No. 1 star: Richard Zednik, Florida Panthers
On Feb. 10, 2008, Richard Zednik's carotid artery was nearly severed by a teammate's skate in a gruesome accident, costing him five units of blood and ending his season. On Feb. 10, 2009, Zednik scored the game-tying goal in the third period and then the game-winning goal in overtime to propel the Panthers to a 5-4 victory over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs. His overtime goal was a one-timer on a feed from Cory Stillman that beat Vesa Toskala for his 10th goal of the season. Said Zednik: "After the second period, I thought I needed to score two goals. I don't know why. When I got the second, it was like, ‘Wow. This is amazing.'" So what's more amazing: That Zednik is actually back playing hockey again one year later, or that his Panthers would be in the playoffs if they started today?
No. 2 star: Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks
In a clash of conference titans, Stanley Cup of Chowder said it best: "Don't know if a regular season game in February can determine the best team in the league, but the San Jose Sharks were certainly the better team tonight." Marleau led a dominant third-period rally as San Jose defeated the Boston Bruins, 5-2. He scored a Johnny-on-the-spot rebound goal to tie the game, and then used his breakaway speed to help set up Joe Thornton's deflection goal later in the period. Marleau ended with a three-point night, assisting on Mike Grier's empty-netter to clinch it. Marleau is also one of the Sharks' penalty killing leaders, and that unit stymied Boston on all five of its power plays. This was an impressive win for the Western Conference leaders.
No. 3 star: Mats Sundin, Vancouver Canucks
And this is why you sign Mats Sundin: The St. Louis Blues had a 2-0 lead in the second when Sundin tipped one home; the Blues scored again to go up 3-1, but Sundin answered 1:59 later with a quick shot past Chris Mason. He carried the Canucks back into the game before Vancouver won in a wild, five-goal third period for a 6-4 triumph in St. Louis. The 'Nucks have now won three straight.
Honorable Mention: With Steve Mason poised to return for the Columbus Blue Jackets, a stick-tap for emergency call-up Dan LaCosta as he stopped 31 (relatively easy) shots to blank the Colorado Avalanche, 3-0, for this first NHL shutout. ... The Los Angeles Kings finished their East Coast road trip with a 4-1 record, winning in a shootout against the New York Islanders, 4-3. Alexander Frolov's 22nd of the season tied it in the third, before defenseman Jack Johnson picked up the extra point with the only goal of the skills competition. His music, sadly, still sucks. ... Someone get Pekka Rinne some oxygen and an Advil: The Detroit Red Wings unleashed hell to the tune of 41 shots in the first two periods, defeated the Nashville Predators by a score of 5-3. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk each had two goals for the Wings, while Marian Hossa added his 31st of the season. Joel Ward scored twice for Nashville, which lost despite once again besting Detroit in the face-off circle.
Dishonorable Mention: The story in the Atlanta Thrashers' 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning should have been Kari Lehtonen's 40-save effort. Instead, it's about another controversial video replay by the NHL that may have robbed Steven Stamkos of a goal on a penalty shot. (About the 3-minute mark of this video.) Why? Because referee Rob Martell signaled "no goal" on the ice, and the replay was "inconclusive." Oy. ... Ian Laperriere talked about the Avs getting off to a great start before the Blue Jackets trapped them to death. Four shots in the first period? Not so great.