NHL Three Stars: LEAFS WIN! LEAFS WIN! LEAFS WIN!

TORONTO, ON – APRIL 8 – Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs (left) celebrates his empty net goal with Brian Boyle during the 3rd period of NHL action as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Air Canada Centre 5-3 on April 8, 2017. (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

No. 1 Star: Curtis McElhinney, Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs backup netminder was pretty sure he wasn’t going to play in this super important game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Toronto needed two points to secure a playoff spot and the No. 1 is indisputably Frederik Andersen. That is until Freddy was bonked in the noggin by Tom Sestito’s butt and left the game. McElhinney came on in relief. He held on to give the Leafs a 5-3 win and clinch that playoff spot.

 

No. 2 Star: Kasperi Kapanen, Toronto Maple Leafs

With five and a half minutes to go and the Leafs down a goal, Kapanen scored his first ever NHL goal in the most epic way. It tied the game at 3-3 and was the first of three straight scored by Toronto in the win.

 

No. 3 Star: Jaroslav Halak, New York Islanders

By defeating the New Jersey Devils 4-2, the Isles staved off playoff elimination albeit for a very short time. Halak made 37 saves in the victory; however, the Isles would be eliminated after Toronto’s win.

Honorable Mention: Auston Matthews iced the game for Toronto hitting an open net for his 40th goal of the year. Jake Guentzel’s two points against the Leafs give him a total of 33 points in 40 games this year. Sidney Crosby picked up his 44th goal … The St. Louis Blues clinched third place in the Central by beating the Carolina Hurricanes in a shootout … Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Mark Stone earned two points each in the Ottawa Senators 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers. The win cemented second place in the Atlantic for the Sens … The Dallas Stars’ season from hell came to an end by beating the Colorado Avalanche in a shootout … Justin Williams had a goal and an assist in the Washington Capitals 3-1 defeat of the Boston Bruins. Williams would have had a three points if he wasn’t caught spinning around Anton Khudobin in his crease:

 

… The Edmonton Oilers clinched at least second in the Pacific Division and can possibly win it after beating the Vancouver Canucks, 3-2 … Dustin Brown scored with 55 seconds to go to tie the game with the Chicago Blackhawks. A mere 27 seconds into overtime, Drew Doughty netted the OT winner to give the Kings their last home victory of the season. Jonathan Toews snapped an eight game goal-less drought … Anders Lee scored two of the four goals for New York while Nick Leddy assisted on both of his goals. Beau Bennett scored both goals for New Jersey … Charlie Lindgren (who??) was in net for the Montreal Canadiens against the Detroit Red Wings. Lindgren earned his second win the NHL with 25 saves. Alex Galchenyuk scored the OT winner …

… With the San Jose Sharks beating the Calgary Flames 3-1, the Sharks are guarnateed the third spot in the Pacific Division. Curtis Lazar netted his first goal as a member of the Calgary Flames. Picking up an assist in the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 victory over the Nashville Predators, Mark Scheifele finished the season with 82 points (32-50=82) in 79 games … James Reimer shutout the Buffalo Sabres with 30 saves. Jonathan Huberdeau scored two goals in the Florida Panthers 3-0 victory … The Minnesota Wild set a franchise record in wins and points in a season as they beat the Arizona Coyotes, 3-1. Martin Hanzal reached the 20th goal mark for the first time in his career and it came against his former team.

Did You Know?

Dishonorable Mention: Andersen skated off slowly after taking the hit from Sestito. Mike Babcock offered no definitive update on Andersen in the post-game and said hopefully the goaltender will start on Sunday against the Columbus Blue Jackets … After losing to the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2, the Blue Jackets are on a six game losing streak … Anton Khudobin played two periods before leaving with an illness and was replaced by Tuukka Rask. Brandon Carlo exited the game after playing only four minutes due to a massive hit by Alex Ovechkin that smashed Carlo’s face into the boards:

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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter!

