With his team in a slump, Daniel Alfredsson
stepped up – big time.
The Senators took a three-game losing streak into Thursday night’s game against Tampa Bay at the St. Pete Times Forum – and left for their All-Star break with an 8-4 victory, thanks to a career-high seven-point night by Ottawa’s captain.
"You could tell he was on fire," Senators goalie Martin Gerber said after Alfredsson scored three goals and set up four more. "It was fun to watch, that's for sure."
Alfredsson and Jason Spezza, who had two goals and an assist, scored 29 seconds apart during Ottawa's three-goal first period. Alfredsson added a shorthanded goal and his 500th career assist in the second as the Senators took a 5-0 lead.
"It's a lot of fun, especially the way the whole team played and the big win we needed today," said Alfredsson, who topped his career high of six points at Buffalo on Nov. 2, 2005.
"Right now, the way I look at it, you add it up at the end of your career and you look back and maybe say, 'Oh, I remember that night in Tampa,"' Alfredsson said.
Antoine Vermette, Randy Robitaille and Dean McAmmond also scored for the Eastern Conference-leading Senators, who had lost three in a row and five of six.
The only good news for the Lightning was the return of defenseman Dan Boyle. He scored twice in his return to the lineup after missing the previous 36 games following left wrist surgery. Nick Tarnasky and Craig MacDonald had the Lightning's other goals.
"The wrist held up, and that's probably the only positive thing that came out of it," Boyle said. "It's been a frustrating year for me. A lot of stuff happened. There's going to be some pain and some weakness along the way, but nothing that's going to bother me down the road.”
Alfredsson scored from the top of the left circle at 13:43 of the first period ( 700K ), and Spezza made it 2-0 from the high slot at 14:12.
Alfredsson scored a power-play goal with 1:19 left in the first ( 700K ) and added his sixth shorthanded goal of the season on a two-on-one break to put Ottawa up 4-0 at 4:38 of the second ( 700K ).
|NHL.COM'S THREE STARS:
Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson made sure his team wouldn’t go into the All-Star break with a losing streak. Check out who made NHL.com’s Three Stars of the Night. ...more
GAME OF THE NIGHT:
It took four separate one-goal leads before the Philadelphia Flyers could make an advantage stand up Thursday night.
That’s how plucky the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins were, but the Flyers were every bit as resilient – they answered each tying goal with a go-ahead tally of their own, and eventually held on for a 4-3 victory at the Wachovia Center. ...more
"He's been as good as any player in the league from the playoffs until now," Senators coach John Paddock said. "I don't think anybody can argue with that."
Alfredsson got his 500th career assist on Vermette's goal later in the second at 9:36 before Boyle broke up Gerber’s shutout bid by scoring with 6:09 left in the period.
Tampa Bay's John Tortorella coached his 507th game, breaking a tie with Herb Brooks for most games coached by an American-born NHL coach. No one knows how he felt about it: Tortorella's postgame media session was a short one, as he told reporters he wasn't going to answer questions.
Canadiens 4, Devils 3 | Video
The Montreal Canadiens took out years of frustration in New Jersey with one big burst in the third period. Christopher Higgins capped a three-goal rally by scoring the go-ahead goal with 5:29 remaining and Brian Smolinski helped the Habs respond from a pair of two-goal deficits to win at the Prudential Center.
Montreal came in just one regulation win in its last 19 road games against New Jersey, coming on Feb. 5, 2002. Canadiens goaltender Cristobal Huet was 0-6-0 lifetime in Jersey.
"It was nice to be able to come back on them like that," said Higgins, who scored his 16th goal of the season. "We got a lot of help with that power play."
Smolinski started the comeback 29 seconds into the third period with his second of the night and 12th in 37 career games against Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, converting the rebound of an Andrei Markov shot.
It took a video review to confirm Montreal captain Saku Koivu’s tying goal midway through the period. With the Canadiens a man up, Koivu kept his stick just under the crossbar as he deflected Mike Komisarek’s shot, causing it to take a funny hop and skip past Brodeur at 11:54.
Higgins was waiting at the right post and capitalized when a loose puck found his stick during a scramble in front ( 700K ).
