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Round 2
Round 3
Stanley Cup Final

Flames, Devils making their way to the top

Wednesday, 01.23.2008 / 9:33 AM / Game-Day Skate

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Jarome Iginla hasn't scored a goal in his past seven games.
Some random thoughts before I congratulate Ilya Bryzgalov on his new three-year deal:

All Hands On Deck – With Jarome Iginla in the midst of one of the worst scoring droughts of his career, the Calgary Flames grabbed their lunch pails, put on the hard hats and went to work on Tuesday night.

Mike Keenan’s club received a pair of goals from other sources in its 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild, as Stephane Yelle and Craig Conroy found the back of the net to help the Flames move into first place in the Northwest Division. It was Calgary’s third straight win.

Iginla, meanwhile, has been held without a goal now for seven consecutive games. It’s the longest drought the Flames’ captain has been in since the end of 2005. That’s what made Yelle’s and Conroy’s tallies so vital, as the duo scored in back-to-back games for the first time this season.

"If you can develop that kind of depth with secondary scoring, it takes a lot of pressure off the guys that are going to be checked the hardest throughout the games," Keenan said.

While the Flames currently sit atop the Northwest, Minnesota forward Brian Rolston reminded everyone that there is plenty of season left. And considering the division leader changes more than a runway model, Calgary shouldn’t exactly be feeling comfortable, should it?

"You're not going to see anybody run away with it," Rolston said. "All the teams are going to stay bunched up and it's going to be those teams that can stay the most consistent down the stretch that are going to be in the playoffs."

That’s More Like It – Mired in a 2-6-2 slide and coming off back-to-back losses to the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers coach Tom Renney gave his version of the Gettysburg Address prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Atlanta Thrashers.

The Blueshirts responded with four scores.

New York dominated from start to finish, allowing just 14 shots on goal. The Thrashers – who registered just three shots in the third period – looked about as energized as a nursing home on Meat Loaf Night.

"You could just see the focus, it was real clear,” Renney said. "The guys really wanted it badly tonight. We were a relentless team tonight."

The teams will meet again at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, when the Rangers raise Brian Leetch’s No. 2 to the rafters. It’s pretty much a given that the Blueshirts will be flying at the drop of the puck, so the Thrashers might want to think about hooking up with Juan Valdez between now and then.

"Everybody seemed sleepy or tired," Atlanta coach Don Waddell said. "We've had slow starts a couple of games in a row, and it's killing us."

Johnny Oduya

Johnny Be Good – Who would have thought that Johnny Oduya would be the missing piece to the New Jersey Devils’ power play?

The 26-year-old defensemen – who had nine points in 40 games – tallied a goal and three assists on Tuesday, as New Jersey scored five power-play goals in a 7-3 win over the Flyers in Philadelphia. It was the Devils’ fifth straight win over Philly this season as they grabbed sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division.

"It's nice to score," said Oduya, who recorded multiple points for the first time in 117 career games. "I don't get that many points. But I'm more happy for the win in a big game."

The five power-play goals on Tuesday night fell one short of the franchise record. The Colorado Rockies scored six times via the man advantage against the Flyers in an 8-6 victory on Feb. 19, 1980 – roughly 20 months before Oduya was born.

Just how stagnant was Jersey’s power play? Well, the Devils entered the Wachovia Center with the 28th-best man advantage in the NHL, and one that was held scoreless in its last 15 opportunities.

"It seems like always we have been struggling on the power play," Oduya said. "I think we played pretty good at times, but tonight we got the bounces early on there to get some goals."

Here, Take Two Of These – Peter Laviolette must have a massive headache after what transpired on Tuesday night at the RBC Center.

Laviolette’s Carolina Hurricanes allowed not one, not two, but three shorthanded goals in a 6-3 loss to the New York Islanders. Two of those were scored by Mike Sillinger, as the Isles tied a franchise record with the three shorties.

Sillinger and Richard Park scored shorthanded in the second period during a binge that saw New York score three times in a span of 2:59. The victory gave the Isles three of a possible four points in their home-and-home series with the Hurricanes.

"The odd one once in a while is going to happen, but three in a game is unacceptable," Carolina defenseman Mike Commodore said. "Those are supposed to be opportunities for us to score, and we didn't do that."

On a positive note, the Hurricanes have a full week to regroup. They return to the ice next Tuesday night, when they’ll host the Rangers.

"The players that are up on the power play have to take the responsibility to do the right things at the right time with the pucks, and we didn't," Laviolette said.

Eight Is Enough – There’s something about seeing that large “B” on the opposing side of the ice that brings out the best in the Montreal Canadiens.

Twenty minutes into Tuesday night’s battle at the Bell Centre, the Habs already held a 4-1 lead as they won their ninth straight against the Boston Bruins with a convincing 8-2 victory.

The Canadiens have outscored Boston 21-7 in three games in Montreal this season. They prevented the Bruins from notching at least a point for the first time in five games.

"I've been on the other side of those things, so at the end of the day it's just two points, it doesn't matter whether it's in overtime or whatever," Habs forward Bryan Smolinski said. "It's a very good team over there. I'm sure we'll see a different team the next time we see them, but our team played very well tonight."

