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Blues beat Habs in shootout to end slide

by Brian Hunter

Brad Boyes beat Jaroslav Halak in the second round of the shootout to give the Blues a 4-3 victory over the Canadiens.
Watch highlights from the Blues' win
After scoring the winning goal in a shootout Tuesday night and ending his team’s long road skid, St. Louis Blues forward Brad Boyes took the complex and put it in very simple terms.

“After this feeling, we wonder why we don’t win more often,” Boyes said.

It’s certainly been a rough stretch for the Blues, who gradually fell out of playoff contention in the Western Conference and then began a team-record nine-game road trip by losing six in a row.

Boyes made sure they left Bell Centre in Montreal with a much better taste in their mouths — that of a well-earned victory — when he beat Jaroslav Halak in the second round of the shootout to give the Blues a 4-3 victory over the Canadiens.

Manny Legace made 27 saves through regulation and overtime, then stopped all three Montreal shooters during the tiebreaker for his first win and the team’s first since March 4 against Los Angeles — the Blues’ last home game before the long road trip.

"It's been painful and everything that could happen, happens," Legace said. "Guys shooting the puck 10 feet wide, it hits somebody and goes in the net. It was just a great effort, though, tonight. It was a great win for us and the mood in there is beautiful."

Mikhail Grabovski forced overtime for the Canadiens with the second goal of his NHL career, 6:36 into the third period, but they couldn’t come up with the extra point and had to settle for moving into a first-place tie with New Jersey atop the Eastern Conference instead of claiming outright possession of the lead.

"We didn't play bad but it just wasn't good enough to win," said Chris Higgins, who along with captain Saku Koivu scored Montreal’s other goals.

Keith Tkachuk, Andy McDonald and Boyes scored in regulation for the Blues before Boyes again came through in the shootout. His backhander got a piece of the left post and slipped past Halak, who has yet to lose in regulation during nine career home starts.

"I was coming down and it started rolling on me a little bit so I was just kind of nervous about settling it down," Boyes said. "I wanted to do that and stick with it and just get it up over his pad and I got lucky and it hit off the post. I don't know if it hit him or if it went in straight but I saw the red light and I was happy about that."

Halak’s take was a little different: "I think it hit the post and then hit my stick and went in, and that's why I was a little bit mad," he said.

For two teams hailing from different conferences and opposite ends of the standings, it was a competitive, back-and-forth contest. Tkachuk and Higgins traded goals in the first before Koivu gave Montreal its only lead by scoring on the power play 9:32 into the second.

McDonald tied it 47 seconds later and Boyes scored his career-high 38th of the season with 4:03 left in the second. Left alone in front of Halak, Boyes converted a pass from Paul Kariya.

Grabovski’s goal got the Canadiens managed a point — but that wasn’t enough to satisfy coach Guy Carbonneau.

''We know what kind of game we need to play at this time of year — a grinding game,'' he said. ''We needed more of that to win. We got a point, but we wasted a chance for two points against a team we should have beat, but that's because our work level wasn't high enough.''

Maple Leafs 3, Islanders 1 | Video
Vesa Toskala didn’t allow one extremely embarrassing moment to mar an otherwise stellar effort for Toronto. Toskala made 27 saves, including 13 in the third period as the Maple Leafs scored three unanswered goals to escape Nassau Coliseum with a victory and spoil the NHL debut of top prospect Kyle Okposo.

Kyle Wellwood tied the game 7:24 into the third, Pavel Kubina got the game-winner midway through on a power play and Alexei Ponikarovsky scored into an empty net with 28 seconds remaining, helping keep the Leafs’ fading playoff hopes alive.

For more than 45 minutes, the only goal came on a fluke play that will show up on blooper reels for years to come and which Toskala undoubtedly would like to have back.

With the Islanders killing a penalty in the first period, defenseman Rob Davison slapped the puck from just in front of his own goal line. The clearing attempt skipped the length of the ice, bouncing numerous times and finally taking a sideways hop over the glove of a stunned Toskala and into the net. It was the first goal of the season for Davison and the third of his career.

