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Lundqvist, Rangers hold off Islanders 3-1

Wednesday, 02.18.2009 / 11:53 PM / Roundup

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

Henrik Lundqvist wouldn't let the New York Rangers' slump last any longer.

Lundqvist made 25 saves, including a handful of spectacular stops, as the Rangers beat the New York Islanders 3-1 on Wednesday night for their first regulation win since Jan. 27 -- and only their second victory of any kind in the last 10 games.

"He's been the man all year. He's been the best player in the world," said center Scott Gomez, whose power-play goal 7:26 into the second period broke a 1-1 tie. Gomez, who hadn't scored since that Jan. 27 win, got lucky when Islanders goaltender Yann Danis muffed his harmless-looking wrist shot and saw it dribble between his legs and into the net.

"I don't know how that went in. It is just one of those things," Gomez said after the Rangers improved to 2-6-2 in their last 10 games. "You shoot the puck, and good things will happen."

The gift goal snapped a 1-for-35 drought on the power play for the Rangers, who were spared some of the booing they received in Sunday's loss to Philadelphia because they never trailed the lowly Islanders, who are last in the overall standings and 1-4-1 in their last six games.

"These guys want to win badly," coach Tom Renney said. "They like nothing less than a game like (Philadelphia). Tonight I thought the guys were alert and wanted to win it badly."

No one wanted it more than Lundqvist, who had lost his last three starts --  including a 5-2 home loss to Philadelphia on Sunday in which he was pulled after allowing four goals on 14 shots.

"It is a good feeling. It has been a while since I had this feeling," Lundqvist said. "We played pretty much the same way; we just found a way to score two goals."

They got there thanks to Danis, who finished with 35 saves but paid the price for the easy shot he didn't get.

"Obviously that's probably one Yann would like to have back," Isles coach Scott Gordon said of Gomez’s goal. "But on the same night he made some pretty good saves, and we also ran into a pretty hot goaltender tonight."

The Rangers took the early lead when Nigel Dawes, one of many New York forwards who've had trouble finding the net, set up in the right circle and ripped Chris Drury's passout behind Danis 5:37 into the game. The Isles tied it at 8:24 when Kyle Okposo freed the puck along the left boards and left it for Blake Comeau, whose pass found defenseman Mark Streit racing in from the left point. Streit hit the half-empty net for his 10th of the season.

After Gomez put the Rangers back in front, Lundqvist kept them there. He stopped Josh Bailey's backhander alone in front during a second-period power play, then robbed the rookie center again on a 10-foot shot from the slot early in the third period. He also got a break late in the second period when a shot by Richard Park hit the crossbar and post but stayed out.

"Our guys competed, but it would have been nice to come in here and get the win," Gordon said after his team lost to the Rangers for the fourth time in five meetings this season. "We certainly knew we were up against a tough opponent that had to make a stand here given their situation. I thought our guys answered the bell."

Fredrik Sjostrom hit the empty net with seven seconds to play as the Rangers moved out of a pile of four teams tied for the last four playoff spots and moved into fifth place, one point ahead of Montreal and two in front of Florida and Buffalo. Carolina and Pittsburgh are looming just outside the top eight.

"Whether we like it or not, we are in a playoff race now, and we are right in the pack of those teams," Gomez said. "We put ourselves in that position, and it’s our job to get out of the pack, which we can do with efforts like the one we had tonight."

Red Wings 6, Predators 2 | VIDEO

Detroit had the best power-play night this season, scoring five times on only six chances to rout the Predators. Johan Franzen scored two of the man-advantage goals, while Nicklas Lidstrom had one and also scored the Wings' only even-strength goal as the Wings gave Mike Babcock his 200th win in Detroit.

Babcock took over as coach in 2005 and has more wins than any other coach since his arrival in Hockeytown.

"You get to coach really good players," he said when asked for a key to his success. "It's a great honor for the organization -- any time in four years you can average 50 wins, you're doing something right."

"It's a great honor for the organization -- any time in four years you can average 50 wins, you're doing something right." -- Detroit coach Mike Babcock, who got his 200th win with the Red Wings
One of those "good players" is Franzen, who missed five games with a hand injury but showed no ill effects.

"Having 'Mule' back really helped," Babcock said of Franzen, who scored both of his goals from his favorite spot -- right in front of the net.

"I was just standing still -- there wasn't much work there," he said when asked if he was tired in his first game back.

There have been five power-play goals scored in a game just twice this season -- both times against Nashville. This time, the Preds had no answers for the NHL's No. 1 power-play.

"If they get two power-play goals a game against us they usually win," said Nashville coach Barry Trotz, whose team remained five points out of the last playoff spot in the West. "They get five, they always win."

Steve Sullivan had both goals for Nashville -- his first since returning on Jan. 10 after missing nearly two years with a back injury.

Sullivan's second goal, a backhander on a rebound that beat Ty Conklin at 12:42 of the second period, cut the Wings' lead to 3-2. But the Predators couldn't stop the Wings' power play. Franzen scored with the man advantage at 16:03, Lidstrom scored 1:08 into the third and Franzen scored again with 4:22 to play. Jiri Hudler and Henrik Zetterberg scored during first-period power plays.

