Each Monday, the NHL will recognize three players who delivered the League's top performances over the past week. Due to the mid-week start to the regular season, this week's selections were based on games starting Thursday, Oct. 1.
FIRST STAR — ALEX OVECHKIN, LW, WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Ovechkin took the early lead in the NHL scoring race with consecutive three-point performances and a cumulative +4 rating as the Capitals opened the regular season with victories over the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. The reigning League MVP tallied two goals, including the game-winner, plus one assist, five shots, three hits and a +2 rating in a 4-1 victory at Boston Oct. 1 and notched one goal, two assists, five shots, four hits and a +2 rating in a 6-4 victory against Toronto in the Caps' home opener Oct. 3.
SECOND STAR — CRAIG ANDERSON, G, COLORADO AVALANCHE
Anderson stopped 73 of 74 shots in posting a 2-0-0 record with a 1.00 goals-against average, .973 save percentage and one shutout as the Avalanche opened the season with a pair of home victories. Anderson recorded 38 saves in a 5-2 win over the San Jose Sharks Oct. 1 and stopped 35 shots for his eighth career shutout in a 3-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks Oct. 3. Anderson signed with Colorado as a free agent July 1 after three seasons with the Florida Panthers. He finished third among NHL goaltenders last season with a .924 save percentage and posted a 15-7-5 record in 31 appearances.
THIRD STAR — KEITH TKACHUK, C, ST. LOUIS BLUES
Tkachuk opened the season by notching four points (two goals, two assists) in the Blues' two-game sweep over the Detroit Red Wings in the 2009 Compuware NHL Premiere Stockholm series. After tallying one assist in a 4-3 victory Oct. 2, Tkachuk notched three points (two goals, one assist) and earned First Star honors in a 5-3 win Oct. 3. He led all players in the game with seven hits, recorded five shots and won nine of 16 face-offs. Playing In his 18th NHL season, the Melrose, Mass. native increased his career goals total to 527, second all-time among U.S.-born players and 31st all-time.
Among other notable performances in an exciting opening to the 2009-10 season:
• Joining Ovechkin among high-scoring Capitals in their first two games were forwards Brooks Laich (3-2--5), Alexander Semin (2-3--5) and Nicklas Backstrom (0-5--5).
• Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price opened the season with a pair of overtime victories on the road against intra-divisional opponents. He made 43 saves in a 4-3 victory at Toronto Oct. 1 and stopped 34 shots in a 2-1 win at Buffalo Oct. 3.
• Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ray Emery made a successful return to the NHL by posting a pair of victories with a 1.00 goals-against average and .963 save percentage. Emery, who played last season in Russia, posted a 28-save shutout in a 2-0 win at Carolina Oct. 2 and made 24 saves in a 5-2 victory at New Jersey Oct. 3.
• Avalanche center Wojtek Wolski tallied four points (three goals, one assist) in his club's two victories. He notched a pair of goals Oct. 1 against San Jose, marking the fourth consecutive year he has scored a goal on opening night. Wolski added a goal and an assist Oct. 3 vs. Vancouver.
• Florida Panthers defenseman and Oulu, Finland native Ville Koistinen scored a goal and added the shootout winner in a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks Oct. 1 in the opening game of the Compuware NHL Premiere Helsinki 2009 series -- the first NHL regular-season game ever played in Finland.
• Making his fourth career NHL appearance just 15 miles from his hometown of Vantaa, Finnish goaltender Antti Niemi stopped all 23 shots in the Chicago Blackhawks' 4-0 shutout victory over Florida in the second game of the Compuware NHL Premiere Helsinki 2009 series.