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Sissons ‘rewarded’ with first career hat trick, as Preds beat Bolts

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Colton Sissons called it a “surreal” performance.

Sissons ended a 12-game goal drought with his first career hat trick, Pekka Rinne made 27 saves and the Nashville Predators beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-1 on Thursday night.

“I’ve been struggling to find the back of the net just in general,” Sissons said. “To pop three feels pretty good.”

Tampa Bay pulled its goalie for an extra skater with seven minutes left in the third, and Sissons got his second of the game a minute later before completing the trick from close with three minutes remaining. He entered with two goals this season and seven overall in 78 career games.

“You get rewarded for all the hard work he’s put in,” Predators left wing Filip Forsberg said. “It’s really fun to see and great for him.”

Nashville also got goals from Mike Fisher, Forsberg and Ryan Ellis. Rinne improved to 7-0-1 against Tampa Bay.

Tyler Johnson scored for the Lightning, who went 2-2-1 on a five-game homestand. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 13 shots two days after giving up five goals on 33 shots in a 6-4 loss to Winnipeg.

“He’s a young goalie, and eventually he’s going to be a starting goalie in this league,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “Hall of fame goaltenders have all gone through this. It’s `How are you going to be next game?’ Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get ready for the next game.”

Vasilevskiy is filling in for Ben Bishop, who is out with a lower-body injury.

Cooper didn’t feel the score indicated the game itself, pointing out that Tampa Bay held a 41-16 advantage in shots that were blocked and missed the net.

“They had 24 blocked shots, that’s a lot,” Cooper said. “I thought we did a lot of good things.”

Fisher had the lone goal in the first, coming on the power play at 2:25. The Predators are 11-0-4 when scoring first. Tampa Bay has allowed the first goal in 26 of 40 games (7-15-4).

Forsberg made it 2-0 before Johnson scored on the power play early in the second, and then Sissons made it 3-1 from the right circle at 13:21.

Ellis made it a 4-1 lead 43 seconds after Sissons scored with a goal that had two reviews.

The original call was no goal because of goalie interference on Viktor Arvidsson, but that was overturned after a Nashville challenge. Tampa Bay then challenged the on-ice call that play was onside, but the review was inconclusive and the goal stood.

The Predators have outscored opponents 50-27 in the second period. The first four Nashville goals came on just eight shots.

Tampa Bay’s Valtteri Filppula and Vladislav Namestnikov were both minus-4.

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.