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It’s hard for teams to stay relevant in the salary cap era. We’ve seen the rise and fall of clubs like the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks. The Nashville Predators are competing for a chance to make the playoffs and if they succeed, they will have reached the postseason for seven straight seasons, which is tied for the second-best record in the NHL along with the Washington Capitals. That’s a great run, but then there’s the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Last nigh the Penguins clinched the playoffs for the 15th straight season. It’s a testament first and foremost to the Penguins’ core of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Back in 2006-07 when the streak started, those two were first and second on the team in points. Since then the cast around them has changed many times, but they’ve remained and while the Penguins have had to get by without one or both of them at times due to injuries – some of them major – the duo still plays at an elite level when healthy.

To be clear, the Penguins haven’t gotten this far on the strength of Crosby and Malkin alone. Kris Letang has played a big role for one and there are a lot of players who have been involved for stretches of time during those 15 seasons who have had major impacts. Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust, for example, were a big part of the Penguins getting to the playoffs this season. That said, as Crosby and Malkin drift closer towards retirement, it will be interesting to see if Pittsburgh can pass the torch to the next generation without a rebuild or if years of trading away picks and prospects for the sake of winning now will catch up to them.

That’s a question for the future though. For now they’re making the playoffs yet again and have a real chance to be crowned champions for the fourth time in the Crosby/Malkin era.

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TAMPA BAY 3 DALLAS 0

Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 20 shots to earn the shutout. He has a 30-8-1 record, 2.10 GAA, and .929 save percentage in 39 starts.

Esa Lindell fired a team-high three shots against Vasilevskiy. Despite that, Lindell has now gone 16 contests without a goal.

Ondrej Palat scored the game-winning goal. It was his 15th goal and 45th point in 50 contests.

Blake Coleman netted a shorthanded goal for Tampa Bay. He has 12 goals and 27 points in 49 games.

Jake Oettinger stopped 29 of 32 shots last night. He has allowed three goals in each of his last three games.

BOSTON 5 BUFFALO 2

Charlie Coyle accounted for the game-winning goal. He’s up to six goals and 16 points in 48 games.

David Krejci contributed a goal and an assist for Boston. He has eight goals and 34 points in 45 contests.

Tuukka Rask stopped 29 of 31 Sabres shots. He allowed a goal in the first and third periods. The contest was tied at 2-2 by Buffalo’s Sam Reinhart early in the third period, but the Bruins rallied after that.

At the other end of the ice, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen turned aside 35 of 39 shots. The Sabres just can’t seem to help the rookie out. He’s had to face 120 shots in his first three starts.

As noted above, Sam Reinhart scored a goal. The Sabres other marker came from Casey Mittelstadt, who is up to 10 goals and 19 points in 36 contests.

NEW JERSEY 5 PHILADELPHIA 3

The Devils got off to a great start thanks to two goals from Yegor Sharangovich. The rookie forward has 14 goals and 26 points in 48 contests.

Sean Couturier found the back of the net for the Flyers. It was his 15th goal and 36th point in 39 games.

Pavel Zacha scored the game-winning goal and registered an assist. He has 13 goals and 30 points in 44 contests.

Mackenzie Blackwood saved 21 of 24 Flyers shots. He’s surrendered at least three goals in each of his last four starts.

Alex Lyon kicked out 14 of 18 shots on Thursday. He dropped to 0-3-0 with a 4.20 GAA and .848 save percentage in four contests.

NY ISLANDERS 4 NY RANGERS 0

Semyon Varlamov earned his second straight shutout by stopping 25 shots tonight. He has an 18-9-4 record, 2.05 GAA, and .928 save percentage in 32 contests.

Ryan Strome had three shots on Varlamov. He has no goals and two assists in his last six games.

Igor Shesterkin saved 23 of 26 shots on Thursday. He’s given up at least three goals in four of his last five contests.

Leo Komarov netted the first and thus game-winning goal. It was his first goal and sixth point in 29 contests.

Mathew Barzal also found the back of the net for the Islanders. He has 14 goals and 40 points in 50 games.