"It just took a bad bounce right in front of me," Toskala said. "Things like that happen. It's been close to happening a few times, for sure."

"At the time, I wasn't worried because we were playing well," Toronto coach Paul Maurice said. "I figured we'd get one back. But as we started the third period, I got a little uneasy."

Islanders goaltender Wade Dubielewicz subbed for Rick DiPietro, who had an MRI on his hip earlier Tuesday and may require season-ending surgery. Dubielewicz stopped 20 shots in the first two periods and carried a shutout into the third, but the Leafs scored three times on six shots.

Wellwood’s seventh of the season came from the low slot, where he tipped Alex Steen’s shot past Dubielewicz to tie the score. Kubina got his 10th on a power play at 11:09 with a screened slap shot from the right point.

"I'm getting a little more time on the power play," Kubina said. "Kabby (Tomas Kaberle) found me, and I just shot it."

Okposo, the seventh overall pick in the 2006 draft, was called up from Bridgeport of the AHL and played well in his first game.

"I was a bit jittery at first, and psyched myself out," Okposo said. "I started to calm down in the second and third. I thought the game was faster than it was. It's no different than what I played. Obviously, guys are better, but hockey is hockey anywhere you go."

Flyers 3, Thrashers 2 | Video
Ilya Kovalchuk made it close by scoring his 50th goal of the season with 30 seconds remaining. With time running out, Antero Niittymaki made sure Kovalchuk didn’t bring the Thrashers all the way back.

Niittymaki had to stop just 17 shots to pick up the win, but he may have saved the Flyers’ season when he robbed the Atlanta superstar. Kovalchuk took a feed from the corner and took a point-blank shot that the Flyers goaltender got with his pad, leaving Kovalchuk sprawled out on the ice in disbelief.

"Most of the time I score those kind of goals," Kovalchuk said.

Chris Thorburn gave the Thrashers a lead just 58 seconds into the game, but Philadelphia responded with goals by Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Vaclav Prospal to end a four-game losing streak and keep the Flyers in eighth, two points ahead of Washington in the Eastern Conference standings.

“I think tonight was a simple game by us,” Richards said. “In the past we’ve been trying to make a little bit of extra moves, tonight we just shot the puck and got some ugly goals.”

The Flyers fired 47 shots on Thrashers goaltender Keri Lehtonen and broke through seven minutes into the first period when Richards scored his 25th of the season to tie the game.

Carter got a crucial goal just three seconds before the end of the second period when a shot by Kimmo Timonen on a Flyers power play deflected off his skate and slipped past Lehtonen. Prospal extended their lead to 3-1 at 8:07 of the third off a give-and-go with Daniel Briere.

"We had a simple game plan, get pucks in deep, allow the pucks to the net and I really thought it paid off," Flyers coach John Stevens said.

Prospal’s goal turned out to be the game-winner when Kovalchuk scored with 30 seconds remaining and Lehtonen pulled for an extra attacker. Kovalchuk reached the 50-goal plateau for the second time in his career and is now just two off his career high of 52 set in the 2005-06 season.

But he couldn’t get the equalizer, despite raising the heart rates of everyone in the Wachovia Center for a few precious seconds — notably those of his teammates.

"As soon as he wound up and the puck made it through to him I had already jumped and celebrated," Thorburn said. "Maybe I jinxed him, but he's done it so many times for us.”

Blue Jackets 3, Flames 0 | Video
Fredrik Norrena is making the most of his opportunity to be the man in net for Columbus, while Manny Malholtra has become the Blue Jackets’ unlikely sniper.

Norrena made 18 saves for his first shutout of the season and Malholtra scored twice for the second game in a row as Columbus delighted the Nationwide Arena crowd and prevented Calgary from moving into a first-place tie in the Northwest Division.

Rick Nash staked the Jackets to a one-goal lead early in the first, and Norrena made it hold up into the third before Malholtra added his ninth and 10th goals of the season in a 1:10 span. Norrena finished with his first shutout since a Feb. 16, 2007, blanking of San Jose; he improved to 3-0 lifetime against the Flames.

"He was really sound," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "The thing that was impressive for me was the no rebounds."

