NHL Three Stars: Crosby's natural trick; Blue Jackets, Blackhawks clinch playoff spots

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PITTSBURGH, PA – MARCH 19: <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/teams/pit/" data-ylk="slk:Pittsburgh Penguins">Pittsburgh Penguins</a> Center <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/players/3737/" data-ylk="slk:Sidney Crosby">Sidney Crosby</a> (87) celebrates his hat trick during the third period in the NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Florida Panthers on March 19, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA. The Penguins shutout the Panthers 4-0. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA – MARCH 19: Pittsburgh Penguins Center Sidney Crosby (87) celebrates his hat trick during the third period in the NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Florida Panthers on March 19, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA. The Penguins shutout the Panthers 4-0. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

No. 1 Star: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins captain took over the NHL’s goal scoring lead with a natural hat trick during a 4-0 win over the Florida Panthers. Patric Hornqvist kicked things off with his first goal in 13 games and then it was Crosby’s time to put the game out of reach, thanks to assists from his linemates Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel.

No. 2 Star: Boone Jenner, Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets scored shorthanded, shorthanded on a penalty shot, even strength on a penalty shot and finally on an empty net during a 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. Jenner scored twice – the shorthanded tally and empty netter – and Sergei Bobrovsky made 35 stops as Columbus clinched a playoff spot for the third time in franchise history. The win also marked the first 100-point season for the CBJs.

No. 3 Stars: Johnny Gaudreau / Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames

The Calgary duo each had a goal and two assists as the Flames beat the Los Angeles Kings 5-2. Brian Elliott made 19 saves to tie Mike Vernon’s franchise record of 11 straight wins by a goaltender. Calgary if 9-1-0 in their last 10 games and are now five points behind the San Jose Sharks for the Pacific Division lead.

Honorable Mention: Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 21 shots for his first shutout of the season and 44th of his career … The Penguins honored Jaromir Jagr, who was playing in his 1,700th game, for his inclusion on the NHL 100 list:

Josh Morrissey’s goal midway through the third period saved the Winnipeg Jets from an embarrassing loss to the Minnesota Wild. After building up a 4-0 lead, the Jets watched it disappear as the Wild scored four times in the second period. Morrissey’s goal was the final one of the day as Winnipeg hung on for a 5-4 win. Michael Hutchinson stopped all 13 shots he faced in relief of Connor Hellebuyck, including this one in the waning seconds:

Congrats to Eric Staal for reaching the 1,000-game mark:

A five-goal third period, which included three goals in 34 seconds, helped the Chicago Blackhawks stun the Colorado Avalanche 6-3. Jonathan Toews scored twice as the Blackhawks benefited from a questionable inconclusive offside review, which sparked the goal barrage. Chicago has now won 17 of their last 20 games … Travis Konecny tied it late, setting the table for Brayden Schenn to become the overtime hero as the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3. Sean Couturier assisted on three goals, including Schenn’s winner, and rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov chipped in a goal and two helpers.

Paul Byron hit the 20-goal mark and Carey Price made 30 stops as the Montreal Canadiens downed the Ottawa Senators 4-1. One of Price’s 30 saves was this beauty on Kyle Turris:

Did You Know? “This was only the third time in NHL history that a team scored twice in a game on penalty shots. Thomas Gradin and Ivan Hlinka of Vancouver did it against Detroit in 1982, and Ryane Clowe and Joe Thornton of San Jose converted against Washington in 2009.” (AP)

Dishonorable Mention: The Devils are 1-10-2 in their last 13 games … Devan Dubnyk has allowed 14 goals in his last four starts … The Wild have now lost five in a row and eight of their last 10 … Will Matthew Tkachuk receive any punishment for this elbow to the chops on Drew Doughty?

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