It looks like Nikolay Zherdev is getting the message.
Zherdev was a healthy scratch a week ago when the Philadelphia Flyers visited Boston. He got back into the lineup on Tuesday and has been playing his way into a more prominent role for the Flyers.
On Saturday, Zherdev scored twice against his former team and Brian Boucher stopped 24 shots to lead the Flyers to a 4-1 win over the New York Rangers. Andreas Nodl and Ville Leino also scored for the Flyers, who have won five straight and lead the NHL with 49 points.
Zherdev is gradually earning the trust of coach Peter Laviolette.
"There's a growing period," Laviolette said. "He's playing really well, especially the last few games. He continues to score goals and work at his game. It's always difficult when you come in and you haven't been here. He's been good the last few games. We're spreading it out and giving him more power play time. I really like his line (with Jeff Carter and James van Riemsdyk)."
Zherdev spent last season in Russia after the Rangers walked away from his arbitration award in the summer of 2009, then signed with the Flyers this past summer. He denied that he plays with increased motivation against his old team.
"It's really great that I score," he said, "but it doesn't matter what team it's against."
Zherdev scored Philadelphia's first goal 9:06 into the second period when he came out of the box after serving a two-minute penalty for cross-checking, took a breakaway pass from Mike Richards and beat Henrik Lundqvist with a forehand-to-backhand move to the glove side.
"I came out of the penalty and saw the pass coming to me and I just took off," Zherdev said. "It was a great pass, and I went for it."
Nodl made it 2-0 at 3:13 of the third, deflecting Claude Giroux's pass into the net.
New York's Dale Weise appeared to put the Rangers on the board, but his apparent goal just over 5 minutes into the third was disallowed when it was ruled that he kicked it in the net. However, rookie Derek Stepan beat Boucher at 8:23 with a one-timer amid a flurry of Rangers shots for his ninth goal of the season.
Laviolette called a timeout and got his team to regroup.
"That's where it gets a little bit scary," Laviolette said. "You feel like you're playing the right way, but it if you let your guard down ... It was more to stop the time and give them a wake-up call."
Philadelphia regained its two-goal advantage at 9:57 when Ville Leino redirected Kimmo Timonen's shot from just above the face-off circle for his eighth of the season. Zherdev added some insurance with 4:54 to play.
The Rangers saw their three-game winning streak end
"We had too many turnovers and didn't take care of the puck when we needed to," forward Brandon Dubinsky said.
Hurricanes 4, Ducks 2 | HIGHLIGHTS
Eric Staal's natural hat trick helped the Hurricanes survive a blizzard of late penalties that almost cost them a win against the visiting Ducks.
After Ryan Getzlaf gave the Ducks an early lead, Staal scored two power-play goals in the first period and completed his hat trick by beating Jonas Hiller 1:41 into the second.
"Staal has the ability to take the game over," goalie Cam Ward said. "He really picked up his play when we were down one goal and put the team on his shoulders. There's a reason why he's one of the more dominant players in the League, and you got to see it."
The Hurricanes appeared headed for a routine win before they began filling the penalty box. Carolina took three penalties in a 30-second span of the final 3:01. Getzlaf scored a power-play goal with 1:48 left, but Ward stopped 39 consecutive shots between his goals and finished with 43 saves. Joe Corvo hit the empty net with 4.7 seconds left to wrap up Carolina's fourth consecutive win.
"The opportunities were definitely there, and Cam played the way he can," Getzlaf said.
Anaheim fell to 1-2-0 on their seven-game trip, and as they did Thursday night against the Islanders, the Ducks paid for a slow start.
"We have to play that strong forecheck game, and we had it after we got motivated," coach Randy Carlyle said. "But we were down two goals, and then we got one back, and we had numerous chances, but just didn't get it across the line."
Stars 2, Blue Jackets 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
The NHL's best team in one-goal games won another one – this time with a little help.
