Cam Tucker

Sidney Crosby

Crosby, Dubnyk, Burns named NHL’s three stars of the month


Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk and San Jose Sharks long-bearded defenseman Brent Burns have been named the NHL’s three stars for the month of March.

Crosby led all players with 14 assists and 21 points in 16 games to power the Penguins (44-25-8, 96 points) to a 12-4-0 March, tied for their second-most wins in any calendar month in franchise history. He registered at least one point in 15 of his 16 appearances, including a 12-game point streak to open the month (Feb. 29 — March 20: 6-14–20).

Dubnyk went 10-2-1 with a 2.06 goals-against average, .927 save percentage and one shutout in 14 appearances to propel the Wild (38-29-11, 87 points) to a 10-4-1 March, one win shy of the franchise record for any calendar month.

Burns shared second place in the NHL in both assists (13) and points (19) in 16 games to guide the Sharks (43-29-6, 92 points) to a 9-7-0 March and their 11th playoff berth in the last 12 seasons. He collected at least one point in 12 of his 16 contests, including seven multi-point performances (as well as three straight to close the month).

As impressive as Crosby was last month, the Penguins as a team have been a roll of late with 10 wins in their last 11 games, taking over second in the Metropolitan Division. And with the playoffs around the corner, they could be a dangerous team to meet in the opening round.

Canucks win! Canucks win!

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These are difficult times for the Vancouver Canucks, however, they did manage on Thursday to avoid tying a franchise record for consecutive losses, even if many were probably counting on them to lose — again.

Despite coughing up a two-goal lead, the Canucks managed to rebound later in the third period. Jannik Hansen scored the eventual winner on a rocket slap shot top corner and Vancouver snapped an ugly nine-game losing streak with a 4-2 road win over the San Jose Sharks.

The Canucks had not lost 10 in a row since the 1997-98 season.

Despite the win, the Canucks still suffered a setback.

Forward Sven Baertschi, one of the few bright spots on this year’s Canucks team, suffered a lower-body injury and left the game prior to the beginning of the second period.

‘I hope it doesn’t happen again’: Panthers penalized twice after fans throw plastic rats on ice


Florida Panthers forward Quinton Howden made two third-period trips to the penalty box on Thursday — serving penalties called after fans threw plastic rats on the ice at the BB&T Center.

The first such incident brought on a warning after Jonathan Huberdeau got Florida on the board in front of the home crowd during the second period.

But it happened again in the third period, resulting in not one but two objects-on-ice penalties called against the Panthers.

Despite additional trips to the penalty box in the final period, the Panthers did hang on for the 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils, taking over top spot in the Atlantic Division.

But, as you can see from the video clip, Florida’s coach Gerard Gallant wasn’t happy with the fact his team was forced onto the penalty kill on two occasions because of the rats, especially in a close game near the end of a playoff race.

“I hope it doesn’t happen again because we’re battling for a playoff spot and trying to kill penalties and working hard,” said Gallant, as per the Sun Sentinel. “[Fans are] throwing stuff on the ice and know we’re going to get a penalty. We got to be smarter than that.”

Video: Jamie Benn becomes first Stars player since Mike Modano to hit 40-goal mark

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DALLAS — Jamie Benn scored his 40th goal, Antti Niemi made 31 saves and the Dallas Stars beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 on Thursday night to move two points ahead in the Western Conference race.

Dallas (103 points) pulled away from second-place St. Louis (101). The Stars have four games remaining, and the Blues have five.

The loss eliminated the Coyotes from playoff contention.

Arizona’s Martin Hanzal scored the game’s first goal 17:07 into the first period, but Dallas tied it less than a minute later on Patrick Eaves‘ 10th goal.

The Stars’ Radek Faksa scored 11 seconds into the second period. Benn’s goal came 10 minutes later, and Patrick Sharp added a power-play goal into an empty net with 1:11 to play.

