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Penguins blank Sabres, 2-0

Sunday, 12.30.2007 / 1:15 AM / Roundup

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

Penguins goaltender Ty Conklin stopped all 26 shots he faced for his first shutout in nearly two years as Pittsburgh blanked the Buffalo Sabres 2-0 at Mellon Arena on Saturday night. 
Happily for the Buffalo Sabres, they’ll have a couple of days to rest before hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday in the AMP Energy Winter Classic. The Sabres looked weary Saturday night in Pittsburgh, dropping the front of the home-and-home series with the Penguins 2-0 — their third loss in four nights.
   
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''We just seemed to lack any jump throughout the team,'' Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. ''I don't know if it was the amount of games or playing back-to-back, but it was almost a collective push. ... It was an effort tonight that lacked a lot of energy.''
   
The Penguins got a sterling effort from backup goalie Ty Conklin, who stopped all 26 shots he faced for his first shutout since Jan. 3, 2006, for Edmonton against Chicago. Conklin didn’t face a lot of second chances from the Sabres, who lost 5-3 at home to Ottawa on Wednesday and 2-1 in a shootout at New Jersey on Friday.
   
''He's pretty confident back there, and some plays he's almost like a third defenseman,'' said Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby, who assisted on both goals. ''A speedy team like Buffalo that has a great forecheck, a goalie like him who can handle the puck really helps out a lot. We did a good job of not giving up too much.''
   
Colby Armstrong and Evgeni Malkin scored for the Penguins, who won their third in a row and 12th in 17 games since they were a season-worst 8-11-2.
   
Armstrong gave Pittsburgh the lead with his fifth goal, one created by Crosby's strong rush immediately after the second period began ( 700K ). Crosby put his shoulder down to hold off Jochen Hecht and secure the puck at the blue line, then faked shooting twice before slipping a pass to Armstrong in the crease, who knocked it past Miller 12 seconds into the period.
   
''He's going to the net there and I'm just trying to give him the puck — you score goals when you go to the net and obviously he was rewarded for that,'' Crosby said.
Malkin scored his 15th goal ( 700K ), into an open net with 21.2 seconds remaining after Buffalo’s Ryan Miller turned aside 23 of 24 shots.
   
One key Penguin won’t get to play in Tuesday’s outdoor game at Ralph Wilson Stadium: Gary Roberts, Pittsburgh’s 41-year-old forward, broke his left leg after becoming tangled with Buffalo's Tim Connolly in the left circle midway through the second period.
   
''The young players in our lineup will have to compensate for the leadership that we won't have from Gary Roberts, and we don't know for how long,'' Penguins coach Michel Therrien said.
   
By Tuesday, the Sabres should have a little more energy.
 
''The effort was there in a lot of areas, we just couldn't find a way, it's frustrating,” defenseman Brian Campbell said. “We've got to put a push on here and stay positive.''
   
Rangers 6, Maple Leafs 1 | Video
   
Toronto native Stephen Valiquette had a happier homecoming than the Maple Leafs. Valiquette made 27 saves, and New York’s sputtering power play scored five time as the Rangers spoiled Toronto’s homecoming after a seven-game road trip.
   
Petr Prucha, who hadn’t scored in 17 games, matched his output for the season’s first 36 games by scoring two of the five power-play goals as the Rangers enjoyed their biggest offensive night of the season.
   
"It's a miracle," he said. "I was waiting for it a long time, and I just want to keep scoring ... and get some confidence."
   
Blair Betts ( 700K ) and Jaromir Jagr ( 700K ) scored in a 2:56 span in the first period to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead before their power play blew it open by scoring three times in the second period and once in the third. Prucha got the first and last man-advantage tallies.
   
“My confidence was shaken just in front of the net and I couldn't score a goal," he said. "The one thing that was missing from my game was points. I'm just glad I did it tonight."
   
The Rangers have scored seven power-play goals in winning their two post-Christmas games after getting just five in their previous eight, going 2-4-2 during that span.
    
