|Montreal's Bob Gainey saw his number 23 raised to the rafters of the Bell Centre on Saturday night.
Watch highlights from the Jackets' win
Starting for the first time in his hometown, Leclaire stopped all 31 shots he faced and recorded his ninth shutout of the season as the Blue Jackets put a damper on what was otherwise a special night in a 3-0 decision in front of 21,273.
Leclaire – who had 25 guests in attendance – was a major reason why the NHL’s top power play went 0-for-6. Montreal lost its second straight game and fell three points behind the Ottawa Senators for the Eastern Conference lead.
''It's a nice story for the paper but the important thing was getting the win,'' said Leclaire, whose nine shutouts lead the NHL. ''It's pretty special. I grew up 20 minutes from here and I used to come to a lot of games, so it was great to be part of this. I think everyone enjoyed it.''
Gainey’s pre-game ceremony lasted roughly 90 minutes. The current Habs GM won five Stanley Cups with the franchise as a player during a phenomenal 16-year career. Gainey won four consecutive Selke trophies as the League’s top defensive forward.
“I want to say thank you to the entire Canadiens organization for this incredible honor you have bestowed on me and my family here tonight,” Gainey said. “I couldn’t possibly begin to name all of those who impacted me over the years.”
Once the puck dropped, though, it was Leclaire who made the biggest impact. His play in the second period helped the Blue Jackets kill off a two-man advantage that lasted 1:10. Twenty-three of Leclaire’s 31 saves were made in the first 40 minutes.
''What's going on is that (Leclaire) is seeing less odd-man rushes, less scrambly hockey,'' Columbus defenseman Adam Foote said. ''As well as our goaltender's playing, we're playing well defensively too.''
The Blue Jackets played well offensively, as well. Rick Nash scored his team-leading 33rd goal of the season 6:24 into the game, while Manny Malhotra contributed with a goal and an assist. Montreal goalie Carey Price allowed two goals on just six shots in the opening period.
The loss left Gainey’s former teammate – Habs coach Guy Carbonneau – fuming afterward.
When a reporter asked if he was angry his team didn't come through for their GM, Carbonneau said, ''Yes, really … a lot. That's what upset me the most.
''I could accept losing and goals against when the other team works for them, but when you give them away, it's a different thing. I've never seen a team give up no shots. Shots are going to happen.''
Zach Parise snapped a 2-2 tie with his 25th goal of the season 2:30 into the third period as the Devils ended a six-game losing streak against the Islanders with a victory at The Rock.
Parise – whom the Isles passed up in the 2003 Draft in favor of Robert Nilsson – got around defenseman Aaron Johnson before slipping the puck past goalie Rick DiPietro for what proved to be the game-winner.
New Jersey entered Saturday’s action winless against N.Y. metropolitan area teams. The Devils were 0-4-1 against the Islanders and 0-3-2 against the New York Rangers.
“Mentally, for us to know we can beat them is great,” said Parise, who scored for the fifth straight game. “Now we have to try to beat the Rangers.”
Things were looking good for the Islanders early, as Josef Vasicek gave them a 1-0 lead 7:55 into the game. The goal was originally credited to Andy Hilbert, but replays later showed that Vasicek had redirected the shot past Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, who made 21 saves in his 19th consecutive start.
But the Devils responded later in the opening period with a pair of goals just 80 seconds apart. Patrik Elias tied the game on the power play at 10:16, before John Madden scored shorthanded when his intended pass went off the stick of Isles’ defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron and into the net as New Jersey took a 2-1 lead.
"I don't know if we thought we were just going to show up and win,” Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. “But the reason we were winning was by doing all the simple things, and tonight we got away from that."
The Isles did fight back to tie the game in second period, when Ruslan Fedotenko notched his 14th goal of the season at 1:53. Fedotenko skated out of the corner with control of the puck and ripped a quick wrist shot that fooled Brodeur to make it 2-2.
New York then had a golden opportunity to seize control of the game, as it was awarded a 77-second long two-man advantage less than three minutes into the second. But the Islanders failed to generate anything, much to the delight of the majority of the capacity crowd.
"I think we're trying to make too many cute plays on the 5-on-3," Isles captain Bill Guerin said. "They have some great penalty killers with a lot of experience. We're not going to fool guys like Madden, (Jay) Pandolfo and (Colin) White. You have to keep it relatively simple, and I think we've gotten away from it the last couple that we've had."
