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Road game ends Caps' woes

Wednesday, 03.11.2009 / 8:30 AM / Game-Day Skate

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

A few thoughts while we wonder which country The Netherlands will upset next year in Vancouver:

Road warriors -- All it took for the Washington Capitals to end their four-game losing streak was to play in a building not named the Verizon Center.

Sergei Fedorov's goal 2:20 into overtime lifted the Caps to a 2-1 victory against the Nashville Predators at the Sommet Center, ending Washington's four-game slide. All four of those losses came at home. The Caps have won five straight on the road, improving to 11-3-2 in their last 16 away from the U.S. capital.

"I thought we played as good of a game we have played in a long time," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We should have won in regulation, but didn't. We got the two points anyway."

In overtime, Alexander Semin passed the puck from the right corner to Viktor Kozlov on the right boards. Kozlov moved it into the low slot to Fedorov, who slid in a backhander for his eighth goal of the season. It's safe to say the tally allowed the Capitals to breathe a much-needed sigh of relief.

"We kept plugging away, and we were finally able to score," Fedorov said. "It was a good character win for us, and something we need to shake things up."

Two to go -- It'll be a special moment whenever New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur ties Patrick Roy for the most wins in NHL history.

But if Brodeur can find a way to beat the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night, he'll be setting himself for something pretty darn special. Brodeur pulled to within two victories of tying Roy, who has 551 career wins. Should Brodeur pick up win No. 550 on Thursday, he'll have a chance to tie Roy in his native Montreal on Saturday.

Talk about a Hollywood script.

"I think for people around me, they feel it's a great story," Brodeur said of having a chance to tie the mark in his hometown. "It's still alive. I have a chance. One more game to go."

Brodeur kept the dream alive by making 35 saves on Tuesday night in the Devils' 3-2 win against the Calgary Flames at the Prudential Center. It was the busiest Brodeur has been since he returned from injury.

"The type of game as far as the quantity of shots and the power play time we had to spend killing six or seven penalties, I think the playing and the feeling were a little different than the other ones," said Brodeur, who has won four of five starts since returning from a four-month hiatus.

Magic touch -- Jeff Carter regained his scoring touch on Tuesday night.


The Philadelphia Flyers' forward, who had two goals in his last 12 games, scored twice to lead the Broad Street Bullies to a 5-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres at the Wachovia Center.

"We cut back on being too fancy," said Carter, who now has 38 goals this season. "If you go for cross-ice passes a lot, sometimes they get picked off."

Flyers coach John Stevens hopes that Carter will continue to do what he does best -- shoot the puck. Carter's performance helped the Flyers strengthen their hold on the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.

"Sometimes when you aren't scoring, you don't shoot and you wait for the perfect opportunity," Stevens said. "He shoots the puck so well that if he keeps shooting it, good things happen."

Bruins get 'Mased' -- At this rate, you wonder if the Calder Trophy was waiting on Steve Mason's front porch when he returned home from Nationwide Arena on Tuesday night.

The rookie sensation was spectacular again, as he stopped all 35 shots he faced en route to his ninth shutout of the season in the Columbus Blue Jackets' 2-0 win against the Boston Bruins. Mason's play this season has the Blue Jackets in prime position to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

All Mason had to do on Tuesday was beat Tim Thomas, who along with Mason have been two of the League's best goalies this season. Statistically, they are the League's top two.

"Tim is a great goalie," Mason said. "When you come out on the winning end, it's definitely a nice feeling. But you really don't look at it that way."

How do the Blue Jackets view what's going on?

"Everybody's having fun with this thing," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Every shift is magnified. It requires a certain focus and concentration."

Thanks, Coach -- Mikhail Grabovski has struggled as of late, but that didn't stop Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson from using his forward with the game on the line in overtime on Tuesday night.

Grabovski rewarded his coach by beating Joey MacDonald 50 seconds into the extra session, leading the Leafs to a 3-2 win against the New York Islanders at the Air Canada Centre. Grabovski had not scored in 17 games, and had never netted a goal in overtime.

Didn't matter.

"The coach had faith in me and gave me a chance to play in overtime," Grabovski said. "It's my first career goal in overtime, so I'm pretty happy.

"Before, I had games with lots of chances but I couldn't score. My hands, maybe. But the coach believed in me and he kept me in there."

Wilson admitted he's noticed Grabovski clutching his stick a little tighter in recent games. That's why he was so happy to see him get rewarded with such a huge tally.

"The way things have been going for him, I could see that puck bouncing and a swing and a miss," Wilson said. "Fortunately, he got his stick on it.

"Even during the game, there were a few times where I didn't know where he was (on the bench). He was so worried about scoring, but he got a bounce tonight. He was in the right spot and got the job done."

That's better -- The Montreal Canadiens are 1-0 under new coach Bob Gainey.

After firing Guy Carbonneau on Monday afternoon, Gainey went behind the bench for the first time on Tuesday and watched his team rally for a wild 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers at the Bell Centre.

Montreal was trailing until captain Saku Koivu beat Dwayne Roloson with 4:35 left in the third. Koivu then scored again in overtime on a power-play tally at 1:40 in a game that could very well lift the team's spirits.

"We made a few changes in our game," Koivu said. "We're trying to keep the puck a bit more and try to make clean plays and then simplify when we get in the neutral zone."

Carey Price was solid again in his fourth straight start. The 21-year-old made 29 saves and stopped all nine shots he faced in the third period to keep the Habs in the game.

"He really brings a calming demeanor into the locker room," Price said. "He's kind of like the more strong, silent type. Whenever he does say something, you really have to listen because you know it's going to be something important."

