The Buzzer: McDavid reaches 500 points; Red-hot Huberdeau, Lankinen

NHL Three Stars from Wednesday

1. Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers

While the Lightning (10-3-1, 21 points) look strong in their title defense, they’re not the only red-hot Florida NHL team. In fact, they don’t have the best in-state record. That goes to the Panthers at the moment, who lead the Central Division with 22 points (10-2-2).

By splitting up Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov — and finding solid linemates for them — the Panthers have looked like a more balanced, dangerous team.

Granted, there’s some reason to tap the brakes here and there. Compared to the Lightning’s +22 goal differential, the Panthers’ +5 mark is fairly modest. The Panthers also simply don’t have the sort of track record that can make you assume that the rest of the season will play out like the first 14 games.

Huberdeau and the Panthers keep making their case, and often doing it with authority. Huberdeau scored three points (two goals and one assist), including the overtime game-winner for the Panthers. Personally, Huberdeau’s assist was even more impressive than that OT-winner.

With that outburst, Huberdeau now has 20 points in 14 games, giving him a chance to top his scorching pace from recent seasons (78 points in 69 games, and 92 in 82 GP).

Much like with the Panthers’ team success, there’s room to throw in a slight caveat with Huberdeau. His 36.8 shooting percentage is bound to dip (his career average is already pretty impressive at 12.4), but this hot start should remind people that Huberdeau is a legitimate star.

2. Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks

Wow, did the Canucks ever need a decisive win like this. In winning by four goals, you can tab multiple Vancouver options for Wednesday’s NHL 3 Stars.

For a seemingly fragile team like the Canucks, it was crucial that Boeser helped Vancouver add to what was a 2-1 lead. Boeser did so, collecting a goal and two assists for three points. Of all the things that have gone wrong for the Canucks, Boeser’s bounced back from some relative troubles. He now has 21 points through his first 20 games.

Again, other Canucks deserve mentions alongside Boeser. J.T. Miller showed some life in scoring a goal and an assist. Braden Holtby had a busy night, stopping 35 out of 36 shots.

Maybe winning so decisively is a sign that the Canucks are back in gear? They certainly need it, what with their owner having to roll out the dreaded vote (tweets?) of confidence.

3. Kevin Lankinen, Chicago Blackhawks

No, the Red Wings aren’t exactly a dynamic offense. They didn’t just roll over against the Blackhawks on Wednesday, though, so a sharp Lankinen ended up being a difference-maker.

Of all the things Lankinen’s accomplished during his surprising start to the season, he earned the first shutout of his NHL career on Wednesday. He stopped all 29 shots, and while Chicago won 2-0, the second tally was an empty-netter. There wasn’t much of a margin of error — and the Blackhawks have been winning by narrow margins during their recent hot streak, in general — but Lankinen didn’t cave under the pressure.

Highlight of Wednesday night in the NHL

If you want the other top highlight of Wednesday in the NHL, check out that Huberdeau assist for the Panthers again. (Honestly, it’s worth a look from many different angles.)

The other highlight of Wednesday in the NHL was that one goal that helped Lankinen and the Blackhawks secure a win. Philipp Kurashev baffled the Red Wings’ penalty kill unit, then made sweet moves to beat Jonathan Bernier for a great goal.

This post goes into more detail on that goal, as well as the Blackhawks’ Lankinen-powered hot streak.

Stats of the night: McDavid reaches 500 points, matches Crosby’s 369 game pace

Speaking of further reading, you can catch up on Connor McDavid‘s latest milestone — reaching 500 points — here. Being that McDavid is just 24 years old, reaching 500 points would already be impressive. It’s extra-noteworthy because, like Crosby, McDavid reached the 500-point-plateau in just the 369th game of his NHL career. With that, McDavid and Crosby are tied as the eighth-fastest to 500 points, and are the fastest to 500 of any active NHL players.

Naturally, McDavid collected two assists on Wednesday, so he’s at 501 points in 369 career games. In a nice bit of symmetry, Leon Draisaitl reached 450 career points with two goals, just falling short of becoming one of the 3 NHL Stars of Wednesday.

Sportsnet shared a nice little synopsis of McDavid’s journey to 500 points. (Side note: here’s hoping he doesn’t deal with the bad breaks that slowed the start of his career, and put Crosby’s in jeopardy.)

Wednesday’s NHL scores

Panthers 4, Hurricanes 3 (OT)
Maple Leafs 2, Senators 1
Blackhawks 2, Red Wings 0
Canucks 5, Flames 1
Oilers 3, Jets 2

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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