Daniel LaCosta had a grand total of 48 minutes of NHL experience and no starts when he woke up Saturday morning. But with Steve Mason, the League leader in shutouts, ailing as he battles mononucleosis and Wade Dubielewicz having started Friday in Pittsburgh, it was LaCosta selected by coach Ken Hitchcock to face the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.
It turned out to be an evening the 22-year-old from Labrador City, Newfoundland, will never forget.
LaCosta made 28 saves and ended up a winner when Christian Backman poked in a loose puck 1:33 into overtime as the Blue Jackets moved into a three-way tie for the last two Western Conference playoff spots with a 3-2 victory at Nationwide Arena.
"It's something that is definitely going to be very memorable. I don't think it's really hit me yet right now," LaCosta said. "I didn't really know what to expect -- I haven't played a lot up here. I just wanted to go in there and help the team win, give them a chance to win, and just be as solid as I could."
Joe Thornton had an opportunity to get San Jose the extra point but LaCosta turned aside his shot and Columbus broke up the ice. R.J. Umberger's shot from the slot was stopped by Evgeni Nabokov, but the puck sat free in the crease behind him and Backman was able to put it home for just his second goal of the season.
"I was just thinking I can't miss that," said Backman, who has been a healthy scratch of late. "It was really important to bounce back after a couple losses and get back in the playoff race again."
Jason Williams and Rick Nash scored in the opening 10 minutes of the game for the Jackets, who snapped a three-game losing streak and dealt the Sharks their third straight defeat.
"We had them on their heels," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We knew they played the night before and we wanted to go after them."
But as they had throughout the night, the Jackets responded well to the challenge.
"We just kept playing," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They're a really good team and they put a lot of physical pressure on you. But I liked the way we played the whole game. We managed the game the right way.
"I was so happy for Backman. He's played two real good games here, and to play the way he did and then get the winning goal, I was really happy for him. LaCosta was solid. He was very focused, and that's what we needed. We needed a solid performance."
LaCosta provided that, stopping all eight shots he faced in the first period as the Jackets built a lead by scoring on their first two shots. Williams scored unassisted at 1:46 when he intercepted a clearing pass by Alexei Semenov and beat Nabokov to his glove side. Nash made it 2-0 when he took a Kristian Huselius pass, went in on a breakaway and beat an outstretched Nabokov with a low shot at the 9:33 mark.
"I was a little bit surprised but not totally," LaCosta said of getting the start. "The goalie coach told me there was a good chance I would get into a game this weekend, and I just wanted to be prepared and show my professionalism and help the team."
Setoguchi found himself alone in the slot on a San Jose man advantage and he beat LaCosta with a wrister 54 seconds into the middle period. That was it for the offense until Ehrhoff's late goal delayed the celebration for Columbus, but only temporarily.
"We needed two points today. One point wasn't good enough," Hitchcock said. "There's a group that's sitting there at 55 and we needed to be part of that group."
Capitals 3, Panthers 1 | Video
Heading down the stretch and into the playoffs, Washington has the comfort of knowing it possesses not only a game-breaker on offense in Alex Ovechkin but another on defense.
Mike Green continued a torrid stretch Saturday night with a pair of third-period goals that denied Florida any points on its trip into Verizon Center. Green leads NHL defensemen with 19 goals, despite missing 13 games this season due to injury, and has seven during a six-game goal streak, a team record for blueliners.
"Pucks just seem to be going in," said Green, who first started to show his offensive potential with 18 goals last season. "I've got to give credit to Alex tonight. He made a great pass over to me on the first one, and I just had to put it in. It seems like the wrist shots are going in these days instead of the slap shots."
Eric Fehr of the Capitals and Keith Ballard of the Panthers exchanged goals in the first period and the score stayed tied until Green struck on the power play 43 seconds into the third, putting Washington in front to stay.
Florida had a great chance to tie when Sergei Fedorov was called for holding with 5:56 remaining and Shaone Morrisonn was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct 55 seconds later for checking from behind. The Panthers came up empty on the extended two-man advantage, then Green gave the Capitals some breathing room by scoring shorthanded into an empty net with 1:13 left.
