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Canucks stay alive in Northwest race

Wednesday, 04.08.2009 / 2:37 AM / Roundup

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

It's no secret that Roberto Luongo likes to face a lot of shots.

The Calgary Flames obliged on Tuesday night, but the Vancouver Canucks' captain was up to the challenge. Because of that, the race for the Northwest Division title continues.

Luongo made 46 saves -- 21 in the first period -- as the Canucks pulled even with the Flames in the points department in a 4-1 victory at General Motors Place. The loss denied Calgary a chance to clinch to the Northwest and the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.

"We threw a lot at him," Flames captain Jarome Iginla said. "They weren't just bad shots. We had a lot of good chances and, unfortunately, we didn't get more by him."

Vancouver snapped a three-game losing streak and tied the Flames for first in the Northwest. Calgary has lost five of its last eight games, but will capture the division crown if both teams win their last two contests since it will have more victories.

"They just kept throwing pucks at the net from everywhere and for me, personally, those are the games that I like," Luongo said after his busiest night of the season.

Despite being outshot 21-9 in the first, the Canucks escaped with a 1-0 lead on Rick Rypien's third goal of the season, which came with 2:39 remaining. Iginla tied it with his 35th goal at 14:44 of the second, but Vancouver quickly regained the lead when Mattias Ohlund scored his first of two goals just 22 seconds later.

"We had a number of chances to get involved in the game offensively -- and he just stymied us," Flames coach Mike Keenan said of Luongo. "They had a goaltending clinic tonight. The work ethic was there. The determination was there. We were just up against a goaltender that really denied us the opportunity to be successful."

Ohlund then gave the Canucks a 3-1 lead when he beat Miikka Kiprusoff again at 14:51 of the third. His first tally ended a 25-game drought. Henrik Sedin iced the victory with his 21st tally with 2:32 to go.

"Goals have been tough to come by this year," Ohlund said.

Despite Tuesday's setback, Iginla is confident his club will be division champions.

"We worked hard for this position," he said. "But in our last five or six games, we've been doing a lot of things that we want to do and getting in the right habits and haven't fully gotten the results. We feel that is going to turn."

Blues 5, Coyotes 1 | Video

B.J. Crombeen scored twice and Chris Mason made 28 saves as St. Louis inched closer to a playoff spot with a victory at Phoenix.

The victory allowed the Blues to move into eighth place, two points ahead of the Nashville Predators, who lost at home to Chicago. The Blues, who have not made the playoffs since 2004, have won seven of their last nine games.

"We can't get too high with it," Crombeen said. "We've still got two games left and it's such a tight race, you can't let anything slip away."

Although the Predators' loss allowed the Blues to move into eighth, St. Louis coach Andy Murray insisted there wasn't any scoreboard watching going on.

"I didn't know until after the game what the scores were," Murray said. "We needed the win. We've got to win all our games. That's what we're trying to do."

Phoenix took a 1-0 lead 6:14 into the game on a goal by Scottie Upshall, but the Blues responded with five unanswered tallies. Crombeen tied the game 11 minutes into the first before a three-goal second period that saw tallies from Brad Winchester, Keith Tkachuk and Crombeen. Winchester's goal came just 17 seconds into the period. The Blues outshot Phoenix 11-3 in the second and chased Ilya Bryzgalov.

''I wouldn't say it was effort. Maybe it was smarts more than anything,'' Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski said. ''They kept coming at us in waves and we left our goalie out to dry.''

David Perron rounded out the scoring when he beat rookie goalie Al Montoya on a breakaway 8:27 into the third for his 15th goal of the season.

''We might have been a bit nervous because this game meant a lot to our team,'' Mason said. ''But we regrouped in the second and third and played very well.''

Blackhawks 4, Predators 2 | Video

Martin Havlat had a goal and an assist as Chicago extended its winning streak to four games and put a damper on Nashville's playoff hopes and spoiled the Predators' home finale.
 
Combined with the Blues' win at Phoenix, the Predators are now two points in back of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. The Predators close out the season on the road at Detroit on Thursday night and at Minnesota on Friday.
   
"I think our mind-set coming into this week was that we have to run the table," Preds forward Steve Sullivan said after the loss at the Sommet Center. "And we didn't. We didn't think two-out-of-three wins was going to be enough. Now we have to hope that it is."

The Predators jumped out to a 1-0 lead on power play goal by Vernon Fiddler, but the Blackhawks answered with three second-period goals, two of them in the first 50 seconds by Jonathan Toews and Dustin Byfuglien. Nikolai Khabibulin made 22 saves for Chicago.

"I still think we have the motivation of knowing that we haven't accomplished our goals yet and I think that's pushing us," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "It was a huge two points for us."

Patrick Kane gave Chicago a 3-1 lead at 11:25 of the second, but Jason Arnott got Nashville back to within a goal when he beat Khabibulin 3:29 into the third. Havlat  secured the victory with an empty-net tally at 19:05. Pekka Rinne made 24 saves for Nashville.

