NHL Rink Wrap: Dueling hat tricks; Anderson shocks Lightning

Top player from Monday in the NHL

T.J. Oshie, Capitals/Drake Batherson, Senators

If you like goals (and hat tricks), the Capitals and Senators had you covered. (You know the Caps and Sens were lighting up the scoreboard when a two-goal Alex Ovechkin performance gets overshadowed.)

Essentially, the top NHL player for Monday comes down to emphasis. Do you go with a player on a winning team? If so, stick with T.J. Oshie’s hat trick, earned on three shots. If you’re opening the net wider, then maybe give Drake Batherson the tiebreaker (his hat trick came with an assist).

You may also prefer former Senators goalie Craig Anderson‘s strong night.

Heading into Monday’s NHL action, Drake Batherson had a goal and an assist in five games. T.J. Oshie … also had a goal and an assist in his first five games of the season. Ultimately, the Capitals came out on top in a bad one for goalies, and a fun one for fans.

NHL injury, COVID news

Highlights from Monday in the NHL

Want to revisit T.J. Oshie’s hat trick vs. Drake Batherson’s hat trick-plus? Fair enough.

Compare Oshie’s hat trick:

With Batherson’s point bath:

*Rubs eyes* Could it be true? Could Vladimir Tarasenko be healthy, and thus, awesome again?

Monday’s NHL takeaways

After losing to Hurricanes, Maple Leafs kinda have to beat Blackhawks, right?

Even amid a four-game losing streak (and disappointing 2-4-1 start), it’s not factual to call Wednesday’s Maple Leafs – Blackhawks game a “must-win” for Toronto.

Emotionally, though? Don’t blame both the Maple Leafs and Blackhawks if they treat their game with desperation.

During this four-game losing streak, the Maple Leafs have been outscored 18-6. A seemingly-explosive Toronto offense hasn’t scored more than three goals in a single game yet.

On Monday, Auston Matthews removed himself from the list of NHL players without a goal this season. (Mere minutes after this post went up. The scamp.)

That wasn’t just Matthews’ slump-breaking first goal of the season. It was also the 200th of his career. It would have been a festive occasion. Instead, people are mainly focused on who should be traded or fired.

What happens if the Maple Leafs drop their fifth game in a row to the bumbling Blackhawks? Hot seats could boil.

Craig Anderson turns back the clock

Remember when it seemed like Craig Anderson would rotate one elite season with a mediocre (or even bad) one, then rotate again?

Eventually, that cycle stopped. With that, it also seemed like Craig Anderson’s career might stop, too. Considering all he’s accomplished, Anderson would have nothing to be ashamed of if he retired at age 40.

Sardonic types might feel like playing for the 2021-22 Sabres amounts to a “soft retirement.”

Yet, here Anderson is. Anderson stopped 35 out of 36 shots to frustrate the Lightning to defeat. He’s now won three of four starts for the Sabres, generating at least 30 saves in each victory. Anderson improved his 2021-22 save percentage to .944.

Considering his recent seasons, the magic is likely to wear off. Even if he’s energized, the Sabres could also collapse.

But wouldn’t it be fun if Anderson just … has another run or two in him? A goalie-needy team might just be willing to make a trade to find out.

Tuesday’s big story

Will Avalanche and/or Golden Knights start to look like West powers?

Heading into the 2021-22 season, it sure felt like the most likely Western Conference Final series would be Avalanche vs. Golden Knights. That could still be the case, but both the Avalanche (2-3-0) and Golden Knights (1-4-0) are off to wobbly starts.

Thanks to injuries and/or COVID, both teams haven’t been at full-strength. The Golden Knights, in particular, look quite different from the squad that frustrated the Avs in an entertaining playoff series.

But these teams have also shown an ability to overcome injuries and changes to play sound hockey. Will we see the Avalanche and Golden Knights start to turn things around, against each other?

Even if they don’t — or only one team does — it will probably be entertaining nonetheless.

Monday’s NHL scores

Sabres 5, Lightning 1
Capitals 7, Senators 5
Panthers 5, Coyotes 3
Flames 5, Rangers 1
Hurricanes 4, Maple Leafs 1
Blue Jackets 4, Stars 1
Blues 3, Kings 0

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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