Maple Leafs 4, Ducks 2
Kessel's fourth career hat-trick impressed the soldout crowd who showered the ice with baseball caps and no doubt caught the attention of US Olympic team scout Don Waddell, who was in attendance at the Air Canada Centre.
"Pure goal scorers find ways to get pucks directed towards the net," said Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, who also coached the Ducks to their only Stanley Cup before joining Toronto.
"If you look where the goals were scored from it was a lot different from the outside, these goals were scored from tough areas. There's a difference."
Kessel's outburst stole the spotlight for another prolific scorer, Ducks' 43-year-old winger Teemu Selanne, who is retiring at the end of the season.
The Finn, who was on a three-game scoring streak, was kept off the score sheet as the Ducks began their eight-game road trip with their first defeat since a season-opening loss to Colorado.
The Ducks jumped out to a 2-0 lead with goals from Nick Bonino and Mathieu Perreault before Toronto, who had managed just one shot in the opening 17 minutes, broke out of their offensive slumber midway through the second period with Kessel notching his first on a power play.
Defenseman Dion Phaneuf pulled the Leafs level just 79 seconds later before Kessel collected his second to put Toronto ahead.
"Those were serious goal-scorer goals," said Phaneuf in praising Kessel.
"He didn't have a lot of room on two out of the three.
"He found a way to put the puck in the net. That's what he does, and that's why he's one of the top players in the league.
"It's a huge game for our team to come back from two goals down."
Kessel completed his hat-trick on a nice setup by James van Riemsdyk, who assisted on two of the goals.
"JVR (van Riemsdyk) made two great passes to me and I was fortunate enough to bury both of them," said Kessel.
"It was a good night."
Blackhawks 3, Panthers 2 (shootout)
The Chicago Blackhawks blew a two-goal lead in the third period but emerged with a shootout win over the Florida Panthers.
Florida (3-6-1) cut Chicago's lead to 2-1 on a goal by Tomas Fleischmann with 10:56 left in the third period before Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov tied it with 8:09 left.
In the shootout, Chicago's Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp converted for the Blackhawks (6-1-2).
Jacob Markstrom finished in goal for Florida, relieving Tim Thomas with 2:59 left in the third period. Thomas, who made 25 saves, apparently re-injured his groin.
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Capitals 5, Jets 4 (shootout)
The Capitals registered a free-flowing shootout victory as Martin Erat beat Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec through the legs in the sixth round.
The Capitals scored on four of six opportunities in the shootout, while the Jets scored on three of six attempts.
Alex Ovechkin scored his eighth and ninth goals of the season, while Mikhail Grabovski and Troy Brouwer also scored for Washington (4-5-0).
Bryan Little had two goals, and Blake Wheeler and Grant Clitsome also scored for Winnipeg, who outshot the Capitals 47-32.
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Canucks 5, Islanders 4 (overtime)
Brad Richardson's goal with 2:44 left in overtime lifted the Vancouver Canucks to a win over the New York Islanders.
The Canucks (6-4-1) came back from a 2-0 first-period deficit as Ryan Kesler, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Chris Huggins all scored and goaltender Roberto Luongo made 28 saves.
The Islanders forced overtime with 1:12 left in regulation on a tip-in by Frans Nielsen. Matt Moulson scored twice and Brock Nelson scored his first NHL goal for the Islanders (3-3-3), who lost their second straight.
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Oilers 4, Canadiens 3
Jeff Petry and Ryan Jones scored 1:58 apart midway through third period to help the Edmonton Oilers come from behind in a win over the Montreal Canadiens.
Montreal took an early 2-0 edge before Ales Hemsky and Ladislav Smid scored 2:47 apart in the second to draw the Oilers even. Petry and Jones established the two-goal lead.
Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves and Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Mark Arcobello each had two assists.
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Blue Jackets 4, Devils 1
James Wisniewski overcame the flu to have one goal and two assists, and the Columbus Blue Jackets overcame a slow start to beat the New Jersey Devils.
Brandon Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson and Marian Gaborik also scored for the Blue Jackets, who earned their first win over New Jersey since Dec. 11, 2005, a span of five games (0-4-1).
Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 24 shots for his third win.
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Wild 2, Predators 0
Rookie Justin Fontaine's second career goal was the game-winner as the Minnesota Wild dominated the Nashville Predators but struggled to score in a victory.
Josh Harding made 16 saves for the Wild for his first shutout of the season, and Jason Pominville scored into an empty net as Minnesota (4-3-3) snapped a three-game winless streak.