NHL Three Stars: Senators clinch; Lucic's natural hatty; Isles stay alive

ANAHEIM, CA – APRIL 06: Anaheim Ducks Defenceman Brandon Montour (71) and Chicago Blackhawks Left Wing John Hayden (40) fall to the ice as they fight during an NHL game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Anaheim Ducks on April 06, 2017, at Honda Center in Anaheim, CA. The Ducks defeated the Blackhawks 4-0. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

No. 1 Star: Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning

In a ‘must-win’ game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Lightning d-man played 28:32 (over five minutes more than the next defenseman) and assisted on three of the Lightning’s four goals; including Nikita Kucherov’s 39th tally of the season below. With the 4-1 win, Tampa stays alive in the playoff chase, and keep the Leafs from clinching.

No. 2 Star: Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators

The Sens needed to pick up a single point against the Boston Bruins to clinch a spot in the playoffs. Ottawa took a 1-1 tie to overtime and punched their ticket. Anderson made 38 saves and stopped all three shooters in the shootout for good measure.

No. 3 Star: Jaroslav Halak, New York Islanders

The Isles continue to hold on to their playoff chances for dear life. Halak shutout the Carolina Hurricanes with a 29 save performance.

Honorable Mention: Brayden Point scored two goals for Tampa.  Nazem Kadri had the lone goal for the Leafs … Nick Bonino led the Pittsburgh Penguins with 3 points against the New Jersey Devils. The Pens and Devils combined for six goals in the third period as New Jersey attempted to keep pace with Pittsburgh. Eventually the Penguins won, 7-4, and clinched second place in the Metro. Here’s Sidney Crosby doing Sidney Crosby things for one of his two assists in the game:

… Big night for Bryan Little against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Winnipeg Jets forward picked up 4 points in the Jets 5-4 victory over the Jackets. Matthieu Perreault had 3 points. Goaltender Eric Comrie made his debut for the Jets making 35 saves … Vladimir Tarasenko scored his 38th goal of the season as the St. Louis Blues easily beat the Florida Panthers, 6-3 … Viktor Arvidsson led the Nashville Predators in scoring with 2 goals and 2 assists, giving him 31 goals on the year. The Preds got out to a 5-0 lead on the Dallas Stars by 1:06 of the second period. Dallas scored three straight before the Predators answered back and finished the game, 7-3 … The Edmonton Oilers are keeping pace with the Anaheim Ducks for first place in the Pacific Division after beating the San Jose Sharks, 4-2. San Jose had a 2-1 lead going into the third period. Then Milan Lucic scored a natural hat trick to give the Oilers the 4-2 win.

Brent Burns scored his 29th goal and Connor McDavid picked up his 30th. Oscar Klefbom recorded 4 assists … Tyson Jost scored his first NHL and his grandpa cried tears of joy. Jason Zucker scored 10 seconds into the first period. Charlie Coyle, Nate Prosser and Nino Niederreiter had 2 points each as the Minnesota Wild beat the Colorado Avalanche, 4-3 … Henrik Sedin assisted on all 3 Vancouver Canucks goal in the 4-3 loss to the Arizona Coyotes … Jon Gilles of the Calgary Flames made his professional debut against the Los Angeles Kings. Gilles made 28 saves and was spotted 4 goals by the Flames offense to defeat the Kings, 4-1 … John Gibson earned his sixth shutout of the season as the Anaheim Ducks defeated the almost completely star-less Chicago Blackhawks, 4-0.

Did You Know? Cam Talbot set an Oilers franchise record by earning his 41st win of the regular season.

Dishonorable Mention: A game after Jake Dotchin took a stick to the balls from Brad Marchand, Dotchin took out his aggression on Auston Matthews. The knee-on-knee collision had the greater Toronto area holding their breath, but he’d be fine.

… Torey Krug left the game in the first period after 2:32 TOI with a lower body injury. Adam McQuaid leveled Viktor Stalberg as the Sens’ forward was falling. Stalberg’s head contacted the boards violently. He went to the locker room immediately, but would return to finish the game.

… Not the best night for Corey Schneider in net. He allowed 7 goals on 28 shots … The Stars pulled netminder Kari Lehtonen after allowing 5 goals on 26 shots. Antti Niemi replaced him and let in 2 goals on 8 shots … Nick Ritchie was given a match penalty for coming in late on a scuffle between Corey Perry and Michal Rozsival. Ritchie dropped Rozsival with one punch.