"I don't know how long it's been since we won here, but it's been a long time," Koivu said. "They've certainly given us a lot of trouble over the years."
It was a disheartening loss for the Devils – who led 2-0 on a pair of Patrik Elias scores and took a 3-1 lead after two on Jamie Langenbrunner’s goal with a two-man advantage. Coach Brent Sutter lit into his team’s effort afterward.
"To be honest, I'm quite disappointed," Sutter said. "I'm disappointed in the whole team and its commitment to win. Their play was brutal. They already had their plans to head to (Las) Vegas or wherever the hell they're going before the game was half over. It's totally unacceptable. Everything it takes to win a hockey game, we didn't do. It was a total lack of effort from everyone."
After the game was over, the Devils did not return to their locker room within the 10-minute cooling off period mandated by the NHL. It was reported that the team headed to a post-game workout in the auxiliary practice rink.
The Canadiens lost 4-0 in New Jersey on Nov. 30 and went 94 minutes this season without putting a puck past Brodeur, before Smolinski’s goal in the second cut into New Jersey’s 2-0 lead. Elias scored both; the first on the power play. Combined with Langenbrunner’s tally later in the game, it left the Devils 7-for-13 with the extra man in the last two games after an 0-for-15 stretch previously.
Rangers 2, Thrashers 1, SO | Video
The Rangers retired Brian Leetch’s No. 2 before the game ( 700K ), then went to a shootout to get the second goal that completed a two-game sweep of the Thrashers. Henrik Lundqvist was perfect in the shootout and Brendan Shanahan got the only goal.
Shanahan scored with the first shot of the shootout ( 700K ), and Mark Recchi, Slava Kozlov and Marian Hossa failed to beat Lundqvist. It gave the Rangers consecutive wins after a 2-6-2 skid and lifted them into an eighth-place tie in the Eastern Conference playoff race with the New York Islanders.
"Right now it's all about the wins," Lundqvist said. "I don't care if we play bad or if we play really good as long as we're winning."
Hossa tapped in a loose puck 46 seconds into the second period and Johan Hedberg preserved the lead until defenseman Michal Rozsival converted Nigel Dawes’ cross-ice pass at 8:52 of the third period ( 700K) .
"The way we've been playing, we knew we had a lot of things to work on," Hedberg said after the Thrashers fell to 0-4-1 in their last five games, including back-to-back losses to the Rangers. "We tried to play a smart team game. We didn't generate the final scoring chances, but I thought we played better defensively."
The Thrashers were again without leading scorer Ilya Kovalchuk, who served his one-game suspension for checking Rozsival hard into the boards in the first period Tuesday, leading to his ejection from that game.
Prior to the game, the Rangers retired Leetch's number and raised a banner to the Madison Square Garden rafters in between those honoring former teammates Mark Messier and Mike Richter.
Leetch announced that Adam Graves' No. 9 will also be retired.
"I'm glad we're retiring Gravy's number next season," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "Maybe we'll get nine (goals)."
Bruins 4, Islanders 1 | Video
Being in a New York state of mind paid off yet again for the Bruins.
Following a home-and-home sweep of the Rangers last weekend, Boston shook off a blowout loss to Montreal on Tuesday by dominating the Islanders at TD Banknorth Garden for a much-needed two points heading into the All-Star break.
Marc Savard and Dennis Wideman had a goal and an assist each as Boston opened up a four-goal lead by the end of the second period and received 28 saves from Tim Thomas, recently named to the Eastern Conference team when Martin Brodeur withdrew.
"We wanted this win big time," Savard said. "Obviously with the embarrassment of what happened in Montreal, the guys played hard and no matter what happens tonight we are sitting in seventh."
The Canadiens humbled the Bruins 8-2 earlier in the week, but Boston showed no ill effects from that contest against the Islanders.
Wideman and Milan Lucic staked the home team to a 2-0 lead with goals just 52 seconds apart midway through the first period. Wideman sidestepped Trent Hunter and wristed a shot past Rick DiPietro at 9:28 ( 700K ). Lucic then took a fed from Chara along the boards and squeezed a shot past a bewildered DiPietro ( 700K ).
