After being forced to sit for much of this month due to an irregular heartbeat, Gustavsson returned to action in relief on Friday before stopping all 25 shots he faced against Boston for his first NHL shutout.
"I'm so happy to be back on the ice and back playing at home against the Boston Bruins and have my first NHL shutout," Gustavsson said. "That's not something that happens every day."
Coach Ron Wilson said Gustavsson has maintained focus and demonstrated determination as he's worked through a series of health issues.
"He's worked really hard," Wilson said. "He hasn't let these medical setbacks bother him at all. He's pretty stable and obviously has some character to have two heart ablations in addition to the groin injury he suffered. He comes back, works hard in practice with [goalie coach Francois Allaire] and I'm really glad we found a way to get him a shutout."
"We knew it was a must-win for us," Kaberle said.
Ex-Leaf Tuukka Rask allowed a rare soft goal 2:24 into in the second period when Kaberle beat him with a weak shot from the top of the circle that squeezed through on the short side.
"I just tried to hit the net, low for a rebound on the short side," Kaberle explained. "It bounced off the post and off his leg. I got a little bit lucky there, but sometimes a shot is better than a bad pass."
Blake added an insurance tally at 9:43 of the third, when he took a pass from Niklas Hagman and roofed a shot over Rask to make it 2-0. It was Blake's seventh goal of the season.
Gustavsson came up with a couple of key saves in the second period to protect a 1-0 lead. After stopping Byron Bitz on a breakaway, Gustavsson preserved the shutout when he robbed Zdeno Chara from close range during a Bruins' power play.
"It was, maybe not what I expected, but you have to take it for what it is and go on and try to work hard when you get a chance to be on the ice," he said. "There's not much else you can do."
Markov celebrated his return to the lineup for the first time since opening night with a pair of power-play goals and Halak stopped all 40 shots he faced as the Canadiens beat the New York Islanders 3-0 in a game played during a blizzard.
The Montreal fans made to it Long Island before the snow hit Saturday afternoon and were far louder than the locals in the announced crowd of 7,842 who braved the storm. “Go Habs Go” cheers drowned out the “Let's Go Islanders” chants, especially after Markov scored a goal in each of the first two periods.
"Our fans were like a sixth player on the ice," Halak said after the Canadiens opened a seven-game road trip by ending a five-game losing streak.
Markov scored once in each of the first two periods, banging in a first-period rebound in the crease and picking the top corner in the second. Glenn Metropolit added another power-play goal in the third period as the Canadiens went 3-for-5 with the extra man. That was more than enough for Halak, who has beaten the Islanders three times this season.
"I wasn't giving up many rebounds tonight," Halak said. "We were great on the penalty killing blocking the shots. That helped a lot."
The Isles' special teams should have stayed home. The power play was 0-for-6; the penalty killers allowed two or more goals for the sixth time in 10 games.
"Obviously, they were real ahead of us in special teams," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. "It's not so much bad penalties as much as it executive of power play and penalty kill. Right now, everything is going against us."
Skrastins scored his second of the game 1:16 into the third period, giving the Stars a 4-3 victory over Detroit at a sold-out American Airlines Center.
"I was waiting for this for a long time," said Skrastins, who hadn't scored a goal this season, his first with the Stars after signing with Dallas during the summer. "I've had a couple of good opportunities the last couple of games, but the puck wasn't going in."
Skrastins tied the game at 1-1 when he converted Mike Ribeiro's centering pass 1:40 into the second period, then broke a 3-3 tie with a quick shot from the left faceoff dot that zipped over Jimmy Howard's shoulder at 1:16 of the third.
"Tonight was one of those nights where I had a little bit of luck," he said. "I scored my first goal and then I scored the game-winning goal. It's very exciting, but what's important is that we won the game."
Dallas signed Skrastins in the offseason to bolster its defense, and he was without a goal in his first 32 games until Saturday. He also set up one of Neal's two goals for a career-best three points.
"He had a big smile on his face," Neal said. "He's usually a shot-blocking machine. He doesn't score that much, so it was nice to get two big goals from him."
The Stars improved to 5-0-2 in their last seven home games and beat the Wings in Dallas for the fourth time in a row.
"I thought the defense really stepped up tonight," Crawford said. "They recognized how much onus was on them and how much responsibility they had to have.
Tonight, I thought our guys really paid attention to details. We backchecked hard, we recovered pucks real well, I thought we had an identity tonight of a team that wanted the puck and played strong defensive hockey. There were a couple of mistakes, but there always is in a game."
Marty Turco made 30 saves against a Wings lineup that was down seven regulars -- including Henrik Zetterberg, who was injured in Thursday's 3-0 win over Tampa Bay. He separated his left shoulder and will miss at least two weeks.
