Francois Beauchemin, Jamie Benn

NHL on NBCSN: Pacific-leading Ducks take on Stars

NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Dallas Stars host the Anaheim Ducks at American Airlines Center at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

By now we know the Western Conference is beastly to deal with. That hasn’t stopped the Anaheim Ducks from picking up where they ended last season, however.

The Ducks are on top of the Pacific Division and head into Tuesday’s game against the Dallas Stars having won two in a row. Before that, they dropped five straight. Despite numerous injuries throughout the year, the Ducks haven’t let that get them down and that’s mostly thanks to the play of captain Ryan Getzlaf and 2011 MVP Corey Perry.

Getzlaf leads the team in scoring with 27 points and Perry is right behind him with 25. Getzlaf’s point total puts him in the top-five in the NHL. They’re each tied for the team lead in goals with 13, a total that also puts them in the top-five in the league. Their play has also brought the best out of new-old Ducks forward Dustin Penner.

With six goals and 11 assists, Penner is third on the team in points. After last season with the Los Angeles Kings was a big letdown, he’s been outstanding in his return to Anaheim.

One thing the Ducks have had to stress about of late is goaltending. Jonas Hiller has had some struggles recently and Viktor Fasth’s injuries have held him back. Frederik Andersen has been outstanding when he’s played, however, and if he continues to do that, Hiller may need to break in his baseball cap on a more regular basis.

Things haven’t quite gone as they’d hoped in Dallas this season. They’re currently last in the Central Division and have had their struggles at home going just 3-3-2 there. The bright spots are easy to pick out.

Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin have been all they could’ve hoped for and they lead the team in scoring with 24 and 23 points respectively. Their play has been strong enough to get them talked about for being on Team Canada for the Olympics after neither was invited to their camp this summer.

Rookie forward Alex Chiasson got off to a quick start but has cooled off recently. Still, his six goals and 13 points are good for third on the team in both categories. A groin injury to Ray Whitney has kept him out of action of late and that has hurt their offensive production.

If there’s one person you can’t blame for their struggles, however, it’s goalie Kari Lehtonen. The Finnish netminder has been rock solid for the Stars this season and his numbers bear that out (.924 SV%, 2.28 GAA). If coach Lindy Ruff can get the defense figured out, they can climb back into the mix in the Central.

Sharks scratch Flames’ big lead, Calgary wins anyway

Calgary Flames' Mikael Backlund (11) chases down the puck against San Jose Sharks' Tomas Hertl (48) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
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If you turned off Thursday’s Calgary Flames – San Jose Sharks game early, you’ll probably be stunned to see that Calgary won 6-5 via a shootout.

For instance:

  • A Sharks fan may have bitterly called it a night when Calgary went up 4-1.
  • Conversely, a Flames devotee might have retired after San Jose took a 5-4 lead, possibly with a broken remote.

The Flames only trailed for about two minutes before scoring the last “real” goal of the game, eventually taking their third straight win thanks to a shootout triumph.

It’s been a strange ride for Calgary, with its most recent win happening after Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Lance Bouma were punished with a healthy scratch. As strange as this game was, the “charity point” can leave both teams looking through a lot of film, yet with something gained as well.

Ultimately, the message may very well be: don’t sleep on these teams.

(In less positive news, Karri Ramo is injured, and it doesn’t look good.

Jonas Hiller closing out the game on a hot streak could be pretty important if Ramo’s out for some time.)

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

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — 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.