Boston goalie Tim Thomas had one last All-Star performance in him before he heads to Raleigh, N.C., for the 2011 NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover.
Thomas stopped 34 shots to lead the Bruins to a 2-1 victory against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden on Wednesday night. The Boston goaltender leads the League with a 1.81 goals-against average and a .945 save percentage and was within 12 minutes of breaking a first-place tie in shutouts.
"Five years ago, it was a pipe dream that I'd ever be in an NHL All-Star game," said Thomas, who will be making his third All-Star appearance. "I understand it's hard for some guys who need a break. But I, for one, am excited."
Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic scored for the Bruins, who have won seven of their last 10 games to head into the break in first place in the Northeast Division. Zdeno Chara, Boston's other All-Star, had an assist.
Bryan Allen scored for Florida, and Tomas Vokoun stopped made 33 saves. The Panthers pulled Vokoun with 1:08 left and former Bruin Dennis Wideman put a shot on net with 1.4 seconds left, but Thomas saved it with his body.
"Tim Thomas has been exceptional this year," Panthers forward David Booth said. "He's one of the best goalies in the League. When he sees the puck, he's going to stop it."
Boston beat the Panthers for the fourth straight time, completing the season sweep. Florida has lost five of its last six games -- the only win coming against the New York Rangers on Tuesday night -- though only two of the losses have been in regulation.
"Thomas has had our number all year," Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. "I can't fault our effort or the way we played on the end of a back-and-back situation, end of a road trip. We could have had a reason to be down, but it was a good effort."
Marchand gave the Bruins the lead with 6:29 left in the first period when he brought the puck around the back of the net and wrapped it around the post past Vokoun. It was Marchand's seventh goal in 10 games. Lucic made it 2-0 in the second period with a wrist shot from outside the circle off a faceoff.
That set up Thomas, the 2009 Vezina Trophy winner, to take over the NHL lead with eight shutouts. But Allen spoiled that when a rebound squirted out past the left circle and he slapped it in to make it 2-1 with 11:23 left in the game.
Panthers forward Shawn Matthias went feet-first into the boards in the second period and crawled halfway to the bench before a whistle allowed the trainer to come out and help him. There was no further information on his condition, but DeBoer said, "Obviously, it doesn't look good."
Hurricanes 4, Islanders 2 | HIGHLIGHTS
Eric Staal scored goals in a 98-second span during the second period and also had an assist to help Carolina beat New York at a snowbound Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Zach Boychuk and Brandon Sutter also scored and Cam Ward made 23 saves for Hurricanes. A point behind eighth-place Atlanta in the Eastern Conference, Carolina has won three of its last four games.
"Huge game before the break," Staal said. "One point behind Atlanta (and) we wanted to make sure we got the job done here."
Ward also was thinking about the standings.
"We wanted to head into this All-Star break on a high note and feel good about ourselves," Ward said. "Atlanta's win (1-0 over Washington) makes this much more of a bigger win."
Michael Grabner and Andrew MacDonald scored for New York, which has lost eight of 10.
Staal gave Carolina a 2-1 lead at 5:55 of the second, beating Rick DiPietro with a backhander from the left circle. The Carolina captain added his 25th goal of the season at 7:23, tipping Joe Corvo's point shot past DiPietro. In 25 games against the Islanders, Staal has 18 goals, 8 assists and a plus-25 rating.
"We scored two quick ones to make it 3-1," Staal said. "We want to beat the teams below us in the standings. You want to stay on the gas when you're ahead. We got that one, then another right after. (It was) a big momentum-killer for them; made the hole a little bit too big for them."
Sutter made it 4-1 on a breakaway with 4:55 left in the third.
It appeared Jussi Jokinen opened the scoring for Carolina a minute into the match, but a lengthy review showed the left wing used his stick to push DiPietro's pad across the goal line. "One referee made the call on the ice based on that he lost sight of the puck. The other fellow informed him the puck had been in the net," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice explained. "Good guys won, so there's no need to rehash that one."
Boychuk scored with 5:17 left in the period, snapping a wrist shot over DiPietro's glove.
"They just beat us," said DiPietro, 5-12-1 against the Hurricanes.
Grabner tied it 31 seconds into the second period with a backhander from the low slot. Grabner was alone in the slot as Hurricanes defensemen Jamie McBain and Joni Pitkanen followed Frans Nielsen into the corner. Nielsen snapped a perfect pass to Grabner and the Islanders' lone All-Star representative buried the feed.
