Stars win a heart-stopper against Coyotes, maintain Pacific lead

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Many people reasonably complained when the hyper-dramatic Phoenix Coyotes-Dallas Stars game went to a shootout, but it opened the door for one of those rare moments when sports become pure theater.

The newly crowned villain must save his team in a 1-on-1 situation with the crowd booing him.

Shane Doan surprisingly played that role well – if unwittingly – tonight. After landing a possibly suspension-worthy elbow on Dallas Stars stud Jamie Benn, Doan assisted on both goals to send the game to OT 3-3. Doan had a chance to tie the shootout up after a mind-blowing Mike Ribeiro success, but Kari Lehtonen waited him out for the 4-3 (SO) victory. Yet the most striking thing during that attempt was that the crowd booed Doan heartily the whole time.

Doan and Benn – who took at least two other scary hits – were the central figures of what was a great contest. The Coyotes continue to fall behind by two goals lately, yet they keep coming back. Edmonton had a 2-0 lead against them last night only to lose in a shootout to them 3-2 via a shootout while Phoenix fought back from a 3-1 deficit tonight.

The Stars got the last laugh, though, and their 85 points ensures that they’ll remain atop the Pacific Division no matter what happens in the big San Jose-Los Angeles battle (currently 1-1 with 3:27 left in the first period, airing on NBC Sports Network).

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Benn banged up?

The only big worry – beyond those tough Pacific teams that are still not that far behind – is the health of crucial star Benn. The big forward made a shootout attempt and generally kept coming back after scary hits, but was also seen shaken up in the Stars’ tunnel during the game. We’ll have to wait and see about a development that could hurt a whole lot more than allowing the Coyotes a charity point.

Habs sign Mark Streit — is he Markov’s replacement?

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The Montreal Canadiens have signed 39-year-old defenseman Mark Streit to a one-year contract worth a reported $700,000.

This will actually be Streit’s second stint with the Habs. He started his NHL career in Montreal, all the way back in 2005.

Streit split last season between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In the playoffs, he only appeared in three games for the Penguins, all of them in the Eastern Conference Final against Ottawa when Justin Schultz was hurt.

What the Streit signing means for Andrei Markov remains to be seen. Streit, like Markov, can run a power play, so it’s tempting to conclude that Streit is Markov’s replacement.

That being said, almost all of Streit’s contract could be buried in the AHL if necessary, so that conclusion may be premature. This could even be a move by GM Marc Bergevin to gain leverage and convince Markov to sign.

Markov, 38, remains an unrestricted free agent. The Canadiens want him back, but only at a certain price.

Devils give Mirco Mueller two-year extension

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The New Jersey Devils have signed defenseman Mirco Mueller to a two-year contract extension with a cap hit of $850,000.

Mueller, a first-round draft pick of the Sharks in 2013, has only played 54 NHL games, scoring two goals with four assists. In June, after spending most of 2016-17 in the AHL, San Jose traded the 22-year-old to the Devils.

In New Jersey, Mueller should get a good chance to crack a rebuilding roster.

“Mirco is adding another piece to what we’re trying to build here,” Devils coach John Hynes said, per NJ.com. “He’s a young player, he can play with pace. He’s a very good skater. He’s got size, which is something we need on the back end. He makes a good first pass. He allows you to get out of your own zone because he can break out, he can end plays defensively, get possession, make the pass to be able to transition yourself out of defensive situations.”

The Devils have also re-signed goalie Scott Wedgewood and forward Joseph Blandisi.

Rangers lock up Zibanejad for next five years

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The New York Rangers have locked up a key piece of their future, signing center Mika Zibanejad to a five-year deal with a cap hit of $5.35 million.

Zibanejad had an arbitration hearing scheduled for today, but that won’t be required anymore.

The 24-year-old had 14 goals and 23 assists in 56 games last season. It was his first year in New York after getting traded from Ottawa for Derick Brassard.

With Derek Stepan in Arizona now, Zibanejad is arguably the Rangers’ No. 1 center. Kevin Hayes is in that conversation as well, and perhaps Lias Andersson will be soon.

But getting Zibanejad signed long term was a top priority for GM Jeff Gorton this offseason. Hayes can become a restricted free agent next summer, but that’s a bridge to cross at a later date.

Related: Andersson to get ‘every opportunity’ to make Rangers next season

Avalanche reportedly settle with Nieto, avoiding arbitration

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Matt Nieto won’t need his arbitration hearing on Monday.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Nieto has agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract with the Colorado Avalanche.

Nieto split last season between San Jose and Colorado, which claimed him off waivers in January.

In 43 games for the Avalanche, the 24-year-old forward scored seven goals with four assists.

Nieto was the only Colorado player on this summer’s arbitration list. However, the Avs still have a restricted free agent in Nikita Zadorov, who could be off to the KHL next season.