Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf

Corey Perry, Daniel Sedin and Pekka Rinne named Three Stars of March

Moments ago, we discussed the notion that Brad Marchand is still trying to find the right balance between being a pest who goads opponents off their game while avoiding being the kind of guy who hurts his own squad in the process. In a dream world for the Boston Bruins, Marchand would emulate Anaheim Ducks super-pest Corey Perry, who was named the No. 1 star for the month of March.

Along with Perry, the league honored Vancouver Canucks winger Daniel Sedin and underrated Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne in its three stars award. All three players have generated some serious buzz for a Hart Trophy nomination, so perhaps it makes sense that they’re taking over during what is probably the most important full month of the NHL regular season.

Here are summaries of each players’ months, with our comments plus tidbits from the league’s press release.

First star: Perry

For years, Perry has been a fantasy hockey gem because he produces nice point totals and hefty penalty minutes, but this has been an even greater breakthrough season for him offensively. He leads the NHL with 46 goals, is fourth in the league with 89 points and also tied Daniel Sedin and Alex Ovechkin for the most game-winning goals with an impressive 10. Here’s a snapshot of his month:

Perry led the NHL in goals (15) and tied for the lead in points (21) in 14 games, helping the Ducks (44-28-5) climb to seventh place in the Western Conference standings. He also posted a League-leading four game-winning goals and registered a +9 rating.

Second star: D. Sedin

Last season was a true star-making moment for Daniel’s twin Henrik Sedin, as the freakish Swedish center showed he could succeed in spurts without his brother and earned a Hart Trophy for his troubles. It’s unclear if Daniel will match that Hart-winning achievement, but he makes a compelling argument as the league leader in scoring (100 points) on what is by far the NHL’s best team. Here’s a glance at his fantastic month.

Sedin tied for the League lead in points with 21 (nine goals, 12 assists) in 15 games, helping the Canucks (52-17-9) clinch the Presidents’ Trophy as the team with the best record in the regular season. Sedin recorded points in 12 games and goals in nine, including three game-winning goals (Mar. 5 vs. Los Angeles, Mar. 12 vs. Calgary and Mar. 23 vs. Detroit).

Third star: Rinne

More and more, there’s a chicken vs. egg argument when a goalie puts up great numbers behind a fantastic defense. Sure, Tim Thomas is great, but would be put up those numbers in Edmonton?

Even if you wonder how much the Predators’ defense influences Rinne’s numbers, he’s still very impressive. In fact, it might be a two-horse race between Rinne and Thomas for the Vezina Trophy this season. Here’s what he did in March.

Rinne posted a 9-3-2 record with a 1.91 goals-against average, .936 save percentage and two shutouts, helping the Predators (42-26-10) finish the month in sixth place in the Western Conference playoff race. He allowed two goals or fewer in seven of 14 games, including a 29-save, 3-0 shutout victory over the Vancouver Canucks Mar. 3 and a 19-save 4-0 shutout over the Minnesota Wild Mar. 10.

By winning fifth straight, Caps extend Wild’s slump to seven losses

Minnesota Wild’s Jared Spurgeon,right, keeps Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin of Russia occupied near the net in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, March 19, 2015, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
AP
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Alex Ovechkin scored three times in the second period for his 14th career hat trick, and the Washington Capitals beat the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Thursday night.

Ovechkin, who leads the league with 34 goals, has 13 in his past 13 games. Nicklas Backstrom had three assists and Jason Chimera added an empty-netter for Washington, which improved to a league-best 20-5-2 on the road.

Braden Holtby made 33 saves for the Capitals, who won their fifth consecutive game and became the first team to reach 40 victories this season.

Charlie Coyle, Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund scored for the Wild, but Minnesota lost for the 12th time in its past 13 games (1-10-2). Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves for the Wild, who have lost seven in a row at home (0-4-3).

