NHL names Crosby, Luongo and Lidstrom the three stars of December

With all apologies to Raffi Torres, the fact that he earned a star of the week award during the 2010-11 season shows that you don’t necessarily need to be an all-star to go on a hot streak for three to four games. Putting together four great weeks, on the other hand, takes some talent.

Maybe that explains why the December trio ranks among the best players of their era. The NHL tabbed Sidney Crosby, Roberto Luongo and Nicklas Lidstrom as the three stars of the month. Let’s take a look at their months, with our own observations along with information from the league.

First star: Crosby

Even the biggest Crosby haters must admit that he’s been on an amazing tear during the last two months.

Crosby earned NHL First Star honors for the second consecutive month, leading all players with 24 points (14 goals, 10 assists) in 13 games as the Penguins posted a 9-3-1 record. He tallied points in each of his first 12 games to extend his point streak to 25 games, the longest by an NHL player since Mats Sundin of the Quebec Nordiques notched a point in 30 consecutive games in 1992-93.

Second star: Luongo

The Canucks are currently the No. 1 in the NHL with 55 total points, despite the fact that they haven’t played in as many games as some of their peers. They’ve been especially hot lately, with a six game winning streak and a 9-0-1 in their last 10 games. Luongo is the top reason why things have been going so well.

Luongo posted a record of 8-1-1 with a 2.07 goals-against average, .922 save percentage and one shutout in 10 starts, backstopping the Canucks to the League’s top record in December (11-1-2). Luongo allowed two goals or fewer seven times, highlighted by 32 saves in a 3-0 victory at Chicago Dec. 3 for his 53rd career NHL shutout.

Third star: Lidstrom

While Brett Favre shamed himself in his 40s under the gaze of the media, Lidstrom continues to defy logic by remaining one of the best defenseman in the league at such an advanced age. He’s been absolutely amazing this season, even if he decides not to make awful headlines.

Lidstrom led all defensemen in scoring with 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in 16 games, helping the Red Wings remain in contention for first place in the Western Conference and overall League standings.

Ducks light up Cam Talbot to defeat Oilers

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Chris Wagner‘s first career playoff goal was the turning point in Game 3 for the Anaheim Ducks, as they defeated the Edmonton Oilers 6-3 to get their first win of this series.

Connor McDavid had just scored (another) spectacular goal, this one to get the Oilers back on even terms at three goals apiece after they fell behind 3-0 in the opening period. The orange crush at Rogers Place was, naturally, in a frenzy at the time.

The tide of this game had suddenly turned in favor of the home team, which had a 2-0 series lead.

As suddenly as the Oilers had come back to tie the game, the Ducks regained the lead. Wagner fired the puck from the side boards toward Cam Talbot, who misplayed the puck off his right arm and into the net.

That was only one part of a difficult night for Talbot, who allowed six goals on 28 shots. Anaheim had built up a three-goal lead less than 12 minutes in and needed only six shots to do so.

Talk about a quick turn of events. Talbot was sensational in Game 2, backstopping the Oilers to another road win with a 39-save performance.Edmonton’s troubles started early in Game 3. Rickard Rakell scored just 25 seconds in on a breakaway and the Ducks were rolling from there.

Wagner’s goal came just 48 seconds after McDavid tied the game. Jakob Silfverberg and Ryan Kesler increased the Anaheim lead in the third period.

This time, there was no inspired comeback from the Oilers.

While the Ducks found their scoring touch, they also received a 24-save performance from John Gibson. He was at his best in the second period, making a couple of key saves, including a great shoulder stop off a three-on-one rush.

Game 4 goes Wednesday in Edmonton.

Video: Connor McDavid puts on a show with this spectacular goal

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Connor McDavid has his first goal of this series against the Anaheim Ducks — and it was a beauty.

(Another spectacular McDavid goal? Get out!)

With one assist so far in this series, McDavid brought the crowd in Edmonton to its feet with a quick stop and cut back to his left against Sami Vatanen, followed immediately with a perfect wrist shot top corner on John Gibson.

“McWow!” is right.

The Oilers fell behind 3-0 in the first period, but that goal from McDavid tied the game before the midway point of the second period.

The celebration didn’t last long.

Just 48 seconds later, Chris Wagner‘s shot from the side boards, a rather harmless looking attempt, was misplayed by Cam Talbot to put Anaheim back in front by a score of 4-3. That’s the score heading into the third period.

‘We weren’t even competitive’ — Blues coach hints at lineup changes for Game 4

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Lineup adjustments can be a common occurrence in the playoffs. Based on his comments Sunday, St. Louis Blues coach Mike Yeo is seriously looking to make some changes for Game 4.

The Blues trail the Nashville Predators 2-1 in the series, following a disappointing 3-1 loss on Sunday.

Nashville dominated puck possession for long stretches, putting this one away on a goal from Roman Josi after just such a shift — caused by a Blues turnover in the defensive end — late in the third period.

Yeo praised the Predators for the way they checked the Blues, but was straight to the point with his assessment of his team’s performance.

“I mean, we scored one goal tonight. Fact of the matter is, for a large part of the game, we weren’t even competitive,” he told reporters.

“We obviously have to be way better. We have to make a couple of changes, personnel-wise, for the next game and look at the tape and see what we can do … a little bit better than tonight because it wasn’t good enough.”

Despite getting outplayed, the Blues were, for much of the second half of the game, one shot away from the tying goal. But hopes of a possible comeback were nullified after a shift of about 1:10 of furious Nashville possession in the offensive zone capped off by the Josi blast.

Blues defensemen Joel Edmundson and Colton Parayko — who both had a miserable day in terms of puck possession — had been stuck on the ice for almost two minutes before Josi scored, per NHL.com.

That’s one glaring example.

“The way we played in our [defensive zone] matched the way that we executed, matched the way that we competed all over the ice,” said Yeo.

“We were waiting to see what they were going to do. We were reacting to that. So we’ve got to initiate much better.”

No mic? No problem: Oilers fans sing American, Canadian national anthems

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There was apparently an issue with a microphone used for the national anthems prior to Game 3 between the Ducks and Oilers in Edmonton.

Canadian country music star Brett Kissel was supposed to perform the anthems, however, as he stepped up to the mic, he soon discovered that there seemed to be a malfunction.

With some quick encouragement from Kissel, fans at Rogers Place stole the show with stirring renditions of both the American and Canadian national anthems.

Here is the Star Spangled Banner:

Here is O Canada: