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Bruins beat 'Canes for 7 in a row

by John Kreiser
The Boston Bruins are so hot they're winning games even when they're not at their best.

The Bruins made it seven wins in a row with a 4-2 victory at Carolina on Saturday night Blake Wheeler scored twice and Michael Ryder got the game-winner with 6:14 left in regulation on a night when coach Claude Julien said the Hurricanes deserved a better fate.

"They played really well tonight," Julien said of the 'Canes, who outshot Boston 31-22 and carried the play for most of the game. "We didn't have our 'A' game tonight. The good thing is that we found a way to win, and that's important. They certainly played well and probably deserved better."

Carolina forward Chad LaRose agreed that the Hurricanes played well enough to win.

"We were outshooting them. Our feet were moving," LaRose said. "We just didn't bury some of our chances."

Ryder broke a 2-2 tie after Carolina turned over the puck in its own end. Marc Savard stripped Rod Brind'Amour of the puck and started the play that led the winning goal. Chuck Kobasew added an empty-netter with 16 seconds remaining.

Matt Cullen gave the Hurricanes the lead 16:06 into the first period when LaRose's shot hit his leg and deflected past goaltender Tim Thomas.

Blake Wheeler put the Bruins ahead 2-1 by scoring twice in a 3:41 span early in the second period. He beat Cam Ward with an against-the-grain shot from the slot at 2:23, then knocked in a rebound at 6:04.

Anton Babchuk tied at 10:58 when his blast from the right point beat Thomas. The game was 2-2 after 40 minutes even though Carolina had outshot the Bruins 25-12.


"We felt that after two periods we had been outworked and outplayed, but we were still in a 2-2 hockey game," Julien said. "It was important for us to find a way to win and elevate our game a little bit."

Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said the Bruins weren't just lucky to win.

"We did some good things, but there's more to the way they beat us than 'they got a couple of lucky breaks,'" Maurice said. "We outplayed them overall and we can say we deserved to win, but we did things we've done fairly consistently probably all year. I happen to think this team is better than where we're sitting."

Thomas, who finished with 29 saves, said being tested would benefit the Bruins in the long run.

"They definitely pressed us, pushed us, especially in the second period, like maybe we hadn't been in a while," he said. "In the long run, it's good for us to get pushed by a team like this."

Blue Jackets 3, Flyers 0 | Video

The Blue Jackets sent their biggest crowd of the season home smiling by beating the travel-weary Flyers for the first time in franchise history. Columbus was 0-4-3 against Philadelphia since entering the NHL in 2000.

Rookie Steve Mason made 20 saves to improve his record to 10-7-1 and drop his League-leading goals-against average to 1.87. First-period goals by Jan Hejda and Andrew Murray energized the crowd of 18,402, and Manny Malhotra added a second-period goal as the Blue Jackets rebounded after back-to-back shutout losses — including a poor effort in a 3-0 home loss to Los Angeles on Tuesday.

"I think we had to get rid of the poor game — we had to get that out of our system," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We knew we had not played like that (against Los Angeles) all year. The players felt like they owed it to themselves and the people in the building."

The Flyers would probably like to forget the last two days. They had trouble getting from Philadelphia to Chicago on Friday and were forced to miss their morning skate, lost 5-1 to the Blackhawks, then were unable to leave Chicago due to fog. They didn't arrive in Columbus until mid-afternoon and were shut out for the first time in 76 games, including playoffs.

"It affects the guys in different ways, but I think, echoing what coach (John) Stevens said, it's more mental than it is physical when you're faced with a little break in the routine like that," defenseman Braydon Coburn said.

Stevens wasn't buying fatigue as a reason for the loss.

"We can't make excuses right now," he said. "We've got to regroup, we've got to tighten up, we've got to do the little things better."

Hejda rifled a loose puck past Antero Niittymaki 3:22 into the game, ending the Jackets' scoreless streak at 131:08. Murray one-timed Kris Russell's pass into the net for a power-play goal at 18:08, and Malhotra's wrist shot from the right circle beat Niittymaki at 7:39 of the second period.

"If we get a lead on teams, we're really difficult to play against and teams don't come back on us," Hitchcock said. "We're a frustrating team to play against because every player on this team knows how to check and how to check properly and when we do it, we're pretty effective."

