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Patrik Laine comes to the rescue as Jets snap four-game losing skid

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This could’ve been a completely demoralizing home stand for the Winnipeg Jets.

With three losses in four games, it’s still highly disappointing given their plight in the Western Conference, yet they were able to salvage at least one win before jetting out onto the road for four games. And they can thank an 18-year-old rookie scoring sensation for giving them a critical win over the struggling Dallas Stars on Tuesday.

Patrik Laine recorded the hat trick, his second goal of the game breaking a 2-2 deadlock late in the third period.

The Stars fought back to tie the game in the second period, before Laine, the second overall pick last June, did his thing with a pair of goals in the final 5:07 of regulation in a 5-2 Winnipeg win.

The winning goal? That’s an insane display of quick hands, as he stole the puck away from Dan Hamhuis and then, seemingly in one motion, fires a quick wrist shot over the left shoulder of Antti Niemi.

“We need a guy like that to step up and that’s something we’ve missed here in the past,” Blake Wheeler told the Winnipeg Sun. “Without a guy like that in the room, it’s typically a 2-2 game heading into overtime. That was pretty special.”

Per Sportsnet: Laine is the first NHL rookie with three hat tricks in a season since Teemu Selanne and Eric Lindros in 1992-1993. (Selanne, of course, famously achieved that feat while playing in Winnipeg.)

The Jets had lost four straight. Their playoff hopes are still bleak, improving only slightly following their win over the Stars. They’re only four points back of L.A. for the final wild card spot. The loss is another devastating one for Dallas, which is six points back of the Kings and facing an increasingly grim reality heading into the trade deadline.

Laine and Auston Matthews, meanwhile, continue to go toe-to-toe in the rookie goal scoring race.

Matthews scored twice versus the Islanders, bringing his total to 27 goals (and 46 points). Laine, with his hat trick, is up to 26 goals and 47 points.

Maple Leafs hand Islanders a ‘humbling loss’ in wild card race

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A regulation win would’ve put the New York Islanders into a wild card spot — at least for now.

They had been achieving far better results of late, getting them back into the playoff fight. But instead of leapfrogging teams into the final wild card position, they suffered a 7-1 loss to the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, which gives Toronto three points of separation from the Islanders in the Eastern Conference standings.

“As much as it’s just one loss, that’s a humbling loss, that’s [a butt] kicking, I’m sorry,”said Islanders coach Doug Weight, per NHL.com.

“They played a playoff game tonight; we played a hard game but we didn’t play a playoff game. That’s virtually what it was, right? We win, we’re in the playoffs as far as statistically speaking.”

That’s a big win, too, for a young Maple Leafs team that certainly has a strong chance of making the playoffs with fewer than 30 games remaining in its schedule. But as Toronto chases its post-season aspirations, the club had been up and down with its results of late, winning four times in the last 10 games.

Once again, they received contributions from their cast of youthful talent. Auston Matthews scored twice. He now has 27 goals in his rookie campaign. William Nylander notched Toronto’s third goal of the game and his 15th of the season.

It’s been a while — well over 30 years — since the Maple Leafs had this kind of scoring prowess among their rookie class, which also includes Mitch Marner.

Frederik Andersen recorded career win No. 100, stopping all but one of the 34 shots the Islanders sent his way Tuesday.

“I thought Freddie made some real good saves. The better the goalie plays, the more you settle down and the more you dial in,” said coach Mike Babcock. “We scored timely goals, and then it got to be a real good situation for us because most games in this league you’re grinding right till the bitter end.”

Two days after ripping his team, Lehner backs up his words in win over Sens

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OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) Robin Lehner made 39 saves against his former team and Matt Moulson and Justin Bailey scored in the third period to rally the Buffalo Sabres past the Ottawa Senators 3-2 on Tuesday night.

Lehner is 4-0-2 against the club that drafted him in the second round of the 2009 NHL draft. He was traded away with David Legwand in June 2015 to Buffalo for the 21st overall pick in that year’s draft.