"We had to learn from the mistakes against Montreal and not dwell on them," Lucic said. "We wanted to get back to how we played against the Rangers."
Savard scored from in close midway through the second and Phil Kessel gave Boston a 4-0 lead on the power play with 2:40 left in the middle 20 minutes.
Mike Sillinger, who scored a pair of shorthanded goals for the Islanders in a 6-3 win at Carolina Tuesday, broke up Thomas’ shutout bid 6:45 into the third.
Thomas helped the Bruins take three of four from the Islanders this season, yielding just five goals in the process.
The Islanders lost for the first time in five road games but have dropped four of six going into the break.
"Guys were thinking about the break before it even started," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. "It's hard not to be distracted. It's hard enough to win when you're not, never mind when you are."
Capitals 2, Maple Leafs 1 | Video
The Caps are probably sad to see the All-Star break come along – they enter the four-day interruption in the schedule playing their best hockey of the season. Brooks Laich and Viktor Kozlov scored, with Alex Ovechkin assisting on both goals, as the Caps avenged a loss to the Leafs on Wednesday night in Toronto.
The win moved the Capitals within a point of Southeast Division leader Carolina. Washington is the only NHL team not to lose consecutive games in regulation since Nov. 22, the day Bruce Boudreau took over for Glen Hanlon.
"It doesn't surprise me that things are starting to snowball into success," defenseman Mike Green said. "He doesn't make it comfortable around here by any means to make us feel satisfied with what we've done. We want to keep going and making sure we're making strides."
Brent Johnson, giving Olie Kolzig a night off, made 31 saves for the Capitals as the offense that had been clicking so well struggled for the second consecutive night. Ovechkin had his six-game goal-scoring streak snapped, but he still leads the NHL with 38 goals and his two assists give him 13 points in his last seven games.
"They out-skated us," Boudreau said. "Our goalie won us the game. We were very opportunistic."
Boyd Devereaux scored 4:54 into the third period for the Maple Leafs ( 700K ), only to see Kozlov put Washington ahead to stay 36 seconds later, firing Ovechkin’s long rebound past Vesa Toskala ( 700K ).
The Leafs also lost two more players to shoulder injuries. On Wednesday, Alexei Ponikarovsky dislocated his right shoulder when he was rammed into the boards by Capitals defenseman Steve Eminger. Ponikarovsky will be out for six weeks.
On Thursday, both Alex Steen and Darryl Boyce were injured. Steen was knocked into the boards by Milan Jurcina in the first period, and Boyce crashed into the boards after catching a rut in the ice in the second period. Coach Paul Maurice said Steen was day-to-day but would miss the first game after the All-Star break. Maurice said Boyce had an injury similar to Ponikarovsky's. Both will be re-evaluated when they get back to Toronto.
"We're seeing a more physical brand of hockey being allowed in the game," Maurice said. "I don't necessarily have a problem with that. I prefer that we're not carrying guys off the ice for weeks at a time, but there's certainly more hitting in our game now."
The Maple Leafs are 1-1 since general manager John Ferguson was fired and replaced by Cliff Fletcher on an interim basis. Toronto has lost 11 of 13 on the road.
Oilers 4, Panthers 3, SO | Video
Edmonton continues to be money in the bank in shootouts. Jarret Stoll made sure they got there by scoring twice in 31 seconds in the final 1:23.
Shawn Horcoff scored the only goal in the shootout ( 700K ), and Oilers goalie Mathieu Garon stopped Nathan Horton, Kamil Kreps and Olli Jokinen to send Edmonton into the All-Star break tied with Dallas' single-season record for shootout wins from 2005-06.
"Thank God for the shootouts," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "Mathieu was great again. Just to be able to be in that shootout, I'm sure the shooters were more relaxed given the circumstances."
Edmonton's 12 shootout victories are as twice as many as any other team in the league and make up more than half of the team’s 23 wins.
"Our goalies make saves, they re good in the shootouts," Stoll said. "It's not too many times I remember anyone getting more than one on us. Matty and Rolo (Dwayne Roloson) do a great job and get us the saves and we've got some good shooters."
