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Canadiens top shorthanded Thrashers

Tuesday, 02.26.2008 / 11:55 PM / Game of the Night

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

Christopher Higgins, who had been rumored in recent trade talks, rewarded the Canadiens for holding onto him at the trade deadline by scoring a pair of goals in Montreal's 5-1 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers.
Higgins's two tallies 700K  700K 
Montreal and Atlanta both had major changes after Tuesday’s deadline-day deals. It was a player who wasn’t dealt that made the difference.
   
Christopher Higgins, whose name had come up in trade talks but who wound up staying in Montreal, scored two quick goals to spark a four-goal third period as the Canadiens beat the Thrashers 5-1 at the Bell Centre.
   
Video

Higgins had been mentioned in connection with a deal that would have sent star forward Marian Hossa from Atlanta to Montreal. But the Thrashers opted instead to send Hossa and forward Pascal Dupuis to Pittsburgh — and Higgins celebrated with his first two-goal game of the season.
   
"We realize that this is our team now, so we may as well come together and get really tight," said Higgins, who had his first multi-point game since Jan. 3. "The organization has trust in us and faith in us to do the job this year, and now it's time to make that happen."
   
Another player who earned management’s trust in Montreal is rookie goalie Carey Price, who became the No. 1 goalie when starter Cristobal Huet was traded to Washington earlier in the day.
   
"I definitely wasn't expecting this to happen this year," Price said after a 26-save performance that had the sellout crowd chanting his name. "There was a little bit more (pressure), but I figured better now than ever. I think I'm as ready for it now as I'll ever be."
   
Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said GM Bob Gainey's decision not to pull the trigger on a deal for Hossa is a good boost of confidence for his team.
   
"Basically, it was going to take three players to get him," Carbonneau said. "So Bob made a statement by saying, 'Yes, we could have gotten a good player, but I like our team better with you guys in the lineup.' I think the team got the message."
   
Atlanta GM-coach Don Waddell got his first taste of life without Hossa, but the true measure of the deal won't be felt until the newly acquired Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen join the team.
   

"Now I tell them to just put it all behind them," Waddell said. "Tomorrow's a fresh start. We have two new players who will join our team and obviously they'll play on the top three lines. We'll have a good skate and then try to set up some lines."
   
With minor-league callups Bryan Little, Colin Stuart and Joel Kwiatkowski all in the lineup, the game was tied 1-1 after 40 minutes. Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk scored 2:04 into the second period after Maxim Lapierre put Montreal ahead 12:47 into the game.

“We had to get through tonight,” Waddell said. “We did a good job through two periods.”
   
Higgins broke a 1-1 tie at 2:10 with a power-play goal and scored again at 4:56. He then set up Andrei Markov's power-play goal as the Canadiens increased their lead to 3-1 at 8:17, and Sergei Kostitsyn added Montreal's fourth goal at 9:04.
   
"I thought about my inconsistent play of late," he said. "It was something I thought about before the game. I really want to forget about the way I've been playing for the last month or so. I wanted to start a new season for myself, and I think everyone has the right attitude in this locker room now. It's a real exciting time for this team."
   
The loss of Hossa will be felt by the Thrashers, on and off the ice.
   
“He’s a great person and a heck of a player,” forward Mark Recchi said. “I’m sorry to see him leave. I think the organization did well to get three very good young players. They’ll fill a big role for our club.”
   
Hurricanes 2, Devils 1, OT | Video
   
While all the talk on Tuesday was about who was traded and what effect the wheeling and dealing will have, the Hurricanes continue to get production from a player they got for nothing. Sergei Samsonov, a waiver-wire acquisition from Chicago, scored both goals for Carolina, including the game-winner 1:36 into overtime to snap the Devils’ five-game losing streak.
   
Samsonov drove to the net and knocked his own rebound past Martin Brodeur to give Carolina its third consecutive victory. It was his fifth goal in eight games and ninth since coming to the Hurricanes after going scoreless with Chicago.
   
''The puck was kind of bobbling a little bit. I just figured I'd take a shot and see what happens,'' Samsonov said. ''I went to the net, and luckily it just bounced to my stick. It's nice to get those bounces once in a while.''

The Hurricanes also avoided being swept by the Devils for the first time since 1991-92. However, the point kept the Devils on top in the Atlantic Division, one point ahead of Pittsburgh.

''It was a good measuring stick for us,'' Samsonov said. ''We got beat, three games in a row, pretty bad. It was in the back of our minds, no doubt. It was an important game just to prove to ourselves that we can match against anybody.''

Brian Gionta gave the Devils the lead 1:50 into the second period when his pass deflected off defenseman Bret Hedican and into the net. Samsonov tied it at 5:57 when he poked the rebound of Keith Aucoin’s shot behind Brodeur.

Brodeur, who entered 8-1-1 with a 1.64 goals-against average in his last nine games against Carolina, made 34 saves, including 12 in a furious third period for the Devils in which the Hurricanes kept the pressure on by regularly preventing New Jersey from clearing the puck.