PITTSBURGH 5 WASHINGTON 4

Kasperi Kapanen scored two goals for the Penguins. That gives him 10 goals and 26 points in 35 contests.

Jake Guentzel netted the overtime winner. It was his 22nd goal and 53rd point in 51 games.

Tristan Jarry stopped 33 of 37 shots last night. He has a 22-9-3 record, 2.75 GAA, and .910 save percentage in 35 games.

At the other end of the ice, Vitek Vanecek saved 30 of 35 shots. He’s 18-9-4 with a 2.75 GAA and .908 save percentage in 33 contests.

Nicklas Backstrom assisted on three of Washington’s four goals. He has 14 goals and 48 points in 49 games.

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CAROLINA 3 DETROIT 1

Jakub Vrana scored the Red Wings’ lone goal. It was his 17th goal and 33rd point in 47 games.

Teuvo Teravainen found the back of the net and registered an assist for the Hurricanes. He has three goals and 11 points in 15 contests.

Warren Foegele scored the game-winning goal. He’s up to 10 goals and 19 points in 47 contests.

James Reimer stopped 16 of 17 Red Wings shots. He has a 15-5-2 record, 2.66 GAA, and .906 save percentage in 22 games.

Jonathan Bernier saved 29 of 32 shots on Thursday. He allowed two goals on 16 shots in the second period.

TORONTO 4 VANCOUVER 1

Mitchell Marner scored a goal and registered an assist. The Maple Leafs forward has 18 goals and 62 points in 50 contests.

Auston Matthews netted the game-winning goal. He has 36 goals and 60 points in 46 games.

David Rittich stopped 15 of 16 Canucks shots. He faced just two shots in the first period and five in the third.

J.T. Miller netted Vancouver’s only goal. He has 11 goals and 34 points in 41 games.

Braden Holtby saved 20 of 24 shots Thursday night. He dropped to 7-8-2 with a 3.29 GAA and .901 save percentage in 17 starts.

ST. LOUIS 5 MINNESOTA 4 (OT)

Ryan O’Reilly scored two goals, including the overtime winner. He has 22 goals and 47 points in 49 contests this season.

Marco Scandella found the back of the net for the Blues. It was his third goal and seventh point in 41 games.

Kevin Fiala netted a goal and registered two assists. The Wild forward has 18 goals and 35 points in 45 games.

Cam Talbot stopped 16 of 21 Wild shots. He has a 17-7-4 record, 2.48 GAA, and .920 save percentage in 29 contests.

Ville Husso turned aside 26 of 30 shots on Thursday. He has an 8-5-1 record, 3.46 GAA, and .885 save percentage in 15 games.

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FLORIDA 4 CHICAGO 3 (OT)

The Panthers had a 3-2 lead until Alex DeBrincat tied the contest with just eight seconds remaining. That got the Hawks a point, but nothing more because Sam Bennett stepped up in overtime.

Alex Wennberg scored a goal and an assist for the Panthers. He’s up to 13 goals and 25 points in 52 contests.

Florida also got a goal and an assist from Brandon Montour. He has seven goals and 17 points in 47 games.

Kevin Lankinen stopped 35 of 39 shots last night. That’s the seventh straight time he’s allowed at least three goals in a game.

Spencer Knight kicked out 24 of 27 Blackhawks shots. He has a 3-0-0 record, 1.67 GAA, and .943 save percentage in three contests.

CALGARY 3 EDMONTON 1

The Oilers’ goal was netted by James Neal. He has four goals and seven points in 22 games.

Elias Lindholm scored a pair of goals, including the game winner. He has 17 goals and 43 points in 49 games.

Calgary’s other goal came from Dillon Dube. It was his ninth goal and 18th point in 44 contests.

Jacob Markstrom stopped 30 of 31 Oilers shots. He improved to 18-17-2 with a 2.68 GAA and .905 save percentage in 37 games.

At the other end of the ice, Mike Smith saved 27 of 30 shots. He’s 17-6-2 with a 2.35 GAA and .922 save percentage in 27 contests.

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