5 things we learned in the NHL: Kadri heats up

Nazem Kadri scored three goals and the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Florida Panthers.

Kadri scored a hat trick as the red-hot Maple Leafs continue their strong finish, Keith’s ugly stick-swinging incident could prove costly, and it turns out the Blues can give up goals. All that and more in five things we learned in the NHL.

Kadri proving his worth as season winds down

Sorry Tank Nation. The Toronto Maple Leafs are not having it, apparently.

Since dropping six straight games at the end of February through the first week of March, the Maple Leafs have gone 7-4 over their last 11 games. Lottery bound, for sure, but they’re inching further away from favourable odds to land the first overall selection.

Toronto snapped a two-game skid with a convincing 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers Tuesday night.

Leading the way in the victory over the Panthers was Nazem Kadri, who registered a hat trick to raise his season output to 17 goals and 44 points in 74 games.

There’s plenty for Kadri to play for as the Maple Leafs climb out of the NHL’s basement with just six games left on the schedule. The 25-year-old forward signed a one-year, $4.1-million “show me” contract this past summer. The former first-round pick (7th overall, 2009) has proven adept at drawing penalties and has showcased an ability to play an effective role in all three zones.

The Maple Leafs have embraced a youth movement and Kadri’s proven that he can be a valuable piece moving forward. He’ll be looking to get paid. He’s earned it.

Keith gets nasty, ejected

Duncan Keith has a mean streak and it could cost him and the Chicago Blackhawks following a nasty incident Tuesday versus the Minnesota Wild.

Keith delivered a vicious slash to the face of Wild forward Charlie Coyle during the first period Tuesday night. After getting planted on his back, Keith swung his stick at Coyle, bloodying him and causing damage to his nose and face.

Coyle remained in the game as the Wild marched to its sixth consecutive victory and strengthened their hold on a Western Conference wild card spot.

The news is decidedly less good for Keith and the Blackhawks.

Keith is not considered a repeat offender under the NHL’s discipline system, but his history is well known. He earned a one-game suspension in the 2013 playoffs for high-sticking Jeff Carter of the Los Angeles Kings. And Keith sat for five games for a hit to the head of Vancouver Canucks‘ Daniel Sedin in 2012.

With just five games left on the Blackhawks’ schedule, there’s a decent chance Keith’s stick work could cause him to sit into the post-season. We will see.

Virtanen could face supplementary discipline

Vancouver Canucks rookie Jake Virtanen could field his first phone call from the NHL’s department of player safety for his late hit on San Jose Sharks’ Roman Polak.

Virtanen caught the Sharks defenceman with an unnecessary hit early in the second period Tuesday. Polak left the game but did return. Virtanen earned a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct.

We’ve certainly seen dirtier plays, but it’s something that should be subject to an extra viewing or two from the league’s discipline crew.

Virtanen has seven goals and 13 points in 50 games this season.

Avalanche snap Blues’ streak

The last time the St. Louis Blues allowed a goal prior to facing the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday night was Wednesday, March 16 in a loss to the Edmonton Oilers. Call it four games and change or 258:30.

It all came to an end when Mikhail Grigorenko beat Brian Elliott in the first period Tuesday.

The Blues picked up a 3-1 win despite showing that they’re not impervious to goals against.

Spezza, Stars assert goal-scoring dominance

Jason Spezza became a 30-goal scorer for the first time since the 2011-12 season when he buried a beauty on Pekka Rinne in the Dallas Stars’ 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators Tuesday.

With that goal, Spezza joined teammates Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin in the 30-goal club. Dallas leads the NHL in scoring with 252 goals and they sit tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the second best goal differential (plus-32.)

The Stars remain tied with the Blues atop the Central Division with 99 points.

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