''In the third, for whatever reason, they turned it up a notch, and they were on us a lot,'' Brodeur said. ''Not that they got tons of great chances — they did get some good chances, but the 'D' allowed a lot of possession, and that's draining when you're playing on your heels like that.''

Center Tuomo Ruutu, acquired earlier in the day from Chicago, arrived about 15 minutes before the game and assisted on Samsonov’s tying goal. He also wound up with a bloody face when he was clipped by Patrik Elias’ stick.

Bruins 4, Senators 0 | Video

Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas stopped all 22 shots he faced as Boston completed a 4-0-1 trip with a 4-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators

Boston made GM Peter Chiarelli look good for standing pat at the trade deadline with a near-perfect performance in Ottawa. Tim Thomas stopped 22 shots and Zdeno Chara scored twice as the Bruins completed a 4-0-1 trip and handed Ottawa, the NHL’s highest-scoring team, its second straight shutout loss.

''He said he believed in this team,'' said Bruins forward David Krejci, who scored his first NHL goal to back Thomas’ second shutout of the season. ''He said we have good chemistry on the ice, and that's why he didn't make any trades.''

Coach Claude Julien was also pleased that Chiarelli kept the team together.
''This is a group of guys that has done a lot to try to grow as a team, and grow into their roles,'' Julien said. ''We've got a good mix of young and old. We've built some good chemistry.''

The Bruins jumped on top with first-period goals by Shawn Thornton and David Krejci, who banged in a rebound with 2:37 left.

Chara’s power-play slap shot with 2:15 gone in the second period made it 3-0, and he added a shorthanded empty-netter with 1:27 remaining.

Ottawa has won just twice in its last eight games to fall into second place in the East after leading the conference for much of the season.

''We're deep into frustration right now,'' coach John Paddock said. ''We have to move the puck better, and we're not winning any battles.''

Paddock has been taking heat as his team has struggled, but the Senators defended their coach.

''We definitely believe in John for what he's done for us this year,'' captain Daniel Alfredsson said. ''Right now we're not playing well as a team, and that makes everything look bad.''

Stars 3, Blues 1 | Video

Dallas didn’t have newly acquired Brad Richards available for its visit to St. Louis, but the Stars didn’t need him — not with Marty Turco preventing goals and Loui Eriksson scoring them.

Eriksson scored two of Dallas’ three third-period goals as the Stars hit the 40-win mark by rallying past St. Louis. Turco kept the Stars in the game by stopping 25 of 26 shots in the first two periods, allowing only Keith Tkachuk’s power-play goal 1:31 into the game.

Dallas' 12th win in the past 14 games padded its Pacific Division lead to six points over Anaheim. The depleted Stars, who were without newcomers Richards and Johan Holmqvist — as well as Mike Smith, Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Halpern, who went to Tampa Bay in the trade — moved within five points of Western Conference-leading Detroit, which lost in a shootout at Edmonton.

"We eased our way into that game, but we felt like we were still in the game," coach Dave Tippett said. "We played a good third period and found a way to win."

The Stars scored on their first three shots of the third period.

Eriksson scored his first of the game, redirecting Mike Ribeiro's cross-ice feed past Manny Legace 2:27 into the final period to tie it at 1-1. Jere Lehtinen put Dallas ahead with his 11th goal of the season on the power play at 7:43, firing Ribeiro's feed into the slot and past Legace’s glove.

Eriksson got his 11th of the season on a shot from the top of the left circle.

"I have been trying to go to the net and I have been fed some really good pucks in front of the net," said Eriksson, who has five goals in his past three games. "I'm trying to improve my game every day, and I hope that I'm doing that. It helps when you're playing with guys like (Brenden) Morrow and Ribeiro."

The Blues have only scored three goals in their last four games after scoring 10 in two games before that.

"We played horrible for about 10 minutes of the third period," said Legace, who stopped 18 shots. "They're a highly skilled offensive team. The first two goals were tap-ins for them and I should have had the third one."

During their four-game slide, the Blues have had 113 shots.

"We've had 113 shots and we have three goals to show for it," Blues coach Andy Murray said.

"It's frustrating. It's disappointing."

Richards will make his Stars debut on Thursday when Dallas hosts the Chicago Blackhawks.

Capitals 4, Wild 1 | Video

Olie Kolzig responded to his club's aquisition of goaltender Cristobal Huet with a 34-save performance in the Washington Capitals 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild.

Olaf Kolzig responded to the acquisition of goalie Cristobal Huet with a 34-save effort as Washington beat the visiting Wild.

“I'm just going to play my game," Kolzig said after his 298th career win. "If it's good enough to play, I'll play. If not, someone else will play."

The Caps acquired Huet earlier in the day for a draft pick. They did not trade Kolzig — their starter for 10 seasons — or his backup, Brent Johnson.

"What I'm shocked is that there are still three goalies here," Kolzig said. "I'm still here. It's not like I'm answering questions in Colorado or Phoenix."

Washington coach Bruce Boudreau now has to figure out which goalie to choose.

After the game, he congratulated Kolzig.

"You just want to start a goaltending controversy," Boudreau told him.

He’s not worried about having three capable goalies.

