Sunday's Three Stars: Backstrom, Thomas come up huge

No. 1 Star: Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild

As Edmonton Oilers Coach Craig MacTavish said: "You hate to see the 30-plus shot shutouts. That means you're getting pucks to the net." The Oilers did just that in a 15-shot first period, but Backstrom stonewalled them, including on three power plays. That gave the Wild the momentum for a franchise-best 23-shot effort in the second period en route to a 3-0 shutout of a team they're chasing in the standing. Backstrom ended with 31 saves; Owen Nolan increased his team-leading goal total (22) with two goals; and some dude named Marian Gaborik played his first game since two days before Christmas 2008.

No. 2 Star: Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

Nothing like outplaying Martin Brodeur to get the attention of Vezina voters. Thomas stopped 41 shots while Brodeur was getting beaten on deflection goals from players like Michael Ryder and Milan Lucic in the Bruins' 4-1 win at home. The NHL leader in GAA settled down after an inconsistent March to help clinch the division for the Bruins and balloon their conference lead to five points over the New Jersey Devils.

No. 3 Star: Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks

Here come the Ducks: Anaheim moved within one point of the eighth seed with a 6-2 rout of the Phoenix Coyotes, as Getzlaf assisted on Corey Perry's game-winner and scorer a pair of power-play goals in the third period to ice the game. The Ducks' power play is an incredible 7-for-12, after having a 1-for-28 stretch previous to that.


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Honorable Mention: Martin Biron had 27 saves and Scott Hartnell had two power-play points in the Philadelphia Flyers' 3-1 win at the Pittsburgh Penguins. Neither Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin had a shot on goal, although Sid extended his personal point streak to 13 games with a power-play assist. ... Two great signs for the slumping Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Sharp returned with a vengeance, scoring two goals and an assist; and the team limited the Los Angeles Kings to just 15 shots as the Hawks won, 4-1. ... Playing in front of friends and family from Connecticut, Ryan Shannon scored the game-winning goal in the third period as the Ottawa Senators moved to within seven points (!) of the eight seed with a 2-1 win at the New York Rangers. ... If there was a pass of the night (video), Alexei Semenov had it when he fed Milan Michalek for the game-winner in the San Jose Sharks' 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche.

Did You Know?: Bobby Ryan's assist for the Ducks gave him 46 points, which breaks the franchise's rookie scoring record set by Dustin Penner in 2006-07.

Dishonorable Mention: Jonathan Cheechoo played under five minutes for the Sharks after getting a major and a game misconduct for boarding. ... Peter Mueller of the Coyotes has now gone 18 games without a goal. ... Finally, the Senators playing a game in New York only means one thing: a chance for the Ottawa media to piss all over Wade Redden.

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