"I had chances before. Now they're starting to go in," Grabner said. "I think I'm more confident. It's nice to see that the coach has confidence in me."
He was one of the few Islanders absolved by Jack Capuano for their play.
Capuano said he "thought there were some guys that were selfish for the first time. And that's disturbing," while Matt Moulson added that the Islanders "want to win. You want to win as many as you can."
Stars 3, Oilers 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
Brenden Morrow scored twice, Kari Lehtonen stopped 34 shots to rebound from a poor performance in his previous start and Dallas beat Edmonton at the American Airlines Center in the final game before the All-Star break for both teams.
Adam Burish added a goal and Jamie Langenbrunner had the primary assist on both of Morrow's goals as the Pacific Division-leading Stars got back on track after dropping consecutive road games to Calgary and Vancouver by a combined score of 14-5.
"Two stinkers and we finally came out and showed a little bit more life, did a better job taking away the shooting lanes and Kari was able to swallow up the other ones," Morrow said.
Lehtonen allowed all the goals in a 7-1 loss to the Canucks on Monday night in his worst showing of the season.
"When I feel like I didn't a good job, when I feel like I didn't help the team, I'm more focused on the next game," Lehtonen said. "I was able to help the guys and be part of the win and that always feels good."
Dustin Penner had a power-play goal for Edmonton, 4-14-3 in its last 21 games.
Nikolai Khabibulin made 18 saves for the Oilers in the second leg of a back-to-back. Edmonton won in Phoenix on Tuesday night, 4-3 on Penner's goal with 21.3 seconds left.
Edmonton held an 11-5 shots edge, but the Stars got the only goal of the first period at 10:38 when Burish's wrister from the right circle eluded Khabibulin. Dallas made it 2-0 on its first power play of the night when Morrow notched his 20th of the season on a rebound at 2:32 of the second period.
Morrow converted Langenbrunner's centering pass at 8:23 of the second to make it 3-0.
Penner got the Oilers on the board at 17:44 of the second with a power-play goal, his 17th of the season.
Dallas won 4-2 at Edmonton last Thursday, and ill feelings carried over with four fights in a physical rematch.
"Tonight was one of those nights where you could show your mettle and be a real mature team and accept the battle and stay away from (complaining) and just play," Oilers coach Tom Renney said. "That's what good teams do, take it for what it is and keep coming at you. We need to grow up and understand the value of that."
Khabibulin has lost his last 11 starts, but Renney said there's plenty of blame to go around.
"It's not a one-man deal at all, it's on everybody," Renney said. "It's on coaching, on players, on everyone who contributes on the ice. He needs run support, that's the bottom line."
Stars centers Jamie Benn and Tom Wandell missed the game with upper-body injuries sustained on Monday night in Vancouver. The All-Star break will allow those two and several other Stars to heal.
"We have a lot of guys that are playing with a lot of bumps and bruises right now," Stars coach Marc Crawford said. "The break could not come at a better time for us. We'll have four complete days where they'll get a chance to rest."
Flames 4, Blues 1 | HIGHLIGHTS
David Moss had two goals and an assist as Calgary beat St. Louis at Scotiabank Saddledome for the Flames' fourth straight win.
Moss scored what proved to be the game-winner just 5:34 into the contest, when Blues goaltender Ty Conklin stuck out his pad to stop Moss's snapshot from the wing. But as the rebound bounced into the slot, Erik Johnson misplayed his clearing attempt firing it straight into his own net.
As the 22-year-old sat shaking his head on the Blues bench, highlights of the blooper were shown over and over again on the scoreboard video screen to the roars of the sellout crowd of 19,289.
Adam Pardy and Jarome Iginla into an empty net also scored for Calgary (24-21-6). Moss has racked up eight goals in his last 12 games, that coming on four two-goal games.
"It's just one of those things, I can't explain it," Moss said. "It's a good streak to be on, there are worse things for sure."
Philip McRae, son of former NHL player Basil McRae, scored his first career goal for St. Louis (22-20-7).
"It will be good just to have some time to relax and recharge and forget about this last little bit here and come back ready to go," McRae said. "We come back and play Colorado and Edmonton. If we win those two games, we're right back in it and have some confidence and can get the ball rolling the other way."
Calgary enters the All-Star break playing its best hockey of the season. The Flames have won four straight, are a sizzling 10-3-3 in their last 16 games and have climbed to within two points of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
A reason for that success has been special teams. Calgary has scored two power-play goals in consecutive games after going 17 contests without accomplishing that feat. The penalty-killing unit is a perfect 14-for-14 during the win streak.
