Evgeni Malkin

Anthony Cirelli #71 of the Tampa Bay Lightning
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The Buzzer: Cirelli, Lightning cruise past Jets; Crosby tallies OT winner

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Three Stars

1) Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay Lightning

Cirelli recorded his first NHL hat trick as the Lightning steamrolled the Winnipeg Jets Friday evening. The 22-year-old scored twice in the opening period as the Bolts jumped out to a 3-0 lead and never looked back. Cirelli hammered a feed from Ondrej Palat 9:27 into the game and then converted a nifty forehand-backhand maneuver to close out the first 20 minutes. Cirelli would complete the hat trick midway through the third period.

2) Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Malkin recorded two power-play assists to set up Pittsburgh’s two goals in its 2-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings. Sidney Crosby has received a lot of attention since returning from a 28-game absence earlier this week and added the game-winning goal Friday. However, it was Malkin who looked off the defender and delivered a perfect pass to set up the Penguins captain. Malkin has recorded 10 points in the previous six games.

3) Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

The 26-year-old winger scored twice in Tampa Bay’s 7-1 win. Cirelli and Kucherov alternated goals as Tampa Bay jumped out to a 4-0 lead, including three in the opening period. Kucherov buried two tap-in opportunities to record goals 21 and 22 on the season. The Russian winger has five goals in his previous three games and the Lightning improved to 12-2-0 in the previous 14 games.

Highlights of the Night

Crosby extended his goal-scoring streak to three games when he buried a pretty feed from Malkin to propel the Penguins in overtime.

Sam Steel fired the OT winner after Andrei Svechnikov‘s costly turnover.

Stats of the Night

Scores

Pittsburgh Penguins 2, Detroit Red Wings 1 (OT)

Anaheim Ducks 2, Carolina Hurricanes 1 (OT)

Tampa Bay Lightning 7, Winnipeg Jets 1

NHL ALL-STAR GAME COVERAGE:
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• Alex Ovechkin will not play in 2020 All-Star Game
• NHL Skills Competition to feature women’s 3-on-3, pucks shot from stands

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Crosby dominates Wild in return to Penguins lineup

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PITTSBURGH — After missing 28 games Sidney Crosby was back in the lineup for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night.

He played like he never missed a day.

Crosby recorded four points in the Penguins’ 7-3 win and was at times a one-man highlight reel.

He returned to the scoresheet almost immediately when he recorded an assist on Evgeni Malkin‘s power play just 7:57 into the first period and never really slowed down after that. His best stretch came midway through the third period when he scored his sixth goal of the season to give the Penguins a 5-2 lead. It came off a great feed from Jared McCann (who had just drawn a penalty for being tripped) and bounced in off the stick of Wild defenseman Mathew Dumba. Just 39 seconds later he did this to set up Dominik Simon for a goal.

With Crosby’s regular winger — Jake Guentzel — sidelined, he spent most of his night playing alongside McCann and Simon, and all three of them had huge games.

Simon and McCann each had a goal and an assist in the win and helped team up for a highlight reel goal of their own.

The Penguins’ other superstar center, Evgeni Malkin, also had a huge game with two goals and an assist.

Without Crosby the Penguins went 18-6-4 and had the league’s best record with him out of the lineup. They looked downright dominant with him back in the lineup on Tuesday.

Related: Boudreau’s lineup card mistake forces Wild to play with only five defensemen

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Sidney Crosby is back for already-hot Penguins vs. Wild

Crosby back for Penguins
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When Sidney Crosby went under the knife in November, it seemed like injuries would finally overwhelm the Pittsburgh Penguins. Instead, the Penguins persevered, combining improved defense with a keyed-in Evgeni Malkin. Now the hockey world must wonder if Pittsburgh’s capable of even more, because the Penguins announced Crosby is back.

If you’re curious about how Crosby will look during his first game since Nov. 9, you’re in luck. NBCSN is carrying the Penguins’ game against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.

Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

[Wild’s Dumba raises awareness for wildlife relief in Australia.]

The Penguins celebrated Crosby being back with a little video:

 

Crosby generated 17 points in as many games before undergoing surgery. The Penguins were 10-6-1 for 21 points in 17 games at the time. Instead of merely surviving, they thrived without Crosby.

Penguins took off since, imagine what they can do with Crosby back?

Since Nov. 10, the Penguins went 18-6-4 for 40 points in 28 games. That ties the Penguins for second-most points during that stretch, and Pittsburgh’s .714 points percentage tops the entire NHL.

Evgeni Malkin erupted in Crosby’s absence. The ravishing Russian generated 38 points in 26 games, placing him eighth in league scoring during that frame. Malkin also provided strong all-around play.

Stretches like these fuel “What if?” conversations about Geno. Would his star shine even brighter if he didn’t defer to Crosby?

That doesn’t matter all that much to the Penguins, though. The more interesting questions revolve around how well all the pieces will fit with 87 back. Naturally, it could take Crosby some time to shake off rust, although players like him don’t always need the reps mere mortals count on.

The Penguins thriving without Crosby is the exclamation point on the end of the sentence about them being remarkably resilient. But it must be stated again: this team just keeps chugging along. Crosby is far from the only key player they’ve had to cope without.

Imagine what the Penguins can do closer to full strength? Well, if you tune in to NBCSN on Tuesday night, you’ll get a glimpse of such a reality.

Tuesday night’s studio coverage will be hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Keith Jones and Anson Carter. John Forslund and AJ Mleczko will call the action from Pittsburgh.

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.

The Buzzer: Devils end Lightning winning streak; Predators shut out Jets

Andy Greene #6 of the New Jersey Devils is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a goal
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Three Stars

1) Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers

The Atlantic Division playoff race will be fascinating down the stretch. The Panthers captain tallied a goal and two assists as Florida skated to an entertaining 8-4 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Barkov’s goal in the opening period was not anything spectacular, but his assist in the second period to set up Frank Vatrano was impressive. Barkov batted a puck out of mid-air as he intercepted a pass then raced up ice to set up Vatrano to extend the Panthers’ lead to 5-0 at the time.

2) Andy Greene, New Jersey Devils

Every individual has their own leadership style or opts to use different methods depending on the situation. Greene implemented a lead-by-example process when he clobbered a one-timer in the Devils’ 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Devils have been a huge disappointment this season and fired their general manager Ray Shero shortly before puck drop. Expect New Jersey to sell off several pieces as the NHL Trade Deadline approaches.

3) Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators

John Hynes collected his second victory behind the bench with the Predators when Saros made 28 saves for his first shutout of the season. Practice time is severely limited in this day and age, but Hynes is starting to implement his defensive philosophy. The Predators have not played up to expectations this season but are within striking distance if Hynes can get the most out of his players.

Highlights of the Night

Huberdeau ties Olli Jokinen for the most points in franchise history with a nifty deke. He would later add an assist to become the Panthers’ all-time points leader.

Barkov displayed his incredible hand-eye coordination on this interception at the blueline and then added an assist at the other end of the ice.

Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian shows off his ability to stickhandle

Stats of the Night

Scores

Nashville Predators 1, Winnipeg Jets 0

Vancouver Canucks 4, Minnesota Wild 1

Buffalos Sabres 5, Detroit Red Wings 1

Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Arizona Coyotes 3 (SO)

Florida Panthers 8, Toronto Maple Leafs 4

New Jersey Devils 3, Tampa Bay Lightning 1

Huberdeau sets Panthers record; Malkin ties Jagr for Penguins mark

Jonathan Huberdeau #11 of the Florida Panthers celebrates
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Jonathan Huberdeau surpassed Olli Jokinen for the most points in Florida Panthers history Sunday with a goal and an assist in Florida’s 8-4 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The 26-year-old from Saint-Jerome, Quebec has recorded 420 points (143 goals, 277 assists) in 512 games as a member of the Panthers.

Florida selected Huberdeau with the third-overall selection of the 2011 NHL draft after the forward played for the Saint John Sea Dogs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Huberdeau set the record with an assist on Mike Hoffman’s power-play goal early in the third period. He also added a goal of his own midway through the second period when he made a nifty move to his backhand to beat Michael Hutchinson.

He currently leads the team with 61 points and is on pace to surpass his career high of 92 points set last season.

Malkin Passes Jagr

The Penguins alternate captain did not wait long to pass Jaromir Jagr’s 640 assists on the franchise’s all-time list. He tied the mark Friday against Colorado and hit 642 assists by recording two Sunday as the Penguins collected their third straight victory on the road in an eight-round shootout win against the Arizona Coyotes.

Malkin officially passed Jagr with the secondary assist on Jared McCann’s opening goal. He would later set up Patric Hornqvist early in the middle frame when the Penguins took a 2-1 lead.