Ryan O'Reilly also scored for the Sabres.

Bobby Ryan ended a five-game run without a point by getting a goal and an assist for Ottawa. Dion Phaneuf also scored, and Craig Anderson made 22 saves.

After a solid start to the third period, Buffalo kept pushing and was rewarded when Bailey tipped Jake McCabe‘s point shot to take a 3-2 lead at 7:38.

Read more: Lehner rips Sabres after loss to Canucks

The Sabres tied it 51 seconds into the third when Moulson picked up a puck at the side of the net and put it over Anderson’s back.

Coming into the game, Buffalo had given up 62 second-period goals, third worst in the league. Tuesday night was no different as the Sabres were outshot 16-7.

Ottawa made it 63 when Phaneuf jumped on a soft rebound and put the puck past Lehner to give the Senators a 2-1 lead.

The Sabres opened the scoring on their first shot when O’Reilly used Phaneuf as a screen and beat Anderson low glove side. The Senators tied it at the 14-minute mark of the period when Ryan tipped Erik Karlsson‘s shot from the point.

This was the fifth and final meeting between the two teams, with Buffalo going 4-0-1.

Related: Fiery Lehner won’t apologize for being fiery

Video: Ducks’ Vermette ejected for abuse of official versus Wild

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Antoine Vermette could be facing further discipline from the league after he was ejected for abuse of an official during Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Wild.

The incident occurred in the third period immediately following a faceoff. Video replays show the 34-year-old Vermette taking a swipe at linesman Shandor Alphonso with his stick after losing a draw in the neutral zone.

There has already been a suspension for an abuse of an official infraction this season. Anthony DeAngelo of the Arizona Coyotes was banned three games — without pay — for an incident following a fight.

From the Orange County Register:

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said Vermette reacted to not being ready for Alphonso dropping the puck and that the veteran forward wasn’t vicious or had malice in striking him. But he added, “He touched the official. What are you going to do?”

“To me, these are things that the league reviews,” Carlyle continued. “We have a view on it; they have a view on it. Whatever they decide, we have to live with.”

The league’s rule book lists three categories for an automatic suspension in the event of an abuse of official penalty, adding that, following the game in which the game misconduct is given, it is up to the referee and linesman to determine the category of the infraction.

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So close: Sidney Crosby remains on the verge of 1,000 points

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Sidney Crosby will have to wait another day.

The Pittsburgh Penguins star and captain is up to 999 points in his NHL career, but he just couldn’t reach the 1,000-point mark in Tuesday’s game against the Canucks. It certainly wasn’t from a lack of chances. No. 87 was all over the Canucks, it seemed, whenever he touched the ice.

Crosby entered the game with 998 points, before adding an assist on Jake Guentzel‘s goal, which gave Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead in the third period.

The only thing standing between Crosby and reaching the milestone tonight was the play of goalie Ryan Miller.

Crosby had a plus-11 Corsi For rating in all situations. He had six shots on goal and was denied on a breakaway in the third period. Miller also robbed Guentzel with a spectacular arm save that denied Crosby of an assist in the first period.

The next chance for Crosby to achieve the feat is Thursday on home ice against the Winnipeg Jets.

Meanwhile, welcome back to the lineup, Evgeni Malkin.

After missing the last seven games with a lower-body injury, Malkin returned to the Penguins lineup and was immediately productive with a goal and an assist in Pittsburgh’s thorough 4-0 victory over the Canucks.

His night included this set-up on Phil Kessel‘s goal, which essentially put this game completely out of reach for Vancouver as Pittsburgh completely took over in the final period. Malkin showed incredible patience, letting Luca Sbisa slide by on the backcheck before calmly dishing the puck to Kessel for an easy goal.

It was noted this morning that Pittsburgh had gone 4-1-2 without Malkin, as injuries have tested the depth of the Penguins, particularly with their group of forwards.

“I think that getting him back just makes us that much more dangerous,” said Crosby of Malkin.