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Blues end slide by beating Leafs

Wednesday, 01.30.2008 / 12:05 AM / Roundup

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

The Blues were able to stop a seven-game losing streak with Tuesday's 3-2 win over the Maple Leafs.
Watch highlights from the Blues' win
Manny Legace’s equipment didn’t make it in time for the St. Louis Blues’ morning skate at Air Canada Centre. Luckily for the St. Louis Blues and their All-Star goaltender, the gloves and pads were there by game time.

Legace stopped 23 shots and Keith Tkachuk scored on St. Louis’ first two shots of the game as the Blues beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on Tuesday night to end a seven-game losing streak.

“We needed this,” Tkachuk said. “We had games where we couldn’t find a way to win. We gutted this one out, and we got great goaltending when we needed it.”

Legace, a Toronto native with family and friends in the crowd, played well despite spending 11 hours in the Atlanta airport on Monday trying to leave the All-Star festivities. He didn't take part in Tuesday morning's pregame skate because his equipment hadn’t arrived yet.

''I was still doubting myself when I came to the rink tonight, I wasn't sure how I would react to all that,'' Legace said of the travel troubles. ''But we got lucky tonight.''

The Blues, seeking to break an 0-5-2 slide, jumped into the lead 1:18 into the game when Tkachuk deflected a shot past Vesa Toskala. Tkachuk made it 2-0 at 5:41 when Jay McKee set him up in front for a re-direct that beat Toskala through the legs.

''Before the game, I talked about getting off to a better start, and we were able to establish our forecheck early and make it tough on (Toronto),'' Blues coach Andy Murray said.

The Blues almost took a three-goal lead moments later, but Toskala got a pad on what looked like a sure goal by David Backes during a power play, then made a nifty glove save on Lee Stempniak a few shifts later.

''When you put yourself behind the 8-ball like we did early in the first period, you're asking for trouble,'' Leafs forward Darcy Tucker said. ''We did a good job battling back, but it's a tough position to put yourself in.''

Toskala’s heroics seemed to inspire his team, and Jason Blake cut the Blues' lead to 2-1 when he patiently waited out Legace and rifled a shot over the sprawled goalie and into the top corner at 12:17.

Legace preserved the lead with a series of big saves on a Leafs power play. But Toronto continued to carry the play early in the second period, enough to make Murray take a rare second-period timeout.

NHL.COM'S THREE STARS:
Huet
Cristobal Huet was perfect for Montreal as the Canadiens won their third in a row. Check out who made NHL.com’s Three Stars of the Night. ...more



GAME OF THE NIGHT:

Hartnell
A microphone malfunction wouldn’t allow Scott Hartnell to hear Kerry Fraser’s ruling on his overtime goal Tuesday night. So he simply waited for the Wachovia Center crowd to erupt before raising his arms in the air.

''When I heard the cheers, I knew we won,'' Hartnell said.

Hartnell’s sliding goal – which went off his skate before trickling past goalie Jason LaBarbera and into the net with 28.5 seconds to play – not only gave the Philadelphia Flyers a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings, it also gave the Flyers sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division. ...more


Backes made the momentum shift count when he banged home a loose puck in the slot at 10:55 to make it 3-1. Toskala stopped Eric Johnson’s blue-line blast but couldn’t control the rebound.

The Leafs cut the margin back to a goal at 15:11 when Tucker's wide slap shot bounced behind the net to Blake. He passed the puck between his legs to Matt Stajan, who one-timed it over Legace.

Each team had seven shots in the third period. Toronto had a couple of chances after pulling Toskala in the final minute, but couldn’t beat Legace.

With his team in last place in the Northeast Division, Toronto interim general manager Cliff Fletcher may have to start considering trading leading-scorer Mats Sundin, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season.

''Of course we'll sit down with Mats eventually,'' Fletcher said. ''But it's not even Feb. 1 yet, it's very premature. There's nothing going on in the League yet. I just want him to lead the way and see if we can win some hockey games.''

Penguins 4, Devils 2 | Video
The Penguins are doing just fine in the absence of Sidney Crosby. Ryan Malone scored a pair of goals as the Pens won for the fifth straight time in New Jersey, including both visits to the Prudential Center.