''It's the first time in about 10 games we have something going on the power play, our unit anyway,'' Jagr said. ''We have to wait and see. The power play won the game for us.''
   
All those goals made things easy for Valiquette, who has both of his wins this season in Toronto. He lost his shutout when Darcy Tucker scored with 11:40 left ( 700K ).
   
''It's probably our best effort of the year,'' Valiquette said. ''There's something about coming to Toronto, with all the history of hockey and coming to Canada.”
   
The Leafs were horrible in their first home game since Dec. 10, giving the Rangers 10 power plays and allowing at least five goals for the 10th time in 39 games. Goalie Andrew Raycroft was pulled after Straka’s goal at 10:31 of the second period ( 700K ) made it 5-1.
   
''We're a team and we're going to live and die by sticking together as a group here,'' Tucker said. ''We have to play better in front of him.''
   
Islanders 5, Devils 2 | Video
   
The Islanders got goals from defenseman Chris Campoli, Marc-Andre Bergeron and Andy Sutton as they defeated the Devils for the forth time in as many meetings this season, 5-2.
The NHL’s lowest-scoring team got a boost from its defensemen. The Islanders got goals from blue liners Chris Campoli, Marc-Andre Bergeron and Andy Sutton as they beat the Devils for the fourth time in as many meetings this season.
   
Sutton broke a 2-2 tie with 8:17 left in regulation ( 700K ) when he moved in from the left point and hammered Mike Sillinger’s pass behind Martin Brodeur for his first goal of the season. He also had an assist on Sean Bergenheim’s goal ( 700K ) off a rebound with 4:59 left. Mike Comrie’s empty-netter wrapped up the win ( 700K ) before a rare sellout crowd at the Nassau Coliseum.
   
"I thought the fans tonight were as important as our players," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said.

"They really inspired us right from the get-go. They got our adrenaline up."
   
The Devils lead the Atlantic Division, but not because of their success against the other two New York-area teams. They are 0-3-1 against the Islanders and 0-2-2 against the Rangers.
   
"Games like that are a huge swing," Brodeur said. "We keep on making it harder on ourselves when we lose to teams in our division."
   
The Islanders grabbed a 2-0 lead on Campoli’s shorthanded goal 5:03 ( 700K ) into the first period and Bergeron’s power-play goal at 12:02  ( 700K ) of the second. But the Devils got a spark when Zach Parise took Brian Gionta’s touch pass and beat Wade Dubielewicz with 25 seconds left in the period ( 700K ).
   
New Jersey wasted little time getting the tying goal. Madden beat Dubielewicz with a wrist shot from the right circle at 3:59 ( 700K ), and the Devils buzzed the Islanders’ zone for the next few minutes but were unable to get a third puck past the Isles’ backup goaltender, who got his second straight start with Rick DiPietro out with a sprained knee.
   
"Dubie is one of those guys that as he gets more playing time, the better he's going to get," Nolan said. "A win is certainly good for his confidence and the team knowing we can win with Dubie in net."
   
Flyers 4, Lightning 2 | Video
   
Tampa Bay’s struggles have extended to the point that they can’t even beat the Flyers, a team it has dominated over the past few years. Joffrey Lupul scored on a penalty shot and added two assists as Philadelphia beat Tampa Bay for only the second time in 14 regular-season meetings since the start of the 2003-04 season.
   
Lupul, who has four goals and four assists in his last four games, put the Flyers up 1-0 with his penalty shot goal at 7:13 of the first period ( 700K ). He was pulled down during a breakaway by Tampa Bay defenseman Brad Lukowich.
   
"I was cutting hard to the net, and I was going to get a shot right in front," Lupul said. "I don't know if I had a clear-cut breakaway. There's not much you can do. You go hard to the net and if they give you a penalty shot, that's great. I guess I was surprised and happy with the call."
   
Mike Knuble broke a 1-1 tie by scoring a power-play goal with 56 seconds left in the second period ( 700K ) and Scott Hartnell made it 3-1 at 31 seconds of the third period ( 700K ). Kimmo Timonen added an insurance goal at 4:17 ( 700K ).
   