Mason was at his best during a Flyers' power play midway through the second period when he stopped Simon Gagne and Scott Hartnell as each was parked in the crease. Mason also made a point-blank pad save off Gagne early in the third.

"It was really nice (to be ahead), especially because I had been sitting on one-goal and two-goal games," Mason said. "To get the early lead gave me the confidence that it was going to be a good night."

Devils 4, Rangers 2 | Video

New Jersey wasted little time breaking out of a scoring slump and went on to win at Madison Square Garden in regulation for the first time in more than two years.

The Devils came to the Garden after being shut out in back-to-back games at home, sandwiched around the Christmas break. But they scored two early goals 80 seconds apart against Henrik Lundqvist, and the Rangers never caught up. Brian Rolston scored a power-play goal at 2:54 — ending a team-record drought of 159:18 — and Patrik Elias beat Lundqvist on a shorthanded breakaway at 4:14.

"Awful. It's brain-dead hockey," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "You try and cheat your way to a win right off the bat. If we don't start the hockey game down 2-0, we have a chance to win."

The early goals were a big boost for the Devils, who'd been blanked 2-0 by Boston on Tuesday and 1-0 by Pittsburgh on Friday.

"We didn't score for two games, but it's not like we didn't have chances," Elias said.
"Even though we played yesterday, we wanted to come out strong and get as many shots as possible.

"Obviously, it helps when you score right away."
"Awful. It's brain-dead hockey.  You try and cheat your way to a win right off the bat. If we don't start the hockey game down 2-0, we have a chance to win." -- Rangers head coach Tom Renney

Nigel Dawes got one back for the Rangers a minute after Elias' goal on the same power play, but Travis Zajac beat Lundqvist again at 11:12 of the second for a 3-1 lead. Dmitri Kalinin's first goal of the season 8:59 into the third cut the margin to one goal, but Zach Parise buried Jamie Langenbrunner's pass at 12:58.

The Devils had lost their last five games at the Garden and hadn't won there in regulation since Dec. 17, 2006. But they improved to 13-4-1 in their last 18 games while extending the suddenly slumping Rangers' losing streak to three games.

"We've had something creep into our game, and that's a lack of commitment to the detail of playing," Renney said. "We end up cheating because we're not a high-scoring team. Until we get our heads around winning 2-1, we're going to have nights like this all the time."

Sabres 4, Islanders 3 (SO) | Video

The Sabres got two points — but little satisfaction — after Ales Kotalik and Drew Stafford scored to give them a shootout win after Buffalo blew a two-goal lead in the final 1:34 of regulation.

Buffalo appeared to be cruising to victory until Mike Comrie scored a power-play goal at 18:26 of the third period after the Isles had pulled goaltender Joey MacDonald to get a two-man advantage. The Isles worked the puck into the Sabres' zone, pulled MacDonald again, and earned a point when defenseman Chris Campoli picked the top right corner past Ryan Miller's glove with 2 seconds remaining.

"We let them back in the game," said Buffalo forward Jochen Hecht, whose first-period power-play goal opened the scoring. "They were able to chip the puck in and put pressure on our defensemen. We didn't have many shifts where we created something in their end. They worked hard to get it out, and we couldn't get back quick enough."

The Isles outshot Buffalo 12-5 in the third period, but trailed 3-1 after Clarke MacArthur's goal with 5:23 remaining. Instead of quitting, though, they kept the Sabres on their heels for the rest of regulation.

"When you're causing a lot of plays in front of the net, anything can happen," Comrie said. "We can build on this, and can focus on taking the positives out."

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff wasn't going to give back the two points, but wasn't happy with his team's inability to close out the game.

"We have to play better," Ruff said. "We got a little tight. They started pinching a lot and we didn't handle it very well. Our passing and our execution coming up ice wasn't very good, and it led to them controlling most of the play."

The Islanders, who ended a 10-game losing streak by beating Toronto on Friday, missed getting consecutive wins for the first time since Nov. 22-24. They did get a goal by Jeff Tambellini, who hadn't scored in 44 games since Feb. 12, when he finished off a pass by defenseman Mark Streit midway through the second period — Jason Pominville put Buffalo back in front at 13:09.