"I can't recall that (five power-play goals). It's great to see the offense clicking, especially we had the power play going," Lidstrom said. "I thought we had great puck movement out there and a lot of motion, too. It's tough to defend when we can do those things together."

Blue Jackets 4, Blues 3 | VIDEO

Columbus reached a milestone by moving six games over .500 for the first time in franchise history by holding off the Blues -- but not without a near-collapse in the third period that made the Nationwide Arena crowd nervous and coach Ken Hitchcock unhappy.

"The third period is why I don't like coaching," said Hitchcock, who earned his 499th career NHL win. "We played the score, not the game. St. Louis has no quit in their team. Win or lose, they play right until the end of the game. We got casual."

Rookie goaltender Steve Mason made 21 saves -- none bigger than a stop on Brad Boyes in the final minute after the Blues had cut a 4-1 deficit to 4-3. Mason smothered the puck before David Backes could get a whack at it.

 
 
In the end, the Blue Jackets moved into fifth place in the tightly packed Western Conference race -- a heady experience for a team that has never made the playoffs. They also ended a five-game losing streak against the Blues.

"We've been struggling against that team, especially this year," said defenseman Fedor Tyutin, whose power-play goal 1:15 into the game put Columbus ahead to stay. "That was pretty big to get on the board first, to take the momentum."

Manny Malhotra made it 2-0 with an unassisted goal following a giveaway at 17:52, and after the Blues' Brad Winchester scored 3:32 into the second period, goals by Rick Nash and Andrew Murray gave the Jackets a seemingly safe 4-1 lead after two periods.

But someone forgot to tell the Blues to quit. Alex Steen scored a shorthanded goal at 6:54 and T.J. Oshie converted Andy McDonald's passout for a power-play goal at 16:05 to set up the wild finish.

But it wasn't enough for the Blues, who paid for their early mistakes and remained in a three-way tie for last in the West, seven points out of a playoff berth.

"It's just not playing smart," St. Louis coach Andy Murray said. "We gave up a power-play goal on a poor call by the official. We just didn't respond after that little bit of adversity. Then we turned the puck over when we had full possession behind our net and all of a sudden it's 2-0. We made a mistake on the penalty kill, and we made a mistake when we had the puck."

Kings 4, Ducks 3 | VIDEO

Los Angeles may have the road-ice advantage as it tries to rally and make the playoffs. The Kings won their fifth consecutive game away from Staples Center thanks to third-period power-play goals by Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar after Anaheim overcame an early two-goal deficit.

Brown's deflection of Kyle Quincey's shot at 9:35 broke a 2-2 tie, and Kopitar ripped home a cross-crease pass at 15:23 during a two-man advantage -- giving the Kings enough offense to overcome a late goal by Chris Kunitz. The Southern California rivals each finished 3-2-1 in the Freeway Faceoff, and the Kings ended a six-game losing streak at the Honda Center.

Los Angeles went back on the road after losing three in a row at home -- following a road trip on which they went 4-1-0 by winning the last four games. Brown said the key was not falling behind in the first period, something the Kings did it all three of the losses at home.

"We started well," he said. "In the three games, we were fighting from behind because we got off to poor starts,"

"I think what we have to do is just realize that we have an opportunity and a challenge in front of us.  We have to try and meet it. You can forget what the plan was back in September right now. We just have to deal with what is in front of us." -- Scott Niedermayer
The Kings opened the scoring 12:56 into the game when Jarret Stoll tapped in Kyle Calder's cross-zone pass. Patrick O'Sullivan made it 2-0 when he fought off Todd Marchant and banged in a rebound 9:18 into the second period.

"We knew Anaheim would be desperate," Kopitar said. "We knew we couldn't start the way we did in the last three games. We were able to get the first goal and carry on after that."

That seemed to wake up the Ducks, who got within a goal 76 seconds later when Teemu Selanne beat Jonathan Quick from the high slot. Ryan Getzlaf's power-play goal 1:29 into the third period got Anaheim even.

But the Ducks, who've struggled to stay out of the box for the last couple of years, gave the Kings three consecutive power plays -- and paid the price.

"We’re disappointed," said captain Scott Niedermayer, who was in the box for both of the power-play goals, the second one with brother Rob. "I think for the most part we worked hard and did a lot of things we wanted to do. Obviously, we had some mistakes happen and some dumb decisions. The Kings played a good game as well. We just had the breakdowns and the plays that gave the game away."

The Ducks now head out on a make-or-break six-game, 11-day trip in ninth place -- one point out of eighth in the West and having played more games than anyone else.

"I think what we have to do is just realize that we have an opportunity and a challenge in front of us," Niedermayer said. "We have to try and meet it. You can forget what the plan was back in September right now. We just have to deal with what is in front of us."

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

Quote of the Day

It's pretty crazy, but believe me when I say we didn't draft these players with the mindset we had to because they had good hockey-playing dads. It just turned out that way. But we're certainly glad they're a part of our organization.

— Arizona Coyotes director of amateur scouting Tim Bernhardt regarding the coincidence that six of the organization's top prospects are sons of former NHL players