"When you don't win, it's hard to say you had a good enough effort," Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart said.
Detroit scored three goals for the fifth straight game. They won the first four.
"We scored enough goals to win, but we gave up too many easy ones," coach Mike Babcock said.
Recently acquired Kyle Chipchura scored his first goal with his new club as the Ducks held off Phoenix at the Honda Center.
Chipchura's goal gave Anaheim a 2-1 lead midway through the second period and ended a 40-game drought. It was his eighth game with the Ducks after being acquired from the Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 2.
"It shows that we're moving our feet. When you're not moving your feet, you're not going to draw penalties," Ducks forward Todd Marchant said of the power plays. "We seemed to have Jovanovski's number today. It happens. I mean, I've been in that situation -- where it seems like every time you put a stick on somebody, you're getting a penalty called against you."
Shane Doan and Adrian Aucoin scored for the Coyotes, who were 8-1-1 in their last 10 games and will play 13 of their next 15 at home. Ilya Bryzgalov made 29 saves against his former team, including a penalty shot by Marchant with 2:39 left in the third period.
"We did everything we could to give the game away. We took bad penalty after bad penalty," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "When you are taking a penalty, either you are getting beat or you are not being smart with your stick. When you take that many penalties, it just wears too many guys down and it's going to bite you. We did that right until the end of the game -- and it bit us at the end of the game."
The Ducks improved to 13-1-4 in their last 18 afternoon games on home ice.
"You look at the standings every day, and we don't seem to be moving much," Marchant said. "But we're getting points in these games. So we've got to start making our push and get ourselves in a playoff spot. It's going to take a lot of effort and sacrifice."
Cody Franson's goal 4:14 into the third period broke a 3-3 tie as the Predators continued their offensive hot streak with a victory at Calgary.
Dave Scatchard added an empty-netter as the Predators won their fifth in a row despite being outshot 10-4 in the third period, 22-10 over the last 40 minutes and 32-20 for the game.
Nashville is 7-1-2 since being whipped 5-0 by the Flames at home on Nov. 30.
"Any time you get beat at home, especially the way we got beat, it sort of brings clarity into what you don't want to do," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "We sort of got our game back in order once that happened."
For Calgary, it was a change from Thursday, when the Flames beat Los Angeles 2-1 despite being outshot 15-3 in the third period and 35-24 for the game.
"We definitely feel we should have got at least one, maybe two, points out of this one," said Calgary captain Jarome Iginla, who ended his personal eight-game scoring drought with a pair of second-period goals. "We've got ourselves in a bit of a rut. Third periods, we're not closing it out, and finding ways to get points and wins out of it.
Martin Erat added a goal and two assists for the Predators, who have 23 goals in their last four games after completing a two-game sweep of Alberta.
Nashville (22-11-3) moved into a first-place tie in the Central Division with the Chicago Blackhawks, although the 'Hawks have three games in hand. The red-hot Preds are also 15-3-2 since Nov. 12 and are 6-0-1 in their last seven road games.
The Flames (20-11-4) have dropped four of their past five games and fell to 9-6-1 at the Saddledome.
The Preds jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the game was 13 minutes old, Erat beat Kiprusoff through the five-hole from the slot at 4:22 on a feed from Jerred Smithson, and David Legwand swatted home a rebound at 12:30 just as a roughing penalty to David Moss was expiring.
The Flames then took the momentum in the second period, thanks to Iginla. He tied the game 2-2 at 3:48, taking a pass from Glencross and rifling a shot off the left post and in. Less than seven minutes later, Olli Jokinen swatted the puck away from Nashville's Dan Hamhuis and fed Iginla, whose hard shot from the left wing was blocked by Ellis. However, Iginla kicked the rebound up to his stick and took another swipe - this time taking a shot that caromed off a sliding Hamhuis in the crease and across the goal line for a 3-2 Calgary lead at 10:45.
However, Marcel Goc got the Preds even when he buried the rebound of Ward's shot at 17:10.
The Preds play their last pre-Christmas game on Tuesday in Vancouver. The Flames have a few days to reflect before visiting St. Louis on Wednesday.
"Tonight we did a lot of good things, but had a couple of mistakes that turned into goals real quick," said Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano. "When you give up 20 shots, like we did tonight, you know you're doing something right.
"We pushed in the third, and they get that one scoring chance and get a good break. I thought we had a lot of quality chances when we were down by one, and it just wouldn't go. Compared to the game against L.A., where we sat back a bit, tonight we really pushed."
After losing the majority of its equipment in a van fire on Friday, Minnesota was nearly blanked by Mike Brodeur in his NHL debut as Ottawa beat the Wild at Scotiabank Place.
