1. James Neal, Edmonton Oilers
Neal might have already laid claim to the top star of Tuesday early in Edmonton’s win against the Islanders, as he completed a natural hat trick by the opening minutes of the second period. By adding a fourth goal in the third, he made it a consensus.
As you can note in this post, Neal now has six goals in just three games with the Oilers, one behind his full-season total with Calgary last season.
The true Neal is somewhere between this red-hot start and last season’s frigid flop. This is a guy who can sometimes drift through games (or fly off the handle in rage, particularly during his Penguins days) and then score big goals. He was a regular sniper before last season, even though he seemed to change locales with stunning frequency. If he can stay on Connor McDavid‘s line with regularity, Neal could have a big season.
He got off to a heck of a head start …
2. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
By their very lofty standards, the trio of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak were off to a slightly quiet start to 2019-20. Maybe that bit of yawning will stay in Vegas?
Marchand scored two goals and an assist in Boston’s 4-3 win against the Golden Knights, including what would end up being the game-winner. Pastrnak was there with him, scoring a goal and two assists. Bergeron was less robust at a mere assist, yet he dominated in the faceoff circle, going 18-7.
Consider this something of a multi-skater tie for second place. Drew Doughty got the last laugh against Matthew Tkachuk and the Flames, but both heated rivals generated three points. Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine were both deferential spirits, generating three assists each.
Feel free to consider this the nod to Tkachuk or those others if you prefer.
3. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
Yes, the Jets’ makeshift defense deserves credit for boosting Winnipeg to a surprising win against the up-and-down Penguins. Especially since defensemen like Tucker Poolman and Ville Heinola factored into the victory by scoring goals.
But Hellebuyck might have been the main reason why Winnipeg was able to hold up to the Penguins’ attack, even with a decimated defense corps.
He made 37 out of 38 saves, only yielding what seemed like an ominous Sidney Crosby goal 32 seconds in. If Dustin Byfuglien decides to extend his fishing trip into retirement, the Jets are going to need a lot of strong nights from Hellebuyck going forward.
Consider this very telling nugget an early factoid:
Highlight of the Night
The most memorable moments of the night might have involved Tkachuk vs. Doughty, from Tkachuk’s impressive tying goal (which, again, maybe shouldn’t have counted) to Doughty scoring in OT and doing a Hulk Hogan taunt. But you can see that here, so I’m going to cheat and add Braden Holtby providing another highlight reel stop instead:
Anyone else extremely curious to find out what his next payday will be like?
- The Hurricanes really took it to the Panthers on Tuesday night, no longer needing OT heroics. Their 4-0-0 start ties the best in their extended franchise history, matching the 1995-96 Hartford Whalers, according to NHL PR.
- Speaking of marks for franchises that have relocated and changed names, Winnipeg’s win marks the first in Pittsburgh after going 0-14-4, stretching back to their Atlanta Thrashers days. The previous, Coyotes-friendly rendition of the Jets last beat the Penguins in Pittsburgh in 1992, according to Sportsnet Stats.
- James Neal is now at seven career hat tricks, and this marks his second natural hat trick (plus that other goal). Sportsnet stats gathered some other Neal tidbits.
- Keith Yandle‘s ironman streak is at 800+ games, putting him in a select company of five players.
CAR 6 – FLA 3
EDM 5 – NYI 2
WPG 4 – PIT 1
DAL 4 – WSH 3 (OT)
ANA 3 – DET 1
NSH 5 – SJS 2
LAK 4 – CGY 3 (OT)
BOS 4 – VGK 3
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James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.