Miikka Kiprusoff was the bright spot for Calgary, turning aside 35 shots as the Blue Jackets had a decided offensive advantage throughout much of the game. Kiprusoff was handcuffed by an early shot by Nash, who took Dan Fritsche’s outlet pass, skated around defenseman Dion Phaneuf and snapped a shot from the left circle that found the net at 3:26 for his team-leading 37th of the season.

Norrena got some help from his posts in the second – twice in a 15-second span, as a matter of fact. First Matthew Lombardi nearly tied the game off a chance from the slot, then David Hale struck iron. Hale, a defenseman who has never scored a goal in 214 NHL games, raised his arms in the air thinking the puck had gone in, but Aaron Rome skated the puck away from the goal line for Columbus.

"Today, the posts helped me and the team helped me," said Norrena, who made 43 saves in his previous start to beat the Red Wings. "This was a different game then the last game against Detroit. Tonight we controlled the game and deserved to win."

Malholtra gave his team some breathing room in the third. His one-timer off a Nash feed at 5:39 was followed by a quick shot from the right circle at 6:49 which completed the scoring.

"I think those are just a result of being in the right place at the right time," Malholtra said.

For the Flames, the game marked the end to a disappointing 1-3 road trip. Calgary has won just three of its last seven.

"It's that last push to the end of the regular season," said captain Jarome Iginla, who had his four-game points streak end. "Teams are raising their game, intensity and their physical play. This road trip we didn't respond."

Capitals 4, Predators 2 | Video
Alexander Ovechkin reached another personal milestone as Washington began a six-game road trip by continuing to surge in the Eastern Conference standings.

Ovechkin surpassed 100 points for the second time in his career, becoming the first player in franchise history to register multiple 100-point campaigns. Ovechkin assisted on a pair of goals as the Capitals built a 3-0 first-period lead, then ended Nashville’s hopes for a comeback by scoring into an empty net with four seconds remaining, his 58th goal of the season.

''The most important thing for me is not beating some records,'' Ovechkin said. ''Right now it is all about winning games and all about getting two points.''

Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and Matt Bradley also had goals for the Capitals, who climbed to within three points of idle Carolina for first place in the Southeast Division. They also passed Buffalo into ninth place in the East while remaining two points behind Philadelphia for the eighth and final playoff spot.

''There is no rest, because it is so close,'' Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. ''If everything goes as it could possibly go, you could have five or six teams within two or three points of each other by Friday, so we want to be the team that gains the spot.''

J.P. Dumont and Jason Arnott rallied the Predators to within a goal but they lost for the fifth consecutive game at Sommet Center and remained in ninth in the Western Conference standings, four points out of a postseason berth.

Semin got Washington’s road trip off to a quick start and sparked a three-goal outburst by scoring his 22nd on a power play 6:49 into the first. He beat Dan Ellis on a wrist shot with Ovechkin picking up the primary assist for his 100th point, a mark he also achieved in his rookie season of 2005-06, when he finished with 106.

Backstrom followed with his 12th of the season at 9:59 when he backhanded his own rebound past Ellis, and Bradley’s sixth made it 3-0 with 5:20 left in the opening period.

''We lost the game in the first,'' Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. ''I thought we just stood around and watched and did not participate. It was just an unacceptable start and execution.''

Bradley’s goal spelled the end for Ellis. He was replaced by Chris Mason, who to stopped all 12 shots he faced.

That gave the Predators an opportunity to chip away at their deficit. Dumont scored the lone goal of the second period, converting on a power play at 4:09, and Arnott made it a 3-2 game with 7:23 left in the third with a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle. The goal came on a delayed penalty call to the Capitals, with Arnott joining the play late after Mason left the ice for an extra attacker.

Cristobal Huet stopped 24 shots and preserved the one-goal lead until Ovechkin banked the puck off the boards from inside his own blue line and it carried down the ice into the vacant Nashville net in the closing seconds.

''It was not a perfect game by any means,'' Huet said. ''I let in a couple of goals that I would have liked to have back, and let them back into the game.''

Thanks to another brilliant night by Ovechkin, it didn’t matter.

