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Wild regain division lead

Tuesday, 01.22.2008 / 1:46 AM / Roundup

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Pierre-Marc Bouchard lit the lamp twice and added two assists as the Minnesota Wild moved to the top of the Northwest Division with a 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
Watch Bouchard beat Luongo: 700K
Pierre-Marc Bouchard really wants his Minnesota Wild to be in first place.
   
The forward scored twice and added two assists, as Minnesota moved to the top of the Northwest Division with a gritty 4-2 win on Monday night over the Vancouver Canucks, who have lost four straight.
   
Video

Bouchard wasn’t alone, however. Goaltender Niklas Backstrom was sensational for Minnesota, as he made 38 saves to help the Wild win their third straight road game.
   
“Back is a great goalie,” Bouchard said. “Tonight, he made some key saves for us. He kept us in the game. If you’re going to have success in this league, you need good goaltending. We have two good goalies.”
   
Brian Rolston and Mikko Koivu also scored for the Wild, as the latter returned with a vengeance to the city where he was injured back on Nov. 16. Koivu missed 24 games after being slashed by Vancouver’s Mattias Ohlund.

“It’s been two months since we were here,” Koivu said. “That was a great effort by the whole team. It’s important to be ready at the start.”

After Minnesota was outshot 17-6 in the opening period, Rolston broke a scoreless tie when he scored his first in 10 games 9:45 into the second ( 700K ). He took a pass from Bouchard and beat Roberto Luongo on a wraparound as the Wild took a 1-0 lead.

''You have to be ready when you have the chance and for me it was a good game for me because I got a lot of shots and it was easier to get into the game and be part of the game,'' said Backstrom, who was flawless in the opening period.

Alex Burrows tied things up for the Canucks just 40 seconds later ( 700K ), but Minnesota restored the lead when Bouchard potted his first goal of the game with 7:24 remaining in the middle frame ( 700K ), as he fired a shot off the left wing past Luongo, who has allowed three or more goals in five of his last six starts.
   
''Listen, I'm trying to do the best I can out there,'' Luongo said. ''I'm a human being like everyone else. It's hard to be on top of your A-game for 82 games. Obviously I gave up some bad goals tonight, but you can always do better.''

Koivu gave Minnesota a 3-1 lead with just 4:25 left in regulation ( 700K ), but Taylor Pyatt made the Wild earn the victory when he beat Backstrom at 19:31 ( 700K ). Bouchard potted his second of the night with an empty-net tally just seven seconds later ( 700K ).
   
''Bouchard, he's been playing like this lately, much better,'' Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said.

''Not only that he got four points, it's what he does with the puck when he has it, he skates, he's moving, he had an exceptional game.''

Hurricanes 3, Islanders 2, OT | Video
   
Another game with a lead, another loss for New York.
   
Less than 48 hours after they blew a 3-1 lead to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Islanders surrendered a 2-0 cushion on Monday and ultimately gave up a point when Carolina’s Cory Stillman scored on the power play in overtime in a matinee at Nassau Coliseum.
   
New York had entered the game with a record of 15-0 when leading after two periods. Andy Hilbert ( 700K ) and Miroslav Satan ( 700K ) both found the back of the net in the middle frame as the Isles appeared to be well on their way to notching two points in the standings.
   
But defensemen Mike Commodore and Niclas Wallin beat Rick DiPietro in the third period, as the Islanders fell to 0-2-2 in their last four games on home ice.
   
''We should be flying a bit higher after the road trip we had,'' New York captain Bill Guerin said, referring to the recent five-game swing that saw the Isles go 2-1-2. ''I think sometimes you get a lead at home and you take it for granted.''
   
The Islanders received a bit of a scare when it appeared DiPietro injured his right leg during the second period, but the All-Star netminder stayed in the game and made a couple of big stops shortly thereafter.
   
''It was a little tweak. Nothing major,'' said DiPietro, who finished with 26 saves.
   
But Carolina got to DiPietro 3:39 into the third period, when Commodore hit the back of the net ( 700K ) after his long shot went off an Islanders skate in front. Wallin tied things up with just 4:40 remaining ( 700K ) , as he took advantage of a nice screen by captain Rod Brind’Amour. Wallin’s shot went through the legs of New York forward Trent Hunter before rocketing past DiPietro to make it 2-2.
   
''It was a gross game,'' Commodore said. ''The ice was terrible. Pucks were bouncing all over the place. Each team got a couple of lucky goals. We were all just trying to get pucks to the net. That's how we got the first two.''
   
Carolina’s third goal ended the game. After Isles’ defenseman Andy Sutton was whistled for cross-checking 37 seconds into overtime, Stillman gave the Hurricanes an extra point when he took advantage of an extra whack at a loose puck in front ( 700K ).
   
