STEPAN'S HAT TRICK POWERS RANGERS TO EIGHTH STRAIGHT WIN
Derek Stepan scored a shorthanded goal, power-play goal and an even strength goal for his third career hat trick to power the New York Rangers to their eighth consecutive victory. Per Elias, Stepan is the first Rangers player to score three such goals in one game since Brendan Shanahan on Dec. 3, 2006 against the New York Islanders.
* Stepan is the second Rangers player in as many games to have a hat trick, following Rick Nash on Tuesday against the Washington Capitals. Per Elias, the last time the Rangers had a hat trick in two consecutive games was Jan. 31 and Feb. 2, 1994 (Mike Gartner vs. PIT; Adam Graves vs. NYI).
* Stepan has four goals and eight points on his five-game point streak and ranks fourth on the Rangers with 22 points (six goals, 16 assists) in 21 games this season.
* The Rangers have won eight consecutive games for the first time since an equal stretch from Dec. 27, 1974 to Jan. 11, 1975.
* In addition, the Rangers have earned at least one point in 12 straight games against Metropolitan Division opponents (11-0-1). Elias says this marks the first time the Rangers have earned a point in 12 straight divisional matchups since the NHL adopted the four-division format in 1974-75.
* Playing in his 600th NHL game, Henrik Lundqvist earned his 325th career victory to take sole possession of 22nd on the NHL's all-time wins list. Per Elias, Lundqvist is just the fourth goalie in League history to have at least 325 wins through his first 600 NHL games, following Jacques Plante (332 wins), Martin Brodeur (330 wins) and Chris Osgood (325).
* Lundqvist (19 saves) stretched his personal winning streak to seven games, equaling the longest such stretch of his career (7-0-0, Dec. 20, 2011 to Jan. 10, 2012). During his current streak, Lundqvist has a 1.54 goals-against average, .940 save percentage and one shutout.
BISHOP BACKSTOPS LIGHTNING INTO TOP SPOT IN ATLANTIC ...
Ben Bishop made 25 saves, including 10 in the third period, to guide the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 2-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes. Bishop improved to 5-0-0 with a 1.19 goals-against average and .967 save percentage in five career games against Carolina.
Goalie - TBL
GAA: 2.30 | SVP: .915
* With the victory, the Lightning (22-11-4, 48 points) leapfrogged the Montreal Canadiens (22-11-2, 46 points) into first place in the Atlantic Division and moved within one point of the Pittsburgh Penguins (22-8-5, 49 points) for top spot in the Eastern Conference.
* The Lightning have won three straight games at Amalie Arena, and share the NHL lead in home wins (14) and rank second in home points (29).
* Alex Killorn snapped a 12-game goal drought with his career-high third game-winning goal of the season. Each of Killorn's past three goals are decisive ones (also Nov. 22 vs. MIN and Nov. 29 vs. OTT); he shares the team lead in that category with Ryan Callahan.
* Nikita Kucherov scored his 15th goal of the season, and has six goals and 11 points in his past eight contests. He ranks second on the Lightning in goals and third in points (34).
… NYQUIST'S OT WINNER HELPS RED WINGS KEEP PACE
Trailing 2-1 early in the third period, Henrik Zetterberg (1-1—2) of the Detroit Red Wings scored to force overtime, where Gustav Nyquist scored a highlight-reel goal with 48 seconds left to seal a 3-2 victory against the Ottawa Senators.
Right Wing - DET
GOALS: 15 | ASST: 8 | PTS: 23
SOG: 86 | +/-: -6
* Nyquist scored his second career overtime goal (also Feb. 26 at MTL); he leads the Red Wings with 15 goals and ranks second with three decisive goals this season.
* Zetterberg extended his point streak to four games (3-3—6) and Niklas Kronwall (0-2—2) added two points. Zetterberg and Kronwall are 4-14—18 (15 GP) and 1-11—12 (12 GP), respectively, in their careers vs. OTT.
