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Ross McKeon

Saturday's three stars: Kovalev, Habs save best for last

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No. 1 star: Alexei Kovalev, Canadiens
The Canadiens weren't thrilled to be in the position of needing to rally from three goals down in the third period on the road, but they sure were happy to have Alexei Kovalev along to get the job done. The marvelously-skilled veteran forward scored two goals and assisted on two others as the Habs stunned the New York Islanders 5-4. Kovalev assisted on Montreal goals at 7:48 and 9:55 of the third period to draw the visitors within one. And after they tied the game Kovalev scored his fifth goal of the season at 15:19, an even-strength marker, to account for the game-winner. Kovalev was a plus-4 on Saturday in addition to recording three takeaways and one blocked shot during 19:57 of ice time.

No. 2 star: John Mitchell, Maple Leafs
The 23-year-old rookie center won't forget his first two goals in the NHL any time soon. Mitchell collected the first of his career 12:36 into the third period that initially looked like would only break a Rangers' road shutout bid. Instead, it was the spark the host Toronto Maple Leafs needed to score four more times in the period for a remarkable 5-2 victory over New York. Mitchell scored his second at 16:06 for a 4-2 lead and provided the primary assist on Toronto's fifth goal of the final period at 17:57. Mitchell was a plus-4 with five shots on goal, two blocks, one hit and one takeaway during 15:21 of ice time.

No. 3 star: Ryan Miller, Sabres
The Sabres' franchise goalie stopped 29 shots by the Alexander Ovechkin-less Capitals and spearheaded a 5-for-5 night on the penalty kill during a 5-0 victory. Miller posted his first shutout of the season and the eighth of his career as he improved to 6-1-1 on the year.

Honorable mention: Kings rookie Oscar Moller rewarded management's decision to keep him in the NHL and not return the young forward to junior hockey by scoring two goals. … Edmonton's Erik Cole visited his former teammates in Carolina for the first time and doled out an NHL-high eight hits. … Patrik Berglund scored the Blues' final goal in a 6-3 loss. So? It was the 10,000th goal in franchise history. … With two goals against the Thrashers, New Jersey's Zach Parise has goals in six straight games. … No stranger to success in the faceoff circle, Carolina's Rod Brind'Amour had a league-best 19-7 won-lost performance on draws. … Two more goals for Thomas Vanek as the Sabres' winger leads the league with 11. … Edmonton's Ethan Moreau scored twice in 53 seconds to turn a tie game late into a 3-1 Oilers' victory that snapped a five-game losing streak. … Cristobal Huet stopped 48 Columbus shots in the first 65 minutes, then went 3-for-3 during a road shootout victory for Chicago.

Dishonorable mention: The Islanders had their first lead in 317:04, and promptly gave it away for a franchise-worst 2-7-1 start. … Staying with the New York theme, let's hear it for Rangers' backup goalie Steve Valiquette, who surrendered five goals in 5:21 of the late third period at Toronto. … First Calgary's Michael Cammalleri walked in the wrong direction to find the visitors' locker room inside his old haunts at Staples Center, then the ex-King admitted the goof during the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast. … After getting blown out 6-1 for a sixth straight loss, rookie Thrashers coach John Anderson suggested, "We're a fragile hockey team right now." No kidding.

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