He's back -- It's official. Mats Sundin has found his game.
Much of Sundin's recent success has to do with the chemistry that's developed with linemates Ryan Kesler and Pavol Demitra. The trio has produced 20 points in the last three games.
''Ryan, in my book, is having a breakthrough season and Pavol is a veteran guy who knows where to go on the ice,'' Sundin said. ''It's been fun playing with those two guys.''
It's also been fun to start winning again, as Tuesday's 6-4 win at St. Louis was Vancouver's third-straight victory. Prior to the start of the streak, the Canucks had dropped eight consecutive games.
It's no coincidence that Sundin's production has gone hand in hand with Vancouver's turnaround.
''It's a process for myself, but I think the last four or five games the legs are there,'' Sundin said. ''I don't feel better or worse than what I thought it would be after 10 or 11 games.''
Well done, Richard -- One year ago, Richard Zednik's life nearly came to a tragic end. Tuesday night, he helped the Florida Panthers win a game.
Zednik, who had his throat slashed by Olli Jokinen's skate last February, scored twice Tuesday -- including the game-winner at 1:02 of overtime -- to lift the Panthers to a thrilling 5-4 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the BankAtlantic Center.
''It's amazing,'' said Zednik. ''Exactly one year later and to get the game-winning goal, it's great.''
Florida rallied from a three-goal deficit in the third period, marking the first time in franchise history it had ever rallied from three goals down to win. The fact that it was Zednik who won the game for the Panthers simply made it that much more special.
As he walked out to speak with reporters after the game, he received a round of applause from several of his teammates. It was a moment he won't soon forget -- if ever.
''He's battled and we all know the road, how hard it s been for Z,'' Panthers center Gregory Campbell said. ''So everyone's happy for Z.''
We all are.
What a trip -- When Jack Johnson beat Yann Danis in the third round of the shootout at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday night, it was the culmination of a five-game road trip that could ultimately determine whether or not the Los Angeles Kings make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Granted, things are very tight in the Western Conference and the Kings are short on experience. But Terry Murray's club has won four games in a row and is now just three points away from the eighth and final spot.
And everyone's excited -- especially the coach.
''This is the best time I've ever had in coaching, and I started as an assistant in 1982,'' Murray said after his club's 4-3 victory against the New York Islanders. ''There are a lot of good young guys on our team. It's a great dressing room, and has great chemistry.''
It showed on the ice, as the Kings rallied from 2-1 and 3-2 deficits to finish off a remarkable road trip that featured a win Saturday night at Atlantic Division-leading New Jersey.
''It's good that we came back a couple of times during the game and in the shootout,'' Kings captain Dustin Brown said. ''These games are huge for us. We can't, and didn't take the Islanders lightly, because a few years ago, we were the Islanders in L.A.''
A night to remember -- Without a doubt, Dan LaCosta will deposit what transpired at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday night in his memory bank and keep it there for a long, long time.
Making just his second NHL start, the Columbus Blue Jackets' goaltender stopped all 31 shots he faced in a 3-0 win against the Colorado Avalanche. With Steve Mason and Wade Dubielewicz both sidelined, LaCosta was called up on an emergency basis. Suddenly, though, there's no reason to panic.
''There was absolutely no way I would have thought I'd even be up here, let alone playing a couple games and doing well,'' said LaCosta, who won his first start Saturday, a 3-2 overtime decision against Western Conference-leading San Jose. ''It's just a pretty surreal feeling right now.''
''Everybody is so excited for him,'' Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said of LaCosta, who was playing for the Syracuse Crunch in the American Hockey League just last week. ''He played solid again. He's a big guy that moves around the net really well. I thought he looked better than he did the last game.''
High five -- That five-game skid the Detroit Red Wings were on is truly a thing of the past. The Stanley Cup champs are rolling again.
Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk each had two goals and an assist Tuesday night, leading Mike Babcock's club to a 5-3 win against the host Nashville Predators. The Wings have followed the five-game skid with a five-game winning streak.
That's one way to erase any doubt.
''I think our energy level is better,'' Babcock said. ''We talked about that quite a bit. We had no energy there for a period of time. We have more energy now, and we're attacking better and I think that's real important.''
The energy was certainly visible from the drop of the puck. Twenty minutes into the game, Detroit already had 27 shots on goal. By the end of the second, the disparity was 41-14.
Marian Hossa scored again for the Red Wings, giving him seven goals during the streak. Clearly, Detroit is once again firing on all cylinders -- bad news for the rest of the West.
''We have to work on those things that we need to get better on,'' Zetterberg said.
We'd love to know the areas of which Zetterberg speaks. Forty-one shots in 40 minutes is pretty darn good. That's like a boxer knocking a guy out in the first round and claiming he needs to work on his jab.
Steaming Steve -- With his team down by a goal, Steven Stamkos had a golden opportunity to tie Tuesday night's game in Atlanta with 8:07 left in the third period when he was awarded a penalty shot.
Stamkos cruised in, made his move and tried to stuff the puck under Kari Lehtonen's glove. The Thrashers' goaltender lunged out and got his glove on it along the goal line -- one that was called a save both on the ice and then again following a video review.
''When you look at the replay, you have to be able to see the whole puck,'' Stamkos said after the Tampa Bay Lightning's 3-1 loss to the Thrashers. ''You can't see the puck although you know it's in his glove and you know it's over the line. I saw the puck in his glove go over the line.''
What did Lehtonen see?
''I felt like the puck was in the pocket of the glove right near my wrist,'' Lehtonen said. ''He made a nice move. I thought he was going the other way. Then it was just desperation. It was tough. It could have gone either way.''
It was indeed a frustrating loss for the Lightning, who outshot Atlanta 17-7 in the third period. But a slow start doomed Rick Tocchet's club -- which left him perplexed.
''Just not interested,'' Tocchet said of his team's play early. ''Maybe it's the coaching staff's fault. I don't know. We're pretty disappointed in some guys.''
Joe Happy -- He was booed basically every time he touched the puck, but Joe Thornton left TD Banknorth Garden with a smile on his face following the San Jose Sharks' impressive 5-2 win against the NHL-leading Boston Bruins.
In his second trip back to Beantown since being traded by the Bruins on Nov. 30, 2005, Thornton scored during a four-goal third period that left the capacity crowd hushed.
"I had been back before, so I think last time there were a little more nerves," Thornton said. "It was fine. Once you get out there and play your first shift, all of the nerves go away. It was nice to come back. These are great fans here. I do miss it, but I've found a great home in San Jose."
"We have a good team and we've been down before," Thornton said. "We have a lot of confidence in this group of guys. We knew if we just keep creating traffic that we'd come back in this game."
Contact Brian Compton at: email@example.com.
Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.