Martin St. Louis

A Win Is A Win – It wasn’t pretty, but the Tampa Bay Lightning recorded a much-needed 4-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night.

Martin St. Louis had a goal and two assists for the Lightning, who built a 4-1 lead before allowing Steve Staios and Ales Hemsky to get the Oilers to within one. Tampa Bay was outshot 14-6 in the third period in a finish that was on par with the “Seinfeld” finale.

"Obviously we'd like to finish better than that, but a win is a win," St. Louis said. "We'll address the mistakes. Sometimes you need to get a win like that."

While it certainly will surprise some, the Lightning (20-24-5) are just seven points behind the first-place Carolina Hurricanes in the Southeast Division, which currently is the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. However, Vincent Lecavalier is far from shocked about the statistic.

"It doesn't amaze me because it's been like that for the last two or three years," Lecavalier said. "There's a little more parity in the league. You've got to take it game by game and make sure we keep playing the way we are."

Alfredsson’s Back, But … – Nothing is going right for the Ottawa Senators.

Not even the return of captain Daniel Alfredsson could stop the Senators from suffering their fifth loss in six games, as Tomas Vokoun made 43 saves to lead the Florida Panthers to a 5-3 win.

Florida jumped to a 5-2 lead in the third period on goals by David Booth and Gregory Campbell before Mike Fisher scored with just 1:59 remaining.

"It's frustrating," Fisher said. "It seems like every little breakdown or mistake, it's in our net. Defensively, we're not solid at all. Not playing strong, making some bad decisions and getting beat."

If you’re scoring at home, Ottawa’s lead in the Eastern Conference is down to just five points over the New Jersey Devils. Eleven points separate first and eighth place.

A Night To Remember – Kris Russell won’t forget Jan. 22, 2008 anytime soon.

Actually, he’ll never forget it.

Russell scored his first two NHL goals on Tuesday night, leading the Columbus Blue Jackets to an impressive 4-2 win at Dallas. Russell, who had five assists in 45 games, tallied the game-winner via the power play with 6:15 remaining, snapping the Stars’ three-game winning streak.

"It's pretty exciting," Russell said. "I felt like this took forever. I was lucky to get some opportunities. This is a big character builder."

Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock was happy to see the 20-year-old rookie get the monkey off his back, especially in such dramatic fashion.

"He's had so many scoring chances," Hitchcock said. "It's a big relief. He puts so much pressure on himself to contribute offensively. It seemed like the weight of the world was on his shoulders. He's felt like he's let a lot of people down (by not scoring more). We kept him on the power play because we knew this day would come."

Chris Mason

No Goals For You! – With the way Chris Mason has played recently, Dan Ellis knows he has to bring his “A” game every chance Predators coach Barry Trotz provides him.

On Tuesday, Ellis made the most of his opportunity.

The Nashville backup netminder stopped all 38 shots he faced and recorded his fourth shutout of the season in a 4-0 win over the host Colorado Avalanche. It was Nashville’s third straight victory.

"I know my role and I like it," said Ellis, who improved to 11-5-1. "I'm comfortable making starts after Chris has played the night before, and I feel good playing after not playing for several days."

Trotz must be feeling pretty good right now, knowing he has two capable goaltenders. It’s like having bowls of Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch Doritos staring you in the face. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

"You can see we don't have any drop-off when we start Dan," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "He gives us quality goaltending every time we need to give Chris some time off."

Warming Up For Atlanta – Chris Osgood figured he’d show the hockey world one more time why he deserves to be at this Sunday’s All-Star Game.

The Detroit Red Wings’ netminder made 27 saves and recorded his third shutout of the season in a 3-0 win at Los Angeles on Tuesday night. It was career shutout No. 46 for Osgood, who now boasts a 1.87 GAA. The victory was his 356th, putting him ahead of former Kings goaltender Rogie Vachon for 15th on the all-time list.

Not only does he deserve to go to Atlanta, but it’s time to start talking about the Hall of Fame for the 35-year-old who seems to have plenty left in the tank.

''It's a real compliment to him and his career to pass Rogie Vachon and end up in the top 15 all-time,'' Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. ''I mean, being in the top 15 at anything in the world is pretty special, so it's a real feather in his cap. It means he's played with good players, but it also means he's been a good goalie for a long time.''

Back On Track – The San Jose Sharks went back to basics on Tuesday night, and snapped a four-game skid in the process.

Evgeni Nabokov had to come up big in the third period, but San Jose pulled back to within two points of the Pacific Division lead with a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, who have come up short in their last seven trips to the Shark Tank.

"We still have another game before the All-Star break, but we had to find a way to win tonight and we did it in an ugly way," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "We wanted to be a little more aggressive. We got caught back on our heels, they were coming at us hard but we got our equilibrium about halfway through the first period. Fortunately, our power play and penalty killing was doing a great job and that decided the outcome of the game."

Contact Brian Compton at: bcompton@nhl.com





Once again, it shows character in this dressing room. Once again, there's no quitting in here. We all wanted this so bad and we worked so hard to get home-ice advantage and we weren't going to let this one slide.

— Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog on his team's OT Game 1 win vs. Minnesota Wild