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Ward tips his cap to Brodeur

Thursday, 03.19.2009 / 9:00 AM / Game-Day Skate

By Brian Compton and John Kreiser  - NHL.com Staff Writers

A few thoughts while fans in Columbus move one day closer to witnessing playoff hockey for the first time:

Goalie to goalie -- The Carolina Hurricanes were delighted Martin Brodeur's equipment Wednesday included a baseball cap.

One night after passing Patrick Roy for the most regular-season victories by a goaltender in NHL history, Brodeur got the night off at the RBC Center; he watched as Kevin Weekes was beaten four times in Carolina's 4-2 victory against the New Jersey Devils.

"Five hundred fifty-two speaks for itself, so we're glad he got that record last night," Hurricanes forward Sergei Samsonov said of not having to face the future Hall of Famer.

That doesn't mean Carolina netminder Cam Ward, who has beaten Brodeur just once in seven career decisions, doesn't appreciate what he's accomplished.

"I tip my hat. That's just outstanding," said Ward, who made 41 saves as the Hurricanes won their sixth in a row at home. "Obviously, there's only one guy who's done it. There's no question that guy has had an outstanding resume. As a goaltender in the League, you can truly appreciate what he's done, night in and night out, year after year.

"It looks like he's not slowing down. We're going to see a lot more of Martin Brodeur."

Brodeur always seems to have fun when he plays, and Ward feels that's a major part of his own success.

"That was my parents' golden rule when I grew up -- the more fun you have, the better you do," he said. "I live by that. It's definitely true. That's the reason I put it on my goal stick -- just in case things are going tough, you can a look down at it and remind yourself that we're very fortunate to be playing in the top League in the world. I'm doing the best I can to enjoy it."

Trade pays off -- One deal that certainly has worked is the Columbus Blue Jackets' recent acquisition of forward Antoine Vermette from the Ottawa Senators.

Vermette's goal at 2:38 of overtime moved the Blue Jackets one day closer to their first-ever playoff appearance as they earned a hard-fought 4-3 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks at Nationwide Arena.

Vermette, who was acquired from the Sens on March 4 in exchange for goalie Pascal Leclaire and a 2009 second-round draft choice, has notched a point in five of his first six games with his new club. His play has helped Columbus keep a firm grip on a playoff spot in the ever-so-tight Western Conference.

''It doesn't get much better than a playoff race,'' Vermette said. ''It's great. I'm pretty happy.''

So is Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock.

''He's been solid since we got him,'' Hitchcock said. ''He's an unassuming player. He doesn't stick out until you look at the score sheet and he's won key faceoffs, got the puck out and he's done the good job killing penalties and scored big points. Every night he gets the job done.''

Like father, like son -- OK, so the goal Eric Nystrom scored Wednesday night doesn't exactly compare with the one his father, Bob, scored May 24, 1980, in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.

But the Calgary Flames forward certainly made the former New York Islander he calls dad proud when he broke a 1-1 tie at 11:46 of the third period to lift his team to a huge 2-1 win against the Dallas Stars at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

The victory moved the Flames five points ahead of the Vancouver Canucks in the Northwest Division race. The division winner will land the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

Rookie Flames centre Warren Peters pressured Stars forward Fabian Brunnstrom into coughing up the puck in his own zone. As the puck slid towards the blue line, Dustin Boyd seized control and fed Nystrom, who was breaking toward the net.

 
 
Nystrom moved in and fired a shot that just squeezed under Marty Turco's arm, much to the delight of the capacity crowd of 19,289.

"My eyes were as huge as basketballs there," said Nystrom, who scored for the first time in 14 games. "I had a whole head of steam. I knew if he could get it to me I'd be in pretty much all alone. I just tried getting the shot away quick and surprise him, snuck it between his pads and it felt pretty good."

Flames coach Mike Keenan was both pleased and not surprised that Nystrom delivered for his team during a crucial point in the regular season.

"It's always the unexpected player that comes through in playoff hockey," Keenan said. "That's what makes the playoffs so exciting, when you see players that don't play much have big roles or play important parts in games."

Now that's special
-- Finally, the Anaheim Ducks' power play has a pulse.

After going five games without a man-advantage tally, the Ducks erupted for three power-play goals in a 4-3 overtime win against the Nashville Predators at the Honda Center.

The third one came in OT, as Teemu Selanne beat Pekka Rinne just 34 seconds into the extra session.

"It was a huge for our power play," Selanne said. "Our power play hasn't been very good and we know that we can win the games with a good power play. Tonight was a good example."

"Our power play hasn't been very good and we know that we can win the games with a good power play. Tonight was a good example." -- Teemu Selanne
Fighting for their playoffs lives, the Ducks don't have much time to celebrate as a match at Phoenix looms Thursday night.

"We got two points," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. "Yeah, we're not happy that we gave up one when we had a one-goal lead late in the hockey game in your building. We'll take the two points and now we move on. We have to prepare ourselves for (Thursday) night at Phoenix."

Three points out might not seem like much, but with three teams between them and eighth place, the Ducks knew they needed a win in the worst way.

"We have 12 games left after tonight," forward Bobby Ryan said. "So to get started with a win at home was huge."

Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.
Quote of the Day

Fifty-five? That's shorts weather.

— New Anaheim Ducks forward, and Michigan native, Ryan Kesler on locals in Southern California considering 55 degrees to be cold
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