Oilers 8, Coyotes 4 | Video
With its 10th win in the last 12 games, Edmonton is one of the hottest teams in the NHL. The question now is: Are the Oilers too late?

Dustin Penner gave Edmonton the lead at 7:32 of the third period, sparking a burst of four unanswered goals that included a pair by Curtis Glencross. Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky finished with three-point nights for Edmonton, which passed slumping Phoenix in the Western Conference standings and closed to within five points of eighth.

''It was a typical Oilers four-goal win, tied in the third period,'' Oilers coach Craig MacTavish joked.

The Coyotes led 1-0 and 2-1, then fell behind 4-2 only to come back to tie on goals by Daniel Winnik late in the second and Peter Mueller early in the third. After that, the Oilers took full control.

Penner completed a tic-tac-toe passing play with Gagner and Hemsky by chipping the puck past Mikael Tellqvist, who relieved an ineffective Ilya Bryzgalov but didn’t fare much better. Penner’s power-play goal put the Oilers ahead to stay, then Glencross found the net at 9:46 and 12:51, making it 7-4 and giving him 11 goals for the season.

The Coyotes pulled Tellqvist after going on the power play with under four minutes remaining, and Jarrett Stoll scored into an empty net with 3:04 left to close it out.

''It was just huge,'' Glencross said. ''It's nice to know that you can still have an eight-goal game these days. That was pretty impressive.''

Tom Gilbert, Gagner, Robert Nilsson and Kyle Brodziak all scored for Edmonton, which received a 30-save effort from Dwayne Roloson — who won his third start in four days after sitting for six weeks.

''We're starting to build more confidence here and a lot of guys have been really stepping up when we need it,'' Gagner said. ''These are all big games down the stretch and we need that from everybody.''

Derek Morris and Shane Doan each staked Phoenix to a one-goal lead that didn’t last. Gagner and Nilsson had power-play goals late in the first period that gave the Oilers a 3-2 lead and caused Wayne Gretzky to lift Bryzgalov. Brodziak welcomed Tellqvist with a shorthanded goal 5:10 into the second, extending the lead to 4-2.

''We've got eight games left, it can't be the end,'' Doan said. ''We've got to find a way to win the next one and not get too overly concerned about what everyone else is doing and hope for help.''

Sharks 2, Kings 1 | Video
Brian Boucher is happy to be back in the NHL, and San Jose is certainly tickled to have him.

Boucher made his second start for the Sharks after being picked up prior to the trade deadline, and came within 4:47 of his second shutout. He finished with 29 saves while giving Evgeni Nabokov a rare night off and led the Sharks to their 12th win in 13 games.

It was also San Jose’s ninth straight road victory, making the Sharks the first team in NHL history to have two road winning streaks of nine or more in the same season.

“We feel as confident as we possibly can,” said captain Joe Thornton, who reached the 20-goal plateau for the eight straight season. “We feel comfortable going anywhere, playing anybody. When you have your confidence that’s a huge part of this game.”

Patrick Rissmiller tallied the game-winner for San Jose, which extended its lead over Anaheim in the Pacific Division to three points, although it had to hold off a Los Angeles team that played to the end despite being last in the overall standings.

“Guys know you can’t let a team like that back into the game, especially the last five minutes,” Rissmiller said. “We controlled most of the game, but anytime we hung back they had good chances. Bouch was there to back us up. He played a great game and you have to give a lot of credit to him.”

Boucher, who played most of the season for Philadelphia’s AHL affiliate, was coming off a 2-0 shutout of St. Louis on March 1 — his only prior start for San Jose.

Lubomir Visnovsky got the Kings on the board late in the third and brought some late hope to the home faithful at Staples Center. Dan Cloutier stopped 21 shots in defeat.

“We’ve got nothing to lose,” said center Anze Kopitar. “We pressed hard and we got that goal, but then we came up a little short.”

Thornton opened the scoring on a power play with 2:51 left in the first period, set up by Patrick Marleau. Rissmiller ended a 16-game goal drought and made it 2-0 when he converted his own rebound with 3:37 remaining in the second.

Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used ii this report

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