After Parise put the Devils in front, Brian Gionta quickly gave the Devils their first two-goal lead of the day when he too got around Johnson before firing a rebound past DiPietro for his 16th goal of the season.
"I thought we played well for the first 40 minutes, but two mistakes on my part in the third period affected the outcome of the game," Johnson said. "That first one took the wind out of our sails. It hurt us, but we tried to battle through it."
The Devils certainly have not been hurt by the amount of home games they’ve played in February. Saturday’s win improved them to 9-2-2 this month at the Prudential Center, helping them move into first place in the Atlantic Division. They’ll visit the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon.
"We had a streak earlier where we had won nine games in a row," New Jersey coach Brent Sutter said. "The mindset was good then, but it's better now. Part of it has to do with what time of the year it is. We've gone through some adversity here, two or three weeks ago, and we fought through that. Everyone dug in."
The solid two-way forward scored 1:48 into overtime, as the Blackhawks – after surrendering a 5-1 lead – escaped Los Angeles with a victory.
|After blowing a 5-1 lead in the third period, Patrick Sharp bailed out the Blackhawks with the winner in overtime.
“Hockey games are never over. If you give a team the chance to come back, they’re going to take it,” Chicago coach Denis Savard said. “That is a team that can score goals. We talked about that before the game. We executed our game, protected the puck and didn’t turn it over. We just didn’t have good coverage.”
Nonetheless, the Blackhawks have won five of their last six games. They jumped out to a 5-1 lead by scoring four times in just 4:06 during a flurry in the second period. Martin Havlat and Andrei Zyuzin scored in a span of 15 seconds, while rookie Jonathan Toews and Jason Williams found the back of the net 1:10 apart.
But Michael Cammalleri (9:06), Tom Preissing (12:41) and Patrick O’Sullivan (18:53) all beat Patrick Lalime – who started in place of the injured Nikolai Khabibulin (back spasms) – in the third period, before Anze Kopitar erased the Kings’ deficit completely when he connected on Alexander Frolov’s cross-ice feed with just 13.3 seconds left in regulation.
“When they tied it up, you’re pretty much on your heels and it’s hard to stay positive when they’re so confident and have so much momentum,” Toews said. “Obviously we made some mistakes, but we worked hard and stayed in it.”
Kings goalie Dan Cloutier was pulled by coach Marc Crawford after allowing five goals on 23 shots. Cloutier headed for the bench after Williams gave Chicago a 5-1 lead at 8:17 of the second period. He was replaced by rookie Eric Ersberg, who became the 10th goalie to play for Los Angeles since the start of last season. He stopped 18 of 19 shots, which helped the Kings make the impressive comeback.
“That was a lot of blood and guts there in the third period. This is as good an overtime loss as you’re ever going to see,” Crawford said. “It was special to see our guys battle the way they did. It’s a real character builder for our team.”
“We just said, ‘You know what? Keep doing the same thing,”’ Laviolette said. “‘They’re going to drop.”’
The Hurricanes won on home ice for the sixth time in seven games by scoring four power play goals on Saturday in their win over Washington, which entered Saturday’s action four points behind the Southeast Division leaders. Carolina – which plays five of its next six at RBC Center – received a pair of tallies from Matt Cullen and a goal and two assists from Eric Staal.
“It feels like we’re down in the stretch and we need to win,” Staal said. “It’s that part of the season where we need to make sure we’re staying ahead in our division and getting some separation. Tonight was one of those big games. It felt like a playoff game most of the night.”
The Hurricanes went 4-for-7 with the man advantage after being held scoreless in their last 16 opportunities over the past four games. Over the past six contests, Washington had gone 22-for-22 on the penalty kill. Joe Corvo’s power-play tally at 7:44 of the third period came less than four minutes after Andrew Ladd had increased Carolina’s lead to 5-3.
“The standings are going to change a thousand times before the end of the year,” Capitals defenseman Tom Poti said. “We just have to keep going out and playing and getting wins. We’ve got to put this behind us and not think about it again.”
|New York's Sean Avery knocked home the game-winning goal against the Buffalo Sabres.
On Saturday, the Rangers did an awfully good job of convincing everyone that the potentially-devastating loss was behind them.
With his parents in attendance at the HSBC Arena, Sean Avery broke a 3-3 tie with 5:05 remaining in regulation, as the Blueshirts edged Buffalo to move two points ahead of the latter in the Eastern Conference standings.
