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Boston trounces Pittsburgh for ninth win in a row

by John Kreiser
The Boston Bruins will be sorry to see the 2008 portion of this season's schedule end. The Pittsburgh Penguins can't wait for the new year.

The Bruins wrapped up 2008 by routing the Penguins 5-2 at Mellon Arena on Tuesday night for their ninth consecutive victory — their longest winning streak since 1982-83. Boston is tops in the Eastern Conference with 60 points and has gone 23-2-1 in its last 26 games.

But while the Bruins are ending the year on a high note, the Penguins, who made the Stanley Cup Final last spring, hope 2009 brings better results. They finished 2008 by going 7-10-1 in their last 18 games — and losing five of their last six at home — while battling a host of injuries. The odds of a fast start aren't good, though — the teams meet again on Thursday in Boston, where the Bruins have won 13 in a row.

''First of all, it's about time they had a meeting,'' coach Michel Therrien said. ''You have to show some leadership. If I were a player, I would have called a meeting. I'm interested to see what comes of this.''

Boston coach Claude Julien isn’t writing the Penguins off yet, though.

"They're going through a lot of the things we went through last year with the number of injuries," Julien said. "I think they're smart and know that when everybody comes back they'll be right where they were last year."

Boston hasn't had a run like this since the Ray Bourque-led '82-83 team won nine in a row in January, tied one, then won their next five. These Bruins are 14-1 since Thanksgiving and have won their last five on the road.

Marc Savard, who put Boston ahead 2-1 by scoring a power-play goal midway through the second period, set up Phil Kessel's goal at 16:43 to put the Bruins ahead to stay, then assisted on Martin St. Pierre's shorthanded goal 5:28 into the third period. Defenseman Dennis Wideman added a goal at 9:38.

''We just want to win every game,'' said defenseman Zdeno Chara, who tied the game at 1-1 at 4:46 of the second period. ''The stats and the history is one thing, but playing every game the best we can is another thing. After each game we want to look forward instead of back on whatever the record is.''

Still, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby isn't ready to concede Boston is the team to beat, even if the Bruins seem to be beating nearly every team they play.

''There's not much separating each team, they're disciplined in the way they play and capitalized on the chances they got, and that's what good teams do,'' said Crosby, who assisted on Pascal Dupuis' game-tying goal in the second period of his 250th NHL game. ''But it's not a matter of them being way ahead of us.''

Capitals 4, Sabres 2 | VIDEO

Washington doesn't usually enjoy much success in Buffalo, but Jose Theodore and Nicklas Backstrom made sure the Caps would go home with smiles — and two points. Theodore made 31 saves and Backstrom had a goal and an assist as Washington won for just the third time in its last 10 visits to HSBC Arena.

"This was a place where I didn't win a lot of games before," said Theodore, who won for just the second time in nine decisions in Buffalo. "It wasn't pretty. I think we had everybody play with a lot of confidence and put everything aside and play the way we can."

Brooks Laich and Chris Bourque scored in the first 9:02 to give the Caps an early 2-0 lead on the way to their ninth victory in 10 games.

"We're focused on just trying to win every game," said Backstrom, whose power-play goal at 12:11 of the second period made it 3-0. "We know we're up there, so if we keep hunting them it's going to be fun."

Adam Mair broke up Theodore's shutout 7:42 into the third period, but Boyd Gordon's shorthanded goal into an empty net with 43 seconds left provided insurance. Clarke MacArthur's power-play goal with 11 seconds left was just window dressing as the Sabres lost for the fourth time in five games.

"It's disappointing, it's frustrating and hard to hide from," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "If Jochen Hecht and Derek Roy and those kinds of guys aren't our best players, you don't have any chance of winning. We'll take them out of the lineup. Some of them will come out, and that's not an idle threat, either. You still have to put the work in, and I don't think we did."

Washington won without any help from Alex Ovechkin, who was held without a point for only the second time in 11 games. Ovechkin was denied on a shorthanded breakaway in the second period by goalie Ryan Miller.