Speaking of Corey Perry, he also laid a nasty slash on Ryan Hartman earlier in the game:

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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter!

NHL Three Stars: Bruins clinch playoff spot, damage Lightning's hopes

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 4: Tuukka Rask #40, David Pastrnak #88 and John-Michael Liles #26 of the Boston Bruins celebrate a shut out win and a clinched play off spot against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the TD Garden on April 4, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Tuukka Rask #40, David Pastrnak #88 and John-Michael Liles #26 of the Boston Bruins celebrate a shut out win and a clinched play off spot against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the TD Garden on April 4, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. ( Getty Images)

No. 1 Star: Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

Rask continued his stellar play with a 28 saves in the Bruins’ 4-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. The win for Boston clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2013-14. In his last four starts, Rask has allowed three goals and Boston is 4-0-0 in those games. The Bruins have won six games in a row and are now in third place in the Atlantic Division.

No. 2 Star: Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild

Parise scored a goal and notched two assists in a 5-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. With the victory, the Wild clinched second-place in the Central Division. Minnesota has now won three of its last four games and scored five goals in each of those victories.

No. 3 Star: Nick Shore, Los Angeles Kings

Shore scored one goal and added three assists in a 6-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers. The four points for Shore were a career high and tied the most points in a game and assists in a game by a King this season. Los Angeles hasn’t lost to Edmonton at Staples Center since Nov. 3, 2011.

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Honorable Mention: Dallas Stars defenseman Julius Honka scored the overtime winner in his team’s 3-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. … Stars forwards Brett Ritchie and Jason Dickinson also each scored a goal. … Coyotes forward Christian Dvorak scored his 15th goal of the season and teammate Anthony Duclair scored his fifth goal of the year. … Coyotes forward Max Domi picked up an assist. … Minnesota forward Nino Niederreiter scored two goals and added an assist. … Wild forward Eric Staal notched two assists. … Minnesota forwards Charlie Coyle and Jordan Schroeder each scored a goal. … Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner scored two goals and added an assist. Skinner now has 35 goals on the year, which represents a career-high. … Carolina forward Lee Stempniak scored a goal and added an assist. … Hurricanes forward Bryan Bickell played his first NHL game since the fall when it was announced that he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He played 12:35 and registered three hits. … New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey scored the overtime winner in a 2-1 victory over Nashville Predators. … New York forward Brock Nelson scored his 18th goal of the season. … Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak stopped 22 of 23 shots on goal. … Predators forward Mike Fisher scored his 18th goal of the season. … Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine scored two goals in a 5-2 win over the St. Louis Blues. … Jets forwards Nikolaj Ehlers and Mark Scheifele each scored a goal and added an assist. … Winnipeg forwards Bryan Little, Mathieu Perreault and Blake Wheeler each notched two assists. … Blues forward Jori Lehtera and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo each scored a goal. … Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson scored a gorgeous goal in a 2-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings. … Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson stopped all 24 Red Wings shots on goal. … Senators forwards Mike Hoffman and Kyle Turris each notched one assist. … Washington Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer stopped 27 of 28 shots on goal in a 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. … Washington defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk scored his 12th goal on the season. … Capitals forward Brett Connolly notched two assists. … Washington forwards Justin Williams, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin each notched one assist. … Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner scored his team’s only goal. … Penguins forward Jake Guentzel scored a goal and added an assist in a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. … Pittsburgh forward Sidney Crosby notched two assists. … Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin broke a 150-game goal drought. … New Jersey Devils defenseman John Moore scored the overtime winner in a 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. … Devils goaltender Keith Kincaid stopped all 35 Flyers shots on goal. … Philly goaltender Steve Mason stopped 26 of 27 Devils shots on goal. … Boston forward David Pastrnak scored two goals. … Bruins captain Zdeno Chara scored his ninth goal of the season. … Boston forward David Krejci notched two assists. … San Jose Sharks forward Joonas Donskoi notched two assists in a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks. … The Sharks scored two goals in the first 30 seconds of the first period. Kevin Labanc scored the first and Joel Ward got the second. … San Jose goaltender Martin Jones stopped 33 of 34 shots on goal. … Kings forward Jonny Brodzinski notched two assists. … Los Angeles forward Dustin Brown scored a goal and added an assist. … Kings forward Tanner Pearson scored his 24th goal of the season. … Oilers forward Milan Lucic scored his 20th goal of the season. … Edmonton forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored two goals. … Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson stopped 26 of 27 shots on goal in a 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames. … Ducks forward Patrick Eaves picked up his 31st goal of the season and 10th in 18 games with Anaheim. … Ducks forward Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf each picked up one assist. … Flames forward Mikael Backlund scored his team’s only goal. … The Ducks pushed their home winning streak against the Flames to 25 consecutive games. … Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson scored the overtime winner in a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. … Colorado forward Matt Duchene scored a goal and added two assists. … Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog scored his 17th goal of the season. … Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin scored his 30th goal of the season and teammate Ryan Hartman picked up his 18th on the year. … Chicago forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane each notched one assist.

