Could it be?...At least SOME fans are waking up.
~I probably should have seen this coming. The Pens are riding quite the hot streak, and were coming off the buzz that comes with beating one of the best teams in the league, at home. That's a lot of mojo, especially for a young team to handle. Then they come to Philly, a team they have manhandled all year, and perhaps they were taking a night off to an extent.
Things started well with Staal tallying the 20th goal of his rookie year, but quickly soured as the Pens took a 2-1 deficit into the second period after two power play goals by the Flyers. The Pens turned it around in the second, notching their own power play goal - from the unstoppable Michel Ouellet, no less. The Pens then hammered home two more goals in the first 1:34 of the third period to take a 4-2 lead, and it appeared that 7-0 vs the Flyers was a lock.
Not so fast, my friend. Mike Knuble decided to start playing at that point, notching two goals - the second coming with 1:24 remaining - to knot the game at 4-4 and keep all the young children up past their bedtimes.
Overtime was a wash, and the shootout was a joke - two of Philly's three shooters didn't even get their shot on goal - but Crosby finally made his mark with the lone shootout goal for a 5-4 Pens win. Up next, a Saturday night soiree with the Leafs.
~The Kings took a trip to DC, but suffered their first road loss to the Caps since Ovechkin was swimming in his daddy's groin. It was a well-played, back and forth game, with tons of points from guys I've never heard of, and the Caps notched a goal halfway through OT to walk away 4-3 winners.
~Elsewhere, Carolina went on the road against the Bruins, and Ray Whitney snagged a well deserved first star, scoring three goals in 80 seconds on the way to a 5-2 Carolina win.
~Ottawa went into Montreal and then proceeded to head behind the woodshed, coming out with a 4-1 victory. The very Red-Army sounding Anton Volchenkov snagged the first star with a couple of assists, while Guillaume Latendresse (he of the #84) got Montreal's only goal on a penalty shot.
~Nashville struggled again tonight in Toronto. In a game that saw 50 minutes worth of penalties and a resulting 15 power plays (more than half the game was played with someone in the box), the Predators sealed the deal with an empty net goal from, umm...Vernon Fiddler? 4-2 Preds.
~Minnesota stayed at home against Florida and got contributions from everywhere - even an assist from Derek "Boogeyman" Boogaard, to put away the Panthers 4-2.
~Due to an early roundup, this game went final as I was writing: Atlanta finally ended their skid. The Thrashers used a dominating night from their top line of Kozlov, Hossa, and Kovalchuk to take a 5-1 lead into the third period, then held on for a 6-3 win over the Avalanche.
~Oh yeah, there were boring games, don't think I forgot. In a riveting game where no one scored for the first two periods (almost) Columbus continued their..umm..winning ways with a 2-1 victory over Calgary
~In a game so dull that the three stars were the two St. Louis goalies and a guy who didn't get a point, St. Louis beat Detroit for the second time in their last three meetings by a final of 1-0. Bill "Trade Bait" Guerin notched the lone score (against all-star goalie Joey MacDonald) for the Blues.
~Last but not least. the Devils won 2-0. Again. That's about all there is to say. This marks New Jersey's seventh win by a 1-0 or 2-0 margin. Hmm, wonder why they're 26th in the NHL in attendance?
Playoff notes: Those Eastern Conference teams hovering around .500 (Florida, Washington, Boston, and the Rangers) are now teams with their playoff hopes hovering on life support. Things are still muddy overall in the East: the Pens currently sit in 4th with 65 points, but that's only five points ahead of 9th place Toronto. Out West, things are vaguely clearer, with a full eight points separating Colorado and Edmonton from the 8th playoff seed right now. It may be down to a 10 team race already, as it would take sudden and serious change for Phoenix, St. Louis, Chicago, Columbus, or LA to make a playoff push.
Only two games to watch tomorrow, Tampa at the Rangers and the Chicago Havlats in Edmonton.