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NHL Three Stars: Smith blanks Blackhawks; Merrill’s memorable first NHL goal

Sean Leahy
Puck Daddy

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The Coyotes honored the 1980 U.S. "Miracle on Ice" team before their game with the Blackhawks.

No. 1 Star: Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes

A pair of power play goals from Keith Yandle and Radim Vrbata were enough for the Coyotes to blank the Chicago Blackhawks 2-0. Smith turned aside 30 shots for his 26th career shutout and second of the season. With the win, the Coyotes leapfrogged the Vancouver Canucks for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.

No. 2 Star: Benoit Pouliot, New York Rangers

Pouliot picked up his first multi-goal game in almost a year as the Rangers edged the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 after a shootout. Pouliot scored the opening goal of the game and a second time in the third period to give New York a 3-2 edge. In the shootout, it was Brad Richards and Mats Zuccarello scoring in the final two rounds to give the Rangers the extra point.

No. 3 Star: Jon Merrill, New Jersey Devils

Merrill picked a good time to score his first NHL goal as the New Jersey Devils beat the Edmonton Oilers in overtime 2-1. After the teams scored 29 seconds apart in the first period, the game was goalless until Merrill's slapper 2:34 into overtime that decided things:

Honorable mention: The Carolina Hurricanes routed the Florida Panthers 5-1. Five different Carolina players scored as they won for the seventh time in 10 games at PNC Arena. Anton Khudobin, who has now appeared in 16 straight games, made 34 saves for his sixth win in his last eight starts ... Tuomo Ruutu suited up for his 600th NHL game ... Eric Staal's assist gave him 36 points in 35 games ... Jaromir Jagr's first period assist was the 1,039th of his career, moving him one behind Marcel Dionne for 9th all-time ... Henrik Lundqvist made 26 saves for his fifth win in a row ... Antoine Vermette's assist extended his career-high point streak to nine games ... Tommy Wingels' 12th of the year would prove to be the game-winner as the San Jose Sharks got by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Antti Niemi made 19 saves for his sixth win in starts. Sergei Bobrovsky made 44 saves in a losing effort. Sharks forward John McCarthy scored his first goal since Nov. 6, 2010. Todd McLellan coached his 435th game with San Jose, setting a franchise record ... Here's the full Coyotes' ceremony honoring the "Miracle on Ice" team:

Did You Know? "Eric Staal set the club record for career shots on goal, passing Hall of Famer Ron Francis late in the second period. Staal finished with four shots, giving him 2,542." (AP)

Dishonorable mention: Tim Thomas pulled in the second period after allowing four goals on 14 shots ... Chicago had killed off 32 of their last 33 penalties before tonight.

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