Marco Sturm was introduced to the “Freeway Faceoff” on Sunday night, and his first point with the Los Angeles Kings came on the go-ahead goal in a 4-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks at the Staples Center.
Sturm, traded to the Kings by the Bruins earlier this month, skated on a line with Anze Kopitar and team captain Dustin Brown. With the game knotted at one midway through the second period, Kopitar took a long lead pass from Brown and put a shot on goal that Jonas Hiller stopped. Hiller also denied Sturm on the rebound, but Kopitar pounced on that and scored his 15th of the season at 9:10 to give Los Angeles a 2-1 lead
"Marco's a really smart player. He's scored 20-30 goals in this league for a number of years, and now we have that other winger that can find the back of the net pretty consistently," Brown said.
"It will take a few games, and it's a matter of him getting up to game speed. ... It's tough for a player to get acclimated so quickly after a trade and coming back from an injury."
Justin Williams and Brown added goals later in the period to extend the Kings’ lead. Wayne Simmonds had opened the scoring 15 seconds into the period, only to have Matt Beleskey of the Ducks even things up 32 seconds later.
Hiller blanked Los Angeles at home on Nov. 29 but was pulled after Brown’s goal with 2:03 left in the second period and dropped to 0-4 career at the Staples Center.
"I have to play better and give my team a chance," Hiller said. "We gave them way too many chances in our slot. If I stopped some of them, nobody would talk about it.
"It's never a good feeling when you get pulled, but it's part of the job, so I have to get over it and focus on the next game."
Simmonds saw the difference in Hiller’s game from his previous start against them and said the Kings took full advantage.
"The last game we played them in Anaheim, Hiller was amazing," Simmonds said. "Like every great goalie in this League, when they see pucks they're going to stop them and cradle them. So the more shots you take in traffic, the more rebounds you're going to get. And I think we accomplished that.
"He was fighting the puck a little bit, so we started crashing the net after the first couple of shots and started picking up those rebounds."
Blackhawks 4, Blue Jackets 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
Marian Hossa returned to the Chicago lineup with a pair of assists and Marty Turco won for the first time in over a month as the Blackhawks handled the Blue Jackets in a Central Division battle. It was their fourth consecutive win, all at the United Center.
For NHL.com’s full game story, click here.
Blues 2, Predators 0 | HIGHLIGHTS
Jaroslav Halak was at his best Sunday night in St. Louis -- facing a bunch of shots, and turning every last one aside.
Halak stopped all 32 Nashville shots for his fourth shutout of the season, making an early David Backes goal hold up. Backes scored again into an empty net in the final minute.
"Obviously, I like these kind of games," Halak said. "I think everyone likes more shots than few shots."
Halak dueled Pekka Rinne to a scoreless tie after one period, but Backes got the Blues on the board 1:45 into the second. He intercepted a clearing pass at center, skated in along the right boards and then cut to the right circle where he beat Rinne with a wrist shot 1:45 into the second period.
"I was not at a very good angle," Backes said. "I probably should have dumped that in and got a line change. I don't know if he was expecting me to shoot from that angle. I'll take it."
Rinne admitted the shot caught him off guard.
"It was tough to catch because it came so close to my head," he said. "It hit the side of my face and went in.
"That's not the one you would like to see deciding the game. You shoot 20 times from same spot and it maybe goes in once or twice."
Halak made that lone goal stand until the Predators pulled Rinne late and Backes added his ninth of the season into an empty net with 16.8 seconds remaining.
"These are the kind of games that if you don't win, you look back on them in April," Backes said. "It's always big to get two points against anyone. When you're not doing that in the Western Conference, you're sliding in a free fall."
Maple Leafs 4, Devils 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
Colby Armstrong scored twice and Jonas Gustavsson stopped 29 shots as Toronto extended the miseries of New Jersey and its fans who braved a blizzard to come out to the Prudential Center on Sunday.
"These games are tough for the road, to have to travel early in the morning. Our guys were professional and we were ready," Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said.
John Mitchell and Nikolai Kulemin had the other goals for the Maple Leafs, who recorded their second win this season over the Devils and once again chased Martin Brodeur from the goal. In the first matchup in Toronto, Brodeur aggravated an elbow injury that had previously kept him out of action; this time, coach Jacques Lemaire pulled him in favor of Johan Hedberg to begin the third after he gave up three goals on 14 shots.
"It was the coach's decision," Brodeur said. "It's never fun to get pulled."
Rod Pelley’s first goal in exactly one year was all that kept New Jersey, the League’s lowest-scoring team, from being shut out. They still dropped their second in a row since Lemaire returned as coach, fifth straight overall and 10th in their last 11 games.
Armstrong scored the only goal of the first period and it summed up the Devils’ recent fortunes, as Brian Rolston tried to make a cross-ice pass in his own zone that deflected off the stick of Kris Versteeg and right to Armstrong in the slot for a shot that beat Brodeur
"I was trying to hit our defenseman in front," Rolston said. "It's a play that we make all the time. I take responsibility for that. It seems like one misstep and we go right down hill."
