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All-Star voting update: Crosby, Penguins and write-in candidates dominate

Since November 15th, hockey fans have had their chance to vote-in starters for the 2011 NHL All-Star Game in Raleigh, North Carolina. We’ll give you the occasional voting update, as fans have until January 3, 2011 to select six players (three forwards, two defensemen and one goalie) who will act as something of a fans’ First All-NHL Team.

As you can see from various results, write-in candidates made strong showings but the Pittsburgh Penguins have been particularly strong in earning high quantities of votes.

Let’s take a look at the top 10 in fan votes among forwards (the top three are highlighted to represent who would make it if the voting ended today, while write-in candidates include an asterisk).

(Note: all voting information comes via NHL.com.)

So the top three forwards are Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Steve Stamkos. Evgeni Malkin is less than 8,000 votes behind Stamkos (who deserves to be in the top three more than Malkin based on this season’s results) while Alex Ovechkin is shockingly seated at number five. The best write-in candidate among forwards is Claude Giroux with 175,008 votes.

Let’s take a look at the top five defensemen next.

Interestingly enough, the top defenseman is a write-in candidate in the form of Kris Letang. Duncan Keith holds a narrow lead over Chris Pronger for the second spot while Nicklas Lidstrom has a reasonable chance to catch up.

Dustin Byfuglien might be the biggest snub along the blueline; he ranks number 10 among defensemen with 116,459 votes despite leading all D in scoring by at least six points with 32 on the season.

Finally, let’s take a look at the top five goalies, with the would-be fan vote winner highlighted.

Not sure why Price or Fleury needed to be write-in candidates in the first place (one being the savior in Montreal, the other with a Stanley Cup on his resume), but fans fixed that problem with their votes. It’s interesting to see that Sergei Bobrovsky’s hot start hasn’t been lost on fans, either.

To review, if the voting stayed the same, the top six roster would look like:

Forwards: Crosby, Toews and Stamkos

Defensemen: Letang and Keith

Goalie: Price

So, as you can see, the Penguins (and Blackhawks) did well while write-in candidates also prospered. Again, you can still vote until January 3rd, so click here to cast your ballot.

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.

Islanders believe Boyle should be suspended for hit before OT goal

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Thomas Hickey is involved in a controversial hit, yet the greater debate may revolve around the one he received rather than the one he delivered.

In the second period, the New York Islanders defenseman connected for a thunderous hit on Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin, which sidelined Drouin for a chunk of Game 3.

Many believe that hit was legal:

The Islanders are upset about the Brian Boyle hit on Hickey in overtime, which came moments before Boyle scored the game-winning goal. You can see the full sequence here, with the hit happening around the 50-second mark:

Islanders head coach Jack Capuano believes that it was a suspension-worthy hit.

You’re not going to believe this, but the Lightning disagree.

Boyle clearly didn’t receive a penalty on that sequence, yet one would imagine that the league will at least take a look at that hit.

Lightning take dramatic OT win vs. Islanders, go up 2-1 in series

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Brian Boyle was part of the fight before Game 3 even started … and then he ended it in overtime.

In a Tampa Bay Lightning win in which they just kept rolling with the New York Islanders’ punches, it only seems fitting that Boyle battled to land a big hit and then score the clinching goal for a 5-4 overtime victory.

This gives the Lightning a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4.

Also fitting? Boyle landed a big hit on Thomas Hickey, the guy who sidelined Jonathan Drouin for a chunk of this contest.

That sequence prompted a brief goal review, but it ultimately stood:

(Was that Boyle hit on Hickey dirty, by the way?)

Drama was in the air from the beginning, yet Drouin really stole the show when he came back from what some believe was a concussion to assist on Nikita Kucherov‘s last-minute goal, which sent the game to overtime.

In some ways, this win feels like a microcosm of the Lightning’s season. They keep getting hit in the mouth with injuries and near-injuries, yet they just won’t stay down.

The Islanders saw three leads disappear in this contest, but one would think that they won’t roll over, either.