5 things we learned in the NHL: Crosby gaining steam

Watch as Sidney Crosby gets his own rebound to score a top-shelf goal in Pittsburgh’s victory over Detroit on Thursday.

New Year’s Eve was a pretty eventful night in the NHL.

In case you were busy ringing in 2016, here’s our best effort to recap Thursday night’s nine-game schedule.

Erik Haula scored the winner as the Wild beat the Blues, Jonathan Toews came up big for the Blackhawks in overtime (again!) against the Avalanche, the Stars took over first place in the league with a win over the Predators, and the Oilers continued their New Year’s Eve tradition with a loss to the Ducks.

Here are five things we learned in the NHL on New Year’s Eve:

Doan becomes franchise leader in goals
What more can Shane Doan do for the Arizona Coyotes franchise?

And how fitting it was that Doan became the all-time leader in goals scored for the organization on the same night the old Jets took on on the current version of the Winnipeg Jets.

The Coyotes captain and franchise icon scored his 380th career goal to surpass Dale Hawerchuk as the all-time leader in franchise history.

He later added an empty-netter to seal the win and notch no. 381. Prior to Thursday’s game, he was already the franchise leader in games played, even-strength goals and game-winning goals. He’ll soon pass Hawerchuk for the all-time lead in total points, too.

What a player.

Malkin lights up Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings likely have tough memories of Evgeni Malkin from their Stanley Cup Final series in 2008-09, when the Penguins forward scored eight points in seven games en route to a Stanley Cup victory and a Conn Smythe Trophy.

Malkin continued his success against Detroit Thursday, registering a goal and two assists in just 16:44 minutes of ice time.

Malkin wasn’t the only Pens superstar to contribute to Pittsburgh’s victory, as Sidney Crosby ripped a beauty from his knees in the top corner to beat Petr Mrazek. (See video at the top of this post.)

Crosby has recorded points in five of his last six games — scoring eight points over that stretch — and his being able to contribute offensively on a regular basis will go a long way for a Pittsburgh team that has struggled to produce offence on a consistent basis this season.

Getting production from both Crosby and Malkin is a great sign heading into the new year.

Eddie Lack gaining steam
The Washington Capitals‘ nine-game undefeated streak came to an end at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes, and a big reason for that was the play of goaltender Eddie Lack, who recorded 30 saves in a 4-2 victory.

Lack has not posted the most impressive statistics in his first year with Carolina but the former Canucks goaltender has been picking up momentum as of late, recording 30-plus saves in three of his last five games with a 4-0-1 record over that stretch.

If the club’s goaltending can pick up in the second half of the season, it would go a long way for a Hurricanes team that advanced numbers suggest are a bit better than their current record states.

Nielsen having a fantastic contract year
For understandable reasons, New York Islanders forward Frans Nielsen isn’t the most talked about pending unrestricted free agent. (Everyone in Toronto and Tampa Bay is well aware of who holds that title.)

However, Nielsen is quietly having a great year for the Islanders. The 31-year-old forward scored his 14th goal of the season on Thursday and is on-pace to surpass his career-high single-season total, which was 25 in 2013-14. Nielsen ranks in the top three among Islanders in goals, points, and shots on goal.

What makes things tricky for the Islanders is that Nielsen isn’t the team’s only key forward scheduled to hit free agency in July. Kyle Okposo will be a UFA as well, barring any contract extension before the summer.

In an ideal world, the Islanders would love to bring both forwards back but it remains to be seen if that’s workable under their salary cap.

Kings best the west

The Los Angeles Kings have been on a streak lately, riding some momentum into the New Year with four straight wins following Thursday’s victory over the Calgary Flames.

The Kings have been all defence this week, completely shutting down their last three opponents during their Western Canada road trip. They defeated the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Flames by a combined score of 14-3. Not a bad way to ring in the New Year.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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