In the second period, the Devils invited fans in the upper sections to come down into the lower bowl, but their improved view only brought them two more goals by the Leafs, as Versteeg set up Mitchell at 8:45 and Kulemin scored from the left circle with 2:37 left in the period.
"There weren't many people," Gustavsson said. "You couldn't expect people to get here with the storm. It's tough to find a spark out there anyway."
Islanders 4, Canadiens 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
Dwayne Roloson made 38 saves and the Islanders got goals by Blake Comeau, Michael Grabner, PA Parenteau and James Wisniewski to beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Sunday night in a game played despite the blizzard that socked Long Island and kept most ticketholders at home.
For NHL.com’s full game story, click here.
Red Wings 4, Wild 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
Detroit continued to play well in Minnesota, improving to 8-2-1 in its last 11 games at the Xcel Energy Center.
The Red Wings got goals from Henrik Zetterberg, Danny Cleary, Kris Draper and Tomas Holmstrom in their latest victory there Sunday.
"I'm not sure why that is, but we've been playing a very patient game on the road," defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said.
Except for a third-period goal by Wild defenseman Brent Burns, the Red Wings were stellar defensively, goalie Jimmy Howard needing to make just 16 saves in picking up his 19th win, tying him with Carey Price of the Canadiens for the NHL lead.
"When you score the first two, three goals, it certainly makes it a lot easier to go and play," Draper said. "We did a real good job in the neutral zone; any chance we got we got the puck in deep and we got on the forecheck and certainly got them on their heels."
Zetterberg opened the scoring at 4:38 of the first period, bouncing a rebound off Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom and into the net from below the goal line on the left side. Cleary doubled the Detroit lead at 8:59 with his own shot from below the goal line that deflected in off Backstrom’s skate.
Draper and Holmstrom would make it 4-0 before the second was over. Draper had a tip in at 5:30 and Holmstrom converted on a power play with 6:10 left in the period, outmuscling Matt Cullen at the right post to get to the rebound of a Zetterberg shot.
"We're frustrated," Cullen said. "We've been playing some good hockey, and to take a step back like that, especially in front of a great crowd, that's all fair game. We should have probably been booing ourselves."
Coyotes 1, Stars 0 | HIGHLIGHTS
Phoenix has been missing starting goalie Ilya Bryzgalov lately, but Jason LaBarbera turned in some heroics of his own Sunday to cool off Pacific Division-leading Dallas.
LaBarbera stopped Loui Eriksson on a penalty shot in the second period and finished with 29 saves as the Coyotes won for the second time to finish up a six-game road trip.
Kyle Turris scored midway through the second period for the game’s only goal.
"That 10-day (four-game) stretch was tough," LaBarbera said. "Hopefully, we can take this game and go from there. (Bryzgalov) is the No. 1 one guy. I do my best to fill the role when I can. I'll go back to my normal job. I felt pretty good about the way I've gone."
Ed Jovanovski, playing in his 1,000th NHL game, interfered with Eriksson on a breakaway 6:48 into the second period, but on the ensuing one-on-one between skater and goaltender, LaBarbera won the battle.
"It was probably the big play of the game. First, you try to think what their move is as he's coming down the ice," LaBarbera said. "When he came down to the top of the circle, I realized he was going to go low-blocker and I was able to stop it."
Kari Lehtonen stopped 25 shots and was matching LaBarbera save for save into the second period when Turris struck at the 10:46 mark. Shane Doan’s shot was turned aside, but Turris converted the rebound for his fifth goal of the season.
Despite pulling Lehtonen late in the third, the Stars couldn’t manage the tying goal to force overtime.
"At home, we want to impose the tempo," Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "You want to dictate the game. You don't want to go with the flow and play how the other team plays. We're a much better team when we take charge. When we don't, we're in trouble and that's what happened."
Canucks 3, Oilers 2 | HIGHLIGHTS
Just when it appeared Vancouver and Edmonton were on their way to overtime, Kevin Bieksa stepped up.
Bieksa took Alexandre Burrows’ pass from behind the net out at the point and fired a screened shot that beat Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin with 24 seconds remaining to complete the Canucks’ rally from a two-goal deficit.
Mikael Samuelsson had drawn Vancouver even at 2:30 of the third before Bieksa secured the two points and left Edmonton with nothing to show for a solid effort.
Cory Schneider made 19 saves in a rare second straight start for the Canucks. Roberto Luongo had never sat out consecutive games for the team while healthy but was given the extended rest after arriving in Vancouver early Sunday after he spent the holiday break in Florida with his pregnant wife.
Khabibulin made 30 saves and was terrific in the second period, as he turned aside Manny Malhotra twice in a three-minute span and denied Daniel Sedin on a partial breakaway.
The Oilers, meanwhile, jumped in front with 6:40 remaining as Ryan O’Marra scored his first NHL goal, putting the puck into an open net after a pass by Linus Omark caromed off the skate of Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler. Whitney added his second of the season with 1:50 left to double the lead.
But the Canucks got one back before the period ended, as Jeff Tambellini finished off a 2-on-1 break with Ryan Kesler, a similar play to the one Whitney had just scored his goal on.hill