Tampa Bay, which has lost nine of 11, got goals from Vincent Lecavalier ( 700K ) and Vaclav Prospal ( 700K ). The Bolts are 0-3-0 since the Christmas break.
   
"I thought we did some good things," Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said. "I thought we had more determination, but we're going to need more. We're working hard, but obviously it isn't enough. We need to continue to do even more little things in desperation to try and get this going."
   
Martin Biron made 31 saves as the Flyers opened their annual post-Christmas road trip with their second straight win after a six-game losing streak that has dropped them back in the pack in the East.
   
"Just look around the Eastern Conference and see what's going on," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "Every night somebody seems to be pulling away, and I think it's important that we try to climb back in. The fact that we haven't won back-to-back is a big concern."
    
The Lightning have dropped to last in the East after a month in which they went 5-8-1 despite playing 10 of 14 games at the St. Pete Times Forum.
   
"It's a frustrating time right now," center Chris Gratton said. "When you go through times like this, it seems as through things try to snowball down on you."
   
Kings 3, Avalanche 1Video
   
The Los Angeles Kings snapped an eight-game losing streak as they defeated the Colorado Avalanche 3-1 on Saturday night.
A streak-busting win brought the rare sound of laughter to the Kings’ locker room. Los Angeles scored three times in the third period at the Pepsi Center to beat one of the NHL’s best home teams.
   
“It's extremely gratifying for our guys," coach Marc Crawford said after his team ended an eight-game losing streak. "You can hear them whooping it up after the game. It's a nice sound to hear because we've been so dejected after most of these games."
   
The Avs were coasting along with a 1-0 lead on Jordan Leopold’s goal at 12:26 of the first period ( 700K ), allowing the Kings just 10 shots in the first 40 minutes. But Derek Armstrong tied it with 9:47 left in regulation ( 700K ) and Scott Thornton put Los Angeles ahead 77 seconds later ( 700K ) when he pounded a slap shot past Jose Theodore from close in.
   
Anze Kopitar hit the empty net with 17 seconds left ( 700K ) as the Kings won on the road for the first time since beating the Sharks in San Jose on Nov. 28.
   
“We came out a little sluggish the first couple of periods, but we stuck with the system," Armstrong said. "I think that's what we've got to do a little bit more."
   
The Avalanche fell to 15-5-0 at home and 15-2-1 when scoring first.
   
"They came out good in the third, and had some chances, and they ended up winning the game," said Theodore, who played for the first time in eight games.
   
The Kings were just elated to end their losing streak, which included four one-goal losses.
   
"It's great for them," Crawford said. "They can now, hopefully, continue that feeling. Confidence comes from results, and we got a result tonight. Hopefully, we can build on the result."
   
Thrashers 5, Bruins 0 | Video
   
Atlanta wasted little time ending a post-Christmas slump. The Thrashers got first-period goals by Slava Kozlov, Bobby Holik and Pascal Dupuis and rolled over the Bruins, who’ve lost six in a row.
   
Atlanta, which had lost two in a row after the Christmas break after winning its last four before the holiday, jumped on Boston early, scoring two goals 1:32 apart in the first period. Kozlov scored at 7:50 ( 700K ) on a pass from Eric Perrin, easily beating Boston goaltender Alex Auld from in close. Holik made it 2-0 ( 700K ) after Auld got tangled up trying to clear the puck along the boards.

Dupuis came out from behind the net and tucked the puck past Auld at 16:45 for 3-0 lead ( 700K ).
   
"It was important for us to establish the pace of the game early on and the guys came out and did a tremendous job," Atlanta general manager and coach Don Waddell said.
   
Ilya Kovalchuk ( 700K ) and Alexei Zhitnik ( 700K ) added second-period goals, and Kari Lehtonen did the rest, stopping 26 shots — including Marco Sturm’s second-period breakaway — for his second shutout of the season and ninth of his career.
   
"Tonight we played the same that we did the other night, but now it is 5-0," said Lehtonen, referring to Thursday night's 5-3 loss at Florida in which the Thrashers outshot the Panthers, 41-29.
   
Things continue to go sour for the Bruins, whose hot start is dissipating amid a sea of losses.
   
"Throughout the season you are going to go through some tough times," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Obviously, we are going through those tough times (now)."
   
Added forward Marc Savard: "We have to stick together here. We are the only ones who are going to get us out of this. The good thing is that we play these guys Monday, and we’ll be ready for them."

Blue Jackets 4, Hurricanes 1 | Video
   
Nikolai Zherdev had a hand in all of the Blue Jackets' offense, scoring two goals and assisting on the other two, as the Columbus defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1.
Columbus fans are watching Nikolai Zherdev mature right before their eyes, and they’re liking what they’re seeing. Zherdev had a hand in all of the Blue Jackets’ offense, scoring two goals and assisting on the other two, as Columbus downed Carolina at Nationwide Arena.
   
A year removed from a disastrous season and the center of many trade rumors, the 23-year-old talent from Ukraine has found himself this season under coach Ken Hitchcock and new general manager Scott Howson.
   
"He's catching on how to really play and act," said Rostislav Klesla, also a former first-round draft pick by Columbus. "It's been a long way for him."
   
Klesla and Kris Beech had the other goals for the Blue Jackets. Eric Staal scored for Carolina, which hasn't won consecutive games since Nov. 10-12.
   
Zherdev broke a scoreless tie at 2:06 of the second period ( 700K ) when he circled behind his net to gather a full head of steam for the coast-to-coast rush. He skated around or through every Hurricanes player before zipping a low shot from between the circles past Cam Ward.
   
"He's as good as anybody in the National Hockey League with the puck," Hitchcock said of the right wing, who’s well on his way to career highs with 15 goals and 31 points. "He makes plays very few players in the world make and he does it at top speed."
   
Klesla’s power-play goal at 6:45 made it 2-0 ( 700K ), and Zherdev struck again when he took Rick Nash’s pass and beat John Grahame on a breakaway at 14:02 ( 700K ).
   
“It was three bad things that happened in a row," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said of the Blue Jackets' second period scoring outburst. "They made the most of their chances."
   
Staal scored a power-play goal 2:50 into the third ( 700K ), but the Hurricanes were unable to beat Pascal Leclaire again. Zherdev passed up a chance for a hat trick and fed Beech instead for an empty-netter with 10 seconds remaining ( 700K ).
   
“Those types of things endear you to your teammates," Hitchcock said.
   
Wild 5, Oilers 4, OT | Video
   
Minnesota didn’t let a little thing like a three-goal deficit get it down. Brian Rolston started the comeback late in the second period and Petteri Nummelin finished it with a power-play goal 1:50 into overtime ( 700K ) as the Wild handed Edmonton its fifth straight loss.
   
Brent Burns tapped in the tying score with 5:16 left in regulation for Minnesota ( 700K ), which trailed 4-1 late in the second period after giving up a franchise-record two short-handed goals.
   
"It was desperate hockey," Burns said of the Wild’s comeback.
   
Edmonton took a quick 1-0 lead when Joni Pitkanen scored a shorthanded goal 1:23 into the game ( 700K ) and led 4-1 after Jarret Stoll got the Oilers’ second shorthander of the night at 8:35 of the second ( 700K ).
   
Rolston began the comeback when he beat Dwayne Roloson at 17:33 of the third period ( 700K ), and the puck spent most of the final 20 minutes in the Oilers’ zone. Marian Gaborik snapped a mini-slump after his five-goal game before Christmas when he scored at 4:44 ( 700K ), and Burns tied the game 10 minutes later.
   
"We just started working, and they packed it in a little bit," Rolston said. "They were a little fragile, and we kept going at 'em and eventually we got the goals."
   
Nummelin’s goal came with Steve Staios in the penalty box, capping a night gone bad for the Oilers.
   