"It's nice to be able to talk about more than one guy," said Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, so accustomed to speaking about reigning MVP and current NHL goal leader Ovechkin.
"It certainly has been Mike's last two weeks. Every game, everything he's touching is turning to gold. And I hope it doesn't end."
Rookie defenseman Karl Alzner marveled at the offensive display Green has put on in helping the Capitals extend their lead in the Southwest Division to 13 points over Carolina.
"That guy, he amazes me every time he's out there. Even that last goal, he didn't have much room and he still found the net. That's pretty spectacular," Alzner said. "He's a guy with a lot of confidence and a lot of skill as well. He gets the job done and every team needs a guy like that, and he's our man."
Washington, which scored 15 seconds into a loss against Los Angeles on Thursday, wasted little time again in establishing a lead. Fehr beat Tomas Vokoun at 33 seconds, but Ballard got that goal back at 8:35 with the only shot of the night that got past Jose Theodore, who finished with 20 saves.
Vokoun had a much heavier workload, stopping 36 shots, but he wasn't quick enough on Green's go-ahead goal.
Ducks 2, Flames 1 | Video
Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped 26 shots to win for the first time in almost four weeks as Anaheim sent Northwest Division-leading Calgary to its fourth straight defeat.
Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry scored goals for the Ducks and Giguere carried a shutout into the third period before Mike Cammalleri beat him with 6:54 remaining. It was a positive result for the goalie, who was 0-4-0 since a 4-3 win over New Jersey on Jan. 11.
"He played very well in the last game in Nashville (4-2 loss) and really couldn't be faulted," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. "Your goaltenders don't have to win you games, but they have to give you a chance and he's been known for giving our hockey club a chance for a long time. Hopefully this game and the Nashville game, he can use it as a springboard to getting back to where he needs to be."
Anaheim regained sole possession of fifth in the Western Conference, two points ahead of Dallas, though the Stars have five games in hand.
Calgary continues to lead the Northwest by nine points over Edmonton and Minnesota, but has lost two in a row in regulation at Pengrowth Saddledome for the first time this season.
"We're definitely feeling it," captain Jarome Iginla said. "We want to get back winning. There were a couple of mistakes and, yeah, they ended up in (the net). But at the same time, we got one goal and you're not going to win many games like that."
The big mistake came in the closing minute of the second period, when Flames defenseman Adam Pardy made an errant pass that Perry intercepted. He broke in on goalie Curtis McElhinney and snapped a shot that trickled into the net with 28 seconds left, giving the Ducks a 2-0 lead.
"I had my stick on the one side and I just moved it at the last second when he went to make the pass," Perry said. "It's nice to see it go in. They're a tough team to play against at home. It was a good feeling coming in with the lead after two."
Pardy took full responsibility for the play: "It's a mistake I can't make," he said. "Last minute in the second and down 1-0, you've got to keep pucks out of the middle."
Cammalleri gave the Flames a chance when he beat Giguere off a rebound for his team-leading 27th goal, but it was the final puck that found its way into the net on the afternoon.
"I've been feeling good on the ice the last couple games," Giguere said. "I thought we played a pretty good road game."
Ryan got the Ducks on the board 4:55 into the first, tying James Neal of Dallas for the rookie lead in goal scoring. Ryan's low shot through traffic beat McElhinney for his 18th of the season.
Red Wings 8, Oilers 3 | Video
Detroit made sure Joe Louis Arena was rocking early and often, using a five-goal first period to chase Edmonton goalie Dwayne Roloson and cruise to a Saturday matinee victory.
DEFENSE - DET
GOALS: 8 | ASST: 31 | PTS: 39
SOG: 95 | +/-: +11
"I thought that was our best period of the year," Cleary said. "All four lines were effective. We outshot them (16-5), the power play was good. Sometimes early we're on our heels, but we were pressuring them the whole period."
