No. 1 star: Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
It's still early, but the way Evgeni Malkin is playing he just might be lining himself up a couple of major awards (think Art Ross and Hart Memorial). It was Malkin in the middle of the action Monday night, providing primary assists on two tying goals and the winner in overtime as the Pittsburgh Penguins slipped past the homestanding Buffalo Sabres. Malkin fed Alex Goligoski 12:23 into the second period for a 2-2 tie. And after Buffalo forged back ahead, the third-year Russian star hooked up with Goligoski again, this time on the power play at 11:17 of the third to force extra time. There, Malkin passed to Sidney Crosby, who converted a controversial winner (high stick?) 43 seconds into sudden victory. Malkin increased his season total to 58 points as he owns an 11-point edge over Crosby for the league lead in scoring. In addition, Malkin extended his current scoring streak to nine straight games (five goals, 14 assists during the span).
No. 2 star: Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
The weather was positively frightful outside, but Daniel Sedin warmed up for the occasion, scoring a pair of goals in leading the Canucks to a comeback victory over the visiting and shivering Ducks. Sedin's even-strength goals came at 4:35 of the second period and 6:31 of the third, the second of the night and No. 17 on the year of the unassisted variety to eventually account for the winner. Sedin was a plus-2 during 17:21 of skating.
No. 3 star: Sheldon Souray, Edmonton Oilers
The defenseman with the booming shot from the point provided a tie-breaking winner with a power-play goal 45 ticks into the final period as the host Edmonton Oilers beat the visiting Phoenix Coyotes. Souray also logged an NHL-high 28:25 of ice time among those players in the league not named Scott Niedermayer (31:56) or Chris Pronger (29:59).
Honorable mention: Two goals and three points from Matt Stajan (13-7 on draws, too) provided more than enough offense to make rookie goalie Justin Pogge a winner during his NHL debut at Atlanta. … A shout out to the anonymous bus driver who safely navigated the rough roads from Pittsburgh to Buffalo when it was learned on Sunday that air travel was a no-go for the Penguins. … Crosby broke a career-high nine-game scoreless drought with an overtime winner, not to mention a great night in the faceoff circle (16-7). … Colby Armstrong scored two goals. And let's pretend he still plays for Pittsburgh. He really doesn't deserve to be a Thrasher.
Dishonorable mention: Speaking of Atlanta, got a minute? Here the Thrashers were playing at home, facing a 22-year-old goalie making his first NHL start and all they could muster was 21 shots on goal? At the other end, the point can be argued that Mr. Potential Kari Lehtonen is a fragile netminder when it comes to his health, but couldn't the Thrashers have done a better job in protecting their man two games back from seven weeks off with a bad back than to allow a 37-shot workload? That's 76 shots faced in two games. Finally, Atlanta dropped a home game for the seventh time in its last eight. … Just so the Thrashers don't think we're picking only then, let's hear it for Daniel Carcillo, the Phoenix forward who is supposed to be concentrating on better discipline after leading the league in penalty minutes last year. He logged 19 PIM Monday, a couple of minors for unsportsmanlike play, a 10-minute misconduct and five for fighting.