The Penguins are 2-1-1 without Crosby, who’s out for the next several weeks with a high ankle sprain. The Pens also played without forwards Tyler Kennedy and Colby Armstrong, both out with illnesses.

''It shows we don't give up,'' defenseman Ryan Whitney said. ''I think we've got everyone doubting us in the whole hockey world right now. It's an honor and a privilege for us to play well. It's something we've got to go out and prove that we can do.''

Pittsburgh’s Eric Christensen tied the game at 2-2 at 14:41 of the second period, converting a feed from Maxime Talbot after a steal. Malone put the Penguins ahead to stay at 16:13 when he poked the puck past Martin Brodeur after Petr Sykora’s pass hit the goaltender’s stick.

Malone added an insurance goal 5:21 into the third period when he batted a power-play rebound out of the air and past Brodeur.

Ryan Malone scored a pair of goals as the Pens won for the fifth straight time in New Jersey.

''Obviously, it was a great opportunity for us to get some big points and get on top of the division,'' New Jersey forward Sergei Brylin said. ''We've just got to shape up and get ready to go again.''

Ty Conklin stopped 23 shots to improve to 11-2-2 since being recalled from the minors early last month. Mike Rupp, who had no points in 35 games, scored twice for the Devils. He knocked in a loose puck during a power play at 8:54 of the first period for his first goal since March 20. After Jordan Staal scored early in the second period for Pittsburgh, Rupp put the Devils ahead again at 13:49.

Pittsburgh passed the Devils into second place in the Atlantic Division, one point behind Philadelphia.

''It's big. It's a battle for the first spot even though there are a lot of games left,'' Malone said.

That Devils lost for the fourth time in six games, with each defeat coming at home. The visiting team has won all five meetings this season, with New Jersey taking three in Pittsburgh.

Just like a 4-3 home loss to Montreal on Thursday, the Devils were done in by a bad period. New Jersey coach Brent Sutter punished his team with a long bike ride after the Devils were outshot 20-3 in the third and squandered a 3-1 lead.

This one didn't make him any happier.

''We haven't stayed within our game. We've had mental breakdowns,'' Sutter said. ''When our team is playing well, it is because our detail to our game is very good. Right now it isn't where it needs to be.''

Senators 5, Islanders 2 | Video
The Islanders didn’t make many mistakes, but the Senators made them pay for the ones they did make. Ottawa nearly blew a 3-0 lead before Mike Fisher’s back-door goal on a coverage gaffe put the game away.

''It was a good win for us,'' Fisher said. ''We played pretty well, for the most part. We were glad to be up 3-2, but we were making some mistakes, and they were feeding off that.''

The Islanders lost their fifth straight home game, their longest drought at the Nassau Coliseum in almost seven years. They haven’t won a home game in 2008, and center Mike Sillinger said the Isles have to show a bit more intensity in order to snap that streak.

''We go on the road, and we're pumped up in another team's building,'' Sillinger said. ''We have to show more desperation at home. We're finding ways to lose, and we have to turn it around quick.''

Ottawa took a 2-0 lead with a pair of goals in a 35-second span near the midway point of the first period. On their first power play, the Senators went ahead at 9:18 when Meszaros' shot from the center point was tipped by Islanders defenseman Freddy Meyer and got past Rick DiPietro. At 9:53, defenseman Chris Phillips walked in unimpeded from the point to the left circle and wristed a shot to the short side.

Dean McAmmond, left wide-open 10 feet in front of DiPietro, scored at 6:38 of the middle period to make it 3-0.

The Islanders finally scored late in the period when Sean Bergenheim beat Martin Gerber with a wrist shot at 15:58. They cut the margin to 3-2 at 6:35 of the final period on Bryan Berard’s power-play goal. Richard Park had a chance to tie the game less than two minutes later, but his hurried wrist shot hit Gerber in the chest.

Fisher’s 19th goal ended the suspense, and Jason Spezza hit the empty net with 1:04 remaining.

“It was a 3-2 game,'' Sillinger said. ''We had control of the puck, and all of a sudden, it's in our net.''

Bruins 3, Predators 1 | Video
Glen Metropolit earned his way back to the NHL as a checking forward. But he gave the Bruins an offensive boost with a pair of third-period goals to spoil a rare visit to Boston by the Predators.

All-Star Game winner Tim Thomas made 37 saves for Boston, allowing only Alexander Radulov’s goal with 51 seconds left in the second period.

