Best of the Best from Last Week's NHL Action
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We are now more than two weeks into this shortened NHL season, and the league standings are beginning to take shape. Teams off to hot starts like the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins are sitting pretty, while the Los Angeles Kings are having a championship hangover.
The last week of play has been full of exciting action, and full of moments worthy of our recognition. Here are a few of the best.
Thomas Vanek's Crazy Pass
Thomas Vanek of the Buffalo Sabres is off to a blistering start to the season. His 19 points and 11 assists both lead the NHL, while his 8 goals are second only to Patrick Marleau.
Thursday night against the Boston Bruins Vanek notched a hat-trick, but it was one of the goals he didn't score in his team's thrilling 7-4 victory that stood out.
On this play, Vanek receives a pass down low then, harried by Andrew Ference, falls to the ice, but not before finding a wide-open Tyler Ennis with a sensational pass followed by Ennis slamming home the goal.
A magnificent play from a magnificent player.
Antti Niemi's Game-Saving Save
That title's a bit redundant, wouldn't you say? No matter, because it's pretty much the best way to describe what Antti Niemi pulled off with this save against the Nashville Predators.
With the game in overtime, Niemi stopped a powerful one-timer from Scott Hannan, but the rebound found a surging David Legwand. As the veteran forward got a backhand to it, Niemi fully stretched his leg and got a good piece of the attempt.
Niemi's heroics there were not enough, as the Sharks fell in a shootout to suffer their first loss of the season.
Niklas Backstrom's Beautiful Breakaway
The Washington Capitals have had an abysmal start to this season. Their five points have them sitting dead-last in the Eastern Conference, leading Calgary by only one point to avoid the dubious "worst in the league" title.
However, they picked up a win on Friday against their fellow strugglers, the Philadelphia Flyers. Helping the cause was star center Nicklas Backstrom, who picked up a sweet goal.
Defender John Carlson gained possession of the puck at his own blue line and quickly dispatched a pass to Backstrom, who was waiting near the center circle. With the Flyers changing lines, the Swede was left all alone to finish off the opportunity past Ilya Bryzgalov.
An encouraging sign for a slumping team; they'll need more where this came from.
Nail Yakupov's Winner
Nail Yakupov is certainly making a name for himself, isn't he?
Earlier in the season, he slammed home a late equalizer to salvage a point for his Edmonton Oilers, and on Wednesday he went one better by netting one in overtime as the Oilers knocked off the Phoenix Coyotes.
Taylor Hall rocketed a shot that was saved by Phoenix's Chad Johnson, and as the rebound fell to the ice, Yakupov lined it up and smacked in his third power-play goal of the season.
Bat-in shots are always great to see because of the coordination and skill they take. And to see one in overtime by a teenager makes it even cooler.
Kari Lehtonen's Awesome Work
The Dallas Stars may have fallen in a 4-1 defeat to the Detroit Red Wings last Monday, but it could have been a lot worse were it not for veteran netminder Kari Lehtonen.
With the game still scoreless early in the second, the Finn was faced with a 3-on-2 Detroit break, from which his compatriot, Valtteri Filppula (who would score twice in the game), snuck free. Filppula received a pass and thought he had an open net to tuck home into, but Lehtonen slammed the door shut.
A scramble at the goal mouth saw the rebound attempt denied before Lehtonen's teammates piled up around the crease to aid the effort. Some strong work from Lehtonen, but it would go to waste.
(All videos courtesy of NHL.com)
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