The Buzzer: Canucks win in return from COVID-19 protocol (Sunday in NHL)

3 Stars for Sunday in the NHL

1. Boston Bruins’ top line

Honestly, you could probably pick Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak for each of the three stars for Sunday in the NHL and call it a night. Even if, uh, they played during the afternoon.

Either way, it isn’t easy to distinguish the top star from the Bruins’ 6-3 win against the Capitals.

From a volume perspective, Brad Marchand led the way. He generated two goals and two assists for four points. Interestingly, it’s been feast-or-famine for Marchand lately. Over the last five games, Marchand’s been held pointless on three occasions, yet two outbursts put him at six points (4G, 2A) in his past five contests.

With Taylor Hall bolstering what now looks like a strong Bruins second line, Boston’s in a better position to handle the occasional pointless night from one or more members of “The Perfection Line.”

Speaking of the others, Bergeron didn’t get involved in a late empty-net goal, but ended up with three points (2G, 1A) and matched Marchand’s +4 rating. Pastrnak grabbed one of his assists on that ENG, yet was still prolific with three helpers and a +3 rating.

While 1,000 Games Club Member Nicklas Backstrom enjoyed a strong showing with two assists of his own, it wasn’t enough as the Capitals fell to the Bruins and that “Perfection Line.”

2. Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders

For a significant chunk of Sunday’s OT loss to the Islanders, the Flyers likely believed they deserved better.

Through the first 40 minutes, the Flyers generated 23-15 shots on goal advantage, firing 15 on Sorokin during the second period alone. The Flyers couldn’t beat Sorokin once, though, as the young goalie put together a 30-save shutout.

Going forward, the Islanders shouldn’t hesitate to give Sorokin reps. He’s now won four of five games, allowing two goals or fewer in each of those appearances. A lot of the Islanders’ success comes down to their defensive system, but Sorokin’s looking solid in his own right.

3. Braden Holtby/Bo Horvat, Vancouver Canucks

No doubt about it, the Canucks came into Sunday’s return from a lengthy COVID-related absence with some self-doubt. They also faced a Maple Leafs team that would be a challenge under even the most optimal circumstances.

Now, the Canucks fighting through that COVID disruption isn’t about one game. If anything, they might actually feel it more and more as the grind of their schedule truly sets in. But on Sunday night, Braden Holtby was absolutely brilliant in helping the Canucks squeeze out an OT win vs. the Maple Leafs.

It’s not as if the Maple Leafs laid an egg in the Canucks’ COVID return. Toronto fired 39 shots on goal, testing Holtby often. The veteran goalie made 37 saves, including the highlight of the night for Sunday in the NHL.

If allowing two goals disqualifies Holtby in your mind, you could instead roll with Bo Horvat. The Canucks’ captain helped his team rally from a 2-0 deficit, scoring two goals (including the overtime game-winner) and an assist.

Highlight of the night for Sunday in the NHL: Windmill save from Canucks’ Holtby

Braden Holtby left Wayne Simmonds (and the rest of us) stunned with a beautiful windmill save. Shades of Dominik Hasek here:

Stat of the Night

This is a quirky one from the NHL. That said, if the Rangers defy the odds and make the playoffs, they’ll do so in part based on dominating the Devils:

Sunday’s NHL scores

Bruins 6, Capitals 3
Rangers 5, Devils 3
Sabres 4, Penguins 2
Golden Knights 5, Ducks 2
Islanders 1, Flyers 0 (OT)
Canucks 3, Maple Leafs 2 (OT)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.