With the game tied at 1-1, Metropolit broke down the right wing, faked a shot, pulled the puck back and shifted around defenseman Greg Zanon before slipping a wrist shot between goalie Chris Mason's pads 5:54 into the third period for his 100th NHL point.

"I had a lot of speed ... and caught the 'D' flat footed," Metropolit said. "It was a quick shot and I beat the goalie."

He beat Mason with a wrist shot inside the left post with 4:03 remaining.

''Every night he comes and plays hard for us,'' Boston coach Claude Julien said of Metropolit. ''We've asked him to kill penalties for the first time in his career this season. He's done a great job at that. When you see a guy that gets rewarded, that's nice to see.''

All-Star Game winner Tim Thomas made 37 saves for Boston, allowing only Alexander Radulov’s goal with 51 seconds left in the second period. That tied the game after Marco Sturm scored midway through the period during a two-man advantage set up after J.P. Dumont was called for goaltender interference and Jason Arnott got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Sturm banged home a cross-ice pass from David Krejci at 9:05 of the second.

''That kind of bugged me. It wasn't interference and he got an interference call,'' Mason said. ''They should have had a penalty on there, too.''

Canadiens 4, Capitals 0 | Video
A three-goal first period made things easy for Montreal goaltender Cristobal Huet — or at least as easy as things can be when Alex Ovechkin plays for the other team.

''Goalies say they don't think about it, but they do,'' Huet said of keeping Ovechkin and his teammates off the board. ''You can't change your mind, really. You've got to stay focused on the process to get there, not on the shutout itself. It's like winning a game. You can't focus on winning the game, you've got to focus on the process to get there.''

Huet finished with 35 saves for his 15th career shutout. Mark Streit, Sergei Kostitsyn and Saku Koivu gave Huet a big cushion by scoring in the first period, and Alex Kovalev added a third-period goal.

Huet turned aside 15 shots in the first period and 13 in the second as Washington held small margins in shots in the opening two periods before being outshot 15-7 in the third.

''He just stopped everything,'' said Ovechkin, who had four shots overall.

Streit scored a power-play goal midway through the first and Kostitsyn finished off a two-man breakaway for a shorthanded goal at 16:53. Koivu got his 10th goal at 18:25 to give Montreal a 3-0 lead, much to the delight of the sellout crowd of 21,273.

''We had a really strong first period,'' Koivu said after Montreal’s third straight win and seventh in nine games. ''We wanted to get the fourth goal and we weren't sitting on the lead, but at the same time we were playing well defensively and playing smart defensively.''

Brent Johnson made 36 saves for Washington, which has lost two of three following a season-high four-game winning streak.

''I thought he played really well,'' Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. ''I thought he was really sharp and solid — and if it wasn't for him, it would have been a worse score.''

Sabres 4, Lightning 2 | Video
A visit to the St. Pete Times Forum was just what the Sabres needed to start the post-All Star portion of their schedule. Jason Pominville had a goal and two assists as Buffalo won at Tampa Bay for the sixth straight time. Overall, the Sabres have won nine of the last 10 meetings.

''You can't explain why you struggle against teams,'' Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. ''And you can't explain why you end up having success against them. We've had good success in this building for whatever reason. I like Tampa.''

Jason Pominville had a goal and two assists as Buffalo won at Tampa Bay for the sixth straight time.

Clarke MacArthur converted Pominville’s pass on a 2-on-1 at 4:58 of the opening period, and Pominville’s wrist shot past Johan Holmqvist at 12:14 made it 2-0.

''I thought coming off the break, we played pretty well,'' Pominville said. ''That's the way we've got to play if we want to win games. We've got to be desperate.''

Ruff felt Tampa Bay had to change their game plan because of the early deficit.

''It puts the other team in a different frame of mind,'' Ruff said. ''It makes them change their game. Instead of being a little safer in defending, they have to get on their toes, to take some chances.''

Second-period goals by Drew Stafford and Derek Roy made it 4-0 before Brad Richards scored during a two-man advantage with 38 seconds left in the period. Vaclav Prospal scored another power-play goal with 7:38 left in the game.

"It's not through lack of effort," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "We had some really good scoring chances that didn't get on net and that's the way it went tonight."

