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This one goes Crosby's, Pens' way

Sunday, 03.08.2009 / 8:49 PM / Roundup

By Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer

Sidney Crosby had the last laugh this time around -- and most importantly helped the Pittsburgh Penguins gain two points in the process.

In their latest battle with the Washington Capitals, which at times has almost become a subplot to the burgeoning one-on-one rivalry between Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, the Penguins let a two-goal lead slip away in the third period before winning 4-3 in a shootout at the Verizon Center on Sunday as Crosby connected for the only score of the penalty-shot tiebreaker.

Two weeks earlier Washington won at Pittsburgh in a game where the major highlight featured the NHL's two biggest stars getting into a minor tussle near the team benches. They traded locker-room barbs afterward, with Crosby saying he was tired of Ovechkin's theatrics and Ovechkin responding that Crosby "talks too much."

"That's how games go sometimes," Crosby said. "Sometimes there's a lot of buildup, and other times there's emotions and things like that come into play. But I think we're both trying to win."

The rematch saw both players do their talking through their play on the ice. Ovechkin's power-play goal 29 seconds into the third sparked the Caps' rally, but after Crosby lifted a shot over Jose Theodore in the second round of the shootout, Ovechkin was denied by Marc-Andre Fleury's kick save on his attempt, giving the Penguins a valuable second point.

"Great ones seem to have the game on the line when it's their turn," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Tonight it was Sidney's time to have the game on the line, and he's a great one. And he made no mistake."

Crosby also scored in regulation, Bill Guerin notched a goal and two assists and Sergei Gonchar tallied on the power play as Pittsburgh completed the first 5-0 road trip in franchise history and jumped into a tie for sixth in the Eastern Conference with the Panthers and Rangers, one point behind the Canadiens for fifth.

"It's been a long trip for us but we wanted to get the two points after working hard, especially for two periods," Crosby said. "We hung in there, and [Fleury] made some big saves. I don't think we lost focus; [the Capitals] played well, we just had to come up with some big plays defensively."

Washington also got goals from Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich, but lost its fourth straight at home. The point the Capitals earned drew them within one of the Devils for second in the East.

"No, no, no," Ovechkin said when asked if the team's skid concerned him. "It's before the playoffs, so it's good for us."

Fleury stopped Semin, Viktor Kozlov and Ovechkin in the shootout after making 29 saves through regulation and overtime. He carried a 3-1 lead into the final 20 minutes before Ovechkin and Laich beat him 49 seconds apart to draw Washington even.

Prior to that, Pittsburgh appeared to be well on its way to securing Dan Bylsma's eighth win in 10 games since taking over behind the bench. Crosby scored 4:29 into the game, completing a 2-on-1 with Guerin that was set up by a pass from Chris Kunitz. The two recent acquisitions assisted on Crosby's 25th of the season.

Semin tied the game with 7:14 left in the first, backhanding a Nicklas Backstrom feed past Fleury, but the Penguins responded with a pair of goals in the second for a 3-1 lead. Gonchar had the go-ahead goal at 7:25 during a 4-on-3 advantage, taking a pass from Kris Letang and using Guerin as a screen to beat Theodore. Guerin followed with his 17th of the season and first with Pittsburgh at the 10:54 mark.

"Today was a good challenge to see where we stack up, see where we're at, see where our players are at, see where our team's at," said Bylsma, who at 8-1-1 broke Herb Brooks' record for most points in the first 10 games as Penguins coach.

Islanders 3, Coyotes 2 | Video

The fans at Nassau Coliseum are getting used to seeing Yann Danis stand on his head.

Long Island's newest goaltending sensation improved to 7-1-1 in his last nine starts on home ice with a 40-save effort, which tied a season-high, and the Islanders ran their overall record to 9-2-2 in their last 13 home games by edging Phoenix on Sunday.

"At this point, we're all fighting for a spot here next year," Danis said of a team that has shed veterans and grown much younger in the past two months. "We're trying to play like this every game."

Danis may not make Islanders fans forget franchise goalie Rick DiPietro, who is on the mend following knee surgery, but he is staking his claim for a roster spot next season even after DiPietro returns. New York scored three times in the second period to take the lead and Danis protected it by stopping 27 of 28 shots over the final 40 minutes.

