There's always a winner and a loser in the NHL, and this is a new nightly look at some of the winners and losers in the biggest games and biggest situations across the league.
WinnersPittsburgh Penguins: There simply isn't a hotter team in the NHL right now than the Pittsburgh Penguins, extending their winning streak to nine straight games on Sunday afternoon with a 5-2 win over the Boston Bruins. The win allowed them to keep pace with the New York Rangers (overtime winners against the New York Islanders) in the Atlantic Division race, as well as the suddenly competitive and tight race for the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference.
Evgeni Malkin also jumped back over Steven Stamkos for the NHL scoring lead with a three assist performance, while James Neal ended his eight game goal drought by scoring a power play goal late in the first period, a goal that helped to chase Boston's Tim Thomas after just 20 minutes of action.
[Related: Penguins 5, Bruins 2 -- Malkin's hit from behind on Boychuk]
Calgary Flames: They had a hard time putting it away, but the Calgary Flames extended their modest winning streak to three games on Sunday evening by holding off the Minnesota Wild for a 4-3 win. The big hero of the game was forward Curtis Glencross scoring for the seventh straight game, giving him 25 on the season.
The win, combined with the rest of Sunday's events, puts Calgary in the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race entering the week.
Also big news for the Flames on Sunday: highly touted prospect Sven Baertschi scored his first NHL goal in the win.
[Related: Flames 4, Wild 3]
St. Louis Blues: What a story unfolding in St. Louis. The Blues won again on Sunday evening, knocking off the Blue Jackets by a 2-1 margin and extending their lead in the Presidents Trophy race to four points, giving the Blues a league high 97 points on the season. They've now won five games in a row, outscoring their opponents 17-5, and are 9-1 in their past 10 games.
[Related: Blues 2, Blue Jackets 1]
Toronto Maple Leafs: We can probably stick a fork in the Toronto Maple Leafs playoff chances after their 2-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on Sunday. The Leafs freefall drops them to 2-14 over their past 16 games and remain in the 12th spot in the East, now eight points behind the eighth seeded Washington Capitals.
Obviously, they're still mathematically alive, but it looks like the playoff drought will continue i Toronto for at least another season.
[Related: Capitals 2, Maple Leafs 0]
San Jose Sharks: No, they didn't play on Sunday, but every team they're competing with for the No. 8 spot (still can't believe we're saying that about them), ended up winning, including the Flames and Los Angeles Kings. As a result, the Sharks sit in the 10th spot in the West, one point back. It again needs to be pointed out the Sharks still have games in hand remaining on nearly every team, as well as a number of head-to-head matchups, but it also needs to again be pointed out that they have to start winning some of those games.
[Related: Playoff Race]
Special teams: There were 16 teams in action around the NHL on Sunday and they combined for just 45 power play opportunities. That's only 2.8 per game, which is below the league average of 3.3 for the season. And that average (3.3) is the lowest one the NHL has seen over the past decade. In other words: the whistles are put away.
This is the reason goal-scoring is down around the NHL. Not the elmination of the red line, or the stretch pass, or chip-and-chase hockey, or anything else.
[Related: There is still talk about bringing the red line back]
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