Holmqvist, who has allowed seven goals in his last two starts, made 22 saves. Ryan Miller stopped 23 saves for his 20th win of the season.

"It's disappointing, but the energy we had is something we're going to have to keep bringing here down the stretch," Tampa Bay forward Martin St. Louis said.

Hurricanes 3, Rangers 1 | Video
New York came out of the break with just 13 of its last 31 games at home — not good for a team that has now lost its last six games away from Madison Square Garden. The Rangers led 1-0 after a physical first period, but the Hurricanes dominated the final 40 minutes, avenging a Dec. 26 loss in New York.

Brendan Shanahan gave the Rangers a quick lead with a power-play goal 1:02 into the game. But second-period goals by Sergei Samsonov and Rod Brind’Amour put Carolina ahead to stay, and Trevor Letowski beat Henrik Lundqvist at 3:40 of the third period to add some insurance.

Samsonov’s goal at 6:07 was his third in nine games with Carolina after not scoring in 23 games for Chicago.

"I think he likes it here," coach Peter Laviolette said. "I think he's happy in Carolina. We're certainly happy with him."

Brind'Amour scored by using Samsonov as a decoy before shifting the puck to his backhand to beat Henrik Lundqvist.

"I tried to be patient," Lundqvist said. "I went down on my right leg and then I was kind of stuck. He went around me."

The Canes then survived a frantic 45-second stretch near the end of the second after Cam Ward lost his goalie stick as the Rangers tried for the equalizer.

“We could have easily panicked, but everybody did what they were supposed to do and we got the puck out of the zone with no harm,” said Ward.

Rangers coach Tom Renney was upset with the turnovers that led to the Hurricanes’ second-period goals.

"They were able to counterattack on glaring turnovers that ended up in the back of our net," said Renney. "We needed to get the puck in behind these guys, make them skate the whole way and through more guys than with 2-on-1s."

The Rangers will have to turn around their road woes in a hurry: Their next three games are away from the Garden — Thursday in Philadelphia, Friday in New Jersey and Sunday afternoon in Montreal.

"I wish I had some answers, but I don't really," forward Sean Avery said.

Coyotes 4, Blue Jackets 2 | Video
Phoenix rookie Peter Mueller and his teammates are doing a good job of impressing their coach. Mueller scored two goals, including the tie-breaker with 5:26 remaining in regulation, as the Coyotes won at Columbus.

"It was one of the best games we've played this year," coach Wayne Gretzky said. "We matched up against a good team that's playing well."

Mueller, playing in the city where he was drafted 19 months ago, broke a 2-2 tie when he took a long lead pass from Shane Doan and slid the puck between Pascal Leclaire’s legs. Radim Vrbata hit the empty net with one second remaining.

Ilya Bryzgalov finished with 22 saves in the Coyotes' 4-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Coyotes, who climbed into eighth place in the West after winning just two of their first seven games, won for the first time when trailing through two periods. They came in at 0-18-0 when behind headed into the third, but left with their third consecutive victory.

"There's no secret to this game," Gretzky said. "It's hard work, it's effort, it's second effort. The guys who do little things that you don't often see on the scoreboard, creating openings. I was just really proud of our effort."

Fredrik Modin and Jason Chimera scored for the Blue Jackets, who had their franchise-record six-game home winning streak snapped.

"We were soft," said Modin. "We can't be soft against a team like that. It cost us."

Modin put the Blue Jackets ahead 21 seconds into the game, but Mueller tied it with a power-play goal at 7:01 of the second.

Chimera made it 2-1 with 1:36 left in the period, taking a drop pass from Nikolai Zherdev inside the left circle and ripping a one-timer high on the glove side past Ilya Bryzgalov, who finished with 22 saves.

Phoenix pulled even again 1:35 into the third period on Mathias Tjarnqvist's goal. Vrbata fired a high shot that Leclaire stood up to stop with his shoulder, the puck flying 10 feet in the air to Leclaire's left. While the goalie looked for the puck, Tjarnqvist skated in and reached over, extending his right arm while holding the stick, to tap the puck into the net.

"It was a lucky goal," he said. "The puck went up in the air and I just tried to whack at the puck. Luckily I hit it."

Sharks 3, Oilers 0 | Video
San Jose made it look easy, allowing Edmonton just 13 shots while shutting down the Oilers at Rexall Place to stay tied with Dallas for the Pacific Division lead.