“In our minds, that game was over,” Rangers forward Brendan Shanahan said, referring to the loss at Montreal. “But in order for us to convince maybe the rest of the hockey world, we had to win tonight’s game. If we didn’t win, somehow they’d attribute it to our last game.”
Avery and emerging rookie Brandon Dubinsky each had a goal and assist for the Rangers, who improved to 9-3-2 over their last 14 games and 3-0 against the Sabres this season. They can move a point ahead of No. 6 Boston with a point tonight on home ice against the Florida Panthers.
Dubinsky’s goal at 10:45 of the second period erased a 3-2 deficit. Jason Pominville and Ales Kotalik had scored earlier in the second to help Buffalo go in front after the Rangers had taken a 2-1 lead into the first intermission, thanks to goals from Jaromir Jagr and Nigel Dawes.
"We just wanted to get out and start fresh with a good start," Dubinsky said. "We jumped out to an early lead, they came back on us, and I think we settled down, had a real strong third period and got the two points we needed."
“We gave up two points against a team right next to us in the standings. It’s unacceptable,” Sabres defenseman Jaroslav Spacek said.
The Flyers gave up a 1-0 lead with just 3.7 seconds left in regulation on Jay Bouwmeester’s long goal before Olli Jokinen’s scored a power-play tally on a laser from the point in overtime, as Philadelphia saw its winless streak reach 10 games with a stunning loss to Florida at the Wachovia Center.
But that’s not all. Centerpiece Mike Richards – who signed a 12-year contract earlier this season – tore his left hamstring and will be out for three weeks.
“There’s no sense waving a white flag right now,” Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said.
Maybe, but you can understand if fans in the City of Brotherly Love are starting to panic. The capacity crowd was all ready to celebrate the end of a long losing streak until Bouwmeester crashed the party. The 10-game slide (0-8-2) matches a franchise record set last season, when the Flyers finished with the worst record in the NHL.
“It’s amazing right now how everything is happening,” said Flyers center Danny Briere, who signed an eight-year deal with the club last summer. “It’s important that we keep sticking together. We can’t start blaming each other. That’s the dangerous part. We’re going to break out of it and we’re the only ones who can snap out of it.”
Jokinen’s goal – which came 3:44 into the extra session – certainly lifted his spirits. The Panthers center is still attempting to recover emotionally from the freak accident involving teammate Richard Zednik, who had his throat slashed by Jokinen’s skate.
“The way things have been going around here the last few games, it hasn’t been a whole lot of fun,” Bouwmeester said. “It was kind of uplifting.”
So was the performance of Florida backup goalie Craig Anderson, who finished with 40 saves. Fifteen of those came in the opening period, as he helped keep the Panthers in the game. His only blemish was Briere’s 22nd goal of the season, which came at the 16:20 mark of the second period.
“That’s what you want from a backup goaltender,” said Panthers coach Jacques Martin. “He hasn’t played a lot, but it’s nice to see him get a positive result.”
Flyers coach John Stevens would love a positive result. His team will attempt to stop the bleeding on Monday night at Buffalo.
“There was a lot of good that happened in the game, but not enough good to get you two points,” Stevens said.
|Mats Sundin – the topic of several trade discussions throughout the NHL with the deadline just days away – scored an early goal as Toronto defeated Atlanta to hinder the latter’s playoff chances.|
Sundin – the topic of several trade discussions throughout the NHL with the deadline just days away – scored an early goal as Toronto defeated Atlanta to hinder the latter’s playoff chances.
It was the Leafs’ final home game before Tuesday’s trade deadline. While Sundin has a no-trade clause, it is unknown if he will waive it to help Toronto’s rebuilding efforts. Sundin has been in Toronto since a summer deal sent him there from the Quebec Nordiques in 1994. He’s appeared in 970 games for the Maple Leafs, scoring 413 goals and 558 assists.
“No matter what happens I’ll always love Toronto and I’m going to love the Toronto Maple Leafs,” Sundin said. “It’s been my home for the last 13 years and that’s never going to change. I hope people respect whatever decision’s going to come out of this.”
Mark Recchi gave the Thrashers a 1-0 lead with a power play goal at 11:54 of the first. But Atlanta was unable to solve Vesa Toskala for the remainder of the night, as the Leafs’ goalie finished with 24 saves. With the loss, the Thrashers dropped a game under .500 at 29-30-4. They are 13th in the Eastern Conference with 62 points, seven behind Carolina in the Southeast Division and six back of Buffalo for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“If you can’t beat one of the worst teams in the conference, we don’t deserve it,” Atlanta center Bobby Holik said. “There’s no room for excuses. Those are facts. We all know that we lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight, and what else is there to say? We weren’t good enough to win. We weren’t good enough in any aspect of the game.”