7-Up -- The Pittsburgh Penguins can do no wrong.

Despite falling behind 3-1 on Tuesday night, Dan Bylsma's team rallied for their seventh straight win in a 4-3 shootout victory against the Florida Panthers at Mellon Arena.

The winning streak is the Penguins' longest since they won eight in a row from Dec. 23, 2007, through Jan. 10, 2008. With 78 points, they moved one ahead of Florida and into sixth place in the crowded Eastern playoff race after the two began the night tied for seventh. Florida and Carolina are tied with 77 points apiece.

Clearly, Evgeni Malkin's parents bring out the best in the Russian star. With his folks in the crowd, Malkin scored his 30th goal of the season late in the first period before putting the game away with a shootout tally. Malkin's parents were in Pittsburgh last season when he made a big push -- getting 15 points during a five-game stretch -- to threaten Washington's Alex Ovechkin for the scoring title.

In the shootout, Malkin repeatedly shifted the puck on his stick as he skated down the edge of the slot, forcing Tomas Vokoun to commit by going down and allowing Malkin to slip the puck into the unguarded net.

"I did something different because I did not score the last time," said Malkin, who previously was 1-for-4 in shootouts. "I practiced my move a couple of times, and it worked good."



Wings rebound -- After a horrid 8-2 loss to Columbus on Saturday night, you had to expect the Detroit Red Wings would bounce back on Tuesday.

That's just what the defending champions did.

Johan Franzen's goal at 3:35 of overtime lifted Detroit to a 3-2 win against the Phoenix Coyotes at Joe Louis Arena. Franzen also added an assist, while Ty Conklin made 23 saves in the victory.

"We had to bounce back and play a lot better, obviously, than the last game," Franzen said. "It was a tight game and huge for us to come up with the victory."

Wings coach Mike Babcock was pleased to see his team bounce back against a team that appears to be playing for nothing but pride at this point. Phoenix has lost six of its last seven games.

"I thought we did a lot of real good things. I thought we had a lot of quality chances," he said. "(Ilya) Bryzgalov was good, but we had a lot of traffic. They're loose now and they're thinking of themselves as not being in (the playoffs), and they have a lot of young kids who skate well."

It wasn't pretty, but … -- These days, San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan must be missing the early part of the 2008-09 season; you know, when the game was over basically before it started.

Times have changed. While the Sharks are still fighting for home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they're not waxing teams the way they once were. Heck, they entered Tuesday's action with a four-game losing streak.

They didn't dominate on Tuesday, but Christian Ehrhoff's overtime goal lifted McLellan's club to a 5-4 win against the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center. San Jose blew a 3-0 lead before finding a way to grab the two points.

"We'll take the win," McLellan said, "but I'm disappointed. We've won a lot of hockey games, and we need to carry ourselves like we have won a lot of hockey games. We need to play with more confidence. We've earned the opportunity to play confident and be confident."

After helping the Red Wings win a Stanley Cup in 2008, it is now McLellan's job to show the Sharks what it takes to be a champion. He's hoping his team is up to the task over the next two months.

"When the game's on the line, I want guys that want to be up to bat and hit the single or double that scores the winning run, rather than walking and getting to first," McLellan said, less than an hour after Detroit also won in overtime. "We need to take the challenge on a little bit more."

Not giving up -- The chances may be slim, but the St. Louis Blues aren't about to go down without a fight.

On Tuesday night, the Blues scored three times on their first eight shots against Marty Turco en route to a 5-2 win against the Dallas Stars at the Scottrade Center. David Perron scored twice for St. Louis, which moved into 11th place.

"I liked the way that we stay hard on the puck," Blues coach Andy Murray said. "We had some other great chances. I liked how we stayed into the game and stayed on them."

Turco placed the blame on himself after the game. He was yanked by coach Dave Tippett after allowing Brad Winchester's goal at 11:56 of the first.

"You always expect the best even when you're not feeling your best," Turco said. "You work hard on the fundamentals and you rely on them, but it wasn't my night."

St. Louis relied on defensive fundamentals to secure the victory, as it killed off three power plays in the third period. The Stars were held to 22 shots on goal.

"We came out, battled had a good second period there," said Chris Mason, who finished with 20 saves for St. Louis. "And in the third period we came out and shut them down."

Kari on -- Kari Lehtonen is playing at the top of his game. The Colorado Avalanche found that out the hard way on Tuesday night.

Lehtonen made 35 saves to pick up his second shutout in three games, leading the Atlanta Thrashers to a 3-0 win at the Pepsi Center. It was Lehtonen's 14th career shutout.

He is 3-0 with a 0.67 goals-against average in his last three starts, including a 2-0 win over Montreal last Friday at home.

"I can't explain it," Lehtonen said of his strong recent play. "It isn't anything technical. I just feel comfortable, and the team in front of me has been comfortable with me."

The victory helped the Thrashers improve to 8-4-1 in their last 13 games. The surge includes a two-game season sweep of the Avalanche, who lost for the seventh time in eight games. It was the eighth time this season Colorado was shut out.

"I thought Kari was solid all throughout the game," Atlanta coach John Anderson said. "He had a great game the game before. So, when you're getting great goaltending, it makes the rest of the game a little easier."

Contact Brian Compton at:

Material from wire services was used in this report.




Quote of the Day

Yeah, I guess so. That empty-netter was pretty lucky, but I'll take it.

— Senators forward Mike Hoffman when asked if his two-goal game was a good way to celebrate his 26th birthday
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