"It's a dream come true to get that win," Brodeur said. "You don't want to come in and lose your first night. You want to perform to the best of your ability and I think I did that."
Minnesota played as scheduled after a fire in an equipment van outside Scotiabank Place on Friday destroyed much of its equipment.
"It's not the way you want to prepare for a game but the trainers did an unbelievable job to even make this game possible tonight," said Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom, who made 20 saves wearing mostly replacement gear after most of his original equipment was burned in the fire.
"It feels really good," Karlsson said. "I had two really good chances last game that I think I should have scored on and to get a goal like is always good. I've just got to keep shooting the puck and hope that more goals will go in."
Backstrom made 20 saves for the Wild. Martin Havlat ruined Brodeur's shutout bid with just 15:20 remaining in the game.
"I didn't play a good game, I don't think as a team we played a good game," Backstrom said. "You know it would be easy to hide behind all those excuses but that's not going to make us better."
Patrick Dwyer and Sergei Samsonov also scored for the Hurricanes, who built a 3-0 lead before surrendering goals to Shawn Matthias and Stephen Weiss in the third period. Carolina has been outscored 52-25 in the final 20 minutes of regulation this season.
"They're putting me in the position to succeed," said Dwyer, who has two goals in as many games. "But at the same time, I have to keep doing what I do and not veer from what I do."
Dwyer opened the scoring, cleaning up Cullen's wraparound attempt 12:28 into the first period before the latter gave Carolina 2-0 lead when he ripped a wrist shot past Scott Clemmensen just 2:19 later.
"(Dwyer's) starting to get comfortable playing with different players, playing with Cullen," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "They both have really good speed."
Samsonov pushed Carolina's lead to three in the second, taking advantage of a nice cross-ice pass by Tom Kostopoulos at 8:27. Samsonov received the puck in the slot and snapped it past Clemmensen's blocker.
Florida -- which played its sixth game in nine nights – started its comeback at 2:17 of the third when Jordan Leopold's dump-in took an awkward bounce and caught Ward out of position. The puck came to Matthias, who was wide open and fired it into an open net to make it 3-1.
"I don't know if it's a matter of a bad start or the end of a long schedule we didn't have good legs tonight," Florida coach Pete DoBoer said. "It's been a long two months for us here and we just didn't have it tonight."
The Panthers cut the deficit in half as they took advantage of a two-man advantage late in the third, when Weiss gathered a loose puck at the side of the net and shoveled it past Ward for his 17th goal of the season.
"They started quickly," Weiss said. "We started to come on at the end, but it was too late."
Three nights after an embarrassing 6-1 loss to the Washington Capitals, the Avalanche rebounded by scoring four goals in the first 8:02 and whipped the struggling Blue Jackets at the Pepsi Center.
The win moved them back into first place in the Northwest Division with 46 points, two more than Calgary.
"It's a good way to respond," coach Joe Sacco said of his team's rebound after being smoked by the Caps. "All year long when we've had a game where we felt we didn't play well as a team, we've responded very well. We've come out and we've been assertive in our game and we've played with more desperation. Our guys have done a very good job as far as responding this year."
The Avalanche built a quick 4-0 lead, allowed a pair of power-play goals in the second period and got a goal from Milan Hejduk with 3:28 to play in the third period to send the Blue Jackets to their sixth consecutive loss and 14th defeat in 16 games.
"It looked like we would just roll them over and it would be an easy game," said Hejduk, who contributed two first-period assists in his first game back after missing two games with a sore knee. "But that was not the case. They came back pretty hard, but we kind of expected it. It was a tough battle.
"If you told us at the beginning of the season that we would be in first place, I would have thought that you were kidding."
Wojtek Wolski led the first-period charge with two goals and an assist. He fed Chris Stewart for a breakaway goal 21 seconds into the game and scored twice in a 53-second span, sending Steve Mason to the bench 4:15 into the game before John-Michael Liles added a power-play goal at 8:02 against Mathieu Garon.
"I don't know how you can blame Mason for the goals," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "First shift of the game we give up a breakaway after a glorious scoring opportunity. The second shift we get scored on after hitting the goal post and they come down on an odd-man rush and score.
"It is our tentativeness. It is a game of initiation and you cannot play on your heels. It is really going to get boiled down to a competitive issue."
It wasn't enough.
"We have done it all year," Hitchcock said. "We play well in the second and third period, but it is not enough. When you are reacting to the other team, you're down and on your heels. The other team is initiating; it is not a good sign.
"It is an area of deep concern for everybody, including the players. It comes from the willingness to engage earlier in the hockey game, and we are not willing to do that right now."
Material from wire services was used in this report.