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Top moments in first half of 2020-21 season discussed by

Crosby's 1,000th game, Pastrnak show in Lake Tahoe, Barzal's stunning goal among writers' picks @NHLdotcom

The 2020-21 NHL regular season reaches its midpoint Monday and the memorable moments have come fast and furious. But which ones stand out the most since the season started Jan. 13?

We asked 11 writers for a favorite memory.


First game of the 2020-21 season, Jan. 13

Though it didn't take place until 2021, the first game of the 2020-21 NHL season was a triumph. In a time of great uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHL got back to the business of playing hockey with the first regular-season game since the 2019-20 season paused March 12, 2020, a span of 308 days. Within the game, a 6-3 Philadelphia Flyers home victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins, there were triumphant moments: Flyers center Nolan Patrick scored his first goal since March 9, 2019, after missing the previous season because of a migraine disorder; and Philadelphia forward Oskar Lindblom scored a goal, his first point since Nov. 30, 2019, after being out because of Ewing's sarcoma. All in all, it was a game to celebrate. -- Amalie Benjamin, staff writer

McDavid gets his first hat trick of the season, Jan. 15

Connor McDavid has put together a hefty highlight reel through the first half of the season, but the center's hat trick in the Edmonton Oilers' second game of the season, a 5-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks, was glorious. McDavid's first goal came with 0.8 seconds remaining in the second period for a 2-0 Oilers lead. On his second goal, McDavid got the puck from forward Leon Draisaitl, skated into the zone on the right side, cut in and scored a power-play goal for a 3-1 lead. Then he scored on his forehand after Vancouver goalie Thatcher Demko got a piece of his backhand attempt for a 4-2 Edmonton lead. -- Tracey Myers, staff writer

Video: VAN@EDM: McDavid collects first hat trick of 2021

Soulful rendition of Canadian anthem, Jan. 18

I'm a sucker for a well-sung national anthem and none has been better so far this season than the stirring rendition of "O Canada" performed virtually by vocalist Martina Ortiz-Luis and the Sole Power Choir of Toronto before the Toronto Maple Leafs hosted the Winnipeg Jets on Jan. 18, which was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the 63rd anniversary of Willie O'Ree becoming the NHL's first Black player. Scotiabank Arena felt like church as an organ played and Ortiz-Luis and the choir began the anthem low and slow and finished in a joyously soulful crescendo. Maybe it inspired Maple Leafs forward Mitchell Marner, who scored two goals in a 3-1 win. -- William Douglas, staff writer

Chara scores his first goal with the Capitals, Jan. 28

Zdeno Chara's decision to leave the Boston Bruins after 14 seasons to sign with the Washington Capitals on Dec. 30 was a bit surprising. But the 43-year-old defenseman was quickly welcomed by the Capitals. This was evident when Chara scored his first goal with Washington in a 6-3 win against the New York Islanders at Capital One Arena. After scoring on a slap shot from above the left circle with 1:30 remaining in the second period, Chara skated to the Capitals bench and was mobbed by his teammates. "I just wanted to share that joy with them," Chara said. "It was a great a moment and a great connection." -- Tom Gulitti, staff writer

Oilers' big two go for 11 points, Jan. 31

McDavid (one goal, four assists) and Draisaitl (six assists) were at their elite best in combining for 11 points in the Oilers' 8-5 win against the Ottawa Senators. Their 10 assists were the most by two teammates in an NHL game since Oct. 9, 1993, when Tomas Sandstrom (six) and Wayne Gretzky (four) combined for 10 for the Los Angeles Kings against the Detroit Red Wings. The hot start was the most impressive part of the performance; each had five points through the first 31:11 of the game. -- Mike Zeisberger, staff writer

Crosby honored in his 1,000th game, Feb. 20

I'll always remember the night Sidney Crosby became the 25th active skater and first in Pittsburgh Penguins history to play in 1,000 NHL games. The center had two assists in a 3-2 win against the Islanders in Pittsburgh, but the most memorable part was when each Penguins player took warmups wearing Crosby's No. 87. At one point during warmups, Crosby's teammates knelt in unison to replicate his routine of re-tying his skates. It was a fitting and funny tribute. -- Mike G. Morreale, staff writer

Video: NYI@PIT: Penguins honor Crosby for 1,000 NHL games

Quote of the first half, Feb. 20

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, mic'd up for the Bridgestone NHL Outdoors Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche, saw Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon pick up the puck in his own zone and gather speed for an attack and spoke for countless NHL defenders when he said, "Oh boy!" The raw honesty was warranted. MacKinnon came speeding through the neutral zone and despite Pietrangelo trying to defend him, snapped in a goal at 11:18 of the second period in an eventual 3-2 Colorado win. What came out of Pietrangelo's mouth was also a salute of sorts, perfectly encapsulating the awe that elite players have for the skills of elite opponents. -- Tim Campbell, staff writer

'Macho Man' Pastrnak scores hat trick, Feb. 21

Good luck finding a player with a more colorful, engaging and whip-smart personality than Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak, who never shies away from the big moment. The guy they call "Pasta" loves to have fun, and he did that during the Honda NHL Outdoors Sunday at Edgewood Tahoe Resort. With a strong glare from the sun during warmups, Pastrnak sported sunglasses that evoked the persona of professional wrestler Randy "Macho Man" Savage. They were a part of his outfit from earlier in the day when the Bruins arrived in attire from the 1990s. He then celebrated goals in sunlight, at dusk and under the cover of darkness for a hat trick in Boston's 7-3 win against the Philadelphia Flyers. -- Dan Rosen, senior writer

Sun sets on Bruins, Flyers at Lake Tahoe, Feb. 22

Aesthetically speaking, it was the most beautiful, unique sight I've seen in the NHL, a sight I might never see anything like again. From about five minutes left in the first period to about five left in the second, the sun set behind the Sierra Nevada as the Bruins and Flyers played on the shore of Lake Tahoe in the Honda NHL Outdoors Sunday. The sky turned shades of yellow, orange and blue, the ice bright white under artificial lights. As the sun sank deeper, the colors became deeper -- orange, pink, purple -- and the ice brighter still. The snow and lake faded to black until you could see only the outline of the mountains. Then the outline vanished, and all that was left were the pine trees behind the benches and the game. -- Nicholas J. Cotsonika, columnist

Lundqvist's stunning return to ice, Feb. 23

Henrik Lundqvist's glorious "comeback" in late February, quietly on a New Jersey rink, was a wonderful victory that didn't need a final score. The goalie bid goodbye to the New York Rangers after 15 seasons by signing a one-year contract with the Capitals on Oct. 9. But the truly stunning news was yet to come -- Lundqvist's December announcement that he needed open-heart surgery. In early January, he reported on social media that surgery went well; in late February came video of him on the ice, facing shots. "Day 47. Back to the rink. Love it. Let's do it." -- Dave Stubbs, columnist

Barzal's highlight-reel goal against Sabres, March 6

New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal had one of the most electric moments of the season when he blew past the Buffalo Sabres defense and scored a between-the-legs goal against goalie Carter Hutton at 3:51 of the second period. The moment in the 5-2 win seemed to encapsulate Barzal's limitless potential and dispelled myths that the Islanders were a team lacking an exciting offense. "It's kind of a move that you do instinctual and you kind of just mess around with it in practice and you rarely do it in a game" Barzal said. There's still plenty of hockey to play this season, but something tells me we'll be looking back at this potential goal-of-the-year candidate for some time. -- Rob Reese, fantasy editor

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