NHL Three Stars

The Buzzer: Laine rubs elbows with Gretzky on five-goal night

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Patrik Laine, number one with a bullet

When you have a night a special as the one Laine experienced, you get your own section.

On a night of hat tricks, Laine refused to settle for a mere three goals, nearly managing a double-hatty. Ultimately, he finished with a ridiculous five goals on five shots. If anyone can do that, it’s Laine.

This isn’t just a one-night outburst for Laine, either. By the three-goal mark, he had reached at least a hat trick for the seventh time in his young career … and the third during the month of November.

In case you’re wondering, yes, it’s been a very long time since someone managed a hat trick of hat tricks during a single month.

Laine, 20, won’t turn 21 until April 19. That’s relevant to note because, while he’s unlikely to match this Wayne Gretzky mark, it’s also true that it was already unlikely that he’d generate three hat tricks in a single month.

Laine lands in Gretzky-rarified-air more than once. Sportsnet’s stats staff also notes that he’s the first 20-year-old to collect five goals since Gretzky managed that mark twice. Again, it would be asking a lot for the winger to match that mark by number 99, yet he also has the rest of the season to do so (Winnipeg’s last regular-season game comes on April 6, almost two weeks before his 21st birthday).

PHT’s Scott Billeck did a great job of recapping Laine’s red-hot ways:

Thanks to this ridiculous night, Laine now has 19 goals in 2018-19, giving him the NHL lead. Interestingly, Saturday left him at 99 career regular-season goals. It should be fascinating to see Laine try to climb this list, too.

Interesting to see Jimmy Carson right behind Gretzky, the name he’ll be linked with forever thanks to that famous trade, eh?

The other three stars

1. Kyle Connor and Bryan Little

Let’s give Laine’s partners-in-crime a little love, too.

Both Connor and Little collected four assists during Laine’s five-goal night. If you have to choose one of the two, Connor would probably get quite a bit more credit for driving play, as he finished the night with four shots on goal to go with his four assists (Little had one SOG).

Many joked about how Laine’s going to get paid on his next contract. The way things going, Connor might not be too cheap, either.

2. Andreas Johnsson

Heading into Saturday, this 24-year-old Leafs forward had two goals over his entire, young NHL career. Johnsson generated a hat trick in a single period on Saturday, and actually hit that mark with about seven minutes remaining in the opening frame.

Would Johnsson have generated even more offense if the Flyers ever got on the board in this one? Maybe, but he still enjoyed one of the night’s great performances.

(Garret Sparks‘ 34-save shutout likely kept Toronto from going too over the top.)

Read more about Toronto making life miserable for Philly’s goalies here.

3. Jake Guentzel

Guentzel didn’t need three periods to collect his hat trick. He took advantage of some splendid Sidney Crosby passing to gain three goals without about four minutes left in the second period.

This marks the first regular-season hat trick for Guentzel, who now has 18 points in 22 games during the 2018-19 campaign.

Fun fact unless you’re the one managing Pittsburgh’s salary cap: like Connor and Laine, Guentzel is headed toward RFA status. A big season would go really well with all of those playoff heroics, huh?

Highlights of the Night

Quite the no-look pass by Crosby

Matt Luff had the right stuff to make Jacob Markstrom take his bluff:

Non-Laine, non-Sabres-topping-the-league factoids

Laine isn’t the only youngster playing beyond his years.

Gotta love how specific this stat is:

Scores

WSH 5 – NYR 3
TOR 6 – PHI 0
BOS 3 – MTL 2
BUF 3 – DET 2 (SO)
CHI 5 – FLA 4 (OT)
NYI 4 – CAR 1
PIT 4 – CBJ 2
WPG 8 – STL 4
COL 3 – DAL 2
VGK 6 – SJS 0
VAN 4 – LAK 2

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Ryan Miller is the NHL’s First Star of the Week

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After winning all three of his starts and posting a 155 minute shutout streak while doing it, Buffalo Sabres netminder Ryan Miller has been named the NHL’s first star of the week.

Miller was huge for the Sabres as they vaulted themselves back into playoff contention with a tremendous Western road swing. He posted back-to-back shutouts against Anaheim (43 saves) and San Jose (39 saves) before stopping 32 of 35 shots in a 5-3 win over Vancouver. Buffalo is now just two points back of eighth-place Winnipeg in the Eastern Conference and have a chance to draw even with the Jets tonight, when the two meet at the MTS Center (8pm ET, NBCSN.)

Second star went to Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall. With fellow blueliners Nicklas Lidstrom and Jonathan Ericsson out of the lineup, Kronwall stepped up to record 2G-5A-7PTS in three games against Columbus, Minnesota and Chicago. Kronwall scored the game-tying goal and set up Henrik Zetterberg’s winner against the Jackets, set up three of the first four goals in a 6-0 smashing of the Wild then scored the only goal in Detroit’s 2-1 loss to the ‘Hawks.

Third star went to Chicago netminder Ray Emery. He further staked his claim to the No. 1 gig by relieving nominal starter Corey Crawford in a 5-4 win over Toronto (stopping 23 of 24 shots), then posting back-to-back wins over Ottawa (25 of 26) and Detroit (23 of 24). As a result, the ‘Hawks now have 79 points and are clear of the intriguing battle for seventh and eighth in the Western Conference, a fight featuring Dallas (75 points), San Jose (73), Los Angeles (72), Colorado (72) and Calgary (70).

