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Atlantic: For Penguins, a point well earned

Monday, 02.08.2010 / 9:42 AM / Division Notebooks

By Phil Coffey - NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director

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Atlantic: For Penguins, a point well earned
It took the Penguins a long time to get to Sunday's game in Washington. And while the OT loss was disappointing, the effort was outstanding.
There might be some among the Pittsburgh Penguins who wonder if all the effort to get to Washington D.C. to Sunday afternoon's game against the Capitals was worth it.

Take it from us guys, it was.

The Penguins underwent a long day's journey to get to Verizon Center, only to lose to the Capitals in overtime, 5-4, as the Caps were paced by an Alex Ovechkin hat trick.

"They've got a great offense and we allowed them to use it there," Sidney Crosby told NHL.com's Corey Masisak. "Especially in the second half after we got that lead … we didn't have that instinct to keep going and finish them off. We let them hang around and they were going to get their chances."

One point in the standings may seem a bit disappointing after the journey from Montreal on Saturday night, but the game screamed "playoffs" and was a joy to watch.

"It felt like a playoff atmosphere to me. It is intense every time we play them," Crosby told Masisak. "We had the game, and unfortunately we let it slip away."

As you all know, the Washington area was paralyzed by a big snow storm Friday into Saturday that closed the airports. The Penguins, playing in Montreal on Saturday afternoon, had to find an alternate route to the game.

Sam Kasan of the club's Web site chronicled the team's journey, which featured an old fashioned bus trip, taking the players back to their junior and minor-league days. With airports in Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Philadelphia also shuttered, as well as Richmond, Va., the team needed to find an open landing strip. Newark, N.J., was the answer and then the team got on the ol' iron lung -- make that lungs, as a second bus was needed for all the equipment -- for the five-hour trip down Route 95. The team got to their hotel at approximately 2:15 a.m.

Kasan reported that defenseman Sergei Gonchar has some DVDs with him, so the team watched "The DaVinci Code" and "The Code" on the trip. They also stopped at a Burger King to refuel around midnight.

Caps coach Bruce Boudreau cried foul on all the attention being given to the Penguins.

"I think it's totally opposite," Boudreau said. "All they had to do was sit on a bus. We had to shovel out our houses and everything else. Half the city was without power. A lot of the guys have no power. You're digging out cars left, right and center to get everybody out. I think that's more taxing than sitting down. Other than a few of their players, they've played in the American (Hockey) League before. A bus ride has never hurt anybody."

'King' reigns again -- Henrik Lundqvist illustrated his value to the New York Rangers with a great big exclamation point Saturday night, as he was the primary reason the rangers were able to defeat the New Jersey Devils, 3-1.

That pretty much has been the case since "The King" arrived in New York, but in a season where the Rangers have struggled offensively, there have been nights when Ludqvist hasn't been able to stem the tide. Against the Devils, he once again proved his value to the cause.

The win over New Jersey was the first in seven starts for Lundqvist and he was finally rewarded with a win after being stymied in a 1-0 shootout loss to the Devils on Jan. 12.

"I think we had great chances," Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. "Their goalie was great."

Lundqvist made like a gold glove first baseman in the game, flashing the leather early and often against 42 Devils' shots.

"You're not going to have too many games like that when you have that many shots and chances and only one goes in," the Devils' Zach Parise said. "It seems like Lundqvist saves his best for us."

"I've been working hard, sometimes almost too hard to get back and help the team to win," Lundqvist said. "It's a big relief to get a win. I'm happy with the way I played and I'm really happy with the way the team played."

As well he should be.

Leino joins Flyers -- The Flyers hope a change of scenery does the trick for Ville Leino, who couldn't find a niche with the Red Wings this season. The Flyers acquired Leino on Saturday for defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and a 2011 fifth-round draft pick.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette isn't exactly sure where Leino will fit just yet.

"I wouldn't take someone out of my lineup right now," Laviolette said. "It'll be good to get him in a practice and get him used to what we're doing - and see where we are at that point."

After a strong 2008-09 AHL season, Leino was supposed to be one of the new players who grabbed a spot with the Red Wings this season, but it didn't happen. Leino had 4 goals and 3 assists in 42 games and had fallen out of favor.

"Ville is a skilled forward that is going to give us some depth," Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said. "I think he has the ability to play up and down our lineup and play with our skilled players. We're excited to have him."