Brad Richards scored twice and Dallas benefitted from a controversial no-goal call to win at Columbus.
The Jackets thought they had broken a 1-1 tie when Derek Dorsett put the puck into a wide-open net. But referee Chris Rooney immediately waved off the goal, citing goaltender interference involving the Jackets' Ethan Moreau, although no penalty was called.
"They said it was goaltender contact -- they said -- in the crease," Columbus coach Scott Arniel said. "We looked at it and we feel Ethan was outside the blue paint. The goalie came out to challenge and ran into him and proceeded to throw his arms in the air. Ethan's feet were planted. There's not much you can do; you're not going to change a referee's mind."
Stars coach Marc Crawford –- to no one's surprise -- agreed with the call that helped his team improve to 13-2-3 in one-goal games.
"I thought it was probably a penalty, more than just a guy in the crease," he said. "They have to make that call in a split-second. And that's the way it went."
Richards got the winner at 6:17 of the third period on a low wrist shot from the top of the left circle on a 2-on-1 break that beat Mathieu Garon while the teams were playing 4-on-4.
"I had some good speed," Richards said. "I think [Garon] was cheating a little bit to Loui. I think he thought I was going to pass. I saw that and just because I had speed I shot it."
Richards and Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin scored about six minutes apart in the first period, but Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen stopped the other 35 shots he faced to hand the Jackets their fourth loss in a row.
Lightning 3, Sabres 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
Tampa Bay's improved play in close games is making new coach Guy Boucher happy. The Lightning got second-period goals by Simon Gagne and Steven Stamkos, an empty-netter by Martin St. Louis and 22 saves by Mike Smith to beat the Sabres for just the second time in Buffalo's last 11 trips to the St. Pete Times Forum,
"If you want to win championships, those are the games that you've got to go get," Boucher said. "You've got to know how to do it."
Tampa Bay, which outshot Buffalo 37-23, is 5-2-1 in its last eight games, including four one-goal wins.
"I think we're taking pride the last couple weeks in our defensive play," Stamkos said.
Jason Pominville's goal with 47.7 seconds left in the second period was the only shot to beat Smith as the Sabres lost on back-to-back nights in Florida.
"I just didn't think we won enough battles," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said.
Gagne put the Lightning up 1-0 when he lifted a backhander from the lot slot over Ryan Miller during a power play with 7:44 left in the second. Stamkos made it 2-0 with 1:50 left in the second, scoring from the slot off a pass from St. Louis.
Pominville cut it to 2-1 when he scored from in close, but St. Louis' empty-netter with 1.6 second left sealed it.
"The way we're winning is great," Lightning center Nate Thompson said. "We're playing from the start to the end. These tight games, we're getting contributions from everyone."
Sharks 4, Blues 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
On a team with stars like Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture has become the top gun. The rookie center leads the Sharks with 17 goals after getting two more to lead San Jose to a win at St. Louis.
"For us to string two wins together in a row is important," said Couture, who has scored 14 of his goals on the road. "We all know we should have had that game in Nashville [a 3-2 loss on Wednesday] and it could have been three in a row. Hopefully, we can build on this going back home."
Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Devin Setoguchi also scored for the Sharks, who got 22 saves by Antero Niittymaki. The only shot he didn't stop was David Backes' penalty shot midway through the second period -- and by then, San Jose held a 3-0 lead.
"They play a physical game and I thought we stood our ground early," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We really had a lot of jump in the first period and that established our game. When they did have some pressure, the goaltender made some good saves. Specialty teams were good, so overall it was a pretty good night for us."
Couture and Vlasic scored in the first period, and Couture gave his team a three-goal lead by deflecting Dan Boyle's shot into the net at 8:21 of the second period. Backes' penalty-shot goal at 10:44 cut the margin back to two, but Setoguchi beat Jaroslav Halak with 4:56 left in regulation.
The banged-up Blues had a season-low in shots, and coach Davis Payne wasn't happy with the effort.