Did you know? Jones became the third Sharks goalie to defeat the Canucks four times in a season. The other two were Steve Shields in 1998-99 and Evgeni Nabokov in 2007-08.

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Dishonorable Mention: Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk was a minus-3. … St. Louis goaltender Jake Allen allowed five goals on 20 shots on goal. … Columbus forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Nick Foligno were each a minus-3. … Oilers forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl along with defensemen Darnell Nurse and Matt Benning were each a minus-3. … The Lightning need to win out to have a chance to make the playoffs.

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Bryan Bickell plays first NHL game since multiple sclerosis diagnosis

ST. PAUL, MN - APRIL 04: Carolina Hurricanes left wing Bryan Bickell (29) looks on in the 1st period during the game between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Minnesota Wild on April 4, 2017 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Carolina Hurricanes left wing Bryan Bickell (29) looks on in the 1st period during the game between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Minnesota Wild on April 4, 2017 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Getty Images)

Carolina Hurricanes forward Bryan Bickell said he felt “OK” physically Tuesday in his first NHL game since last fall before it was announced he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Bickell also said he was fine from a mental perspective and was mostly engaged in the game, a 5-3 loss at the Minnesota Wild. Overall, Bickell played 12:35 and registered three hits.

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“It was a little rough start, but emotionally it was good to get back out there,” he said. “You just think about all the thoughts and things you’ve gone through to get to this moment and the people that reached out and helped and the support. It means a lot for all those people to get me to where I am now and I’m happy to be back here and we’ll just take it game-by-game and move onto the next one. “

The 31-year-old Bickell, who was acquired by Carolina last summer from the Chicago Blackhawks, had played 10 games with the Charlotte Checkers from Feb. 25 through April 2 before being recalled by the Hurricanes on Monday.

“The last couple of days it has been a lot of travel but we have a day to rest and get ready for a home game,” Bickell said. “It’ll be nice to see the family. I haven’t seen them in a while. It’ll be nice to sit back, relax with them and regroup and hopefully we get a start better than we did today.”

Bickell had one goal in seven games this season with the Hurricanes in October before opting to take some time off following the announcement of his diagnosis.

He had dealt with health issues and a decreased playing role since the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs when he missed time with what he believed was vertigo. Bickell previously said since that point he had been “struggling to understand what was going on with my body.”

Last season he had two assists in 25 games with the Blackhawks and also spent 47 games in the AHL with Rockford where he had 15 goals and 31 points. Bickell is in the final season of a four-year, $16 million contract signed after he helped the Blackhawks to the 2013 Stanley Cup with 17 points in 23 playoff games.

“With the circumstances and the rough road that me and my family went through, to get this opportunity with some games left is definitely a blessing,” Bickell said the morning before Tuesday’s contest. “I didn’t know when this day would come, but I’m happy to be here.”