''It was a broken play. It's scary how it works out sometimes,'' Stillman said. ''There's a saying that the worst lead in hockey is a two-goal lead, and it proved to be right.''
   
Coyotes 6, Sabres 2 | Video
   

The Phoenix Coyotes blitzed the Sabres 6-2 on Monday, handing Buffalo its second straight loss and its 12th in 13 games.
Just when it looked like the worst was behind Buffalo, the Sabres have begun another skid.
   
Shane Doan and Peter Mueller each had a goal and an assist, as Phoenix handed Buffalo its second straight loss and its 12th in 13 games.
   
After the teams exchanged goals in the first period, the Coyotes erupted for three tallies in under six minutes against Sabres’ netminder Jocelyn Thibault. Niko Kapanen started the scoring binge when his wrister went off the goalie’s glove and into the net 1:57 into the frame ( 700K ). In all, Thibault allowed six goals on 33 shots.
   
"It was a tough night for Joc," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "They got off to a tough start with the first one. He battled back the rest of the period, and I thought he was going to be OK, but it was a night we couldn't overcome those goals and we didn't give him enough support."
   
Doan gave Phoenix a 3-1 lead when he potted his 16th goal of the season at 5:08 of the second ( 700K ). The Coyotes’ captain has notched at least a point in each of his last 11 games, helping Phoenix get right back into the playoff race in the Western Conference.
   
"He's just taking the team on his shoulders right now, there's no question," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "He's playing probably better than I've ever seen him play."
   
Doan refused to underestimate the importance of Kapanen’s tally, which got Phoenix back on track after Paul Gaustad had tied the game for Buffalo midway through the opening period.
   
"They kind of took the play to us in the last of the first (period)," Doan said. "That first one was big for them, to tie it up at 1-1. We could feel their energy pick up. We kind of dropped it for a little bit and we had to answer. It was big for us to get that next goal.”
   
Derek Morris gave the Coyotes a 4-1 lead ( 700K ) with his fourth goal of the season 7:30 into the second, but the Sabres cut the deficit in half when Drew Stafford beat Ilya Bryzgalov (19 saves) at 1:50 of the third ( 700K ). Phoenix pulled away, though, on late goals from Mueller ( 700K ) and Ed Jovanovski ( 700K ).
   
"It's repetitive but we have to stick together and keep playing our system and play better," Gaustad said. "We're not happy in here at all. Every guy has to look at himself in the mirror and then stick together. We have to find a way. We have to be better. We're not pointing fingers."
   
Predators 6, Blues 3
   
Alexander Radulov and Martin Gelinas each scored twice, and Chris Mason made 31 saves as Nashville continued its dominance of St. Louis at the Sommet Center.
   
The Predators – who are 7-2-2 in their last 11 games – have not lost to the Blues in regulation in Nashville since April 3, 2004. The victory pushed Nashville ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets and into second place in the Central Division.
   
"Everyone is doing the little things that make a difference." Gelinas said. "It truly was a total team effort."
   
St. Louis got on the board first at 3:56 of the opening period, thanks to Brad Boyes’ 27th goal of the season. The star forward took a pass from Andy McDonald and beat Mason with a low shot from the slot as the Blues took a 1-0 lead.
   
But Shea Weber tied things up less than two minutes later on a power play goal, and Scott Nichol gave the Predators their first lead of the night when he beat Manny Legace with 10:28 remaining in the first. The goal came just two days after Nichol scored a pair of shorthanded goals in Nashville’s 5-2 win at St. Louis.
   
"My goal was kind of lucky tonight, I tried to go high and it kind of flubbed on me," Nichol said.

"They seem to be going in for me right now, which is nice."
   
The Blues were able to even the score as Dan Hinote found the back of the net 12:22 into the second period, but Radulov and Gelinas scored 3:10 apart later in the frame to give Nashville the lead for good.

St. Louis coach Andy Murray was perplexed to see his team trailing by a pair of goals after 40 minutes, as the Blues held a 22-15 edge in the shots department after two periods.

"We failed to execute in certain key situations," Murray said. "I thought that we did some solid things, but we can't give up that many goals on that few of shots."

The bleeding didn’t stop, either, as Radulov scored again less than two minutes into the third to make it a 5-2 game. Keith Tkachuk got the Blues back to within a pair just 59 seconds later, but Gelinas put the game away with an empty-net tally with 13 seconds to play. Mason stopped 11 of 12 shots in the third period.

"They put a lot of pressure on us in the third," Mason said. "We held on and then got the empty-netter, and that was it."

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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