NHL Three Stars from Saturday
1. Noel Acciari, Florida Panthers
If you ever want to identify an all-or-nothing player, at least from an offensive standpoint, you might not do better than Noel Acciari.
Despite averaging a solid 14:24 TOI per night through 14 games, Acciari failed to score a single goal or assist for the Florida Panthers this season. Until Saturday, that is.
Facing the struggling Predators, Noel Acciari scored a hat trick.
Remarkably, it’s the third hat trick of Noel Acciari’s career. Through 261 career NHL games, Acciari’s scored 41 goals. Pretty odd.
To be fair, he did score 20 goals (and seven assists) over 66 games last season. Granted, it was also hot-and-cold in its way, as Acciari rode an 18.5 shooting percentage. Either way, pretty quirky stuff. Hockey’s strange!
Noel Acciari has more career hat tricks than Auston Matthews (3 to 2). #flapanthers
— Point to Point Hockey (@PTPHockey) March 6, 2021
2. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
It’s even tougher than usual to split hairs regarding the three stars of Saturday in the NHL. Especially if you ding Acciari for generating his hat trick in something of a blowout for Florida.
So, feel free to disagree about these choices, but let’s make goals stand as tiebreakers.
And then there’s the extra tiebreaker of points coming at a premium. That’s why Anze Kopitar stands a little taller than his counterparts.
Kopitar scored two goals and one assist for the Kings, who managed to beat the Blues in overtime. While Kopitar didn’t factor into that OT-winner, he contributed to all three Kings goals in regulation.
If you’re pointing fingers at the Kings’ slide, it’d be fair to critique players who’ve fallen really far (Jeff Carter), ones who might be playing more on reputation (Jonathan Quick over Cal Petersen?), and a high-price polarizing player (Drew Doughty). But Kopitar? He’s mostly been a rock, albeit a pricey one.
With those three points, Kopitar’s generated an impressive 28 points in 23 games.
3. Brendan Gallagher, Montreal Canadiens
OK, in this case, goals were not really at a premium. The Canadiens roasted the Jets to a score of 7-1.
You know it’s a rough one when your Twitter feed laments the sheer pain of it all.
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) March 7, 2021
Gallagher dished out the most pain, though. He scored two goals and one assist, including a tally that Connor Hellebuyck will want purged from the collective memory. Gallagher ended up +3 with three shots on goal, too.
Connor McDavid breaks his slump, and other honorable mentions
- To reiterate: it’s difficult to prioritize these three-point nights. Then again, maybe Connor McDavid dominates the highlights so much, it’s fair to bump him down a bit every now and then?
Either way, McDavid went the extra mile to make sure that he’s still never experienced a four-game point drought in his illustrious career. McDavid scored the game-winner and two assists in a 3-2 game. Looks like McDavid can resume trying to match or exceed Sidney Crosby‘s career scoring pace.
- For all the things that have gone wrong for the Canucks, Brock Boeser‘s been a rock. At least when it comes to scoring. With a goal and two assists, Boeser improved to 28 points in as many games played. Thirteen of those points are goals. Pretty impressive, and a reminder that the Canucks were allegedly pondering trading Boeser. Hot take alert: they probably shouldn’t do that.
- Rounding things out, Rickard Rakell scored two goals and an assist as the Ducks beat the Avs in OT. After a rough start to the season, Rakell is now off to a five-game point streak (3G, 6A). Those nine points represent a significant chunk of his 16 over 25 games this season.
Highlights of the night: Barzal, Terry, Huberdeau show off hands
Islanders star Mathew Barzal scored what could be the goal of the year. Just incredible stuff from an incredible talent.
Impressively, other NHL players scored goals that gave Barzal competition on Saturday. With two goals, Troy Terry almost enjoyed as strong a night as Ducks teammate Rakell, and he showed nifty hands against a goalie about as helpless as the one Barzal bamboozled.
Completing that trifecta of soft hands in close, check out Jonathan Huberdeau.
Sheesh, what hands on Jonathan Huberdeau (@JonnyHuby11). pic.twitter.com/SU9WuHyS8E
— NHL (@NHL) March 6, 2021
Saturday’s NHL scores
Rangers 6, Devils 3
Islanders 5, Sabres 2
Penguins 4, Flyers 3
Panthers 6, Predators 2
Coyotes 5, Wild 2
Canadiens 7, Jets 1
Canucks 4, Maple Leafs 2
Stars 5, Blue Jackets 0
Ducks 5, Avalanche 4 (OT)
Kings 4, Blues 3 (OT)
Oilers 3, Flames 2
Golden Knights 4, Sharks 0
PWHPA Dream Gap Tour: Minnesota beats New Hampshire
Team Minnesota beat Team New Hampshire 4-1 on Saturday as part of the PWHPA’s Dream Gap Tour’s stop in Chicago.
As you can see from the highlights embedded above this post’s headline, Minnesota enjoyed strong work from the likes of Abby Roque and Kendall Coyne Schofield. Nicole Hensley nearly generated a shutout (33 out of 34 saves), but Brianna Decker scored a late spoiler goal.
Check out some other stats, via Sportslogiq:
Who says numbers can't be fun?! @Sportlogiq | @NHLBlackhawks | #SDGT pic.twitter.com/TzFuw3VseV
— PWHPA (@PWHPA) March 6, 2021
The PWHPA has partnered with the Blackhawks and Bauer Hockey to host a pair of 2021 Secret® Dream Gap Tour games in Chicago on March 6-7, with Saturday’s matchup at United Center live on NBCSN, followed by a game at Fifth Third Arena in Chicago.
Comprised of approximately 125 of the world’s best hockey players, the PWHPA was formed to advocate for and advance equity, fairness and opportunity in women’s professional hockey. Specifically, the group’s goal is to create a sustainable league that pays a living wage to players, provides appropriate elite-level resources (i.e. ice time, facilities, trainers, etc.) and invests in marketing that showcases the players and game. Supporting the series in Chicago, AT&T will serve as the local presenting sponsor.
NBC Sports is proud to celebrate Women’s History Month.
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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.