No. 1 star, Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets:
Playing goal in the NHL is not as easy as Steve Mason is making it look. And if the Washington Capitals ever see him again it will be too soon. Mason turned away all 45 shots Washington could muster Friday night for a 3-0 victory, virtually duplicating his 3-0 win over the Capitals on Nov. 29 in Columbus. Mason, with 71 straight stops to start his career against the Caps, denied Alexander Ovechkin 12 times on Friday, and 18 in the two games combined. Named earlier in the day to participate in the young stars' portion of All-Star Weekend in Montreal, the 20-year-old rookie already has six shutouts. Oh, and lest we forget, he was iffy all day with an upper-body ailment, but shook off the injury to play in a game in which Columbus was missing eight regulars.
No. 2 star, Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks:
It's taken the Sharks' captain only half a season to surpass his goal total of a year ago. Patrick Marleau scored goals Nos. 20 and 21 to rally the Sharks to a character-testing victory in Edmonton. After a 5-2 loss in Calgary two nights earlier, which prompted an 8 a.m. practice the following morning, Sharks' coach Todd McLellan was particularly pleased it was Marleau leading the way. Snubbed an All-Star selection despite his better-than point-per-game pace, Marleau was a plus-1 with three shots and two hits during 18:20 of ice time as San Jose took over the top spot from Boston in the overall standings.
No. 3 star, Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres:
Miller is heating up again, and the Sabres couldn't be happier. Miller turned away 43 shots in regulation and was 3-for-3 in the shootout as Buffalo turned aside the Rangers, who had won eight of nine when games went to the skills' competition this season. Miller helped the Sabres win their fourth game in a row.
Honorable mention: Rangers' backup Steve Valiquette was pretty darn good in goal opposite Miller. He stopped 32 of 33 in regulation, including all 16 the Sabres threw his way during a heavy third-period siege. … Rookie tough guy Brad Staubitz picked an appropriate place to score his first NHL goal for the Sharks – in his hometown of Edmonton. Teammate Rob Blake reached a milestone as well, his 500th career assist. … Vancouver defenseman Willie Mitchell scored two goals and added an assist in a losing effort. … Ryan Malone scored two goals while Martin St. Louis scored one and added two assists as the Lightning won at Anaheim. … In the same game, coach Rick Tocchet did the smart thing – finally – and designated rookie Steven Stamkos as a healthy scratch. The top pick in last June's draft, being force fed to the NHL by Tampa Bay, had one goal and three points in his past 16 games.
Dishonorable mention: Washington's Boyd Gordon hurt his back – during the pregame warm-ups. … One might think no trips to the penalty box is a good thing, but don't the Rangers have to play a little harder on a team like the Buffalo Sabres? … Dwayne Roloson usually owns – oooownz – the Sharks, but on Friday night he was lifted after watching three of 10 shots fly past in the opening period, including one that was a Bill Buckner special. … Nice home debut by Mats Sundin. To the box for slashing at 17:30 of the third period in a tie game, Sundin had the best seat in the house for St. Louis' game-winning goal. Overall, Sundin was scoreless, a minus-1 and appeared on the Vancouver ice for only 13:51.