Ethan Moreau also scored in regulation for Edmonton, which won for only the second time in its last six games.
Jokinen ( 700K ), Brett McLean and Gregory Campbell scored for Florida, which snapped a six-game home losing streak with a 5-3 victory over Ottawa on Tuesday.
Florida All-Star Tomas Vokoun made 37 saves and Garon stopped 32 shots in regulation and overtime in Edmonton's first visit to the Panthers since Dec. 7, 2002.
Stoll beat Vokoun with a slap shot from the point to make it 3-2 at 18:37 on a power play after the Oilers had pulled Garon ( 700K ).
“We were up 3-1 and in control of the game and we found a way to lose a point again,” Vokoun said. It’s definitely disappointing.”
A miscue by Vokoun led to Stoll's second goal at 19:08. Vokoun went behind the net to play the puck but let it get past him. Stoll raced to the puck and fired a pass to the front of the net that bounced in off the inside of Vokoun's leg ( 700K ).
"You can get lucky once in a while, can't you?" Stoll said.
It was the fifth time Florida allowed a game-winning or game-tying goal in the final minute this season.
"We really did a lot of good things tonight," said McLean, who gave the Panthers a 2-1 lead early in the third period. "That's the way the hockey gods work sometimes, they can be pretty cruel."
Coyotes 4, Predators 3 (OT) | Video
Radim Vrbata got Phoenix to overtime. Zbynek Michalek took it from there.
Vrbata scored all of the Coyotes’ goals in regulation for his third career hat trick, and Michalek drilled a 40-footer with 29 seconds left in the extra period ( 700K ) as Phoenix moved within two points of eighth place in the Western Conference.
"It felt great because I was out for a week," Vrbata said. "We had three games in that time, and it was tough to watch. I was just happy to be in there and help the team."
Vrbata’s lead pass sent Michalek into the Nashville zone, giving the veteran winger a four-point night. Michalek, a defenseman, picked up just his second goal of the season and sent the Jobing.com Arena crowd into a frenzy.
"I don't score many goals, and to help the team like this feels great," Michalek said. "We played hard for 65 minutes and it paid off in the end."
Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 29 shots for the Coyotes, who have won all 18 games this season in which they have scored at least four goals.
“We're finding ways to win games and get big points," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "So, this is definitely a big win for us."
Rich Peverley tallied his first NHL goal for the Predators, who also received goals from Alexander Radulov and Martin Erat.
Peverley and Erat scored 1:46 apart in the second period to give the Predators a short-lived 3-2 lead that disappeared when Vrbata jammed home a centering pass from Steven Reinprecht with 2:35 left in the middle period. That completed Vrbata’s first hat trick in almost five years, when he was a member of the Avalanche.
Vrbata’s first two goals came sandwiched around a Radulov score just seven seconds into the second, tying the Nashville franchise record for the quickest goal to begin a period.
“We would like to pick up the two points, but we'll settle for the one," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "This team has shown great resiliency, and we were better as the game went along."
Wild 3, Avalanche 2 | Video
Niklas Backstrom and the Minnesota Wild are a sure thing when they enter the third period with a lead. Those streaks continued as the Wild left Pepsi Center with two hard-earned points on the strength of a goal and assist by Pavol Demitra, and claimed first place in the ultra-competitive Northwest Division.
Todd Fedoruk and Brian Rolston also scored for Minnesota, which improved to 20-0-0 this season when taking a lead into the final period. Backstrom, who made 28 saves, is a perfect 25-0-0 in his young NHL career when the Wild are up after two.
"We should try to do that more often," Backstrom said. "We play with confidence when we're up. You want to finish. You can see the end and you want to fight. You're more sharper and ready."
Minnesota leapfrogged the Calgary Flames into first by a point and finished a three-game road trip at 2-1, having also won at Vancouver. The Wild’s record in Colorado is just 5-15 with a pair of ties, but their lack of past success didn’t deter them on Thursday.