* Justin Abdelkader scored his eighth goal of the season; the Red Wings improved to 7-0-0 when Abdelkader finds the back of the net and 11-1-1 when he has at least one point.
BLACKHAWKS REMAIN ATOP CENTRAL DIVISION ...
Down 2-1 before the nine-minute mark of the first period, the Chicago Blackhawks scored four unanswered goals – highlighted by two goals and an assist from Patrick Kane – to improve to 4-1-1 in their past six games.
* At 24-10-2 (50 points), the Blackhawks remain atop the Central Division and moved within two points of the Anaheim Ducks (23-8-6, 52 points) for first place in the Western Conference and NHL standings.
* Kane has a trio of three-point performances in his past five games. He leads the Blackhawks in goals (18), assists (21) and points (39), and ranks sixth in the League with 39 points.
* Kane has scored three points in each game against the Colorado Avalanche this season (2-4—6), and has eight goals and 26 points in 28 career games against Colorado.
* Jonathan Toews had two assists to bring his career total against Colorado to 13-15—28 in 27 games.
… PREDATORS AND JETS WIN TO KEEP PACE
The Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets earned victories to maintain their spots in the Central Division and keep pace with the Blackhawks:
* Four different Predators had multi-point performances – Colin Wilson (2-0—2), Filip Forsberg (1-1—2), Mike Fisher (1-1—2) and Roman Josi (0-2—2) – and Pekka Rinne made 26 saves as the Predators improved to 11-0-0 in games following a loss this season. Rinne earned his fourth consecutive victory and League-leading 26th win of the season; he ranks second in the NHL with a 1.81 goals-against average and third with a .935 save percentage.
* Nashville improved to 13-2-1 at Bridgestone Arena this season. Overall the Predators (23-9-2, 48 points) sit two points behind the Blackhawks (24-10-2, 50 points) for the Central Division lead.
* Forsberg continues to lead the Predators and all NHL rookies with 14 goals, 20 assists and 34 points. Wilson has scored in three straight games for the first time in his career; he has four goals and five points on his three-game point streak.
* The Jets surrendered two separate one-goal leads in the third period before Andrew Ladd (1-1—2) scored at 2:47 of overtime to guide Winnipeg to a 4-3 win in the first half of a home-and-home with the Minnesota Wild. The Jets have earned at least one point in 13 of their past 14 games (9-1-4).
* With the victory, the Jets (19-10-7, 45 points) moved into a points-tie with the St. Louis Blues (21-11-3, 45 points) for third place in the Central Division and opened a nine-point lead over the fifth-place Wild (16-13-4, 36 points). The Jets occupy the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
* Michael Hutchinson made 22 saves to improve to 9-2-2 this season. He leads the League with a 1.77 goals-against average and .939 save percentage.
* Bryan Little tied the game in the second period and assisted on the game-winner to stretch his point streak to three games (2-2—4). Evander Kane (0-2—2) also had two points and Dustin Byfuglien (0-1—1) stretched his point streak to four games (1-3—4).
KINGS CLIMB PACIFIC DIVISION STANDINGS
Down 1-0 before the three-minute mark of the first period, the Los Angeles Kings scored three unanswered goals, highlighted by a goal and an assist from Anze Kopitar, to defeat the San Jose Sharks in their first game since the season opener on Oct. 8. With the victory, the Kings (18-11-7, 43 points) leapfrogged the Sharks (19-12-5, 43 points) and Vancouver Canucks (20-11-2, 42 points) into second place in the Pacific Division.
* The Kings closed their four-game homestand with a 3-0-1 record and improved to 14-4-2 at Staples Center; they lead the Western Conference and are tied for first in the League in home wins and home points.
* Kopitar stretched his assist/point streak to five games (2-10—12), matching the longest assist streak by a Kings player since 2012-13, when Kopitar had a goal and five assists in five games from March 12-19.
