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Alfredsson's hat trick leads Sens past Bruins

by Brian Compton
It didn't take very long for Daniel Alfredsson to get back into the swing of things.

Playing in just in second game after missing 11 straight with a shoulder injury, the Ottawa Senators captain recorded a natural hat trick in a 5-1 victory against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Monday afternoon.

Alfredsson returned to the lineup on Saturday and had a goal and two assists in a 4-2 win over Montreal. His second goal on Sunday chased Tim Thomas from his net, as the Bruins goalie was playing his third game in five days.

''Being able to do some real good workouts and skates, coming back I feel fresher than anybody,'' Alfredsson said.

Daniel Paille scored the lone goal for Boston, which came 4:23 into the third period. Boston has lost five of its last six games and is now tied for second place in the Northeast Division with Ottawa at 54 points apiece.

Alex Kovalev gave the Senators a 1-0 lead at 7:39 of the first period, when he took a pass from Mike Fisher and beat Thomas for his 12th goal of the season. Alfredsson then scored his first of the day at 14:24 thanks to a screen in front by defenseman Chris Philips.

''Since he's been back he seems a little more energized,'' Senators coach Cory Clouston said.

But Alfredsson was far from done. He gave Ottawa a 3-0 lead at 10:04 of the second period, when he redirected Filip Kuba's shot from the right point past Thomas. He then completed the hat trick just over three minutes later as his blast from the left point beat a screened Tuukka Rask. It was his first hat trick since his seven-point night against Tampa Bay on Jan. 24, 2008.

''I don't think anything (Alfredsson) does can surprise you anymore,'' said goalie Brian Elliott, who started when Mike Brodeur felt dizzy before the game.

Jonathan Cheechoo rounded out the scoring when he beat Rask at 11:05 of the third period.

''Once we got the lead, they didn't have the jump that they normally do,'' Alfredsson said. ''Getting that first goal gave us momentum.''

Lightning 3, Hurricanes 2 | HIGHLIGHTS

Steve Downie broke a 2-2 tie midway through the third period as Tampa Bay won in Carolina for the first time in more than two years.

Ryan Malone and Vincent Lecavalier also scored for the Lightning, who snapped an eight-game road losing streak in the series. Tampa Bay hadn't won at the RBC Center since Nov. 2007.

''The last minute of the game I had him out there,'' Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said. ''He deserves to play. I've really enjoyed watching him play the last month, the last few weeks. The thing with Steve Downie is he's earning it. Every practice he's out there a half-hour before anybody's out there. When you do that, things pay off."

Matt Cullen and Chad LaRose scored for the Hurricanes, while Cam Ward made 29 saves in his 16th consecutive start. Carolina went 0-for-4 on the power play and didn't record a shot on goal in its final two opportunities.

''I was surprised because I felt pretty darn good, and we had a lot more action off our rush the past two games,'' Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. ''But when you move that slow and move the puck that slow, it's going to happen.''

Malone scored the lone goal of the first period, his 20th of the season. With the teams at even strength, Malone collected a rebound in front and poked it past Ward at 11:07.

Cullen tied the game with 3:32 remaining in the second, when he beat a screened Antero Niittymaki (20 saves) near the crease to make it 1-1. But Tampa Bay restored the lead before the end of the period, as Lecavalier scored on the power play at 18:55 for his 12th goal of the season.

LaRose -- who returned to the lineup after missing 17 games -- tied it again for Carolina when he got around the defense and beat Niittymaki 4:07 into the third. The score remained 2-2 until Downie took a pass from Martin St. Louis and ripped a shot past Ward at 9:11.

''We lost the last two games and that really hurt us,'' Downie said. ''We slipped a little in the standings. We needed this win.''

Blue Jackets 4, Blues 2 | HIGHLIGHTS

Raffi Torres scored twice, Chris Clark scored his first goal with Columbus and Rick Nash notched his 400th career point as the Blue Jackets snapped St. Louis' four-game winning streak at Nationwide Arena.

Nash's goal early in the second period broke a 2-2 tie. Mathieu Roy had two assists for Columbus, while Mathieu Garon made 30 saves and improved to 9-3-0 lifetime against the Blues. His status for the game was unknown after he took a shot in the wrist during the morning skate.

Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk scored for St. Louis, which began a three-game road trip. Chris Mason made 26 saves in the loss.

''I didn't think we had much jump tonight,'' Blues coach Davis Payne said. ''Even when we called upon it, it didn't seem like we were able to get our gears shifted for the third period. For whatever reason, Columbus did a great job with any forecheck that we were able to establish. We had very little net traffic and very few secondary possessions. We have to regroup tomorrow.''