"It felt fantastic," a relieved Tambellini said of his goal. "Streit made a great play going back-door."

Lightning 6, Panthers 4 | Video

The duo of Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, which led Tampa Bay to the 2004 Stanley Cup, is helping to lead this year's team back to respectability. Lecavalier scored twice and added an assist, while St. Louis had a goal and set up three others as the Bolts won their third in a row and beat Florida for the second time in two nights.

"It's just good we got the victory," Lecavalier said. "It's three in a row and good for our confidence. Hopefully it carries on."

Tampa Bay (10-16-9) also got goals from Steven Stamkos, Evgeny Artyukhin and Ryan Malone, who also had three assists. Lecavalier's second goal of the game at 19:54 of the second period broke a 3-3 tie, and third-period goals by St. Louis and Malone gave the Lightning a rare cushion.
"It's very disappointing because we were playing well before the (Christmas) break.  We'll regroup, and get back on the horse." -- Panthers defenseman Bryan McCabe

"We've been going good lately," St. Louis said. "The last three games, I really feel guys are on the same page. The most we've been on the same page all year. You can see it in the results."

The Lightning outshot Florida 21-3 in the first period and grabbed a 2-0 lead on goals by Stamkos and Artyukhin. David Booth's unassisted goal at 3:09 of the second period got Florida on the board, but Lecavalier scored his first at 4:52 to restore the Lightning's two-goal lead.

But Florida, which had been hot before the break, got power-play goals 26 seconds apart by Nathan Horton and Booth to pull even before Lecavalier's go-ahead goal. Stephen Weiss added a late goal for Florida.

"It's very disappointing because we were playing well before the (Christmas) break," Panthers defenseman Bryan McCabe said. "We'll regroup, and get back on the horse."

Stars 4, Ducks 3 (OT) | Video

Anaheim's holiday-week road trip continues to yield little more than disappointment. The Ducks blew a lead late in regulation when Mike Ribeiro scored with 1:04 left, then saw the Stars take home the extra point on Mike Modano's blast from the top of the right circle at 3:34 of overtime.

Just as a penalty to Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf was expiring, Brad Richards shuffled a soft pass to Modano, who ripped it into the net for his 540th career goal and ninth in overtime — giving the suddenly surging Stars a 4-0-1 mark in their last five games.

"Winning is addictive and losing is addictive. Right now we’re winning and it’s becoming addictive," Richards said. "You’ve got to turn it your way and we’ve turned it our way with hard work. It wasn’t pretty at times, but we deserved to win this game."

At 15-14-5, Dallas is still 13th in the West but trails eighth-place Nashville by only two points.

“We’re in that mode right now where we’re trying to get points and we’re slowly climbing,” Modano said. “When you have everybody contributing, it helps the team as a whole. Guys are finding out their role and everybody’s helping out."

It's been a miserable week for the Ducks, who've dropped three consecutive games this week on the road — all by the same score. They finish their trip at St. Louis on Sunday.

"These are tough ones to swallow," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. "You've got to be careful that these kinds of games don't tear the heart out of your team. We weren't rewarded for the work we put in."

Anaheim led 1-0 on Chris Kunitz' first-period goal, then Richards extended his goal-scoring streak to four games when he tied it at 8:27 of the second. Neal put Dallas ahead for the first time with a power-play goal 1:06 into the third period.

But Brendan Morrison tied it for the Ducks at 8:11, also on the power play, then put Anaheim ahead when he beat Marty Turco with 3:21 left in regulation. The Stars pulled Turco with about 80 seconds left and were rewarded when Ribeiro beat Jean-Sebastien Giguere with a wrist shot to send the game into OT.

"Great to see us come back and send it to overtime, and Modano had a great shot at the end but we were sloppy and messy, lots of turkey involved," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "We'll take the points, though. We were very efficient at the start at the third, but we can’t keep turning pucks over and chasing the game. We were on our heels at times, and those are things we need to clean up."

Anaheim has lost six of its last seven away from the Honda Center and blown third-period leads in two of this week's three losses.

"You get down when you don't work hard and aren't in the game," Carlyle said. "We played closer to the style we need to have success on the road."