Benn is the Stars’ first 40-goal scorer since Mike Modano in 1993-94, the team’s first season in Dallas.

Only Washington’s Alex Ovechkin has more goals this season (44) than the 2014-15 Art Ross Trophy winner.

Niemi’s 16 career wins vs. Arizona are his most against any team.

Mike Smith had 29 saves for the Coyotes.

Dallas’ Ales Hemsky extended his point streak to six games with assists on the two second-period goals. John Klingberg also had two assists, and Benn added an assist on Sharp’s goal.

Hanzal, who scored a goal in each of the three games between the teams this season, left after the first period because of an upper-body injury. The Coyotes also played without their leading scorer, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, because of illness.

The Stars got big hits early by Stephen Johns on Max Domi 45 seconds into the game and Benn against Zbynek Michalek at 6:11.

Benn’s hit sent him to the penalty box for boarding, along with the Coyotes’ Antoine Vermette for roughing Benn.

Hanzal’s goal came on a snap shot from the slot after passes by Anthony Duclair from the right and Domi from the left pulled Niemi out of position.

Eaves scored with a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle.

Faksa scored off the second-period faceoff. Hemsky passed from behind the net to Faksa in front for his third goal in five games.

NOTES: Hanzal had three of his 13 goals and two assists in the Coyotes’ three games against Dallas. … Arizona LW Eric Selleck made his NHL debut, and D Alex Grant played in his third game and first with the Coyotes. Each received a fighting major, Grant for a bout with Dallas’ Colton Sceviour in the second period and Selleck against Jordie Benn in the third. … Stars D Kris Russell (lower body) missed his fifth game. C Tyler Seguin (Achilles tendon) remained out but could resume skating next week. … Arizona won the season series 2-1. … Hemsky has seven points (two goals, five assists) during his streak and has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in his last 12 games. … The Stars have 12 players with 10 or more goals, one away from the franchise record of 13 last achieved in 1993-94. Valeri Nichushkin has scored nine.

The Penguins look dangerous going into playoffs

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They haven’t clinched yet, but add the Pittsburgh Penguins to the list of teams that could potentially do some damage in the post-season.

And they’re without Evgeni Malkin, who was averaging just over a point per game before he was sidelined six to eight weeks with an upper-body injury earlier in March.

On Thursday, the Penguins dispatched the Nashville Predators — another team that looks to be headed for the playoffs and could be a menace once there — by a final score of 5-2. They outshot Nashville 41-24 and chased Pekka Rinne from the game after two periods.

That’s wins in 10 of the last 11 games for Pittsburgh, which moves into second in the Metropolitan Division.

Perhaps the scariest thing the Penguins have going for them right now is their ability in recent weeks to light up the opposition. In this four-game winning streak, they’ve scored 19 goals, not including any in the shootout. They’ve held some pretty decisive wins over the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals last month, too.

Phil Kessel is among their hottest forwards with nine points in his last four games and he scored with another impressive wrist shot against the Predators, giving him 25 goals. Sidney Crosby has long since returned to being Sidney Crosby, and a healthy Kris Letang would be huge for the Penguins on defense.

“I think Phil is playing really hard right now,” said head coach Mike Sullivan, as per the Penguins website.

“He’s using his feet. I think his speed is noticeable on most shifts that he plays out there. He’s dangerous off the rush. He’s getting involved underneath the hash marks with the cycle game and that type of offense. He’s a threat consistently.”

It also doesn’t seem smart to overlook the play of Marc-Andre Fleury in net.

The East has a number of big-name goalies, from Braden Holtby to Henrik Lundqvist to Roberto Luongo to Ben Bishop.

Fleury earned the win Thursday, giving him yet another 35-win season, and his save percentage of .921 has him ninth in the league among goalies with more than 2,000 minutes played this season.

“We were in a bad spot for a while there,” Fleury told reporters. “We had a tough time. We couldn’t get consistency through the first few months.”

Now, what can they do when the playoffs get going?