Kariya broke a scoreless tie with a power-play goal just 1:11 into the game, but Torres responded with a pair of goals before the conclusion of the opening period. He tied the game at 4:21 before giving the Blue Jackets the lead with his 16th goal of the season at 11:45. Columbus improved to 19-3-2 when Torres scores.

"They took it to us in St. Louis about a week ago," Torres said. "We wanted to make sure we answered the bell tonight."

Tkachuk tied the game 3:44 into the second period when he crashed the net and slammed into Garon, with the puck going off the glove of sliding defenseman Kris Russell and into the net. But the Blue Jackets quickly went ahead again when Nash beat Mason via the power play just 36 seconds later.

Clark tallied his first goal as a Blue Jacket at 1:25 of the third period. With the teams at even strength, Clark took a pass from Kristian Huselius and jammed it past Mason for his fifth tally of the season. Clark was acquired in a trade with Washington on Dec. 28.

''They really come at you the first 10 minutes and we haven't been able to survive. We've really dug ourselves a hole,'' Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. ''We got better and better as the game went on. We really managed the game properly.''

Panthers 1, Thrashers 0 | HIGHLIGHTS

Tomas Vokoun stopped all 27 shots he faced and Gregory Campbell scored midway through the second period as Florida blanked Atlanta at the BankAtlantic Center.

It was the fifth shutout of the season for Vokoun, who has won five of his last seven starts on home ice. He's made 101 saves in the last three games, all wins for Florida.

''If we want to go anywhere we have to string some wins together and hopefully keep this thing rolling,'' Vokoun said.

Thrashers forward Ilya Kovalchuk, who entered the game with three goals and three assists in three games, was held without a point. The Thrashers had a 6-on-4 skating advantage for the final 1:19, but failed to beat Vokoun. Johan Hedberg made 23 saves in the loss.

''He's been outstanding all year and he's been very, very good lately,'' Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said of Vokoun, who made 14 saves in the third. ''He's in a real groove and he's given us a lot of confidence. That's been a part of us holding leads. We know we're going to get a big save at the right time, and he did that again tonight.''

Campbell scored his second goal of the season at 7:18 of the middle period when he beat Hedberg on a backhand shot from the left circle. Hedberg was screened by Florida's Rostislav Olesz. Jason Garrison earned an assist for his first NHL point.

''There were a couple of guys in front, and I was just trying to fight for position,'' Hedberg said. ''I didn't see the puck. I lost it for a second, and unfortunately that's when he started it toward the net. It hit both my legs, I think, but it found a way in. It was a good screen in front, and he shot it at absolutely the right time.''

Stars 4, Wild 3 | HIGHLIGHTS

Minnesota nearly rallied for its first win in Dallas in almost seven years, but a 4-0 deficit proved to be too much to overcome.

Mike Modano scored his 551st career goal and Brad Richards had three assists as the Stars improved to 11-2-2 in their past 15 home games as they edged the Wild at the American Airlines Center.

Antti Miettinen scored twice for Minnesota, and Mikko Koivu scored with five minutes left in the third period to make it a one-goal game. Niklas Backstrom allowed four goals on Dallas' first 15 shots before being replaced by Josh Harding late in the second period.

The Wild have lost five straight on the road.

''You do have to give the guys credit for battling back, but you can't put yourselves in that position,'' Minnesota coach Todd Richards said. ''You have to play when the game is tough and the game is tough when it's 0-0 and you're playing a team that has 51 points just the same as you and it's the end of January.''

Wandell notched the only goal of the opening period at 4:57 when he lifted a wrist shot over Backstrom from low in the left circle. Modano, the leading U.S.-born goal-scorer in NHL history, made it 2-0 when he beat Backstrom from the right circle on the power play at 5:02 of the second.

Eriksson made it 3-0 just 2:40 later when he tallied his team-leading 20th goal. Backstrom's night came to an end at 13:37 when Niskanen pushed the lead to 4-0.

Miettinen got the Wild on the scoreboard when he redirected Martin Havlat's shot past Auld for a power-play goal at 15:03 of the second. He then made it 4-2 with 7:24 left in the third on another deflection before Koivu scored with five minutes to go.

Auld improved his record to 7-4-3 in his second straight start and 200th career game. Marty Turco has been struggling, allowing 18 goals in his past five starts.

''I was seeing the puck well and the guys did a good job eliminating second chances,'' Auld said. ''My goal from the start is when I'm playing to give the team as good a chance as possible to win. You want to make it difficult when (the coaches) have to make decisions (on the starting goalie), but at the same time it's a team game and you want to put everything else aside.''

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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