* Kopitar scored his 29th career game-winning goal (second this season) to tie Rob Blake and Dustin Brown for fourth on the franchise's all-time list.
* The Kings finished 2-for-4 on the power-play and have multiple power-play goals in four consecutive games for the first time since March 4-11, 1993 (via Elias).
* Marian Gaborik assisted on Kopitar's winning tally to extend his point streak to six games, equaling the longest by a Kings player this season (tying Justin Williams, 3-4—7 from Nov. 15-26).
* Jonathan Quick made 21 saves for his 15th win. He is 13-3-2 with a 1.79 goals-against average and .935 save percentage on home ice this season.
* The Kings and Sharks will play again on Jan. 21 in San Jose before facing off in the 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Feb. 21; the Pacific Division rivals will then close the 2014-15 regular season on April 11 in Los Angeles.
HOLTBY, CAPITALS BLANK PENGUINS
Making his career-high 12th consecutive start, Braden Holtby made 31 saves for his 14th career shutout (third this season) in the Capitals' 3-0 win in Pittsburgh. The victory snapped an eight-game skid in head-to-head matchups (0-7-1 dating to Jan. 22, 2012) and halted the Penguins' home winning streak at five games.
* The Capitals (18-11-6, 42 points) have earned at least one point in nine of their past 10 games (7-1-2). Washington shares the same number of points as the Rangers (19-10-4, 42 points) and occupy the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
* Holtby has started every game for the Capitals in December. He is 8-2-2 with a 1.98 goals-against average, .933 save percentage and two shutouts.
* Eric Fehr had his first two-goal game since Jan. 9 at Tampa Bay. Four of Fehr's nine goals this season have been game-winners, which is tied for first on the Capitals and second in the League.
* Former Penguins defensemen Brooks Orpik (0-1—1; plus-3; 24:04 TOI) and Matt Niskanen (plus-1; 22:16 TOI) each returned to Pittsburgh for the first time since joining the Capitals in the offseason.
* Marcus Johansson (1-2—3) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (1-2—3) each have three-game point streaks.
ENNIS CAPS SABRES' WIN AFTER THIRD-PERIOD RALLY
The Buffalo Sabres scored three goals in a span of 5:12 to force overtime and Tyler Ennis scored in the shootout to complete a 4-3 comeback win against the Islanders. The Sabres rallied from a 3-0 third-period deficit to win for the second time in franchise history. The only other time the Sabres trailed by at least three goals in the third period and scored their first goal of the game in the third frame was April 2, 2003 against the Atlanta Thrashers.
Center - BUF
GOALS: 8 | ASST: 15 | PTS: 23
SOG: 84 | +/-: -10
* Elias also says the Sabres rallied from any three-goal third-period deficit to win for the first time since March 19, 2008, when Buffalo overcame a 4-1 deficit in the third period for a 7-4 win.
* The Sabres are the fourth team this season to earn a victory in a game in which they overcame any three-goal deficit in the third period, following the Wild (Dec. 9 vs. NYI), Rangers (Oct. 27 vs. MIN) and Canadiens (Oct. 11 vs. PHI).
* Ennis improved to 3-for-6 (50.0%) in shootouts this season and 12-for-33 (36.4%) in his career. He leads the Sabres with 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 36 games.
* Jhonas Enroth made 33 saves through regulation and overtime before denying all three shootout attempts to improve to 10-3-1 in his past 14 games.
* Nicolas Deslauriers (1-1—2) triggered the rally with his fourth goal of the season and added an assist for his first career multi-point game. He has two goals and four points in his past three games.
* Josh Gorges and Drew Stafford each had two assists and Zemgus Girgensons scored his team-leading 10th goal of the season. Stafford (5-14—19) and Girgensons (10-9—19) share second on the Sabres with 19 points.
