the season. Duclair is poised to have his best season in the NHL as he has 23 goals in the 2019-20 season and 44 points in his rookie campaign of 2015-16 with the Arizona Coyotes. Duclair has 33 points this season in 34 games.

The Kraken exploded in the second period, scoring three straight goals by Marcus Johansson with his fifth, Yanni Gourde with his ninth and Colin Blackwell with his fourth just past the halfway mark of the second but Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov tied the game before the end of the period. Huberdeau also picked up a pair of assists and now has 58 points, tying him with Alex Ovechkin and Leon Draisaitl for the NHL scoring lead.

Mason Appleton with his third at the 26 second mark of the third, scored the winner while Calle Jarnkrok sealed the win with an empty net goal with only 19 seconds remaining.

Philipp Grubauer picked up the win as he stopped 28-of-31 shots. It was his third straight win and he is 10-15-4 with a 3.25 GAA and a .884 save percentage.

It was not a great night for Sergei Bobrovsky as he made 24 saves on 28 shots. He has been outstanding this season and is the front-runner at this time for comeback player of the year but is 20-4-3 with a 2.44 GAA and a .923 save percentage.

Aaron Ekblad had a pair of assists for Florida.

Radko Gudas and Gourde fought each other late in the second period.

Barkov has six shots on goal.

Gudas had six hits while Matt Kiersted had six blocked shots.

MacKenzie Weegar was a minus-four.

Carson Soucy suffered an undisclosed injury in the first period and did not return.

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ST. LOUIS 3 VANCOUVER 1

The St. Louis Blues spotted the Vancouver Canucks a 1-0 lead in the first and then scored three unanswered goals to win going away, 3-1.

Tanner Pearson opened the scoring for Vancouver who are down to their fourth string goalie as Michael DiPietro got the start with Thatcher Demko, Jaroslav Halak and Spencer Martin in COVID protocol, while fifth stringer, Arturs Silvos also in protocol.

The vast number of netminders in protocol, forced the Canucks to ink Rylan Toth to an amateur tryout agreement, and the 25-year-old netminder who tends goal for the University of British Columbia was on the bench as the emergency backup goalie.

Justin Faulk evened the score 2:03 after Pearson’s goal with his sixth of the season.

The Blues completed the scoring with a pair in the second period by Brayden Schenn and Jordan Kyrou.

Vancouver outshot the Blues 39-17 but Ville Husso, who has taken over as the Blues top netminder of late, replacing the struggling Jordan Binnington, stopped 38-of-39 shots. He is 8-2-1 with a 1.93 GAA and a .941 save percentage.

DiPietro has struggled at the NHL level with Sunday’s performance of allowing three goals on 17 shots, being his best game of his three-game career. It was his first start of the season after playing once each in 2018-19 and 2019-20. He gave up eight goals on 31 shots in the two previous games before tonight.

Vladimir Tarasenko had a pair of assists in the win.

Brock Boeser had six shots on goal.

NIGHTLY LEADERS

Goals

Jesper Bratt - 2

Assists

Damon Severson – 2

Aaron Ekblad – 2

Jonathan Huberdeau – 2

Vladimir Tarasenko - 2

Shots on Goal

Kyle Connor – 7

Blake Wheeler – 6

Tyler Ennis – 6

Aleksander Barkov – 6

Brock Boeser - 6

Hits

Neal Pionk – 9

Adam Lowry – 7

Radko Gudas – 6

Nathan Bastian – 6

Mikey Anderson – 6

Luke Schenn -6

Penalty Minutes

Nathan Beaulieu – 7

Brian Boyle – 5

Radko Gudas – 5

Yanni Gourde - 5