Jeff Tambellini, Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo had goals in the middle period to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 advantage.

"Our work ethic is there," said Bailey, who netted the go-ahead goal at the 9:18 mark. "It also helps that we have great goaltending and a great defense."

Okposo's 14th of the season came 36.8 seconds before the second intermission and would hold up as the game-winner after Phoenix captain Shane Doan put a rebound past Danis with 18.6 seconds left in the third.

Scottie Upshall had given the Coyotes a 1-0 lead with 4:10 remaining in the first, but they wasted a great opportunity for more when Tambellini and Okposo penalties 45 seconds apart led to a lengthy 5-on-3 advantage. Phoenix had another two-man advantage for 33 seconds early in the third and failed to capitalize.

"We didn't capitalize on either 5-on-3," Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. "I believe you should score on every 5-on-3 situation."

Tambellini made the Coyotes pay for failing to extend their lead by scoring for the third time in four games 2:44 into the second, beginning the Islanders' surge. Bailey put home a wrist shot by Mike Iggulden, who has three assists in two games since being called up, and Okposo sent a wrister past goalie Josh Tordjman, who made 23 saves in his NHL debut.

 
 
"I was having dinner last night, and they called me to tell me," Tordjman said of his starting assignment. "I called my parents, then spent the rest of the time thinking about the first drop of the puck."

Thrashers 5, Flames 2 | Video

Atlanta hasn't been playing like a team that's thrown in the towel.

Bryan Little scored a pair of goals, giving him 28 for the season, and captain Ilya Kovalchuk registered a goal and two assists as the Thrashers followed up a shutout over Montreal two nights earlier with a convincing win over Calgary on Sunday afternoon at Philips Arena.

"I think we want to prove to ourselves that we can play against and beat teams like Calgary and the better teams in the League," Little said. "We're winning these games for us and our fans."
   
Tobias Enstrom and Chris Thorburn also scored for Atlanta, which foiled Miikka Kiprusoff's bid for his 40th victory of the season. Kiprusoff stopped only 15 of 20 shots in losing for the first time in seven road starts.

"You have to give your team a chance to win. I didn't do that today," Kiprusoff said. "Hopefully I'll be better next game. It's tough, but it's one loss and we can't keep worrying about it. We have to have more energy from the start. I didn't do it tonight."

Craig Conroy and Jarome Iginla had goals for Calgary, which started its seven-game road trip with a pair of wins but now has dropped consecutive games. The Flames travel to New Jersey, Detroit and Toronto before returning home.

"Determination has to be from the start," Iginla said. "The Thrashers were hungry tonight, and we were not competitive enough to create enough chances. We know we have to be more determined. I know I have to be better early. I don't think the last few games we have been aggressive."

Thorburn had the lone goal of the second period, putting the Thrashers ahead 3-1 at the 5:34 mark. Iginla drew the Flames to within one 5:19 into the third, tapping Dustin Boyd's feed from the end boards past Kari Lehtonen, but Kovalchuk restored the two-goal cushion with a hard wrister from the right circle at 7:39 and Little connected on a power play with 9:32 remaining.

Atlanta won consecutive games in regulation for the first time since Jan. 17-20. Lehtonen, who stopped all 25 shots he faced against the Canadiens on Friday, finished with 27 saves.

Little also started the scoring with a wrister from near the left side of the crease 4:40 into the first. Conroy tied things up at 13:36 but Enstrom put the Thrashers in front to stay 3:35 later by beating Kiprusoff on a slap shot from between the blue line and the circles.

"Kiprusoff has had better games, there's no question," Flames coach Mike Keenan said. "He would be the first to say it. We have to respond to those situations. I felt we spent too much time in the penalty box."

Avalanche 5, Blackhawks 1 | Video

Colorado was able to forget about its disappointing season for one afternoon, getting a goal and an assist each from Marek Svatos and Ryan Smyth in a decisive win over Chicago at the United Center.

Peter Budaj made 24 saves and Ben Guite, Chris Stewart and Milan Hejduk also scored as the Avalanche snapped a six-game losing streak Sunday, the longest for the franchise since the Quebec Nordiques dropped eight in a row during the 1991-92 season.

