Northeast Division Watch (March 3)

Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.

Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.

Northeast Division outlook (March 3 -March 9th)

1. Boston Bruins (37-19-7 for 81 pts; 63 Games Played)

Current streak: Six straight wins.

Week ahead: Home vs. Tampa Bay (Thursday), home vs. Pittsburgh (Saturday) and @ Montreal (Tuesday).

Thoughts: After putting together their best road trip since 1972, the Bruins get a couple home games … unfortunately it’s against some tough opponents. After that, they’ll play five of their last six games away from home, so their division lead isn’t a sure thing.

2. Montreal Canadiens (34-23-7 for 75 pts; 64 GP)

Current streak: Two wins.

Week ahead: @ Florida (Thurs), @ Tampa Bay (Sat), home vs. Boston (Tues).

Thoughts: The Habs are in the middle of a tour of the non-traditional Southeast Division teams (everyone but the Washington Capitals) before the play what could be a big game against the Bruins. They need to work on their road game, though, being that they’re currently below .500 (14-15-1) away from Montreal.

3. Buffalo Sabres (30-25-7 for 67 pts; 62 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Four road games – vs. Carolina (Thurs), Philadelphia (Sat), Minnesota (Sun) and Pittsburgh (Tues).

Thoughts: The Sabres began their seven-game road trip with a 3-2 win against the New York Rangers. They’re hoping they can match their division mates in Boston for heartiness outside of their home digs. It won’t be easy considering the fact that they play two likely playoff teams from Pennsylvania plus two teams fighting for their playoff lives. The game against Carolina tonight is obviously one of the truest tests.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs (28-27-9 for 65 pts; 64 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Away against Philadelphia (Thurs), home vs. Chicago (Sat) and @ Islanders (Tues).

Thoughts: The Leafs need a big week, as they trail the Hurricanes by four points while the Sabres are two points ahead of them with two less games played. If only they could play against the Penguins more often, as they beat them twice in extra innings (once in a shootout, once in overtime) in the last three games.

5. Ottawa Senators (21-33-9 for 51 pts; 63 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: On the road against Atlanta (Thurs), home vs. Rangers (Fri) and @ New Jersey (Tues).

Thoughts: If the Senators were in playoff contention, playing 10 road games vs. five home contests would make this March a horrible month. Instead, this is a good thing because Ottawa will (probably) lose enough to get a better draft pick. Hopefully they won’t turn on Craig Anderson because of it.

The Buzzer: Kempe, Schwartz record hat tricks; Leafs honor Gord Downie

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Players of the night: Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues / Adrian Kempe, Los Angeles Kings

The Blues forward tallied his third career hat trick during a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Schwartz scored the game’s first two goals before completing his hat trick with a late empty-net goal to stave off a Chicago comeback.

Wednesday’s feat for Schwartz came three years to the day of his first career three-goal game.

Kempe, meanwhile, tallied his first NHL hat trick and finished with four points during LA’s 5-1 rout of the Montreal Canadiens. Two of his three goals were assisted by Mike Cammalleri, who also finished the night with four points.

Highlight of the night:

Eddie Olczyk returned to the NBC broadcast booth as he continues his battle against colon cancer. Olczyk, along with Doc Emrick, called the Blues-Blackhawks game from Scottrade Center Wednesday night.

MISC:

Auston Matthews recorded the 20th multi-point game of his career. He now has six goals and 10 points on the season.

Patrick Marleau became the 18th NHL player to reach the 1,500-game mark.

Jake Allen kept his shutout bid alive with this great stick save on Patrick Kane late:

-The Kings are off their best start in franchise history at 5-0-1. They’ve allowed only 10 goals against through six games.

Jeff Carter left the game in the first period and did not return after tangling with Jeff Petry. Afterward, Kings head coach John Stevens said the forward will miss some time.

-Finally, The Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie passed away from cancer at age 53 on Wednesday. The Maple Leafs paid tribute before their game against the Red Wings.

Factoid of the night:

Scores:

Maple Leafs 6, Red Wings 3

Blues 5, Blackhawks 2

Kings 5, Canadiens 1

Cammalleri, Kempe power Kings over Canadiens

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Adrian Kempe recorded his first career NHL hat trick and Mike Cammalleri added two goals as the Los Angeles Kings beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-1.

After Paul Byron opened the scoring for Montreal midway through the first period, the Kings responded with five unanswered goals to hand the Habs their sixth straight defeat.

Cammalleri, who inked a one-year deal over the summer to return to the Kings, had a hand in four of LA’s five goals. He started the scoring for the Kings in the first period by celebrating the Dodgers’ playoff run with his own special kind of baseball swing.

Kempe, who finished with four points as well, scored his three goals over a span of 10:50 in the third period to help the Kings to their best start in franchise history (5-0-1).

LA remains the only NHL team yet to lose in regulation this season.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Jaden Schwartz’s hat trick leads Blues over Blackhawks

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Jaden Schwartz‘s third career hat trick helped power the St. Louis Blues over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in a Central Division clash Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.

Schwartz’s eventful evening began with a goal 4:46 into the first period. It was nearly ended minutes later after a scary crash into the end boards following a scoring chance.

After missing some time, Schwartz returned in the second period and doubled the Blues’ lead with his fourth of a season, thanks to a great outlet pass from Allen.

As the Blues built up a 4-0 lead, the Blackhawks spoiled Allen’s shutout bid with a pair of late power play goals 80 seconds apart. The furious rally was stopped, however, and Schwartz capped off his hat trick with an empty netter to put the game out of reach.

St. Louis dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Blackhawks 26-8 as they built up their 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks’ power play failed them early in the game, missing out on five chances to capitalize with the extra man through 40 minutes.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Canadiens at Kings

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The Montreal Canadiens play their second game of a three-game west coast trip Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

It hasn’t been the best start for the Habs, who sit tied for last in the Eastern Conference with a 1-4-1 record. They’re winless since an opening night win over the Buffalo Sabres. On the other side of things, the Kings are the only NHL team that has yet to lose in regulation. Their 4-0-1 start puts them a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights, and their game in-hand gives them the opportunity to leap into first place in the Pacific Division with a victory.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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