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Malkin, Kessel lead Penguins to 7-4 win over Capitals
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Evgeni Malkin had two goals and two assists, Phil Kessel added two goals and an assist, and the surging Pittsburgh Penguins rolled past the Washington Capitals 7-4 on Friday night.

Bryan Rust, Carl Hagelin and Patric Hornqvist also scored for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, who won their fourth straight to pull within four points of first-place Washington in the crowded Metropolitan Division.

Sidney Crosby had two assists to push his scoring streak to 11 games, the longest active streak in the NHL. Matt Murray stopped 29 shots for Pittsburgh, which won its seventh consecutive home game by jumping on the Capitals early then pulling away late.

Alex Ovechkin scored twice to push his season total to an NHL-best 32 and Dmitry Orlov and Evgeny Kuznetzov also scored for the Capitals. Braden Holtby finished with 27 saves but gave up three goals in the opening 8 minutes of the third period before being pulled in favor of Phillpp Grubauer as Pittsburgh broke open a tight game.

We can argue ad nauseam about goalie interference or toenail challenges, or about the inconsistency of the Department of Player Safety (Credit Due Dept: They nailed it with that 10-game suspension for Alex Burrows' dirtbag attack of Taylor Hall). You can say skipping the Olympics is a disaster, I can say I'd rather watch the NHL season continue to play out.

Those debates get constant chatter, but one topic that doesn't get enough play is starting to percolate in NHL circles. It's likely some general managers will want to talk about it at their March meetings. The bet here is it gets hugely discussed at the June gathering of the GMs after another postseason is in the books.

Here's the simple way to say it: This league's playoff format stinks.

And while we're apparently stuck with it through the 2018-19 season, the NHL should get rid of it as soon as humanly possible. We've seen it now since 2014 and it just makes no sense.

All you have to do is look at the Eastern Conference standings to see the disaster that is going to unfold come spring. Tampa Bay, Boston and Toronto entered the weekend as the top three teams in the East – but two of them will be eliminated by the end of the second round because they're all from the same division. That's just horrible. Same for the potential this year of the sixth-place team in the Central sitting home while the third-place team in the Pacific qualifies with fewer points.

The format,Authentic Auston Matthews jersey, was changed in 2014 to no longer seed the top eight teams from a conference in the 1-8, remember,Authentic Daniel Sedin jersey, 4-5 fashion we grew accustomed to. Teams 2-3 in each division now play in the first round, 2-7,Authentic Henrik Sedin jersey, 3-6, regardless of their point totals or place in the conference standings,Authentic Alex Ovechkin jersey, and the first-place team meets one of two-wild cards in the first round – before playing its 2-3 winner in round two.

The Atlantic race has been over for weeks, which is a terrible thing. The Leafs hit the weekend with a 17-point lead on No. 4 Florida and likely locked in at No. 3 because they were five points behind Boston while the Bruins still had four games in hand. If you had a conference format, the Leafs would be playing for their spot and their matchup all the way into April.

Those who say this is an unusual year are wrong. These kind of vagaries are happening every year under this format.

It happened last year in the Metropolitan Division. Columbus finished third with 108 points – fourth overall in the league. Its reward was a first-round series against 111-point Pittsburgh and a first-round exit. The Capitals won the division and the Presidents Trophy with 118 points and they got rewarded with a second-round loss to the Penguins.

In 2016,Authentic T. J. Oshie jersey, defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago had 103 points and was third in the Central but would have won the Pacific. The Hawks were eliminated in a first-round series by 107-point St. Louis.

The current format means you almost never pit the two best teams in the East or West in the conference final. If they're from the same division, they're going to meet in the second round.

Why does the NHL do this? Commissioner Gary Bettman said it's to promote rivalries. That's a sham when you consider teams only play divisional rivals four times a season now – and the schedule is so shoddy that "rivals" like Buffalo and Toronto don't have a single meeting until March 5.

You can't tell me there's not a huge marketing element to this. The format allows for a March Madness-style bracket to be formed and the league loves to push its bracket challenge contest through the spring on You can't have that under the 1-8/2-7 etc. format because teams are re-seeded after each round.