* The Islanders became the last team in the League to lose in extra time this season (3-0 in OT, 6-1 in SO). Earlier this month, the Islanders became the first team in NHL history to win their first nine games in a season decided after regulation.
Highlights from the rest of Saturday's games:
* After scoring his first career hat trick in his last game, Johnny Gaudreau scored twice in a span of 16 seconds to spur the Calgary Flames to a 3-0 lead early in the first period en route to a 4-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Gaudreau is the first Flames rookie to have consecutive multi-goal games since Joe Nieuwendyk in March 1988. Gaudreau is third on the Flames and second among NHL rookies with 29 points (12 goals, 17 assists) in 36 games.
* Scott Hartnell scored twice in his return from a five-game absence, Kevin Connauton (1-2—3) had a career-high three points, and the Columbus Blue Jackets earned their first victory against the Boston Bruins since Jan. 21, 2010 (snapping a 0-3-4 skid). Matt Calvert (1-1—2), Jack Johnson (0-2—2) and Brandon Dubinsky (0-2—2) also had multi-point performances. Columbus improved to 9-1-1 in its past 11 games.
* Four different players scored and Kari Lehtonen stopped 30 shots, and the Dallas Stars earned their fourth consecutive road win with a 4-3 victory in St. Louis. Lehtonen improved to 11-4-2 with a 2.05 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in 19 career games against the Blues. Jason Demers' second goal in a Stars uniform turned out to be the game-winner; he has two decisive goals in 14 games with Dallas, compared to two such goals in his first 300 NHL games prior to joining the Stars.
* Devan Dubnyk made 35 saves through regulation and overtime, and denied all four shootout attempts, to backstop the Arizona Coyotes to a 2-1 win against the Ducks. Dubnyk improved to 8-3-2 with a 2.52 goals-against average and .924 save percentage (8th in NHL) in 16 games. Zbynek Michalek scored his first goal since April 1 against the Jets and Shane Doan scored the lone shootout marker on his first attempt of the season.
NATIONALS PARK TRANSFORMATION CONTINUES AHEAD OF WINTER CLASSIC
Crews installed the lines and center ice logo today at Nationals Park for the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. In addition, more than 41,000 seat cushions were placed in preparation for the game Thursday.
Click here to view a live webcam of Nationals Park and click here to check out the latest time-lapse video of the rink build.
Scott Stevens and Adam Oates debuted behind the New Jersey Devils bench after it was announced that they will combine to replace Peter DeBoer as coach. President and general manager Lou Lamoriello also was behind the bench, a role he will take on for a limited period . . . Devils forward Scott Gomez skated in his 1,000th NHL game; he ranks seventh on franchise's all-time points list (457) and 16th in games played (561) . . . Islanders forwards John Tavares (2-0—2), Kyle Okposo (0-2—2) and Josh Bailey (0-2—2) each had multi-point performances. Tavares and Okposo each extended their point streaks to three games and share the team lead with 31 points . . . Hurricanes forward Nathan Gerbe earned an assist in his 300th NHL game . . . Predators defenseman Shea Weber stretched his assist streak to a career-high five games (0-6—6) . . . Sabres forward Chris Stewart scored to force overtime with 8:09 left in regulation and stretched his point streak to four games (2-2—4) . . . Flyers forward Claude Giroux (1-0—1) extended his point streak to four games (4-3—7) . . . Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko scored his team-leading 21st goal of the season to reach 100 career NHL points (50-50—100) . . . Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf stretched his point streak to seven games (4-7—11) . . . Wild goaltender John Curry made 19 saves in his season debut (seventh NHL game) after being recalled on an emergency basis Saturday. . . Wild forward Jason Pominville had a goal and an assist to extend his point streak to four games (2-4—6) . . . The Holiday Roster Freeze expired at midnight (local time) for all players on an NHL active roster, injured reserve, or with non-roster and injured non-roster status, with respect to waivers, trades and loans, subject to the exceptions provided for in CBA Article 16.5 (d).