"Going into the break, we wanted to give ourselves a chance to be in the hunt and we are now. It will be a good few days off and then we'll get back to work," Moss said.
St. Louis is heading the other direction. The reeling Blues are 2-8-2 in their last dozen and have fallen into a tie with Columbus for 13th place in the West.
Calgary doubled its lead 1:29 into the second period when Moss deflected Anton Babchuk's wrist shot past Conklin on the power play.
The 2-0 lead would be all the offense Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff would need in his 500th career game. With his short slump from the past couple weeks clearly behind him, Kiprusoff made 28 saves to improve to 20-18-2.
Kiprusoff was busiest in the second turning aside all 12 shots he faced but his best stops came in the third. In stifling the Blues comeback attempt, Kiprusoff stuck out a pad to thwart Alex Steen on a breakaway and made a spectacular glove grab to rob Alex Pietrangelo on a dangerous backhand.
Since a rough six-game patch in which Kiprusoff went 1-2-1, got pulled twice and gave up 22 goals, the 34-year-old Finn has won three straight and only given up five goals in that span while stopping 92 shots.
The nicest goal of the night was a rare display of offensive flair from Pardy. After St. Louis turned the puck over in the Calgary end, Pardy immediately raced up the ice where he got a perfect breakaway pass from Jokinen and beat Conklin on the blocker side.
It was Pardy's first goal in 60 games, dating back to Nov. 30, 2009.
"If we can keep it up, we're definitely going to be able to go up a few spots right away," Kiprusoff said. "There are a lot of teams really close so we have to be able to keep playing well night after night."
Kings 3, Sharks 2 | HIGHLIGHTS
Jarret Stoll scored the only shootout goal in the fourth round and the Los Angeles Kings headed into the All-Star break with their third straight victory, 3-2 over the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night.
Jonathan Quick made 22 saves and stopped all four San Jose tries in the shootout, snapping the Pacific Division rival's four-game winning streak.
Ryan Smyth scored his 19th goal and Alexei Ponikarovsky tied it early in the third period for the Kings, who played their final home game until Feb. 24. They'll be on a 10-game road trip while Staples Center is occupied by the Grammys and the NBA's All-Star weekend.
"That was an emotional game," Ponikarovsky said. "It was definitely like a playoff game because of where we are in the standings. We came up with the win."
Ryane Clowe and Devin Setoguchi scored 39 seconds apart late in the second period for the Sharks, who had won three straight at Staples Center.
Antti Niemi made 18 saves for the Sharks, but Stoll beat him cleanly in the shootout after All-Star Anze Kopitar and Jack Johnson both hit the post on Los Angeles' first two tries. Quick then stopped Patrick Marleau on the Sharks' final try in the NHL's final game before the All-Star weekend break.
The Sharks and Kings will be grateful to get out the January doldrums next week. Both clubs recently emerged from their worst skids of the season, submerging two of last season's playoff teams near the bottom of the Western Conference.
Los Angeles lost 10 of 12 during a skid that began in late December, while San Jose dropped six straight and eight of 10 in a post-Christmas malaise.
"That was a playoff hockey game," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "It was a fun game. Big goaltending at both ends -- I thought both guys were very big, not only in the overtime and the shootout, but at 5-on-5. There was a couple of plays that both goaltenders looked outstanding."
After a scoreless first period, Smyth finally scored for the Kings well past the midway point of the second. After slipping through San Jose's defense during a rush, Smyth weaved a shot through traffic created by Stoll locked up with Dan Boyle, the Sharks' All-Star defenseman.
Clowe evened it less than two minutes later with a brisk shot past Quick's glove hand on an odd-man rush. The veteran power forward has missed San Jose's past four games with an injured leg.
Setoguchi then put the Sharks ahead when Quick's defense couldn't control the young forward, whose backhander trickled out from underneath Quick's pads. Los Angeles' latest defensive lapse left Quick kneeling forward in frustration, touching his mask on the ice while the Sharks celebrated.
But Ponikarovsky evened it with his first goal since Dec. 18 on a backhand after defenseman Rob Scuderi made a slick play to keep the puck in the zone. Los Angeles flawlessly killed a 4-minute Sharks power play in the waning minutes.
"I was happy for Poni … he has had a difficult stretch here," Murray said. "Maybe that'll be the catalyst to really get him to start putting the puck in the net more consistently."
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.