NHL Three Stars from Saturday
1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
When scoring a natural hat trick is just part of your great night, you’ve had an incredible night. When a stupendous Auston Matthews performance can’t knock you off of the throne, you’re probably Connor McDavid.
McDavid collected those three goals plus two assists to pull off a five-point performance against the helpless Flames.
Remarkably, Connor McDavid finished his scoring barrage less than halfway through the second period. By then, the Oilers generated a 5-1 lead that would eventually stretch to 7-1. If the Flames managed to beat Mikko Koskinen more often (Koskinen deserved a mention with 43 saves), would McDavid have scored more?
It’s not as though McDavid has been too merciful, particularly against rivals like the Flames, but this isn’t the first night when he would have been wise to take it easy after an early blowout. On Jan. 31, McDavid scored five points against the Senators — and stopped scoring a bit more than midway through that game. These are times when it feels like McDavid can just do whatever he wants. He’s now at an absurd 37 points in just 20 games, making 100 seem somewhat plausible.
Beyond McDavid and Koskinen, other Oilers deserve mentions here, on a star-studded Saturday night in the NHL. At this rate, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins might price himself out of Edmonton (2G, 1A; 18 points this season).
If you need an alternate highlight of the night for Saturday in the NHL, McDavid provided an option:
(Still going with MacKinnon, though …)
2. Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
Speaking of improbable runs in a shortened NHL season, Auston Matthews ended Saturday with 18 goals (and 29 points) in 18 games. Scoring 50 goals in this shortened season seems ridiculous, but Matthews is giving himself a chance.
For the second straight game, Matthews authored a two-goal, two-assist performance. At some point, Matthews is likely to see his shooting percentage (now 24 percent) drop, but it hasn’t exactly shown signs of cooling off anytime soon. Quite the milestone for Matthews through his first 300 games:
Auston Matthews now tops the list for most points thru the first 300 NHL games when debuting for the #Leafs pic.twitter.com/4smL8PUF9m
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) February 21, 2021
Mitch Marner (or Mitchell Marner, if you’re not into that whole brevity thing) demands credit, too. The gifted playmaker finished just behind Matthews for the night (three points) and just ahead of Matthews for the season in points (30) after scoring a goal and two assists on Saturday.
The hockey world is a better place now that those two line up together … unless you’re their opponents.
3. Kevin Fiala, Minnesota Wild
Through the first four games of the season, Fiala failed to score a single point. He also was suspended early in 2020-21. Not great.
But Fiala’s been heating up for a while now. In what was his best performance of this young season, Fiala scored two goals (including the game-winner) and an assist. Those three points push Fiala to six goals and one assist for seven points in his past seven games.
Fiala, Kirill Kaprizov, and the Wild’s stingy defense could combine to make Minnesota an annoying out this season.
Highlight of Saturday night in NHL: MacKinnon stars at Lake Tahoe
For those wondering why Nathan MacKinnon didn’t make the three stars, well … here. He gets his own section.
OK, that’s not totally true. This section is for those wondering about how that odd-but-beautiful Lake Tahoe game turned out between the Avalanche and Golden Knights. Well, the first and second goals occurred nine hours a part, and Nathan MacKinnon was unstoppable whenever they could play. That was especially true during the second and third periods at night.
Along with two assists, MacKinnon produced this goal, the highlight of Saturday night in the NHL:
Ultimately, MacKinnon made the difference as the Avalanche beat the Golden Knights 3-2 at Lake Tahoe. Read more about that here. (There are pretty pictures.)
Want more NHL outdoor action at Lake Tahoe? Yeah you do …
Bruins-Flyers stream pre-game coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
Penguins celebrate Sidney Crosby‘s 1,000th game
Enjoy this ode to Sidney Crosby’s 1,000th game, featuring the likes of Alex Ovechkin. Penguins players giving Sidney grief about his superstitions is good stuff. For more on Crosby at 1,000 games, check this out.
(Also, Sidney Crosby almost pushed his way into the three stars with two assists.)
Saturday’s NHL scores
Sabres 3, Devils 2
Rangers 4, Capitals 1
Red Wings 2, Panthers 1
Penguins 3, Islanders 2
Predators 4, Blue Jackets 2
Sharks 5, Blues 4
Kings 4, Coyotes 2
Maple Leafs 5, Canadiens 3
Hurricanes 4, Lightning 0
Wild 5, Ducks 1
Oilers 7, Flames 1
Avalanche 3, Golden Knights 2
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.