Nicklas Lidstrom's goal with seven seconds left in the middle period gave the Wings a 6-0 lead. After the Oilers cut their deficit in half in the third, Mikael Samuelsson and Ville Leino scored 14 seconds apart to cap the offense.
Zack Stortini, Marc Pouliot and Dustin Penner had goals for the Oilers, but it was too little, too late because of what the Wings had done to them in the first.
"They jumped all over us," Stortini said.
Rafalski scored off a slap shot from the top of the right circle, then Lebda followed at 3:18 by converting Kris Draper's pass. Cleary tipped in Niklas Kronwall's shot at 5:44, Hossa deflected in another Kronwall drive during a power play with 6:59 left in the period and Datsyuk chipped in a Henrik Zetterberg feed 1:58 before intermission.
"We wanted to emphasize the start," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "(Edmonton) is in the eighth (playoff) spot. That means it's a playoff game for them."
Roloson, who made 11 saves, was replaced by Jeff Drouin-Deslauries to begin the second.
"They picked us apart with point shots and deflections," Oilers' coach Craig MacTavish said of the Wings' early mastery.
Edmonton put only 13 shots on Detroit goalie Ty Conklin in the first two periods before matching that total and breaking through three times in the third.
"We weren't quite as tight in the third (defensively)," said Conklin. "It was 6-0 going into the third and they didn't want it to get any worse than that."
Lightning 1, Islanders 0 | Video
Saturday night will certainly go down as one of the most memorable of Mike McKenna's life.
The rookie goaltender stopped all 28 shots he faced for his first NHL shutout, leading Tampa Bay past New York at the St. Pete Times Forum. It was just his second career start and his third appearance.
''I have experienced that at other levels, but never in the NHL,'' McKenna said after helping the Lightning end a four-game skid. ''It's hard even to describe. It's quite a feeling.''
McKenna stopped a shot from the right circle by Trent Hunter and then used his stick to keep the loose puck from going into the net during the second period. He also denied rookie Kyle Okposo on a shorthanded chance late in regulation to preserve the shutout.
Tampa Bay starting goalie Mike Smith missed his third straight game because of an upper-body injury. Lightning general manager Brian Lawton said Smith is expected to practice by Monday and could play soon after.
''He's progressing nicely,'' Lawton said.
On Saturday, though, McKenna showed the organization what he's capable of when given an opportunity.
''How can you not root for a kid like that?'' Tampa Bay interim coach Rick Tocchet said. ''All of a sudden, now he's our starting goalie. Pretty unflappable kid. He's done a good job.''
Gary Roberts scored the lone goal of the game with 6:26 left in the third period when he redirected a shot from Steve Eminger past Isles goalie Yann Danis, who had won his previous four starts. The Isles have lost two in a row.
Senators 3, Sabres 2 (SO) | Video
Ottawa followed up a near miss against Boston on Thursday by prevailing in the shootout Saturday night to give Cory Clouston his first victory in his third game as coach.
Mike Fisher had the decisive goal in the fourth round as the Senators recovered from blowing a two-goal lead in the third period. After Fisher put the puck past Ryan Miller the Sabres had one last chance, but Derek Roy shot over the net.
"It's nice to get a win period, but to get it in the shootout is a bonus because we've struggled in them," Jason Spezza said. "To get Cory his first win, we're really happy about it. We played with a little bit more confidence and we're starting to believe in ourselves and it shows."
The Senators scored on their final three shootout attempts after Ales Kotalik got the first goal of the penalty-shot tiebreaker. Jarkko Ruutu and Daniel Alfredsson quickly answered before Tim Connolly beat Brian Elliott to keep the Sabres alive, but Fisher responded by collecting the winner.
Two nights earlier, the Senators had rallied from a two-goal deficit only to fall to the Bruins in a shootout that lasted five rounds. It was a relief when they finally put away the Sabres.
"I just wanted to shake (Clouston's) hand afterwards and say congratulations," said Elliott, who stopped 28 shots.
Nick Foligno had a power-play goal and Antoine Vermette also scored in the second period for Ottawa. Buffalo rallied on a goal early in the third by Adam Mair and Drew Stafford evened things up on a man advantage. Miller was busy, finishing with 40 saves.