So do we want fairer hockey matchups on the ice or a bracket challenge on the league's website? Hmmmm.

bet on GM Lou Lamoriello and president Brendan Shanahan speaking their mind. And if Toronto has the influence we all think it does to press for change that Columbus doesn't,The GMs should be pushing the league much harder for a change than they have been. If the Leafs are first-round losers with say,Authentic Patrik Laine jersey, 103 points, so be it.

The Rangers were just 1-7 in their previous eight games heading into Friday's matchup against Calgary and facing a four-game road trip that starts Sunday in Winnipeg. Henrik Lundqvist has been pulled from the net four times during that stretch, including Wednesday's 6-1 wipeout at the hands of the Bruins and back-to-back in the first time in his career in losses to the Maple Leafs and Sharks.

Said captain Ryan McDonagh after the Boston debacle: "That was one of the worst games of my career and one of the worst games I've ever been a part of in my Rangers career. That sums it up."

we will be focused on adding young,"As we approach the trade deadline later this month and into the summer, guys we all care about and respect. While this is part of the game, skill and character. This may mean we lose some familiar faces, competitive players that combine speed, it's never easy. Our promise to you is that our plans will be guided by our singular commitment: ensuring we are building the foundation for our next Stanley Cup contender.

"... We do not take your support for granted. We appreciate that you have always stood by us, and we ask you to remain by our side as we undertake this exciting new chapter filled with promise and change."

$59.5 million contract extension that he signed in 2013. Just last week,The interesting sidelight to the letter is how it will impact Lundqvist, who is 35 but only on the fourth year of a seven-year, he reaffirmed his commitment to the franchise no matter what direction it takes.

” Lundqvist told the New York Post. “But at the same time,“The competitor in me wants us to have the best team possible right here and now. I’m not hoping we have a contending team in two or three years,adidas Steven Stamkos jersey, that whatever path they take, I feel so much for this organization,adidas Auston Matthews jersey, even though it’s hard to say because it kind of goes against myself, I’m in. I made a commitment to this organization a few years back. It was a big decision in my career. I hope they have the same commitment to me.

"... I want to be here. I want to play for one organization. This one. I love it here. I want to be here and battle through the ups and downs,adidas Daniel Sedin jersey, the good and the bad. It’s important to me.”

including an upgraded area on the event level for glass row NHL and courtside NBA seat holders. The club level restaurant will be completely remodeled,The entire seating bowl will be replaced with new padded seats with cupholders. There will be a new sound system,adidas Henrik Sedin jersey, remodeled flooring lighting and decor on the concourses as well as new concession stands featuring local chefs' cuisine. Two new destination premium lounges will be added, as well as the Capitals/Wizards retail store. Technological advancements also will be made throughout the arena.

The downtown facility opened in Dec. 1997 – 15 months later than KeyBank Center. It's the latest extreme makeover of a '90s arena,adidas Alex Ovechkin jersey, much like we've seen in recent years at Scottrade Center in St. Louis and Amalie Arena in Tampa.

the griping to this corner and on social media has exploded this season about the condition of the seating bowl,These are exactly the kinds of renovations needed at KeyBank, which has quickly become one of the shabbiest arenas in the league. Complaints about the facility probably increase when you have a losing team because the fans are already in a sour mood. But even with that as a backdrop,adidas T. J. Oshie jersey, fixtures not working in mostly dirty bathrooms and about overpriced and poor concession food.

The bet here is that what fans the Sabres have left will have to wait one more year before the team embarks upon its rebranding of the building for the 2019-20 celebration of the Sabres' 50th anniversary. The Pegulas have to know it's needed, and can't be sitting idly on their laurels of building HarborCenter when their flagship property is in such disrepair.

You wonder how much the Penguins may ramp up pursuit of Sabres rental Evander Kane with forwards Patric Hornqvist and Conor Sheary both listed as week to week with lower-body injuries. The Penguins have been scouting the Sabres hard in recent weeks and it's well-known Kane is squarely on their radar. If you're looking for a team with a big need, it might make sense for Jason Botterill to make his first big deadline deal with mentor Jim Rutherford,adidas Patrik Laine jersey, the GM he knows best. And Botterill obviously knows the Pens' prospect pool too.

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