Evgeni Nabokov’s sixth shutout of the season might have been his easiest.

“I didn’t have to do a lot,” the All-Star netminder said. “The guys put up a heck of an effort.”

Joe Pavelski, Mike Grier and Patrick Rissmiller scored for the Sharks, who had lost four straight before putting together their recent run and remain in first place in the Pacific.

“They were first on the puck all night,” said Edmonton goalie Mathieu Garon, who made 36 saves to keep his team in the game. “We just didn’t show up as a team. When you need two points, everyone has to show up and play better than that.”

Nabokov has started all but one game for the Sharks, but said he doesn’t want a rest.

“The guys are playing well, and I feel well physically and mentally to play every game,” he said.

San Jose opened the scoring with 8:12 remaining in the second period when Pavelski converted the rebound of Devin Setoguchi’s shot. Grier made it 2-0 with 46 seconds left in the period, beating Garon over the shoulder off a perfect pass from Rissmiller, capping off a period in which the Sharks outshot the Oilers 21-4.

Rissmiller hit the empty net with 30 seconds remaining as San Jose improved to 17-4-3 on the road. The Sharks are just 11-11-4 at home.

“We’re more patient on the road,” Nabokov said. “We try to create a little more at home and force the play a little more.”

The Oilers showed little life in the opener of a four-game homestand.

“I don’t think anyone played well,” captain Ethan Moreau said. “We didn’t match the way they came out. Everyone has to be accountable.”

Edmonton was outshot 39-13 and dominated in all phases of the game.

“It was a humbling, humbling effort,” Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. “It was humiliating in almost every aspect except goaltending.”

Stars 4, Canucks 3 | Video
With Vancouver All-Star goalie Roberto Luongo waiting for his teammates to join him in Florida, Dallas took advantage of backup Curtis Sanford — then hung on and weathered a rally to beat the Canucks at GM Place.

Sanford started in goal while Luongo continued to spend time with his pregnant wife at their summer home in Florida; he’ll rejoin the team for Thursday night’s game at Tampa Bay. Sanford, playing his second game since Dec. 15, didn't last long.

Dallas goaltender Marty Turco made 29 saves and was sharp in goal for Dallas, which stayed tied with San Jose atop the Pacific Division.

The difference in goaltending quality was visible early, as Trevor Daley skated in along the goal line and beat Sanford at 15:56 of the first period. It was Daley’s second goal of the season and first in 25 games.

Henrik Sedin tied it from the slot less than three minutes later, but Dallas took over with two goals early in the second. Modano’s 45-foot blast from the high slot at 1:30 of the second period was stoppable, as was Stephane Robidas’ long power-play blast that went through Sanford’s legs at 4:31.

“Most times we’ve played him, he’s played well,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said of Sanford, who stopped just eight of 11 shots. “Maybe the last two times at home, he hasn’t played as well as before.”

The Canucks changed goalies, bringing in Drew MacIntyre, who played in Monday’s AHL All-Star Game in Binghamton, N.Y. MacIntyre allowed only Steve Ott’s shorthanded goal 7:30 into the third period — which became the game-winner when Ryan Kesler and Markus Naslund scored late goals for the Canucks.

Dallas goaltender Marty Turco made 29 saves and was sharp in goal for Dallas, which stayed tied with San Jose atop the Pacific Division.

“He won the game for us,” coach Dave Tippett said. “He was the difference.”

Naslund’s goal with 1:21 remaining cut the margin to one, but the Canucks didn't get another shot at Turco and now have just one win in their last six games and two in their last nine.

“It was closer than we’d like it to be for a 4-1 game,” Tippett said. “We wanted to play a solid road game, and we were good enough to win.”

Vigneault left no doubt that Luongo will carry the load down the stretch.

“Now we can go with Roberto for a long time,” he said. “He’s going to get the chance to play a lot of games.”

Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.

Quote of the Day

There's no discouragement in that room. There's no issues there at all to be honest with you. It's more about, 'Hey, it's opportunities for players.' And if we become that bad of a team because of one player, it's not a real good sign for our hockey club. So this is part of sports. It's part of hockey.

— Bruins coach Claude Julien on the loss of Zdeno Chara to injury
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