It's starting to happen with regularity, isn't it? James Neal had a memorable one on Tuesday, getting his hat trick in front of family in the Air Canada Center. He got No. 1 Star, too, and he deserved very bit of it. I love the way the kid plays: no fear, no problem getting to the net and he was determined to get that third one. So kudos to him.
He's the fourth Stars player with a hat trick this season (Fabian Brunnstrom, Mark Parrish and Loui Eriksson), and the second THIS WEEK to have one (Loui on Thursday against Columbus). I also have to remind myself that two of those tricks were taken by rookies. He and Fabian are up there in the goals-for-rookies category (Neal's tied for third with 11, Brunnstrom's tied for fifth with 10). So there's no problem with the youngsters, eh?
But on this night, it was hard to say anyone had a bad night. Steve Ott, Mike Ribeiro, Stephane Robidas, Trevor Daley, etc. I could be here all night. The Stars did not want to go home empty-handed facing a two-day break, and no problem there. I know the Leafs were tired from their latest run of games (they played in Atlanta on Monday night), but this was something else. Vesa Toskala wasn't good, but the guys in front of him didn't help him out much, either.
Neal was grateful, but in a hurry to meet family. Understandable. "It’s obviously a special day coming home and playing in front of them. Obviously the points are so big right now, we're doing everything we can to keep playing. Playing with guys like (Jere) Lehtinen and (MIke) Modano, it’s an unbelievable feeling."
Dave Tippett on getting this one: "Playing a team that traveled late last night, we wanted to jump on them early and get a lead and we were able to do that. We had some good opportunities and we capitalized on them, and we did a great job of not letting our foot off the gas."
Steve Ott on his ability to just annoy despite being unable to fight with his broken right hand: "My mouth still works great."
And how pretty was Brunnstrom's goal, by the way?
Ah, it was a good way to end the trip, kids, mainly because there were plenty of good outings to talk about over the next two days when there is no practice and nobody is going to be available. (No, I refuse to be one of those who calls people on Christmas day when it is absolutely unnecessary. Some things are sacred). I wish you all a happy, healthy Christmas and we'll see you again on Friday.