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Boston's Savard does more than just score

by John Kreiser / NHL.com
A few notes while goalies around the League avert their eyes after last night's carnage, in which 30 goals were scored in just three games:

More than a scorer -- Marc Savard never has had trouble putting up points. It's been his perceived problems in the other parts of the game -- things like checking, defensive coverage and winning faceoffs -- that have driven his coaches crazy.

But on the night when Savard had a goal and 3 assists to reach the 600-point mark, his current coach chose to praise the other aspects of his game.

"He feels better about his game now that he's become a complete player," Boston's Claude Julien said after the Bruins' 7-4 victory against the Buffalo Sabres. "You can have all the points you want -- but if you're not in the playoffs, if you're a minus player, I don't know how you can feel good about yourself.

"Right now, everything is positive for him. He's helping the team go in the right direction. He's a plus player and he's taking some big draws when we need him."

 
 


The Bruins are Savard's fourth team. He's always been productive offensively and turned into a top scorer with Atlanta in 2005-06, putting up 97 points in 82 games. Boston signed him as a free agent and he produced 96 and 78 points (in 74 games). But he's been a plus player only twice before in his career: He was plus-7 in 2005-06 and plus-3 last season. He's already plus-12 in 2008-09.

For his part, Savard said reaching the scoring mark came as something of a surprise because he entered the game needing four points to get to 600.

"It's a special night," he said. "I didn't think I'd get it all tonight."

What goaltending duel? -- Canucks-Rangers. Roberto Luongo vs. Henrik Lundqvist in a battle between two of the NHL's best goaltenders.

Well, not quite.

Lundqvist was pulled before the game's halfway point and Luongo allowed three goals for the first time in more than two weeks. However, Vancouver's captain did make 39 saves and got more help from his teammates in the Canucks' shockingly easy 6-3 victory at Madison Square Garden.

Lundqvist wasn't at his best and basically pulled himself after the Canucks made it 5-1 on Pavol Demitra's 5-on-3 laser at 5:33 of the second period. He and coach Tom Renney made eye contact and Lundqvist called it a night, giving way to Steve Valiquette.

But even if Lundqvist had been Patrick Roy, Jacques Plante and Glenn Hall rolled into one, he'd have been in trouble thanks to a supporting cast that followed the old holiday axiom that it's always better to give than receive.

Vancouver's first four goals all came off Rangers giveaways. Kyle Wellwood and Alex Burrows scored on breakaways in the first 9:38. Burrows' goal came while Vancouver was killing a penalty, making it the seventh shorthanded goal allowed by the Rangers this season. He beat Lundqvist after a pass hopped over defenseman Wade Redden's stick.

''The turning point in the game,'' said Renney, who held a 10-minute postgame closed-door meeting. ''I'm not going to suggest we were doing everything right at that point, but that was kind of the turning point and unfortunately it was really early.''

Burrows and Ryan Johnson also capitalized on turnovers, and then Demitra's goal finished Lundqvist's night.

Lundqvist skated right to the bench after Renney summoned him. He was replaced by Valiquette, who stopped all 15 shots he faced. Lundqvist, who started for the 14th time in 15 games, had gone 12 without allowing more than two goals.

''It was a good call,'' Lundqvist said. ''It was a game where I had to be really sharp. There were a lot of situations where we got left alone out there. I have to be sharp. I wasn't.''

Renney considered pulling Lundqvist after the third and fourth goals, but decided to give him a chance to fight back -- and the rest of the team the opportunity to play better in front of him.

''He was alone himself a couple of times,'' Renney said. ''There was nobody to be seen. He is a great goalie, but not a great defenseman. He can't break it up, too."

Luongo, who hasn't been flooded with offensive support -- the Canucks ended a two-game losing streak that saw them drop back-to-back 2-1 shootouts -- made his 14th straight start. His streak of allowing fewer than three goals was snapped at six -- a stretch that included three of his NHL-leading five shutouts. He is expected to get the night off Thursday when the Canucks make the third stop of a four-game trip at Minnesota.

The six goals, including Daniel Sedin's empty-netter with three seconds left, made life a lot easier for him.

''We scored a lot of goals early, and especially against a goalie like that it's nice to get,'' Luongo said.

Funny hat, fun game -- Following Washington's 6-4 win at Anaheim, forward Matt Bradley greeted a TV interviewer with a reward for his performance: a big red construction helmet.

"It's a little thing we do," said Bradley, whose second-period goal proved to be the game-winner. "It's just for hard work. Any guy on the team could have gotten it. I was lucky enough to get in tonight.

"It's definitely not for the most skilled. I would never get it."

Bradley and his fellow muckers on the Caps do a lot of the dirty work, while gunners like Alex Ovechkin turn on the red light. He said it's fun when players like him can put the puck in the net.

"We have our leader, like Ovie and his line and those guys," he said. "But it's nice when the other guys can step up and contribute. That's what you need in a game like this.

"We have a lot of highly skilled guys on our team, and it's fun to watch the way they can pass the puck around. When those guys are out there with Ovie, it's lots of fun to watch.

Of the hat, he added with a laugh: "We definitely don't look good, but we try to play good."

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

Contact John Kreiser at jkreiser@aol.com






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