No. 1 star: Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild
Sure, Backstrom received some help as the pathetic Wild road offense (29th in the NHL) mustered up four goals. But the Minnesota goalie was spectacular in making 40 saves for the 4-1 victory at the Chicago Blackhawks, who suffered only their second regulation loss at home this season.
Yet even the goal he surrendered to Martin Havlat ended up being something extraordinary. From the Star Tribune: "Because that goal came at exactly the 10-minute mark of the second period, a Blackhawks season-ticket holder in Section 326 won $1 million courtesy of an Illinois lottery promotion."
More from the Chicago Tribune and from the Blackhawks, who offered specifics on the "Illinois Lottery Million Dollar Minute Promotion":
If the Blackhawks score a goal at the 10 minute mark of the 2nd period during all the Blackhawk home games for the rest of the season, one lucky contestant will win a million dollars courtesy of the Illinois Lottery!
No. 2 star: Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes
Another road warrior between the pipes tonight, Ward stopped 35 shots from the Toronto Maple Leafs to give the 'Canes a 2-0 victory. More importantly, it snapped a five-game losing streak and gave beleaguered former Leafs coach Paul Maurice a victory in his old barn.
No. 3 star: Brendan Shanahan, New Jersey Devils
Look, this probably should go to Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who scored the winning power-play goal for the 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars. Or Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, who also had two goals (Nos. 30 and 31) including a power-play winner in overtime in a 2-1 victory at the New York Islanders this afternoon. Or David Backes of the St. Louis Blues, who scored a controversial goal with 0.8 seconds remaining to tie the Boston Bruins and set up a Blues' shootout win, 5-4.
But the nod goes to old man Shanahan, who turns 40 on Friday, for scoring in his first game of the season and first for the Devils in nearly 18 years. Shanahan, who led the Devils in shots in 13:59 of ice time, deked Nashville Predators defenseman Greg Zanon and scored on a 5-on-3 power play, helping the Devils to a 3-1 win and first place in the Atlantic Division -- one point more than Shanahan's former team, the New York Rangers.
Honorable Mention: Besides Lecavalier, Ovechkin and Backes, Wild defenseman Marek Zidlicky (two goals and an assist), Joe Corvo (power-play goal) and David Clarkson (one goal) had winners for their respective teams. ... T.J. Oshie and Brad Boyes scored in the Blues' shootout win, with Chris Mason making a save and stopping 21 in the game; Ales Kotalik and Derek Roy scored in the shootout for the Buffalo Sabres, as Ryan Miller stopped two shooters and made 27 saves in the 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers. Thomas Vanek scored his 28th for Buffalo. ... Zach Parise scored into an empty net for his 27th for the Devils.
Dishonorable Mention: Goalie Manny Legace left the game for the Blues with what was called a lower body injury, but the biggest bruise was left on Blake Wheeler's ego after he missed an empty net 25 seconds before Backes's miraculous tying goal. ... Out of all the Leafs that didn't show up tonight against Carolina, at least Mike Van Ryn had an excuse. ... Finally, with tonight's loss, the Dallas Stars have now been outscored 52-31 in the third period. Disgraceful.