"We're still trying to figure out what kind of team we are," said captain Ethan Moreau, who played in his first regular-season game in more than 14 months. "It's going to be imperative we find out pretty quick, because everyone knows it gets a lot tougher in the second half."
   
Sharks 5, Predators 2 | Video
   
The San Jose Sharks defeated the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Saturday night for a franchise-record ninth straight road win.
San Jose continues to defy the premise that teams play better at home. The Sharks won their team-high ninth straight game away from HP Pavilion behind a goal and two assists by Steve Bernier.
   
San Jose won its third road game in four nights and improved to a league-best 15-3-2 away from home. The Sharks are just 6-9-3 at HP Pavilion.
   
"We have had to be really patient on the road," said Marcel Goc, who scored the Sharks’ first goal midway through the opening period. "When we are patient we don't have the breakdowns. The Predators scored two quick goals on us, but that happens. We kept with our game plan and it is working."
   
Jean-Pierre Dumont ( 700K ) and Kevin Klein ( 700K ) scored early in the second period to put Nashville ahead, but San Jose tied the game at 12:04 on defenseman Craig Rivet's goal ( 700K ), on a slap shot just inside the blue line.
   
"We're not putting up the offensive production we have had in the past, but at the same time our goals against average is one of the best in the National Hockey League," said Rivet. "We take pride in playing defense first on this team."
   
The Sharks blew the game open in the third. Matt Carle scored a power-play goal 4:00 into the period ( 700K ), Torrey Mitchell made it 4-2 at 8:25 ( 700K ) and Bernier sealed it for the Sharks with 5:44 left to play ( 700K ).
   
Nashville coach Barry Trotz wasn’t happy with the third-period play of his team and his goaltender, Chris Mason.

"I didn't think we got the goaltending that you need in the third period," Trotz said. "But we can also blame everyone for every loss. Everybody has to contribute. That is an area that has to be more consistent."

Red Wings 4, Coyotes 2 | Video
   
Nothing seems to stop Detroit, which also won on the road for the third time in four nights by outlasting Phoenix. Pavel Datsyuk broke a 2-2 tie when he beat Ilya Bryzgalov with a slap shot from the right circle with 4:06 remaining ( 700K ).
   
The Wings, who also won in St. Louis on Wednesday and at Colorado on Friday, swept the three games without No. 1 center Henrik Zetterberg and top-line left wing Tomas Holmstrom, both of whom are out with injuries.
   
''We have some guys out, and I knew I had to step up,'' said Datsyuk, who also had two assists.
   
Kris Draper added an empty-net goal with 35 seconds remaining ( 700K ) as Detroit won its fourth in a row and sixth in seven games.
   
Datsyuk “is playing at another level,'' Wings coach Mike Babcock said. ''He usually plays against the opposition's best line, and right now, he's outplaying them.''
   
Datsyuk's goal was his 15th, behind only Zetterberg's 25 and Holmstrom's 17 as team leaders.
 
''Pavel really stepped up when we needed him,'' said captain Nicklas Lidstrom. ''He has that ability to just pull up and make things happen. He knows how to keep control and get the shot off.''
   
After Mikael Samuelsson scored 15:12 into the game to put Detroit ahead ( 700K ), Phoenix took the lead by scoring twice in 25 seconds midway through the second period. Defenseman Ed Jovanovski took a pass from Radim Vrbata off the boards and fired a 25-footer past Chris Osgood at 9:44 ( 700K ). Vrbata put the Coyotes ahead when he scored on a penalty shot, beating Osgood with a backhander ( 700K ) after he broke in alone and was hooked by Johan Franzen.
   
It was the first successful Phoenix penalty shot since Ladislav Nagy beat Dwayne Roloson of Minnesota on Oct. 8, 2005.
   
Brian Rafalski tied the game with a blast from the right circle at 18:26 during a four-on-three power play ( 700K ).
   
Phoenix’s power play continues to struggle. The Coyotes were 0-for-4 — much to the consternation of coach Wayne Gretzky.
   