Carey Price is the NHL’s First Star of the Week

After posting a posting a 2-0-1 record, 0.65 goals-against average, .973 save percentage and two shutouts, Montreal Canadiens netminder Carey Price was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week. The highlight of Price’s week was posting wins (and consecutive goose eggs) over the ‘Canes and Rangers to move into 12th place on the Canadiens’ all-time list for goalie wins, passing the legendary Georges Vezina. Price should also pass Rogie Vachon, Charlie Hodge and Gerry McNeil this season and has an outside shot of eclipsing Jose Theodore for seventh place (141 wins; Price currently has 106.)

Second star went to San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. He tied for the league scoring lead with seven points (1G, 6A) and posted a plus-7 rating as the Sharks won three straight and moved atop the Pacific Division. Vlasic now has 2G-9A-11PTS, tied for 23rd among all NHL defensemen, and is probably waiting to hear from the Vlasic Pickle people about potential endorsement opportunities. Seriously, how has this not happened yet?

Third star of the week went to Philadelphia Flyers rookie Matt Read. Read’s a pretty interesting story — after going undrafted out of Des Moines of the USHL (where he was teammates with Montreal’s Aaron Palushaj and Edmonton’s Jeff Petry), Read spent four years at Bemidji State before Philadelphia offered him a free agent deal in March.

Read scored four goals last week, including the game-winner with 18.6 seconds left against Phoenix. Even though he turned 25 this year, Read is still eligible for the Calder Trophy and has to be considered a serious candidate — he’s fourth in rookie scoring but leads all first-year players in goals scored, with eight.

(NB: Crazy to think, but Philly could’ve had three Calder candidates this year — Read, Sean Couturier and had he not broken his foot, Brayden Schenn.)

Tyler Seguin is the NHL’s First Star of the Week

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After registering six points and two game-winning goals in three games, Boston Bruins center Tyler Seguin has been named the NHL’s First Star of the Week. Last week, the 19-year-old sophomore sensation scored four goals and added two assists and now leads all Bruins in scoring (20PTS) — making him and Carolina’s Jeff Skinner the only teenagers currently leading their teams in scoring.

Seguin also leads the NHL in plus-minus (+14), is tied for second in game-winning goals and was left off the NHL All-Star ballot in favor of RJ Umberger.

The second star of the week went to Detroit’s Jimmy Howard. Jimmy posted a 3-0-0 record, 1.33 GAA and .948 save percentage with stellar efforts against the Avalanche, Oilers and Stars. Jimmy stopped 73 of 77 shots faced and notched his eighth career shutout against Edmonton. Jimmy now ranks in the top six in wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts.

Jimmy is also not on the NHL All-Star ballot, but Jaroslav Halak is. Jimmy remains perplexed by this.

Third star went to Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews. Captain Serious matched Seguin’s point total (4G-2A-6PTS) but did it over a four game span, registering both his first multi-goal and three point outing of the season in a 6-3 win over the Columbus Terribles Blue Jackets. Toews now leads all Blackhawks in goals (nine) and is the top faceoff man in the NHL (61 percent).

Toews is on the All-Star ballot; you can team him up with deserving wingers like Alex Semin (three goals in 15 games, minus-1) or Andrew Ladd (six points in 17 games, minus-2).

Josh Harding is the NHL’s First Star of the Week

After winning all three of his starts and allowing just one goal in each, Minnesota Wild G Josh Harding has been named the NHL’s First Star of the Week. Harding stopped 35 of 36 shots in a 2-1 OT win over Detroit, 24 of 25 in a 5-1 win over Vancouver and 30 of 31 in a 3-1 over St. Louis.

Not a bad week, that.

By winning first star, Harding also further fired up the goaltending controversy started by head coach Mike Yeo, who has gone with Harding in each of Minnesota’s last four contests. While Mike Russo of the Minnesota Star-Tribune says Niklas Backstrom “will almost certainly start” in Calgary on Tuesday, you have to wonder if that’s simply to rest the Wild’s new No. 1. Backstrom’s 33 and hasn’t achieved anywhere near the success (statistically speaking, anyway) he did in 2008-09, when he was nominated for the Vezina.

Second star of the week went to Dallas’ Loui Eriksson. The 26-year-old Swede registered 2G-4A-6PTS in two games — tallying three points each against the Avs and ‘Canes — and now leads all Stars in scoring with 15 points on the year.

[Random Loui Eriksson factoid: In 2003-04, he played with Vastra Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League as an 18-year-old. His teammates included 19-year old Alex Steen (now with St. Louis) and the Lundqvist twins, 21-year-olds Joel (formerly of the Stars) and Henrik (currently with the New York Rangers.) Not surprisingly, Frolunda was one of the best teams in Sweden that year.]

Third star of the week went to Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom, not to be confused with the Minnesota goaltender we just finished throwing under the bus. Backstrom also scored six points last week (3G-3A) but did it in three games. Backstrom now has 13 assists in 12 games and shares the league lead with Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin and Tampa Bay’s Marc-Andre Bergeron.

(Cue the music for “One of these things is not like the other…”)