Ovechkin’s third goal, which deflected off both the post and the back of Dubnyk into the net, was upheld following a coach’s challenge. Wild coach Mike Yeo challenged that the puck had left the zone for offsides, but the call stood after a review showed that Backstrom stopped the puck before it crossed the blue line.

The goal gave Ovechkin his first hat trick since he scored four goals against Tampa Bay on Dec. 10, 2013.

It wasn’t the only fortunate bounce for Ovechkin on the night, and the five-time 50-goal scorer capitalized on each opportunity.

A shot from T.J. Oshie deflected off of Minnesota forward Zach Parise across the ice right to Ovechkin in the left faceoff circle and Ovechkin quickly snapped off a shot to beat Dubnyk, who couldn’t get across the crease to get into position. Three minutes later, Ovechkin scored on the power play when a point shot bounced off the end boards right to Ovechkin in front of the net.

The tally provided some relief for the Capitals’ surprisingly ineffective power play. Washington had one power play in its previous six games, an empty-netter for the only goal in its previous 20 power-play chances. The Capitals were 1 of 5 on the power play on Thursday.

Coyle scored for the fifth time in eight games in the second, but second periods have doomed the Wild during their slump. Minnesota has been outscored 13-3 in the period in five straight losses.

Suter scored his sixth goal of the season on the power play in the third as Minnesota went 1 of 5 with the man advantage.

NOTES: Washington C Evgeny Kuznetsov left in the third period after he was hit in the face by the stick of Mikael Granlund off a faceoff. … Backstrom has 20 points in his last 17 games. … Minnesota D Jared Spurgeon missed his second straight game with an unspecified deep bruise. Spurgeon has returned to practice, but was held out again. … Holtby is 27-1-3 in his last 31 games with two shutouts, a 2.10 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

Watch the Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp tribute video

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Over the years, the Chicago Blackhawks have been forced to let some important players leave to keep their core together, which ultimately meant parting ways with Patrick Sharp.

The talented winger now wears a Dallas Stars jersey, so Blackhawks fans must face the reality of watching Sharp ply his trade for a formidable Central Division opponent.

Even if that might feel awkward, Blackhawks fans gave Sharp (and Johnny Oduya) a warm reception in Chicago on Thursday.

CSNChicago.com provides video of that ovation, which you can see in the clip above.

The Stars currently lead the Blackhawks 4-2, thanks in large part to Patrick … Eaves.

Ovechkin’s 14th career hat trick helps him make more history

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Death, taxes and Alex Ovechkin winning the Maurice Richard Trophy.

OK, the third thing on that list isn’t technically inevitable. It just feels that way lately in the NHL.

It’s unclear if the Washington Capitals can hold on against the Minnesota Wild, but we know for certain that Ovechkin already has a hat trick, the 14th of his high-scoring career.

(He also passed Jean Beliveau for 39th all-time in goals with his 509th, as NHL.com notes.)

This propels Ovechkin to the goals lead as of this writing, as he already has 34. As impressive as Patrick Kane has been, No. 8 is heating up, and may just edge No. 88 if Ovechkin can remain healthy.

One has to feel a little sympathy for the struggling Wild. They played well but lost against the Dallas Stars earlier this week and now must deal with Ovechkin and the just-as-hot Capitals.

Update: Minnesota managed three goals, but it wasn’t enough, as Washington got the edge 4-3.

Bylsma believes league will look at Gudas’ hit on Catenacci

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Rugged Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas may get in trouble with the league once again.

At least, it will be that way if Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma has his way regarding Gudas’ five-minute charging major hit on Daniel Catenacci.

“I think there’s no question it’s head hit,” Bylsma said, according to the Buffalo News’ John Vogl. ” … I know the league will look at that hit and deal with it.”

As far as the injury portion of possible suspension considerations go:

Marcus Foligno‘s analysis of Gudas was … well just check it out.

The Flyers ended up winning 5-1. Gudas was a busy man overall, racking up 17 penalty minutes.