Tuesday's Three Stars: Hail to Hemsky in Edmonton

No. 1 star: Ales Hemsky, Edmonton Oilers

Pick an Oilers highlight in Tuesday's 4-3 win over Columbus and you've got Hemsky front and center. Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish called the two-goal, two-assist performance "unreal" and Hemsky's effort was all the more remarkable when you consider he's just one game removed from a lengthy layoff due to a concussion. All the tools were on display: patience to let the play develop and pick up two primary assists, explosiveness on the rush that led to a second-period backhand goal, and deft hands on the wrist shot that resulted in the winner with 34.9 seconds remaining. Victorious in five of six, Edmonton hits the All-Star break right in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.

No. 2 star: Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes

Somebody get this man a lounge chair and a blended drink. Ward hits the All-Star break having started 13 straight games for the Hurricanes, a workload that includes three road starts in the past four nights. Carolina won't play again until Jan. 27, which is probably just fine with Ward, who had to endure four minutes of Pittsburgh power-play time in the closing moments of Tuesday's 2-1 win. His 32-save evening included a point-blank denial of Evgeni Malkin with 24.1 seconds remaining. It hasn't been a great season for Ward, but he earned his time off with 67 saves and two wins in a 27-hour span.

No. 3 star: Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks

Some are calling Saturday's 6-5 win over Detroit the best regular-season game in the history of the Shark Tank. We'll see those years and raise you two seasons at the Cow Palace, but for 59 minutes against Vancouver on Tuesday the Sharks appeared destined to follow it up with an all-time stinker. Then Thornton won a key faceoff and fed Devin Setoguchi in front of the net for the tying goal with 40 seconds remaining in regulation. In overtime Thornton corralled a loose puck in the corner before making a cross-ice pass to Patrick Marleau for a one-timer that gave San Jose a 2-1 victory and reason to celebrate its one-week break in the schedule.

Honorable mention: Kari Lehtonen made 18 of his 34 saves in the final period to extend his personal winning streak to three games as Atlanta held off Montreal 4-2. Rookie defenseman Zach Bogosian had his second consecutive two-point game. … Ottawa's Antoine Vermette had a career-best three assists in a 3-2 win over the Caps. The beleaguered forward has nine points in eight games. … Anaheim rookie Bobby Ryan moved into a tie in the rookie goals race with his 14th tally in 30 games. … The Kings snapped out of an 0-for-26 power-play funk and got goals from five different players in a 5-2 win in Minnesota. … Sharks forward Claude Lemieux thumped Darcy Hordichuk pretty good for one of his three hits in 7:08 of ice time in his first NHL game in 5½ years and miraculously wasn't the player decked in a brief postgame altercation between teams.

Dishonorable mention: Caps coach Bruce Boudreau described the late tripping penalty on Alexander Semin that led to Ottawa's game-winning goal as "stupid, dumb and selfish." Semin wasn't Boudreau's only postgame target. … Washington lost in Ottawa 2-1 on Election Day and 3-2 on Inauguration Day. … The Red Wings allowed 12 goals in the final two games of their five-game trip and lost center Pavel Datsyuk to a hip injury in Tuesday's 6-3 loss in Phoenix.

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