"After playing last night (a 3-2 win over Montreal) I thought we played a real strong first period," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "We made a big mistake late in the second that cost us a goal, but I thought we came out at the start of the third focused and ready to go at it again. We gave ourselves a chance to win and that's all you can ask."
Foligno tipped Brendan Bell's point shot at 10:28 of the second with Mair in the box for roughing, giving the Senators a 1-0 lead. Vermette capitalized on a Sabres turnover to score unassisted off a 2-on-1 break with 2:52 left in the period. Play initially continued as the officials signaled no goal, but a video review at the next play stoppage confirmed it and Ottawa carried a two-goal lead into the third.
Mair put an end to Elliott's shutout bid at 1:06 by tipping in a Connolly pass after the forward kept the puck in at the Senators' blue line. Foligno was called for tripping later in the period, the only penalty assessed to Ottawa in the game, and Roy passed to Stafford who split the defense and scored on a backhander at 7:25 to tie the score.
Maple Leafs 5, Canadiens 2 | Video
DEFENSE - TOR
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 6
SOG: 60 | +/-: -11
Luke Schenn, the No. 5 pick in last June's Entry Draft, registered his first NHL goal and the Leafs also got scores from Nikolai Kulemin and Jeff Finger in rebounding from a 5-0 loss to Buffalo on Wednesday and improving to 3-1-1 in their last five.
"We didn't really like our outing last time in Buffalo and playing in Montreal the rivalry speaks for itself, but I think overall as a team we're trying to get some wins here," Blake said. "We're not a San Jose/Detroit type team. In order for us to win we've got to play the way we can play and that's use our speed, make the simple plays and get on the forecheck and shoot the puck, and I thought it was just a great team effort tonight."
The Canadiens received offense from Matt D'Agostini and Tom Kostopoulos but lost for the seventh time in nine games and the second in as many nights. They remained fourth in the Eastern Conference, just a single point ahead of the Flyers and Rangers, two points up on the Sabres for seventh. They're about to set out on a six-game road trip.
"It's time to get some bonding time and spend some time together," captain Saku Koivu said. "Sometimes it's easier to really be simple and do your things and get that focus back when you're on the road and away from all the distractions."
Blake took a tight 2-1 game and turned into a three-goal cushion for the Leafs with a pair of goals six minutes apart in the third. He scored at 3:07 and again at 9:13 against Carey Price, who was slated to get the night off but was forced into starting when backup Jaroslav Halak fell ill prior to the game.
"It doesn't really matter, you know, you prepare the same way anyway," Price said. "You've got to be ready to play no matter what."
Kostopoulos cut it to 4-2 with 8:58 remaining but Finger's goal with 1:04 left ended any hopes of a Montreal comeback. Toronto goalie Vesa Toskala improved to 3-0-2 in his last five starts with a 31-save effort.
"That was the fifth game in a row I got points, so I'm pretty happy with that," said Toskala, who entered with a pedestrian 3.34 goals-against average and .883 save percentage, numbers that drew criticism from coach Ron Wilson and GM Brian Burke earlier in the week.
Schenn opened the scoring with the only goal of the first period, beating Price from the outside edge of the right faceoff circle with 5:23 left. It gives the rookie a little something to smile about when he helps pick up the veterans' tab at dinner when Toronto's road trip continues in South Florida.
"It's going to be an expensive one, but when you get the rookie dinner in the NHL that means you've made it, so it's going to be an honor to pay for it," Schenn said.
D'Agostini scored a 5-on-3 goal 25 seconds into the middle period to draw the Canadiens even, but Kulemin got the lead back for Toronto at 2:37 when he beat Price from the slot.
Kings 3, Devils 1 | Video
Los Angeles might not want to return to Staples Center with the tear they've been on away from home.
Patrick O'Sullivan scored on a penalty shot and also had an assist during a three-goal second period as the Kings won in New Jersey and improved to 3-1 on a five-game trip that ends Tuesday on Long Island. They've won six of seven overall to climb within two points of a playoff berth in the Western Conference.