Demitra scored the game-winner with 6:19 left in the second period on a nifty play. Kurtis Foster’s long drive popped out of the glove of Avalanche goalie Jose Theodore, and Demitra was able to kick the puck to himself on the other side of the net and knock it past Theodore ( 700K ).
"It was a bad rebound on my part," Theodore said. "I'm really frustrated about that."
Fedoruk and Rolston put home first-period goals to stake Minnesota to a 2-0 lead. Rolston scored his 17th of the season and third in as many games after a nine-game goal drought.
"I knew I had to step up my game," Rolston said. "You can't go that many games without producing. It's a difficult thing scoring goals in this league. But it's nice to get back on track. I certainly want to continue that."
Colorado began its comeback when Andrew Brunette scored with 28 seconds to play in the first. Wojtek Wolski tied the score 2:24 into the second by getting his 14th off a feed from Marek Svatos.
Theodore turned aside 34 shots in making his 10th straight start, his longest string of consecutive starts since being traded from the Montreal Canadiens in March 2006.
Blue Jackets 1, Blackhawks 0 | Video
Pascal Leclaire may not be going to the All-Star Game this weekend but he continues to state his case as one of the top goaltenders in the Western Conference and the entire National Hockey League.
Leclaire stopped 30 shots for his NHL-high eighth shutout and made Jared Boll’s second-period goal stand up as Columbus won at United Center and moved into a tie with Colorado for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Backstopped by Leclaire, the Blue Jackets had all the answers for the Blackhawks’ dangerous trio of Patrick Kane, Robert Lang and Martin Havlat. "We played them strong 5-on-5, especially against their top line,” Leclaire said. "We didn't give them a lot of space all night.
"That's why we're in the playoff race right now," he added. "The doughnut is a bonus."
Boll was credited with his fifth of the season at 7:20 on the second off a deflected shot. Standing in the slot, Boll redirected Ole-Kristian Tollefsen’s shot past Nikolai Khabibulin, who made his first start in six games ( 700K ).
Despite 26 saves, Khabibulin saw his personal losing streak reach eight games (0-7-1).
"Hopefully I'll be able to build on this game, use this game as a positive," Khabibulin said. "I was really hoping to play well tonight and I thought I did. I'm not very happy we didn't get the win."
That’s because as good as Khabibulin was, Leclaire was just a little better. He made a point-blank save on Adam Burish 6:04 into the third and robbed Robert Lang with a right pad save from the edge of the crease with 8:03 left.
"We expect this every night from him," Hitchcock said. "He gave us a chance to win and the guys up front played well for him.”
Sabres 2, Stars 1 | Video
As rough of a stretch as the Buffalo Sabres have had lately, Derek Roy gave them reason to smile heading into the All-Star break. Roy scored his second of the game 5:12 into the third period and Buffalo edged Dallas at American Airlines Center for only its second win in 14 games.
"To salvage a couple of points here helps us feel good," Roy said. "This gives us confidence that we can beat any team in the league. It gives us more confidence in our game."
Ryan Miller made 25 saves for the Sabres, allowing only Stu Barnes’ goal late in the second.
A series of spiffy passes from the line of Roy, Drew Stafford and Thomas Vanek as they took the puck the length of the ice led to the game-winner. The play finished with Vanek taking a cross-ice pass and delivering a feed back to Roy just to the right of the net. Roy did the rest, beating Marty Turco for the second time in the game.
"That was really good for us, it helped us relax a little bit," center Paul Gaustad said. “It was a total team effort. It was a good result going into the break."
Dallas, missing star defenseman Sergei Zubov for the fourth straight game with a groin injury, obviously didn’t see things quite the same way. The Stars concluded a 10-game stretch with a pedestrian 5-4-1 mark.
"It's discouraging, frustrating," Mike Modano said. "We had a lot of power plays, but we didn't get many quality chances. We're not taking advantage of our opportunities. ... You can tell we're running a little on fumes. Hopefully the rest will do us good."
It took Roy less than two minutes after the opening drop of the puck to put the Sabres in front, as he took a Stafford feed and poked one past Turco at 1:51 ( 700K ).
"We needed a spark," said Roy, who has a team-high 18 goals. "Getting a quick goal put them back on their heels."
