Showing their skills -- The shootout has gained its fair share of fans and detractors since the NHL instituted it prior to the 2005-06 season to settle games still tied after 65 minutes. Judging by their success, or lack thereof, it's safe to say the Philadelphia Flyers and Florida Panthers aren't jumping for joy when a game winds up being decided by the breakaway competition.
Somebody had to win Friday night at BankAtlantic Center, though, and the tandem of Simon Gagne and Antero Niittymaki made sure it was the visiting Flyers. Gagne scored in the second round and Niittymaki stopped all three Florida attempts to give Philadelphia a 3-2 win.
"It feels good," said Niittymaki, who had lost two of three shootouts this season. "I haven't really felt good in a shootout this year, especially the last couple of games when I lost in a shootout. But we've been practicing a little bit and I kind of got my timing back."
Gagne, who had one goal on four shootout attempts, just wanted to keep his options open as he skated in on Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun.
"We practice those shootouts in practice and, I have to say, I'm not very good in practice," Gagne said. "And I tried to find a different move. I think the big key, it's having two options when you go against him. He came pretty high on me and he was not really back, he was pretty forward, and so I tried to fake it and he kind of went down on that."
The Panthers, who rallied from a 2-0 deficit on power-play goals by defensemen Bryan McCabe and Jay Bouwmeester, fell to 2-5 this season in shootouts.
"We got a point," Florida coach Pete DeBoer said. "Unfortunately, the shootouts are hurting us a little bit, we're dropping some points. But if we play like that, we're going to win a lot more than we re going to lose."
Cracking the armor -- For two periods, Steve Mason was continuing his dominance of the Eastern Conference and protecting a one-goal lead. Thanks to a poor attempted clearing pass and a controversial call that went their way, the New Jersey Devils finally broke through against the rookie netminder.
Travis Zajac scored on the power play with 9:54 remaining after R.J. Umberger tried to clear the puck but put it right on his opponent's stick instead. John Madden netted the winner 1:13 later on a play in which the net became dislodged but referee Don Koharski ruled the goal legal, and the Devils edged the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 at Nationwide Arena.
"We couldn't generate that much offensively, which is tough playing against that Steve Mason kid," winning goalie Kevin Weekes said. "He's been awesome. Coach kind of handed it to us a little bit in the (second) intermission. He said we needed to get back to doing what makes us a successful team. We did that."
Weekes stopped 26 shots and kept the Devils within a goal until they were able to get some offense generated against Mason, who had been 6-0 against teams from the East, with a 0.66 goals-against average and four of his League-leading six shutouts.
On Madden's goal, Jackets defenseman Marc Methot knocked the left side of the net off its mooring as Madden swept a loose puck inside the right post. Columbus felt Methot was pushed into the net by a New Jersey skater, but Brent Sutter wasn't concerned about the goal being overturned.
"The call was the call on the ice," the New Jersey coach said. "He called it a goal because he felt that we weren't the team that pushed the net off. And the replay showed that. The puck was on its way into the net and their defenseman knocked the net off. That's clearly a goal. It went our way -- but it was the right way."
Pens get it Cooke-ing -- Plagued by injuries that have claimed nine regulars, including Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins ended up dressing five players who had played 11 or fewer NHL games this season prior to their matchup with the Anaheim Ducks.
They might have been banged up, but Matt Cooke proved to be their secret offensive weapon. Usually a third-line grinder, Cooke moved up to play with scorers Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora, and he provided a pair of goals in a 3-1 victory at Mellon Arena.
"To be counted on offensively is a real treat for me," Cooke said. "I was an offensive player in juniors and, you know, there's not always room for everybody to be an offensive guy, so I tried to find a role for myself to keep myself in the league. But given the opportunity, I feel like I can help out and chip in so I'm just going to enjoy it."
Cooke had five goals in 41 games this season before chipping in two in a span of about 44 seconds -- he got the Penguins on the board late in the first period, then extended the lead to 2-0 by scoring again early in the second. Pittsburgh tried to set him up for an empty-netter in the final minute but came up short.
"He's such a warrior, so it's nice to see those types of players get rewarded and score some important goals," Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said. "I know the guys were pushing for him at the end to score his hat trick."
Making an impression -- In only his second game with the Atlanta Thrashers, forward Rich Peverley had the fans at Philips Arena wanting to see more.
"It's tremendous to be able to contribute," said Peverley, playing his second game with Atlanta after being obtained on waivers from Nashville on Jan. 10. "To get an overtime winner was great but it was also a great play by Kovalchuk."
Vesa Toskala was able to deny Kovalchuk's bid for a hat trick, but the puck kicked out to Peverley and he buried his third goal of the season.
"It wasn't the start we wanted, but after the first period we woke up and I think we played our best two periods," Kovalchuk said.
The Leafs blew a 4-0 lead in Carolina on Thursday before recovering for a 6-4 win. After going up 3-0 after the first period against Atlanta, they faltered again — and this time weren't as fortunate in the end.
"We let the lead slip away. We kind of sat back a little too much and let them come at us instead of sticking with our game plan," Toronto's Dominic Moore said.
Isn't it ironic? -- For a team that seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time on the power play during regulation, and for the most part failed to capitalize, it was fitting in a way that the Chicago Blackhawks fell 3-2 in overtime to the New York Rangers on a goal scored by Chris Drury with the man advantage.
The Blackhawks were awarded 11 power plays over three periods -- including two 5-on-3s for a full two minutes and three other partial two-man advantages. On the final one, Brent Seabrook beat Henrik Lundqvist for the goal that forced overtime, but that would be the only time Chicago made New York pay.
"We were down 2-1 and you can't take that penalty in overtime," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "Tonight's loss was frustrating considering the number of chances we had. To score only one (power-play) goal after having so many power-play is very unsettling, but you have to give credit to New York's penalty kill."
Andrew Ladd was sent off for slashing 2:12 into the extra period and Drury needed only 11 seconds to score his second power-play goal of the night. The Rangers, who by comparison only got six opportunities with the extra man, savored the win, knowing the extra effort they had to put forth to secure two points.
"It was a weird one, strange, tough with the amount of penalties," said Brandon Dubinsky, who scored the team's other goal. "Not wanting to say something about the officiating, our penalty killing did a great job and Henrik was sharp."
Worth the wait -- Mathieu Garon has been supplanted by Dwayne Roloson as the starting goaltender for the Edmonton Oilers, but Garon found himself back between the pipes Friday night, making his 200th NHL appearance. His performance ensured the milestone game would end up a positive memory.
''Sometimes it's hard when you don't play much,'' Garon said after starting for just the second time in 15 games. ''But surely I wanted to get a good start tonight and as the game went on I started to feel better.''
A single victory can go a long way in the Northwest Division, which currently is so tight that just four points separate second place from fifth. The Oilers moved into a tie with Minnesota for third in the division and eighth in the Western Conference, while the Avalanche fell into last, although just two points behind.
''It's a tough one,'' Avalanche coach Tony Granato said. ''You know all of our games the rest of the way are going to be like this -- where you're going to have to find a way, when the game's on the line, to make the plays to get the win.''
Material from wire services was used in this report.