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Biron enjoys a perfect night

by Brian Hunter /
A few thoughts while we look forward to the jersey retirement ceremony of an NHL and Montreal Canadiens great, goaltender Patrick Roy:

A little payback — They say it's better to be lucky than good, but Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Martin Biron would probably tell you they're both important when it comes to recording a shutout.

Biron was definitely very good in making 40 saves Friday night in blanking his former team, the Buffalo Sabres, 3-0 at HSBC Arena. He also benefitted from a number of missed opportunities by Lindy Ruff's crew, which included a hat trick of hit posts and several wide-open nets missed by Buffalo shooters.

"We did a great job of making their goaltender look good," Ruff said.

But Biron wasn't relying solely on Sabre misfires in order to record the 24th shutout of his NHL career. He stopped Jaroslav Spacek on a point-blank slap shot during a two-man advantage for Buffalo and made a total of six saves during the two 5-on-3s the Flyers killed off. Biron also denied the League's leading goal scorer, Thomas Vanek, on a second-period breakaway.

"We played a pretty basic game, and Marty did everything that we needed him to do," said Philadelphia center Jeff Carter, who scored twice. "They had a lot of chances and a couple of lucky bounces off posts, but Marty was great. It gives us great confidence knowing how good he's playing right now."

Biron won 134 games over parts of nine seasons in Buffalo before being traded to the Flyers during the 2006-07 season. He helped lead Philadelphia to the Eastern Conference Finals in his first full season with the team, and although both he and the Flyers got off to slow starts this fall, they are rounding into form recently.

"It wasn't a perfect game for me, nor was it for the whole team, but we pulled it off," Biron said.

Life goes on — It took the New Jersey Devils until their ninth game playing without Martin Brodeur to win in regulation. Now they've accomplished the feat on consecutive nights, and with two different goaltenders.

Kevin Weekes made 25 saves for his 100th NHL victory in a 5-2 win over the New York Islanders at Prudential Center. The Devils had beaten Florida on Thursday behind Scott Clemmensen and have now taken three straight dating back to a shootout win against Washington on Nov. 15.

"Weekes was solid," Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "He made the saves that he had to. We got out of Weekes what we wanted."

It was Weekes who started the first three games after Brodeur was injured, but Sutter elected to give Clemmensen more of a look by starting him in four of the next five games. Back in net against the Islanders, Weekes took advantage of his opportunity.

"It's always fun when you get a chance to play," Weekes said. "It's a privilege to play in the NHL and I've always had that attitude my entire career. This one was pretty special. Now I know what Marty feels like every day. He's always hitting some milestone."

The Devils, who also went into a prolonged offensive funk after Brodeur went down, have responded with 13 goals during the three-game winning streak to back their tandem in net.

Hats on the ice — A lot of fans who went to watch hockey at RBC Center on Friday left the arena with colder heads. But they were happy to make the sacrifice because it meant Eric Staal had a hat trick to spark the Carolina Hurricanes to a 5-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes.

Staal, who hadn't scored in his previous eight games, snapped out of that slump in a big way. He ended the drought with a first-period goal, but the Coyotes led 2-1 after the opening 20 minutes. Staal changed that by lighting the lamp eight minutes into the second and again with just 45.1 seconds left in the period to put the Hurricanes ahead to stay and bring the hats raining down onto the ice.

"It's about burying your head, working hard, not changing your game, getting to those areas where goals are scored — and for me, goals are scored in the front of the net and those traffic areas," Staal said. "Eventually, they were going to fall — I knew that."

Staal's offensive outburst impressed a guy who knows a thing or two about putting pucks in the net — opposing coach Wayne Gretzky.

"A guy his caliber is just too good not to be scoring," Gretzky said.

At the expense of the Coyotes, it's safe to say Staal is now hot again. And the young star was certainly aware of The Great One's presence behind the bench.

"He's the best player at it — and he's watching, coaching against you. It definitely adds a little bit more to the game," Staal said. "And I wanted to show my stuff."

Rewarded with a winRick Tocchet didn't earn two points in either of his first two games coaching the Tampa Bay Lightning, but it wasn't for a lack of effort on the part of his players — the Bolts went to shootouts against both Carolina and Florida, only to fall short.

Vincent Lecavalier helped make sure that wouldn't happen again by scoring a pair of first-period goals as the Lightning defeated the Nashville Predators 4-1 at St. Pete Times Forum to give Tocchet win No. 1 as an NHL coach.

"It's great," Tocchet said. "It's like scoring your first NHL goal. The last couple games and how hard we worked, it was nice to get the win."

Added Lecavalier, who scored at 4:57 and 7:05 of the first: "Our last three games, I think, we've had a lot of energy."

The Predators, who haven't won in Tampa Bay since March 24, 1999, didn't give themselves much of a chance by falling behind early and turning the puck over repeatedly.

"It's great for them to be able to get a win for their coach, and I'm sure their coach really appreciates that, but in the same sense we've got to give our coach a little something to be happy about, too," said Nashville goalie Dan Ellis. "It just came down to poor decisions. We're making basic hockey very difficult hockey."

Right on schedule
— Last season, the Boston Bruins successfully fought for and gained the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Claude Julien's squad has started off the 2008-09 campaign like one that wants to leave nothing in doubt by the time the calendar reaches April.

In defeating the Florida Panthers 4-2, not only did the Bruins win their seventh straight at TD Banknorth Arena, they improved to 11-1-1 overall in their last 13 games and, at 30 points, drew even with the New York Rangers for the lead in the Eastern Conference.

"We played a pretty basic game, and Marty did everything that we needed him to do. They had a lot of chances and a couple of lucky bounces off posts, but Marty was great. It gives us great confidence knowing how good he's playing right now. -- Flyers center Jeff Carter
"One of the things they preached at the start of the season was positioning," defenseman Aaron Ward said. "Teams that position themselves well by Thanksgiving have a tendency to really put themselves in good position at the end of the year."

Boston has not lost a game in regulation this month and is just one win shy of tying the franchise record for consecutive home wins. Coach Claude Julien doesn't worry about the run of success affecting his players too much because they've been used to having to keep focus.

"I don't think we feel too good about ourselves," Julien said. "Our team has not had to face this kind of thing for a long time … being in first place."

A quick recovery
— They weren't at all pleased with the way regulation ended, but the St. Louis Blues didn't allow a lead that got away less than a second before the horn sounded get them down.

Lee Stempniak's unassisted goal with 2:21 remaining in overtime garnered the Blues the two points they thought they had until Scott Niedermayer beat Manny Legace with 0.9 seconds left showing on the clock. Legace and his teammates were upset Corey Perry fell into the goalie on the play, even though replays suggested it was the result of a push by a St. Louis player.

"It should have never went to overtime," Legace said. "The refs didn't want to call anything the last minute there, (Jay) McClement gets pulled down and they don't call that, then there's a big cluster around the net and the guy's sitting on my head and they don't call that. But the hockey gods evened it out and we're lucky it went overtime."

Stempniak entered the Anaheim zone 1-on-3, but it worked to his advantage as he used defenseman Chris Pronger as a screen in taking a shot that beat Jean-Sebastien Giguere for the winner.

"I think Pronger was coming off the bench and caught a little bit flat-footed," Stempniak said. "So I just tried to use him as a screen. It was a great win."

Material from wire services and team broadcast media was used in this report.

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