Barnes drew the Stars even with 2:52 left in the second, set up by defenseman Mattias Norstrom ( 700K ).
Kings 3, Ducks 1 | Video
Derek Armstrong notched a goal and an assist, leaving him one point shy of 200 for his career, and the Kings ended a four-game losing streak to the Ducks, slowing their rivals’ charge in the Western Conference.
Anze Kopitar added a power-play goal and Alexander Frolov also tallied for the Kings.
“It was definitely a great team effort tonight,” Armstrong said. “We came out and battled hard. The Ducks are a really good hockey team and we took it to them tonight.”
Rob Niedermayer had Anaheim’s lone tally with 3:12 left in regulation, but Jason LaBarbera closed the door, finishing with 31 saves.
“It’s nice to be able to go out every night and be counted on,” LaBarbera said. “I’m definitely feeling more comfortable and more confident out there, and that’s the biggest thing at this level, being confident and comfortable with yourself. And it makes my job easier when the guys play like that.”
Kopitar was able to net his 19th on the power play at 16:16 of the first when the puck hit an Anaheim defender during a scrum in front and slipped past Jean-Sebastien Giguere ( 700K ).
Armstrong made it 2-0 at 4:21 of the second when he took Ted Purcell’s pass and squeezed a shot under Giguere’s left pad ( 700K ). The assist was Purcell’s first NHL point and the play involved a bit of luck, according to Armstrong.
“The goal was a great play by (Jaroslav) Modry up to Teddy Purcell,” Armstrong said. “I can honestly tell you I closed my eyes and tried to go top shelf, and I fanned on it and it went in.”
Frolov scored the Kings’ third goal at 9:53 off an Armstrong feed.
While the Kings and Ducks reside at opposite ends of the conference standings, on this night it was Los Angeles making the fans at the Staples Center proud.
“We’re professional hockey players and our fans come and support us every single night, so we have to play as hard as we can as professionals,” Armstrong said.
Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere had won five of his past seven starts, but allowed three goals on 18 shots before being hooked after Frolov’s goal.
''We haven't played as good as we could the last three games and at this time of the year that's unacceptable,'' Giguere said. ''That could mean not the right coverage or it can mean not making the key save at the right time or not scoring any goals. So altogether, it just wasn't a strong game on our part. We need to be a little bit more desperate on defense.''
Sharks 4, Blues 1 | Video
Consecutive home victories have San Jose back in solid position in the Pacific Division.
Jonathan Cheechoo notched a pair of goals and Joe Thornton had three assists to take over the League lead. The Sharks moved into a tie for first in the Pacific with Dallas, one point ahead of Anaheim; however, they have four games in hand on both the Stars and Ducks.
“We’re in a tight race right now for our division, so every point really counts,” Thornton said.
Milan Michalek and Steve Bernier also scored for San Jose, which lost the first two games of its four-game homestand at HP Pavilion before starting to turn things around with a win over Chicago on Tuesday.
Brad Boyes scored his team-leading 29th goal for the Blues, who are 0-5-2 in their past seven games. Manny Legace stopped 22 shots in his third game in five days, including the past two.
''They took over in the second and third periods,'' Legace said. ''It looked like we got a little tired. We played a tough game last night in Vancouver. When you show a weakness they're going to bury you.'
Michalek’s goal 6:57 into the second was the game’s only offense until Cheechoo connected on a power play early in the third for what proved to be the game-winner ( 700K ). Michalek set it up with a no-look pass across the crease.
After Bernier gave the Sharks a 3-0 lead, Boyes ended Evgeni Nabokov’s shutout bid, scoring off a faceoff midway through the third.
Cheechoo then closed the scoring in the game with a second power-play goal with 4:53 remaining ( 700K ). The two goals gave him nine for the season, a precipitous dropoff for a player who led the League just two years ago with 56, but Thornton expects Cheechoo’s big night to be a harbinger of things to come after the All-Star break passes.
“He’s a great goal-scorer and he’s getting his legs now and feeling healthy,” Thornton said. “He’ll pile them in after the All-Star break.”
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.