"Sometimes things don't go as you plan it with your team," Leino told the Flyers' Web site. "The trade happened, and I am happy to be going to a good team like Philadelphia. I have heard a lot of good things about Philly and I am looking forward to playing and proving myself to Philadelphia. I am pretty happy about this trade.

"I consider myself a skilled player. My talent is more on the offensive side of the rink, but I would like to consider myself as a contributor in the defensive zone, too. I am hoping to produce some offense and help the team get some points and win games."

Lemaire wants … offense? -- To those who think Jacques Lemaire spends all his time daydreaming about the neutral zone trap, you'll be shocked to hear Lemaire wants more offense out of his defensemen.

"I know we can play better," Lemaire told Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger of his defensemen. "They're doing a decent job. The only part I'd like to see is them bringing something offensively. And we've been working on that.

"Lately you can see defensemen moving in a lot more than you did at the start. A lot more. It hasn't brought us a lot now because the forwards aren't as good as they were at the start when things were going well, but I feel when everything goes fine then we'll get the goals.

"In our own end we're fine," Lemaire said. "We limit the chances. I think they defend really well against top players. They move the puck well. They bring the puck out of our end well. It's only that offense I'd like to get a little more, without giving up defense."

Tough times for Tavares -- There are hundreds of NHL players who will provide testament that a rookie season can wipe out the confidence of the best of players.

The Islanders' John Tavares is learning those hard lessons now. Slumping in a big way, Tavares, a difference maker throughout his young career, is finding confidence at a premium these days, a situation all the more frustrating as the Islanders have dropped seven straight games into Tuesday's home game against Nashville.

Tavares has just 1 goal since Dec. 23, an absolute lifetime to a young player trying to make his NHL chops.

"I've been able to score goals my whole life," Tavares told NHL.com's Brian Compton. "It's new. I haven't gone through something like this, but I'm trying to be as upbeat and as positive as I can. For me, I'm just trying to stay positive knowing another game's coming. We've still got 20-something games left. There's lots of time for me to get going again, along with everybody else."

Let's be fair too. Tavares' totals of 17 goals and 16 assists in 57 games is far from awful for a rookie. But Tavares has known nothing but success in the past, especially when it comes to scoring. He did score 215 goals in junior.

"You want to score and produce," Tavares said. "The last few games I've been getting some chances and hitting the crossbar or hitting the post. It's not easy, I've just got to keep working through it. It's such a long season. We've still got so many games and we're still in this playoff race. You just kind of forget about it and focus about the next day and keep plugging away and try to make things happen."

"He's hard on himself and he expects a lot from himself every day," Isles captain Doug Weight said of Tavares. "He wants to be the best player on the ice every night. But as he gets stronger, he knows he's going to learn the game more. You have to remember he is 19. I try to keep him loose and just let him know to enjoy this ride. It goes by fast. He won't even remember his first year."

Around the Atlantic -- Former Devil Niclas Berfors got off to a solid start with the Atlanta Thrashers, scoring a goal in a 4-2 win against Florida on Saturday. It was his second game with the Thrashers. "It had been a month since I scored a goal," said Bergfors, who had struggled in his last few weeks with the Devils. "It was great. It means a lot." His play impressed Thrashers coach John Anderson. "Very opportunist," Anderson said. "I was telling him after the second period, don't be afraid to be a hero. Lo and behold. Great shot, great play." … Going the other way, the player the Devils acquired in the deal that sent Bergfors to Atlanta, Ilya Kovalchuk, was compared to Washington's Alex Ovechkin by Rangers coach John Tortorella. "He's a dynamic player - gives their power play a different look,'' Tortorella said of Kovalchuk. "That was a key play he makes on ... their tying goal (Friday against Toronto), where they overplay him and - he's there, right with the other guy we played the other night (Ovechkin) in how he can score and how dynamic he can be." … Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said adding Kovalchuk makes the Devils more difficult to defend. "I think it balances their lines out," Staal told reporters. "You've got the Parise-(Travis) Zajac-(Jamie) Langenbrunner line and now you've got a 1-2 punch so now you're thinking about that when you're defending." … The Rangers get a breather, having Sunday, Monday and Tuesday without games for the first time since the end of December. New York hosts Nashville on Wednesday.


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