"We're a young group of guys and it's been a learning experience at times this year," O'Sullivan said. "Since Christmas, we have really picked up our game. We have to keep trying to push forward and make the playoffs. That's our goal."
Jonathan Quick, who has started every game in the 6-1-0 run, made 25 saves and the Kings also got goals from Jarret Stoll and Anze Kopitar in handing the Atlantic Division-leading Devils only their second loss in 11 games.
"We got an early goal that they called back," Devils forward Brendan Shanahan said. "It was just going to be one of those nights when things weren't going to come easy for us. We were up against a young team that was working hard, and we didn't respond well to that."
Dainius Zubrus had New Jersey's only goal midway through the third period, but he thought he'd put the Devils on the board during what turned out as a scoreless first. On a power play, Zubrus knocked the puck into the net on a goalmouth scramble, but video review determined a distinct kicking motion as he was falling to the ice.
Quick turned aside all 13 shots by the Devils in the first and Scott Clemmensen made 12 saves at the other end, but Stoll beat him on a power play 10:23 into the second. That started a three-goal outburst by the Kings in a span of 4:14, with Kopitar tipping an O'Sullivan shot at 12:28 and the penalty shot goal coming moments later.
On the play, Devils defenseman Mike Mottau gloved a loose puck out of the crease in front of Clemmensen, leading to the call. O'Sullivan skated in and roofed a shot for his 13th of the season.
Quick made the lead stand up despite a Zubrus one-timer that beat him with 9:19 remaining.
"He's grown very quickly in his time here," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "It's a great opportunity for him and he's taking advantage. He's going to be better because of this group of games we're playing on this road trip."
As successful as New Jersey has been lately, it was the team's second loss in a row at Verizon Center, following a 5-2 defeat against Washington on Tuesday.
"I wasn't pleased at all with the way we've played at home," Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "We don't find that on the road. We'll have to correct it."
Blues 4, Avalanche 1 | Video
Behind the stellar play of Chris Mason, St. Louis is doing everything it possibly can to remain in the playoff race.
Mason made 23 saves on Saturday night, while Brad Boyes had a goal and an assist as the Blues coasted past Colorado at the Scottrade Center. St. Louis has earned points in nine of its last 10 games, going 6-1-3. Mason improved to 4-1-2 in his last seven starts.
''It's going to be a dogfight every game,'' Blues defenseman Barret Jackman said. ''We just want to give ourselves a chance. You never know what can happen.''
The Avs held a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes thanks to Chris Stewart's eighth goal of the season at 11:56 of the first period. Colorado held the Blues to just seven shots against Peter Budaj, who finished with 19 saves.
''We had a really good first period,'' Avs coach Tony Granato said. ''Then, we made a couple mistakes early in the second period and the puck went in the net and gave them all sorts of momentum.''
St. Louis responded with three tallies in the second period. T.J. Oshie scored just 56 seconds into the frame, as he redirected Jeff Woywitka's shot past Budaj for his seventh goal of the season. Keith Tkachuk gave the Blues the lead off a feed from Boyes at 4:20 before Boyes scored a goal of his own just 31 seconds later.
''If we needed a script tonight as how not to play and how to play, it would be the difference between the first and second period,'' Blues coach Andy Murray said. ''The first period, we tried to play like the Russian Red Army team, finesse our way through the neutral zone and in the second and third period, we played with the lineup we have and played the kind of game we're capable of playing.''
David Perron closed out the scoring with his sixth goal of the season just 49 seconds into the third period. Colorado went 0-for-5 on the power play.
''The first period was ours,'' Granato said. ''The second period was more theirs and that's where the game was taken over and won.''
Hurricanes 7, Coyotes 2 | Video
Phoenix kept giving Carolina power plays, and the Hurricanes kept converting them.
''We had a little meeting before the game and said we needed to try to do the simple things -- take shots when they're there, get some movement and go to the net hard,'' Samsonov said after the team's sixth win in eight games. ''Our power play came through.''
