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Hat tricks are piling up at a near-historic rate this season

There are a lot of great moments in hockey, but few please crowds quite like a hat trick. It’s simple to see why: most of the time, if a player scores three goals by himself, his team is likely to earn a win. Beyond that, it gives fans an opportunity to throw something toward the ice without fear of a Ron Artest-style retribution.

(Though you might recall Sidney Crosby didn’t especially appreciate Capitals fans throwing hats during the 2009 playoffs.)

If you noticed a considerable increase in hat tricks so far this season, you’re justified in doing so. Adam Kimmelman of NHL.com points out that the league hasn’t seen hat tricks being scored at such a rate since the 1994-95 season. Let’s take a look at some of Kimmelman’s findings.

(Note: these stats are valid before tonight’s games. No one scored a hat trick in the night’s first five games, although Torrey Mitchell currently has two goals in the Ducks-Sharks game as of this writing.)

Through the first 247 games this season, there have been 20 players putting together three-goal games, the most at this point in a season since 1994-95, when there were 22. At this point last season there were just 11 hat tricks.

Nineteen different players have had hat tricks this season, including a pair by Washington Capitals forward Alexander Semin. He had 3 goals against the Thrashers in a 4-3 overtime victory Oct. 23, and had 3 goals — including the game-winner, as well as 2 assists — in 6-3 win against the Lightning on Nov. 11.

That same night, Philadelphia Flyers forward Jeff Carter scored 3 straight goals — a natural hat trick — in an 8-1 rout of the Hurricanes. It was the first natural hat trick in an NHL game since Marian Gaborik accomplished the feat Jan. 31, 2010.

Two hat tricks on one day hasn’t been all that unique this season — Oct. 22 and Oct. 23 each featured a hat trick of hat tricks.

(Continued note: it’s not clear if adding five or six games to that hat trick stat changes things significantly.)

As Kimmelman pointed out, there were some historic moments attached to some of those hat tricks. From the early accomplishment angle, New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan scored his first career goal(s) via a hat trick. On the other end of the fence, Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson earned his 1,000th career point as part of a hat trick performance.

Believe it or not, 247 (or even 253) games is actually a fairly small sample for league-wide trends. Hat tricks are still relatively rare occurrences, so these trends could go two different ways. It could go either way, but so far, it’s been fun to watch the hats fly with such startling frequency.

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.