"You need two good goalies — and we have three good goalies," Boudreau said. "There's a lot of teams that have two No. 1 goalies, and it works out for them."

Minnesota kept Alex Ovechkin stuck on 48 goals, but allowed two to Brooks Laich and one each to Shaone Morrisonn and Eric Fehr — both on assists by Laich — as the Wild lost their fourth in a row. Branko Radivojevic had Minnesota’s only goal, cutting the Caps’ lead to 2-1 at 13:10 of the second period. Fehr and Laich gave the Caps some insurance by scoring late in the period.

"They're tense because they really got themselves prepared for the game," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said of his struggling team. "Sometimes when you think too much about it, you want to play too well, you get tight. My comment to the coaching staff was: 'It's the first time I've seen the guys tight like this.’

"The effort is there — not at its maximum.”

Oilers 4, Red Wings 3, SO | Video
   
Edmonton set a record with its 13th shootout victory as Robert Nilsson scored the only goal and Mathieu Garon stopped all three Detroit shooters after the Oilers forced overtime on Fernando Pisani’s power-play goal with 28 seconds left in regulation.
   
Valtteri Filppula’s power-play goal with 2:16 left gave the Wings a 3-2 lead, capping a rally from a 2-0 deficit. But with Garon on the bench and the Oilers skating 6-on-4, Pisani blasted a shot from 45 feet through a mass of bodies and past Chris Osgood.
   
After Garon stopped three shots and Osgood two, Nilsson scored to give the Oilers the win and hand the Wings their ninth loss in 10 games.

"I knows guys are going to score for me. It was only the third shot we scored but I knew it was going to come," said Garon, who has won all nine shootouts this season. "I just wanted to make the saves and give ourselves a chance to win the game."
   
The Wings, playing without their four top defensemen, had lots of chances but struggled to solve Garon for most of the night.
   
“We had so many opportunities it’s not even funny,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought our guys competed well. Give their goaltender credit. The bottom like was that they were able to tie it on a power play and win in a shootout.”
   
Tom Gilbert’s goal 2:54 into the second period gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead through 40 minutes, and Geoff Sanderson made it 2-0 at 1:44 of the third period by beating Osgood on a breakaway.
   
But rookie Jonathan Ericsson scored his first NHL goal at 5:42, and Pavel Datsyuk tied it at 12:18, beating Garon with a screened wrist shot.
   
“We played well all game but allowed three goals in the third period," Nilsson said. "But we came back and got to the shootout where we usually win."
   
Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said the bench had a weird feeling in a game played just hours after the trade deadline had passed without his team making a move.
   
“It was a little bit somber out there tonight,” he said “We were lucky to get the victory. It was a weird mood on the bench today.”
   
Avalanche 3, Flames 2, OT | Video   

Paul Stastny set up the tying goal, then scored the overtime winner -both on the man advantage- as the Colorado Avalanche rallied back for a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames.

After a busy two days of wheeling and dealing, the Avs got a boost on the ice from their League-worst power play, which produced the tying and winning goals at Calgary.
   
Paul Stastny set up Milan Hedjuk’s man-advantage goal with 6:27 left in regulation, then scored the game-winner at 3:02 of overtime after Calgary’s Jarome Iginla was penalized for tripping.
   
''I definitely didn't agree with the call there,'' Iginla said. ''But I know I shouldn't have made it that close in OT to let the ref have any kind of say, so I feel bad about that.''
   
Ryan Smyth, who scored Colorado’s first goal, sent a blind backhand pass across the goalmouth for Stastny, who was all alone and easily slid the puck into a wide-open net from the right post for his 19th goal of the season.
   
''Obviously, that's a huge win for us,'' Colorado captain Joe Sakic said. ''We're down one going into the third and a great comeback. We needed the two points and hopefully we can build on this.''
   
Colorado, which won for just the second time in its eight games, moved into ninth place in the Western Conference — just two points out of a playoff spot. Calgary still leads the Northwest Division by two points over Minnesota.
   
The Avs have been retooling in recent days, signing center Peter Forsberg on Monday and adding defensemen Adam Foote and Ruslan Salei in trades on Tuesday. Foote, a member of the Avs’ championship teams in 1996 and 2001, arrived in the first period and saw 18:30 of ice time.
   
"I got there for the second period, but I wasn't warmed up," said Foote, who came in a trade from Columbus. "But once I got going, I felt better. I can't believe (I'm back). We get guys back off injury, and then a few trades, it seems like we should have some pretty good energy."
   
After Smyth’s goal 4:08 into the game put the Avs ahead, Dustin Boyd tied it at 15:35 when he one-timed Owen Nolan’s pass behind Jose Theodore.
   
Calgary took the lead at 12:58 of the second period on a shorthanded goal by defenseman Robyn Regehr, whose wrist shot was headed wide but hit defenseman Scott Hannan’s skate and went into the net.

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

Quote of the Day

We want to make sure that whoever makes our team really makes our team by earning it and not putting them in situations where they get preference because of their status as a first-round pick or whatever it might be. That's not going to happen. Everybody has to earn their way on our team.

— Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on the team's prospects at development camp