Tuesday's Three Stars: Malhotra, Jackets inch closer to playoffs

No. 1 star: Manny Malhotra, Columbus Blue Jackets

Desperate for points and in need of goals on a rare off night for rookie goalie Steve Mason, Columbus got a huge offensive boost from an unlikely source in a 5-4 win over Los Angeles. Malhotra put his stick on the ice and redirected a Rick Nash pass by Kings goalie Jon Quick for the winner at 10:16 of the third period. It capped Malhotra's first three-point and two-goal game in almost a full season (70 games). And he wasn't done. After Mason gave the Kings a late 6-on-4 skating advantage by clearing the puck over the glass, it was Malhotra who froze the puck as the final seconds ticked off the clock. He also led the Blue Jackets with four hits and held his own in the faceoff circle. This is one to circle on the calendar – Columbus had to rally after blowing a 3-1 lead in the second period – if the Jackets do finally punch a ticket to the postseason for the first time in franchise history.

No. 2 star: Chris Kunitz, Pittsburgh Penguins

Kunitz set up shop on top of the Tampa Bay crease Tuesday and banged home a pair of rebound goals in a 3-1 Penguins victory. Whether or not we've finally found a winger to thrive alongside Sidney Crosby remains to be seen. Crosby didn't play in Tampa as the Pens improved to 5-0 on the season without their captain. Since arriving from Anaheim in the deal that ended the Ryan Whitney era in Pittsburgh, Kunitz has three goals and two assists in three games.

No. 3 star: Steve Sullivan, Nashville Predators

With a pair of goals 70 seconds apart in the third period, Sullivan helped lead Nashville to its fifth-straight win, a 6-5 overtime triumph over Edmonton. He had two goals and an assist Tuesday after picking up three assists in Saturday's 8-0 win over Detroit. After a predictably slow start, Sullivan has 11 points in Nashville's last seven games.

Honorable mention: Carolina scored goals even-strength (Chad LaRose), on the power-play (Patrick Eaves), shorthanded (Matt Cullen, Eaves) and via a penalty shot (Eric Staal) in a 5-2 road win in Washington. … Caps winger Alexander Semin scored one from his knees from the left-wing faceoff circle in a losing effort. … Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble combined for six points as the Flyers won convincingly in Boston 4-2. … Warren Peters scored his first NHL goal and David Moss had his first hat trick (disclaimer: empty-netter) in Calgary's 6-3 win over Ottawa. … Make it four straight wins for Martin Brodeur, who stopped 30 shots in a 3-2 New Jersey win over Toronto. … Chris Osgood made 22 saves for his first shutout of the season in a 5-0 Detroit win over St. Louis. … Great individual effort by Martin Havlat, who fought off a Corey Perry bear hug before beating J.S. Giguere for the overtime winner in Chicago's 3-2 win over Anaheim. … Rookie James Neal scored a pair of goals in Dallas' 4-1 win in San Jose.

Did you know? Toronto's seventh straight overtime game tied an NHL record, established in 2003-04 by the Edmonton Oilers.

Dishonorable mention: The three goals allowed by Columbus in 1:55 in the second period were the fastest three goals allowed in team history. … The Sharks played the final two periods without Joe Pavelski, who received a game misconduct for what replays indicate may have been a phantom head-butt.

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