"Obviously the standings look pretty bad for us," Budaj said. "It's great to get a win. It's a great effort. Everyone was contributing. It's a very good hockey team on the other side. We outplayed them tonight. That's big."


PETER BUDAJ
GOALTENDER - COL

SHOTS: 25 | SAVES: 24
SAVE PCT: .960 | GAA: 1.00

Colorado remained last in the Western Conference standings with just 16 games remaining and is headed for its first losing season since moving to Denver. But a strong start, led by first-period goals from Guite and Stewart, was too much for Chicago to overcome.

"The key was to try to get off to a good start and see which team was going to wake up in an afternoon game," Smyth said. "We've been finding ways to lose. Today we found our legs early."

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews scored a power-play goal 6:53 into the second to make it a 2-1 game, but it was the only puck they put past Budaj all afternoon.

"Today all aspects of our game were off, every single one," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "I used really bad adjectives to describe our game today. This was a curveball and we have to get back to basics.

"I think a game like today's reminds you that there are no games that you can take for granted. The last 20 games will be harder than the first 62."

Hejduk and Svatos responded to Toews' goal by scoring 2:34 apart late in the second to give Colorado a 4-1 lead heading into the third. Hejduk sent home a shot from the right circle at the 16-minute mark, then Svatos converted a centering pass by Tyler Arnason, who had three assists.

Smyth wrapped in the rebound of a Svatos shot 5:37 into the third, capping the scoring against Chicago goalie Antti Niemi, who made 24 saves in his second NHL start.

"I thought we did a real good job defensively," Colorado coach Tony Granato said. "That's obviously an important part against a team that has such speed and talent."

Canadiens 3, Stars 1 | Video

Montreal offered the game up on a silver platter during the first period and early in the second, but Dallas declined to accept. It wound up costing the Stars dearly in the end, as they lost their sixth in a row at home.

Carey Price made 30 saves to snap an 0-6-1 skid and the Canadiens' penalty-killers helped him out with an outstanding effort that made up for a lack of discipline early in Sunday's game at American Airlines Center.
Montreal took nine minor penalties in the opening 20 minutes, including five in the final 69 seconds. That led to a 5-on-3 for Dallas that extended several minutes into the second period, but the Stars were unable to build on Loui Eriksson's goal on another two-man advantage 4:52 into the first.

''That's never the way you want to approach the game,'' Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said of the early glut of penalties. ''After we killed the 5-on-3 in the second, that's what we needed. We finally decided not to back down. We kept our composure the last 40 minutes and came up with a big win.''

Not long after the Canadiens finally got back at even strength, Andrei Kostitsyn scored the tying goal. Alex Kovalev put them ahead later in the second and Chris Higgins added an insurance goal in the third as the Habs took over fifth in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Panthers, Rangers and Penguins.

''When you're going into a 5-on-3, you just want to keep your head,'' said Price, who hadn't won since Feb. 3. ''I think they only had one shot in that 5-on-3 (to start the second). When we killed that, that helped us get the momentum. Our guys did a good job on the PK. They blocked a lot of shots and kept everything away from me.''

Marty Turco made 16 saves for the Stars, who find themselves in a three-way tie for seventh in the Western Conference.
"Of course it's frustrating. We needed the win today, we needed the points," Eriksson said. "We had our chances today on the power play and we didn't convert on it, so it's a tough loss."

Eriksson knocked home the rebound of a Stephane Robidas shot at 4:52 of the first for his career-high 32nd goal. It came nine seconds into a 5-on-3 created by minors to Max Pacioretty and Roman Hamrlik.

The Canadiens continued their parade to the penalty box. Mathieu Schneider was assessed a double high-sticking minor at 8:57, but the Stars came up empty. Then, with 1:09 left, Gregory Stewart took penalties for interference and roughing. Kovalev was hit with a roughing call 37 seconds later and captain Saku Koivu took a slashing penalty as the period ended.