Bickell isn’t the first player to resume an NHL career after being diagnosed with MS. Former Minnesota goaltender Josh Harding played 34 games with the team and four with the Wild’s AHL affiliate after his diagnosis was announced. Bickell said he had spoken with Harding for support.

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“To get some words of wisdom from a guy who’s been through it definitely helped,” Bickell said. “A lot of people reached out through these months knowing this day was going to come, so I’m happy to be here.”

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NHL Three Stars: Predators clinch; Kings, Flyers eliminated

NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 02: Tanner Glass #15 of the New York Rangers hits the glass during the second period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden on April 2, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

No. 1 Star: Anton Khudobin, Boston Bruins

The No. 2 netminder in Boston filled in just fine for Tuukka Rask against the always dangerous Chicago Blackhawks. Khudobin made 41 saves in Bruins 3-2 win. Boston is currently second in the Atlantic Division with a one point lead over the idle Toronto Maple Leafs who have two games in hand.

No. 2 Star: Anders Lee, New York Islanders

With John Tavares out of the lineup for – at the very least – the end of the regular season, the Isles are looking to everyone else to pick up the slack. Enter Anders Lee. In a critical game against the Buffalo Sabres, Lee netted two goals (31 on the season) as the Islanders beat Buffalo, 3-2. Both of Lee’s goals were unassisted. The win helps, but the Isles’ playoff hopes remain on life support.

No. 3 Star: Jake Allen, St. Louis Blues

Allen continues to build on his career-highs in wins earning his 31st of the year on a 35 save effort against the Nashville Predators. The netminder appears to be finding his confidence at just the right time.

Honorable Mention: Artemi Panarin scored his 29th goal of the year by causing some possible head trauma to teammate Richard Panik … The Capitals scored three straight goals before Columbus put two on the board in the 3-2 Washington win. The Caps inch ever closer to the President’s Trophy. The Blue Jackets and Caps was one of the most physical games all season. It would be a really fun playoff match up … Tomas Hertl scored two goals 1:51 second as the San Jose Sharks went on to beat the Vancouver Canucks, 3-1.

 

… The Blues handed the Nashville Predators a 4-1 defeat, leaving the Preds to hope the Los Angeles Kings would lose to Arizona in order to clinch a playoff spot. Spoiler alert: they did. Vladimir Tarasenko netted his 37 goal of the year … Patrick Eaves scored his 30th goal of the year in the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 win against the Calgary Flames. Ryan Kesler picked up three points in the win. Logan Shaw was the hero for Anaheim with a goal to give the Ducks the lead in the final 3:06 of the third period … Joshua Ho-Sang scored the other goal for the Islanders in the win. Even Robin Lehner marveled at the kid’s skill:

 

… Matt Murray made 33 saves as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-2. Elias Lindholm assisted on both Carolina goals … Mikko Koivu and Erik Haula picked up two points each as the Minnesota Wild defeated the Colorado Avalanche, 5-2 … Ondrej Palat scored a goal and two assists in the 6-3 victory over the Dallas Stars. Essa Lindell provided the assists on all three Dallas goals. Tammpa rookie Adam Erne netted two goals in the game, the first of which was gorgeous:

… The Arizona Coyotes wanted to be spoilers against the Los Angeles Kings and they accomplished their goal. Anthony Duclair scored his first goal since Dec. 29 as the ‘Yotes went on to beat LA, 2-1. The Kings are officially eliminated from the playoffs. But hey! At least Jonathan Quick had a really sweet save? … The New York Rangers secured the first wild card position in the East by beating the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-3.

Did You Know?

Dishonorable Mention: Joe Thornton left the game with what appears to be a possibly significant leg injury … The Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals erupted in a mini-melee after Alex Ovechkin slammed Zach Werenski into the boards. Werenski left the game and did not return … Viktor Arvidsson was taken out by the invisible snipers and David Perron was blamed for it … Philly nearly came all the way back from a 4-1 deficit, but couldn’t score on the power play the Rangers gifted them in the final minutes. With the loss, the Flyers were eliminated from post-season contention … Alec Martinez scored a power play goal on Mike Smith in the most Mike Smith way possible:

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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter!