New York Rangers v New York Islanders

Video: First overall picks score a pair of hat tricks

There’s a reason that players are picked with the #1 overall pick: they’re good. Unless the player’s name is Patrik Stefan, #1 overall picks have a tendency to break into the league and set the league on fire. Recently, Patrick Kane won the Calder Trophy in his rookie season and Steven Stamkos scored 119 goals in his first three seasons in the league. If Saturday is any indication, there are a couple more first overall picks that are going to make noise this season.

It started when John Tavares dropped a hat trick on the cross-town rival New York Rangers. The first overall pick in the 2009 draft had a hand in all four Islanders’ goals en route to a 4-2 win at Nassau Coliseum. It was his second straight four-point night and his third career hat trick in his young NHL career. Tavares is now tied for the league lead with 5 goals and 8 points on the young season; not bad for a guy who is rapidly becoming the undisputed face of the franchise.

Katie Strang from ESPN New York talked to Tavares after his four-point night:

“It’s nice to produce. It’s what I do best, obviously,” said Tavares, who signed a six-year $33 million contract extension last month. “I take a lot of pride in it and it’s nice to come through.”

Good thing he enjoys scoring—because it looks like he’s going to do it a lot this season. It’s exactly what they Islanders expected when they chose him above guys like Victor Hedman, Matt Duchene, and Evander Kane.

Here are all three goals from Tavares on Saturday night:

On the other side of the continent, the first overall pick in the 2011 provided the encore performance. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a breakout performance on Hockey Night in Canada; he scored three goals in the Oilers’ 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. The third goal is up for dispute (it looked like Taylor Hall knocked it across the goal line), but he still showed the talent that made him the best player in this June’s draft. For those keeping track at home, he’s now scored four goals in three career games for the Oilers.

Playing on the line with yet another #1 overall draft pick, Taylor Hall, should help Nugent-Hopkins make the transition to the NHL. Combined with Jordan Eberle, the Oilers’ “kid line” features the only three players on the team that have scored more than a point this year. Before the season started, it was assumed that Nugent-Hopkins would be the playmaker while his linemates were the goal scorers. So far, Nugent-Hopkins has flipped the script.

The line’s performance should silence the debate whether the 18-year-old rookie would be good enough to stick with the big club this season or if he should be sent back to Red Deer after nine games. Games like this certainly make him look like an NHLer.

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.