Steven Goertzen scored his first career goal, and captain Shane Doan also scored for the Coyotes, who have lost six straight games in regulation for the first time since a 10-game losing streak in 1993-94 as the Winnipeg Jets. Phoenix's losing streak is its longest since dropping six in a row Feb. 7-19, 2007. Doan notched his 600th career point in the loss.
''We gave them too much time and way too many opportunities and when you do that it's going to be ugly,'' Doan said after a players-only meeting that lasted roughly 20 minutes. ''That was about as ugly and embarrassed as I've been. As a player you have to be embarrassed. You have to be. Have to be embarrassed to wear the uniform.
''You have to be embarrassed when it's your job to play hockey and your job to be a pro athlete and win games. Tonight we were just embarrassing. In this locker room a lot of guys who have to look at themselves, myself included.''
The teams headed into the first intermission in a 1-1 tie following goals from Tuomo Ruutu and Goertzen, but the Hurricanes scored three times in the second and third periods. Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 24 of 28 shots and was replaced by Mikael Tellqvist to start the third period. Cam Ward made 30 saves for Carolina.
''Tonight we just bottomed out,'' Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. ''It just was not satisfactory. It was not good. When you have two guys who have played the whole year in San Antonio (Phoenix's American Hockey League affiliate) and they're the best two players in the hockey game ... I'm happy for them but we need the work ethic we had from Shane Doan and the two San Antonio guys from everybody.''
Four players had multi-point games for Carolina, which fired 31 shots over the final two periods. Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice was pleased to see the power play firing on all cylinders.
''Our power play's something we've tried to jump start,'' Maurice said. ''We've had a lot of power plays where we felt we were almost there for a night like this.''
Canucks 7, Blackhawks 3 | Video
Mats Sundin finally broke through, and it's no coincidence his Vancouver teammates followed right along.
Sundin had a goal and two assists, Alexander Edler had a goal and three assists and Ryan Kesler added a pair of tallies as the Canucks scored four times on the power play and cruised to an impressive win against Chicago at General Motors Place. The Blackhawks entered the game with a record of 11-0-0 against Canadian teams this season.
Saturday's win marked the first time the Canucks have recorded back-to-back victories since mid-December. The two wins follow an eight-game losing streak. They now reside in seventh place in the Western Conference -- one point ahead of Minnesota and Edmonton, which face each other on Sunday afternoon.
"We're not out of the woods until we've secured a playoff spot," said Vancouver captain Roberto Luongo, who made 36 saves. "I think that's our goal. There's still a lot of work to be done. We're starting to play well as a team now."
Skating alongside Kesler and Pavol Demitra, Sundin's line combined for eight points. Vancouver scored the first six goals of the game -- Henrik Sedin extended his scoring streak to six games just 53 seconds in -- before the Blackhawks climbed to within 6-3. Kesler, though, iced the victory with his second goal of the night at 13:09 of the third.
"They've generated a lot of goals since they've been together," Luongo said of the Sundin-Kesler-Demitra trio. "They've played well together also in our zone. It's working right now. We're getting production."
Chicago fired 25 shots on goal over the final two periods and finally got on the board when Kris Versteeg scored shorthanded with 1:08 left in the second. Adam Burish and Martin Havlat both scored before the midway point of the third to make things interesting, but the Hawks failed to inch any closer.
"That's a tough game," Versteeg said. "There were a couple of lucky bounces. I thought we were playing well, actually, in their first period. A couple of unlucky bounces and the puck finds the back of our net a couple of times there, and that got the momentum swung their way.
"I didn't think we played poorly. It was an unfortunate night, but those things are going to happen."
The Canucks know the feeling. Fortunately, they're showing signs of snapping out of it. They'll look to make it three wins in a row on Tuesday night at St. Louis.
"Guys were looser than they've been in a long time," Vancouver forward Alex Burrows said. "We have been so close for so long. We always felt we weren't that far and everyone here has had good intentions. We put it all together and did it against a very good team."
Material from wire services and team broadcast and online media was used in this report.