Not only did the Stars squander that golden opportunity to begin the second, they managed only one shot on goal during the stretch. They finished 1-for-10 on the power play and are 8-for-66 over their last 15 games.
"Great ones seem to have the game on the line when it's their turn. Tonight it was Sidney's time to have the game on the line, and he's a great one. And he made no mistake." -- Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, on Sidney Crosby
"There's some people really giving effort, but it's what you do after effort," Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. "We talk about it all the time -- in our situation, there's not going to be a game where you're not going to play against a team that has great effort or we should have great effort. It's what you do after that that really dictates outcomes of games.

"When you have the ability to make plays, the ability to make other people around you better, you better do that, because it makes our team better. Right now we've only got one line that's doing that."

Montreal carried the momentum after the long penalty kill and it almost seemed predictable when Koivu set up Kostitsyn in the slot for the tying goal at the five-minute mark. Kovalev notched the game-winning goal with 5:10 left in the period, just two seconds after the Stars had finished killing off consecutive penalties to James Neal and Mike Modano, including a 50-second 5-on-3 for the Canadiens.

Higgins made it 3-1 when he had a wide-open net to shoot at 5:27 into the third after Turco misplayed a puck behind the net.

Wild 3, Ducks 2

Stephane Veilleux scored twice and Minnesota ended a tough six-game road trip with a satisfying win over Anaheim at Honda Center.

Andrew Brunette's third-period goal held up as the game-winner and Niklas Backstrom made 35 saves as the Wild moved to within a point of three teams tied for seventh in the Western Conference. Minnesota has 17 games remaining.

"Every game will be important. We're going to face adversity and we're going to need to stay composed," Veilleux said. "With the group of guys we have it's important to stay confident. Every night will be a battle."

The Wild are in the middle of a 10-game stretch in which they have just one home game, which takes place Tuesday against San Jose. They had lost four of five on the road heading into Sunday night.

"We've had some tough losses over the stretch of the last five or six games," Brunette said. "We're going to learn as we go here a little bit, and hopefully we comprehend the messages that were sent to us."

Todd Marchant and Scott Niedermayer scored for the Ducks, who slipped to 11th in the West, two points out of a playoff spot.

"Being close doesn't get you any points," defenseman Ryan Whitney said. "That's not doing us any good, so as good of an effort as we've had, there's been some real good things we've done, but we've got to get wins. That's what it's about, scoring more goals and basically bearing down a little in our own zone."

Veilleux's second of the game and 10th of the season put Minnesota up 2-1 late in the second period. Anaheim turned the puck over and Veilleux beat Jonas Hiller on a breakaway, ripping a slap shot into the top left corner with 3:22 left.

Brunette added the all-important insurance goal at 11:49 of the third, taking James Sheppard's pass from near the goal line and beating Hiller from the slot. Niedermayer made it a one-goal game again with 22 seconds remaining, banging home a puck Backstrom thought he had covered for his 46th career goal with the Ducks, breaking Oleg Tverdovsky's franchise record for defensemen and making Wild coach Jacques Lemaire sweat out the final seconds.

"The only way it can't be stressful is if you lose six in a row -- then it won't be stressful because you'll be out," Lemaire said.

The only goal of the first period belonged to Veilleux, who scored 1:08 after the opening faceoff. He snapped a wrist shot past Hiller, who went on to finish with 22 saves.

Marchant, a shorthanded specialist throughout his career, scored his 24th such goal 5:10 into the second period to tie the score. Backstrom had controlled Marchant's dump-in behind his net and intended to play the puck to teammate Marc-Andre Bergeron, but Marchant skated in to steal the puck. He then skated around the right post and poked the puck into the net before Backstrom could scramble back into position.

Otherwise, Backstrom was sound after getting pulled in Saturday's 4-3 loss in Los Angeles.

''For sure it's a big thing for me to get back in there and have a good game and help the guys out,'' Backstrom said. ''In hockey, you can never get too low or too high. You just have to get ready for the next game and be there.

''Bad games are part of it, and you move on. We have 17 games left, and after that we'll see where we are. If we can play hockey like this every night, I think we're going to have a good chance.''

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




Quote of the Day

It's really exciting. I'm pretty sure that when I play my first game I'm going to be emotional. To be back on the ice playing a game, being in game situations, with all the routines and rituals I do before games and during the game, I feel like I'm going to be emotional. I'm going to be really happy.

— Montreal Canadiens forward Tim Bozon on playing for the first time since his life-threaning illness