"Our guys are not going to quit until the end," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "We have a daunting task at Detroit. Hopefully, we will take care of business there and go on to Minnesota and take care of business. We also need a little bit of luck."

Wild 3, Stars 1 | Video

Marian Gaborik continued his torrid scoring pace with a goal and two assists, and Niklas Backstrom made 27 saves in his team-record 19th straight start as Minnesota staved off elimination with a victory against Dallas at Xcel Energy Center.

''It's always nice to score ... but we got two points. We got a great win. It's huge,'' said Gaborik, who has scored in five straight games and became the second player in team history to appear in 500 games.

 
 
The Wild moved within one point of Nashville for ninth after the Predators lost to Chicago, but remain three back of St. Louis, which cruised past Phoenix. Minnesota hosts Nashville on Friday and finishes the regular season Saturday at Columbus, but is currently trailing in tiebreakers with both the Blues and the Predators and will need plenty of help to qualify for the playoffs for the third straight year.

"Buy your tickets. Get in line. It'll be interesting," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said of Friday's showdown.

Eric Belanger and Owen Nolan each scored on the power play in the second period off rebounds of shots by Gaborik, who has 8 goals and 5 assists in nine games since returning from hip surgery. Gaborik, an unrestricted free agent in July, had given the Wild a 1-0 lead when he beat rookie Matt Climie 14:26 into the first period.

"He's well-rested," joked forward Andrew Brunette. "When he's going like he is right now, going to the net and finding holes and stuff, he's unstoppable."

Fabian Brunnstrom scored the lone goal for the Stars, which came at 7:26 of the third period. Dallas went 0-for-2 on the power play and is 2-7-2 in its last 11 games.

"We had ample opportunities in the game to capitalize on some chances and we didn't, and we gave them some glorious chances and they scored," Dallas coach Dave Tippett said.

Kings 2, Oilers 1 | Video

A seventh loss in nine games has Edmonton waiting until next year.

Wayne Simmonds scored what proved to be the game-winner just 3:46 into the first period, as Los Angeles -- combined with St. Louis' win at Phoenix -- officially eliminated the Oilers from postseason play with a victory at Rexall Place.

Fernando Pisani had the lone goal for Edmonton, which turned the puck over 19 times in the opening period.

"The last two games are going to be tough to play," Oilers forward Sam Gagner said of a home-and-home series with Calgary. "It's a pretty bad feeling in here after coming into this season really excited to get it going and then hovering around the middle of the pack for a while and faltering in the end. It's a tough thing to deal with."

Alexander Frolov also scored for the Kings, who have won two of their last three to pull within three games of the .500 mark.

"We talked about finishing out the year strong," said Kings defenseman Matt Greene. "These last three games are huge for us. We're just trying to make sure we have some good compete out there and playing hard."

L.A. struck early against Oilers goalie Dwayne Roloson, who made his 36th consecutive scored. Frolov beat Roloson just 55 seconds into the game on a shot from the point. Simmonds then put home a rebound less than three minutes later to make it 2-0.

"We just didn't have any jump at all at the start," Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said. "It was just a terrible start, virtually from everybody."

And because of that, the Oilers' season is essentially over.

"We faltered at the worst possible time of the year," captain Ethan Moreau said. "The last couple weeks we didn't get the results, regardless of how we played. We put ourselves in a position of having to win games. It's very disappointing."

Sharks 1, Avalanche 0 (SO) | Video

San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov stopped everything -- even the three shooters in the shootout.

Nabokov finished with 20 saves for his seventh shutout of the season, as the Sharks inched closer to the Presidents' Trophy with a win against Colorado at HP Pavilion. By getting a point, the Avs took themselves out of the "race" for the overall worst record.

''You have to give them credit. They played a hell of a game in the terms of discipline and work effort,'' Nabokov said of the Avs after the Sharks swept the season series. ''They played hard, and they played well. It was tough to break them down. We didn't get frustrated, and we had some chances. We got the win and the two points we need.''

Joe Pavelski scored the only goal during the first round of the shootout for the Sharks, who moved five points ahead of Boston for the League's best record. San Jose also clinched a share of its first Western Conference championship by taking a six-point lead over Detroit, although the Red Wings still have an outside shot at home-ice advantage.

''We didn't generate a whole lot of offense, but we felt good,'' Pavelski said. ''It's been a process for us all year. It got away from us a little bit at the end, but we've got to get it back. ... Nabby was solid. He's done it for us all the time lately. Goaltending has been good for us.''

Peter Budaj stopped 30 shots in his second shutout for the Avalanche, missing only Pavelski's low shot to his stick side during the shootout. The Avs have lost nine of 10.

''When you think of a 0-0 game, you think it's a boring game, (but) I didn't see the game as boring at all,'' Colorado coach Tony Granato said. ''They're a great team with a great goalie, and Nabokov was the difference in three of our games against them.''

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


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I feel that responsibility, I've felt it for the last two years. We core guys get a lot of minutes, we get a lot of opportunity out there. Our teammates, the organization and fans look to us to be the guys to put the puck in the net and to create momentum out there.

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