"He's a terrific player, but he can't score every game," Backstrom said.

Canadiens 2, Lightning 1 (SO) | VIDEO

The Canadiens delighted the horde of fans who've followed them around Florida this week by completing a sweep of the Sunshine State when Maxime Lapierre scored the deciding goal in the shootout.

''We have a pretty big following no matter where we go,'' Canadiens goalie Carey Price said. ''It seems like whenever we're in an opposition rink, there's at least 5,000 strong that are rooting for us. It definitely gives you a boost when you're in an opposition rink.''

Montreal won 5-2 at Florida on Monday and has now won five of its last six.

"We're playing really well defensively," Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said. "Sometimes when you do that, you find ways to win games. That's exactly what we're doing right now."

Vaclav Prospal put the Lightning ahead 13:18 into the game with a power-play goal, his first point in 10 games. Guillaume Latendresse tied it when his rebound backhander was redirected in off Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith 46 seconds into the third period.

Both goalies made big saves during overtime. Price stopped an in-close chance by Evgeny Artyukhin with about three minutes remaining. Smith made a diving glove save on Lapierre 90 seconds later.

"It came down to the shootout," Price said. "That could have went either way."

The loss ended Tampa Bay's three-game winning streak.

"The last four or five games, we have been playing much better," said forward Jussi Jokinen, who scored the Lightning's lone goal in the shootout. "We have to get going in the right direction and picking up points."

Maple Leafs 4, Thrashers 3 (OT) | VIDEO

Curtis Joseph's long wait for win No. 450 is over. Pascal Kubina's power-play goal 33 seconds into OT gave Joseph the milestone victory — his first win since April 5, when he beat Vancouver while playing for Calgary.

"Wins are the most important measure for goalies, I think. Certainly it's a great accomplishment," the 41-year-old said after making 29 saves to win his first start since a 6-3 home loss to Atlanta on Nov. 25. "I think I really read the plays well and really focused in. That's been my problem. Sometimes you're only human and you learn."

Colby Armstrong's power-play goal at 13:17 of the third period forced the overtime, but Kubina won it with a blast past Johan Hedberg, who finished with 43 saves.

Nikolai Kulemin , Lee Stempniak and Jason Blake also scored for Toronto. Bryan Little with his seventh goal in four games, and Jim Slater connected for Atlanta.

"I think the more I keep putting the puck on the net, the more confidence I'm getting," said Little of his team-high 19 goals. "I just want to keep getting on a roll."

Blake's goal with 1:26 left in the second period gave Toronto its first lead of the night and capped a comeback from an early 2-0 deficit.

"Cujo made three or four huge saves for us, for him, as much as anything to gather some confidence after a shaky start," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "And we got our offense going, we had a ton of shots, a ton of scoring chances."

Devils 4, Blues 3 | VIDEO

Zach Parise ended a five-game stretch in which he scored just one goal by scoring twice to lead the Devils to a win at St. Louis.

Parise scored 62 seconds into the game, then broke a 2-2 tie with 5:41 left in regulation by fighting off David Backes and beating Manny Legace.

"I just found the rebound," Parise said. "I don't remember, I just looked down and saw it there, swatted it and it went in."

It wasn't the prettiest goal, but it did the job.

''That's what Zach does,'' Devils coach Brent Sutter said. ''That third goal was a hardworking goal. He brings that every night for us."

Jay Pandolfo scored with 3:27 left to give New Jersey a 4-2 lead, and Alex Steen brought the Blues within a goal with 27.3 seconds remaining.

St. Louis went ahead after Parise's first goal when Brad Boyes and Jeff Woywitka scored before the halfway mark of the first period. Brian Rolston tied it 2:37 into the second.

Despite the Blues' effort, coach Andy Murray was disappointed.

"We're at the bottom of the standings because we lose games like this," Murray said. "We need to find a way to win or get a point out of it.

"To sit where we're sitting right now and not find a way continuously (to get results) doesn't sit well."