"We didn't pass that test," Payne said. "It started in the first period for sure, outworked to the puck, outworked at the puck. It was a pretty flat start for our hockey club.
"These are areas that we take a lot of pride in. We didn't meet our standard. We'll address that. We'll address it here tonight. We'll address it again [Sunday] and make sure on Monday when Vancouver shows up, we're back where we need to be."
Kings 6, Predators 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
The Kings didn't just end Nashville's five-game winning streak – they shattered it by scoring four times in the first period and cruising to victory.
Ryan Smyth's first of two goals at 15:32 capped a first-period outburst that made things easy for rookie goalie Jonathan Bernier. Alex Ponikarovsky and Smyth added second-period goals to spoil the night for the 16,734 fans at Bridgestone Arena.
The Predators won 3-1 at New Jersey on Friday night, and the Kings wanted to try to take advantage..
"We all knew that they played last night and had to fly back," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "We knew that their legs weren't going to be there in the first, and we jumped all over them."
Anders Lindback, making his eighth straight start since taking over when Pekka Rinne went down with a knee injury, allowed a goal by Justin Williams 15 seconds into the game, then was beaten by Trevor Lewis and Doughty in a 70-second span before being lifted 9:59 into the game.
"Of course I am disappointed, but that's what you always have to try to do, leave this behind, look over what you could have done better," Lindback said. "I'm just kind of excited for the next game and will try to bounce back."
Bernier stopped 30 shots, allowing only a first-period goal by Steve Sullivan, to improve to 3-0-0 against the Predators.
Nashville was 8-0-2 in its previous 10 games, matching a franchise record for points in consecutive games.
"They came out hard and jumped early," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "They won a few more battles early and took control of the game."
Wild 3, Flames 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
Minnesota won the first half of a home-and-home with the Flames as Mikko Koivu scored a goal and set up the other two, disappointing the usual sellout crowd at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Koivu set up Antti Miettinen's power-play goal at 15:25 of the second period to give the Wild a 1-0 lead, then put Minnesota ahead 2-0 by redirecting Brent Burns' slot past Miikka Kiprusoff at 19:07.
"Mikko made some great plays there," Burns said. "It shows what kind of a leader he is. It was big to come out up two (goals) after the period."
Chuck Kobasew finished off a feed from Koivu at 7:41 of the third period to make it a three-goal game. That was more than enough support for Niklas Backstrom, who made 14 of his 28 saves in the third period. Matt Stajan spoiled his shutout bid with 5:17 remaining by scoring for just the second time in 45 games, dating back to last season.
Koivu's big night came one night after a one-on-one talk with coach Todd Richards.
"Mikko was tremendous in the game. He was great. He stepped up and the rest of the team followed," Richards said. "I truly believe that teams follow their leaders. We have other leaders on the team but when you're wearing the 'C', that's one of the responsibilities that come with wearing the 'C,' the team takes on your personality, takes on how you play the game."
Flames captain Jarome Iginla was held off the scoresheet, ending a nine-game point streak.
"We knew the importance of the game, they did too, they were coming off two losses they were a very desperate team," Iginla said. "It's not like we gave them a million chances, they were opportunistic, they got a power play goal and we didn't capitalize on our chances and in a tight game, that was the difference."
The teams meet again Monday in St. Paul, where the Flames begin a three-game trip. </p>
The Flames' lackluster performance, especially in the first two periods, gave their fans little to cheer about.
"Tonight we came out pretty flat - not much energy," forward Rene Bourque said. "We made a late push in the third period. But other than that, we've got to do better. We've been win on-lose one, up and down. If we want to gain ground and get back in the playoff hunt, that has to change."
Coyotes 4, Islanders 3 (SO) | HIGHLIGHTS
Martin Hanzal got the Coyotes a point by scoring the tying goal with 1:28 left in regulation and all three Phoenix shooters got the second one by scoring in the shootout.
For NHL.com's complete story, click here.
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.