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Goalie nods: With East’s top spot on the line, Rangers start Raanta versus Pens

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Plenty of storylines at PPG Paints Arena tonight when the Penguins host the Rangers.

There’s the history: Pittsburgh ended New York’s season last year, and New York did the same to Pittsburgh two years ago.

There’s the stakes: The Rangers sit two points ahead of the Penguins for top spot in the Eastern Conference but, with a regulation win, the Pens can overtake the Blueshirts for No. 1.

As such, the goaltending decision by Alain Vigneault is an interesting one. Antti Raanta, who’s played very well lately, will get the nod ahead of Henrik Lundqvist, who has started the last three in a row.

To be accurate, Lundqvist didn’t just start three straight — he dominated them. A 2-0 shutout win over Dallas (in which he left momentarily after getting run by Cody Eakin), and back-to-back 2-1 shootout victories over Nashville and New Jersey.

That said, Lundqvist’s had recent problems with the Pens, especially in last year’s playoffs, which could be part of the reason why Vigneault’s turning to Raanta.

For Pittsburgh, Matt Murraay is in goal.

Elsewhere…

— The Islanders’ goalie carousel continues to spin. After J-F Berube made his first starts of the season on Friday and Sunday, Thomas Greiss draws in against the Bruins. No word yet on a Boston starter.

Cory Schneider will look to snap a personal four-game losing streak when the Devils host the Preds. Like the Bruins, Nashville has yet to announce a starter.

— Coming off a 29-save effort in a 1-0 loss to Boston, Peter Budaj is back in for the Kings in Columbus. The Jackets will give Sergei Bobrovsky the night off, and roll with Curtis McElhinney.

Robin Lehner starts again for Buffalo, after making 33 saves in a win over the Isles on Friday. He’ll be up against Roberto Luongo, who had a four-day break while James Reimer started Florida’s last game.

— In a rematch of last year’s playoffs, Jimmy Howard and the Red Wings take on Ben Bishop and the Bolts in Tampa.

Carey Price stopped 20 of 21 shots in a win over Washington on Saturday, and will be back in as the Habs host the Ducks. No word yet on an Anaheim starter, though it’s probably Jonathan Bernier as John Gibson got the win in Toronto on Monday.

Semyon Varlamov versus Devan Dubnyk as the Avs visit Minnesota.

Scott Darling will start his 10th game in a row when the ‘Hawks host Ottawa at the United Center. Andrew Hammond is injured and Craig Anderson is still away from the team, so the Sens are going with Mike Condon (Matt O’Connor will back up).

Even though he’s struggling, Jake Allen continues to start for the Blues. He’ll be up against Antti Niemi, who is starting his fourth straight.

Jacob Markstrom, who hasn’t played since coming on in relief of Ryan Miller in last week’s Carolina debacle, goes for the Canucks tonight. The visiting Jets will roll with Connor Hellebuyck.

Brian Elliott started against and beat the Coyotes last night, so Chad Johnson goes for Calgary. Martin Jones is in net for the Sharks.

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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