''We talked about the power play for the last four days,'' Gretzky said. ''Our power play has to score and contribute.''
   
Stars 5, Blues 4, SO | Video
   
Stars center Mike Modano netted the lone goal of the shootout to lift the Dallas Stars to a 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Blues
Mike Smith couldn’t stop Paul Kariya in the third period. The shootout was another story.
   
Kariya capped a third-period hat trick by scoring with 10.7 seconds left in regulation, sending the game into overtime. But after five scoreless minutes, Mike Modano scored the only goal of the shootout and Smith made a tremendous glove save to deny Kariya.
   
“He got the best of me in the third period,” Smith said. “I got a little revenge in the shootout.”
   
Modano's goal at 4:01 of the third gave Dallas a 3-1 lead. But Kariya started his run 90 seconds later with an unassisted goal from the left circle that cut it to 3-2, then took a pass from Brad Boyes and beat Smith at 10:31 to tie it at 3-3. Mike Ribeiro’s career-best 21st goal gave the Stars a 4-3 lead with 5:01 left. But Kariya, who hadn't scored a goal in his last nine games, beat Smith from the right circle for his third of the night.
   
Kariya last scored three goals April 18, 2006 against Detroit, while with Nashville.
   
''Anytime you can contribute, it's nice,'' said Kariya. “I wasn't playing that well, especially the last four or five games. It was nice to help the team get a point. Obviously we're disappointed we're not getting two. But we hung in the game and battled through some adversity.''
   
The Stars have won 16 of 22 games and were victorious a day after giving coach Dave Tippett a contract extension.
   
''Points are fine,'' Tippett said. ''But we have to play much better than that. We snuck one out.''
   
Niklas Hagman and Stu Barnes scored 47 seconds apart to give Dallas a 2-0 lead in the first period. David Perron beat Smith from the left circle at 13:15, ending the Blues’ scoring drought at 141:16. They had been shut out in consecutive games.

Flames 5, Ducks 3 | Video
   
Jarome Iginla started Calgary’s comeback from a 3-1 deficit by scoring midway through the second period and capped it by scoring on the power play with 3:26 remaining to snap a tie as the Flames rallied to beat Anaheim at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
   
“They outplayed us in the first period. Jarome’s goal gave us momentum,” said linemate Kristian Huselius, who set up Iginla’s goal at 11:14 and tied the game by scoring at 12:48. “We could feel the energy coming back.”
   
Huselius stole the puck from Scott Niedermayer behind the Anaheim net and snapped a shot to the top corner to get the Flames even.
   
“I don’t think he saw me,” said Huselius, who also had an empty-netter with 1:06 remaining. “I was lucky to get it off right away. “I don’t think (goalie Jean-Sebastien) Giguere) was ready.
   
The Flames went ahead when Iginla's power-play slap shot from the point went off Chris Pronger's chest and into the net behind Giguere.
   
“We got into penalty trouble and it cost us the game,” said Anaheim forward Ryan Getzlaf.
   
Calgary took a quick 1-0 lead when Dustin Boyd scored 1:42 into the game. But the Ducks dominated the rest of the period and the first half of the second.
   
Anaheim tied it at 6:41 when Todd Bertuzzi converted a pass from Getzlaf during a power play.

The Ducks went ahead at 17:05 when Bobby Ryan fanned on a shot from the slot but the puck went right to George Parros, who was situated at the side of the net. Parros quickly snapped a shot past Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.
   
Chris Kunitz tipped in a point shot by Niedermayer during an early second-period power play to give the Ducks a 3-1 lead.
   
“It was a little frustrating for us,” Getzlaf said. “We let one slip away.”

Material from wire services and team and online media was used in this report.    
Quote of the Day

When I first became captain here, Monsieur Beliveau came to me and said, 'You're going to be fine. You don't have to change, you got selected because of who you are.'

— Saku Koivu on Thursday, recalling what he was told by the late Jean Beliveau when he was named Canadiens captain in 1999
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