Boston’s Glen Murray scored twice at the St. Pete-Times Forum, and Alex Auld made 25 saves as the Bruins sent the Lightning to their fourth straight loss. Tampa Bay has the worst record in the Eastern Conference at 25-30-7 and could be looking to move some of its high-priced players by Tuesday.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on,” Lightning coach John Tortorella said. “A deadline is a deadline. How it’s been conducted, there’s so much information being put out there, it’s unfair to the players. Deadlines are always tough for players, and I understand that.”
Tampa Bay center Brad Richards – who won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2004 – is one of the pieces rumored in several deals. His play helped the Lightning win the Stanley Cup that year.
“I really don’t want to talk about that question, but obviously you never know,” said Richards, who would have to waive his no-trade clause for any deal to go through. “It’s in the back of your mind. It’s definitely hard to take another loss.”
Meanwhile, the victory helped the Bruins finish a five-game road trip at 4-0-1. Boston – which also got goals from Milan Lucic, Mark Stuart and P.J. Axelsson – remains in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
“We did what we wanted to do, and we’re going home having got some big points,” Auld said. “Sometimes coming home off a good road trip can be a little bit of a trap. You’ve got to make sure you’re not too satisfied and make sure we don’t let up at all.”
Stars 6, Predators 3 | Video
Mike Ribeiro had two goals and two assists, and Loui Eriksson scored twice, as Dallas won for the 11th time in 13 games with a victory over Nashville at the Sommet Center.
|Mike Ribeiro's brilliant season continued on Saturday night as he scored two goals in the Stars' 6-3 win.|
“We were opportunistic around the goal,” Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. “I thought we swarmed the puck pretty well, had people going to the net when the puck was going there, and found a way to make it go in.”
Both of Ribeiro’s goals came in the second period. They broke 1-1 and 2-2 ties, giving him 26 tallies this season. His second goal came with just 3.9 seconds remaining.
“I’ve been playing average the last few games, so it was important for me to have a strong game tonight,” Ribeiro said.
Eriksson’s first goal of the night also came in the second period, as the Predators – who have dropped back-to-back games – were outscored 3-0. Ville Koistinen, J.P. Dumont and Ryan Suter scored for Nashville, which played without Alexander Radulov for the first time this season due to the flu.
“We lost the game in the second period,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “I thought the third goal really affected us, and the fourth goal with about four seconds left was a stinger.”
“The ‘D’ played great in front of me,” Smith said. “They played well with the puck in our end and made the simple plays to get pucks out.”
With the victory, Vancouver (32-22-8) moved into a four-way tie for fifth place in the Western Conference. The Canucks are only one point behind the Minnesota Wild for the Northwest Division lead. The Wild host the Calgary Flames on Sunday afternoon.
"I know my first job is to be defensive, but it's always nice to get the offensive players worrying a little more about defense than their offence," Kesler said. "So when you can chip in a couple like tonight, it always seems to put their (top) line back on their heels."
The Red Wings – who have lost eight of their last nine games – were playing without defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom (knee), Niklas Kronwall (collarbone), Brian Rafalski (groin) and Chris Chelios (leg). Also absent were goalie Dominik Hasek (hip flexor) and forward Dan Cleary (broken jaw).
With Hasek on the shelf, rookie Jimmy Howard was given his eighth career start. He finished with 31 saves, but was outplayed by Luongo, who helped the Canucks kill six of Detroit’s seven power plays.
"We're feeling good about ourselves, about our game right now," Luongo said.
Kesler’s first goal – an unassisted tally at 3:31 of the third – proved to be the backbreaker for the Red Wings. The Canucks’ forward was able to strip Detroit’s Brett Lebda of the puck at the Vancouver blue line and beat Howard on a breakaway for his 15th goal of the season.
Pavel Datsyuk scored the lone goal for Detroit, which concludes its five-game road trip on Tuesday night at Edmonton.
“It’s disappointing,” said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, whose team is still six points ahead in the Western Conference despite its recent slide. “We thought we set ourselves up pretty well through two periods. We had a tough turnover to get down 3-1, and then obviously the game was over. We just dug too big of a hole.”
Material from wire services, team websites and broadcast media was used in this report.