Devils goaltender Scott Clemmensen, who grew up just outside St. Louis, beat the Blues in his first meeting against the team he grew up watching.

''It was fun and it's close to my hometown,'' Clemmensen said. ''I had a lot of friends and family here.''

Flyers 3, Canucks 2 | VIDEO

If the Flyers ever get tired of Philadelphia, they can always move to Vancouver. After all, they haven't lost there for nearly 20 years.

Jeff Carter had his League-leading 27th goal and added an assist as the Flyers extended their unbeaten streak at Vancouver to 14 games (10 wins, four ties) — including 7-0-1 at GM Place. Scott Hartnell and rookie Jon Kalinski also scored for the Flyers, who haven't lost at Vancouver since Jan. 17, 1989.

"That's the story of the year with our team. When guys go down other people step up.  We have some important guys out right now but we also have some young players who see that as an opportunity and have been able to step in and contribute." -- Flyers captain Mike Richards
The Flyers rallied after losing forward Simon Gagne with an upper body injury 15 seconds into the game after he was driven hard into the boards by Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa.

''That's the story of the year with our team. When guys go down other people step up,'' said captain Mike Richards, who came to Gagne's defense and fought Bieksa immediately after the hit. ''We have some important guys out right now but we also have some young players who see that as an opportunity and have been able to step in and contribute."

Carter gave the Flyers an early lead when he finished off a 2-on-1 break at 3:16 of the opening period. He's now only two goals short of his career high, set last season.

Hartnell put Philadelphia ahead to stay at 17:39 of the first period with a rocket from the left circle past Curtis Sanford just 45 seconds after Daniel Sedin had tied it for the Canucks.

Sanford left after the first period with a groin injury and Kalinski scored his first NHL goal by beating Cory Schneider 2:36 into the second period.

"We could tell on their first two goals that he wasn't moving too well," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said of Sanford, adding that Sanford would go on the injured list and newly acquired Jason LaBarbera would join the Canucks for Thursday's game in Vancouver.

Ryan Kesler made it a one-goal game by redirecting Alex Burrows' shot past Martin Biron at 11:56, but the Canucks couldn't get the equalizer despite having the better opportunities over the last two periods.

"I liked the way we played," Vigneault said. "We played well and battled hard. I thought we should have gotten a point, but we didn't."

Senators 3, Oilers 2 | VIDEO

Ottawa will start the season with a one-game winning streak on the road, instead of a 13-game losing streak after stunning the Oilers at Rexall Place. Rookie Brian Lee's first NHL goal with 8:28 left in regulation gave Ottawa its first win away from Scotiabank Place since Oct. 30.

The Oilers were 0-3 on their eight-game road trip before Lee beat Mathieu Garon from the high slot to break a 2-2 tie. Jason Spezza had a first-period goal and set up Daniel Alfredsson's second-period goal as the Senators never trailed.

"Jason had his best game in a long time," Senators coach Craig Hartsburg said. "He pressured people with the puck. He really moved his feet. He competed. He was our best player."

Spezza scored 9:56 into the game to put Ottawa in front. Ethan Moreau's wrist shot past Martin Gerber at 13:57 tied it. But Oilers coach Craig MacTavish was displeased with his team's inability to jump on the struggling Senators.

"We didn't start as sharply as we need to," he said. "When you're playing a team that's struggling, you know they're going to be desperate to get out of it. You have to show them something early in the game. We knew we'd be challenged, to a certain degree, to create a bunch of offense. But at the same time, we didn't come out as hard as he needed to."

Alfredsson's goal 4:07 into the second period gave the Senators the lead for a second time, but Edmonton got even at 13:22 when rookie Liam Reddox stuffed the puck past Gerber for his first NHL goal.

Lee's goal came with Edmonton defenseman Sheldon Souray in the penalty box.

"Brian's been a good player," Hartsburg said. "We called him up and he's played all three games on the trip (to Western Canada). He and (Chris) Phillips have been really good. He's been making big strides, and he's been impressive."

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

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