Blues 3, Sharks 2 (SO) | Video

The injury-plagued Blues are getting good production from some of their fill-ins. One of those players, Brad Winchester, scored in regulation and got the winner in the shootout against the NHL's top team.

"They're a top team in the league, certainly," said Winchester, who zipped a wrist shot past Evgeni Nabokov to win the shootout. "We just played hard and played smart. We pressured at the right times and it paid dividends in the end."

The Blues learned earlier in the day that Paul Kariya, out since early November, would need hip surgery. They are also without regulars Andy McDonald, Eric Brewer and Eric Johnson, but coach Andy Murray said his odds-and-ends roster hasn't worried about the injuries.

"I don't know if Brad Winchester's concerned whether Paul Kariya is in the lineup or not," Murray said. "I don't think it's really been a theme around the room. I haven't heard the guys asking, 'When's Paul coming back?'"
"Way too many passengers. Still celebrating Christmas. Whatever.  We weren't prepared to play, and, to be quite honest with you, you could almost see it coming." -- Sharks head coach Todd McLellan

The Blues got off to a fast start when David Perron scored his first goal in 19 games just 26 seconds after the opening faceoff. But San Jose got second-period goals by Jonathan Cheechoo and Mike Grier for a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes. Winchester, who scored twice against the Sharks two weeks ago, tied it six minutes into the third period when he beat Nabokov with a backhander.

"We played our game in spurts and it wasn't good enough," Grier said. "They play a simple game and it's never going to be easy when you play a team like that."

The Sharks fell to 25-4-4, including a 2-2-1 mark in their last five. Coach Todd McLellan had nothing nice to say about his team's performance.

"Way too many passengers. Still celebrating Christmas. Whatever," McLellan said. "We weren't prepared to play, and, to be quite honest with you, you could almost see it coming."

Kings 4, Coyotes 0 | Video

Revenge was sweet for the Kings, who atoned for a 2-1 home loss to the Coyotes on Friday by dominating them in Phoenix behind rookie Jonathan Quick's second shutout this week.

"I just stop the puck," said Quick, who made 30 saves. "It's all I really have to do."

Quick, who shut out Columbus 3-0 on Tuesday, had a three-goal cushion after one period on goals by Raitis Ivanans, Alexander Frolov and Jarret Stoll in a 5:34 span. Frolov scored again midway through the second period.

"You always want to get the first goal in this game," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "We tried to come out hard, we got pucks on the net and at least gave ourselves the opportunity for the first goal."

One night after controlling the tempo for most of the game in Los Angeles, the Coyotes did little before a home crowd.

"Tonight we were flat and there really is no excuse for it," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. "You need to be ready to go every night, and tonight we didn't have the jump that we needed."

The Coyotes were 0-for-7 on the power-play including a pair of 5-on-3 advantages.

"We had a power play early in the hockey game and we failed to pretty much even get into their zone and that set the tone of the hockey game," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "Our power play was definitely a negative tonight."

Avalanche 4, Red Wings 3 (SO) | Video

Colorado wasted an early 3-0 lead but got the victory when shootout ace Wojtek Wolski scored for the sixth time in seven tries and Peter Budaj stopped all three Detroit shooters before a sellout crowd at the Pepsi Center.

Wolski acted as if he were going far to the right, only to pull the puck back to his left. Wings goaltender Ty Conklin was sprawled out on the ice as Wolski effortlessly guided the puck into the net.

"That's one I've kind of used a couple of times -- I usually try to do it on goalies I haven't seen," he said. "I tried to stick to the basics, go with a move that I'm comfortable with and has worked in the past."

Conklin was sure impressed.

"I was looking for him to go across the net and he didn't," said Conklin, who made 29 saves in his fifth consecutive start.

Detroit, playing without injured All-Star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, took three minor penalties in the first period — and Colorado turned all three into power-play goals. Ruslan Salei, Ryan Smyth and John-Michael Liles gave the Avs a 3-0 lead after one period.
"You knew it was going to be an entertaining game, you knew they were going to be able to make plays.  It would have been nice to get it done in regulation, but we feel pretty happy with the way the game was played." -- Avs head coach Tony Granato

Despite the lead, Avs coach Tony Granato was wary.

"You knew it was going to be an entertaining game, you knew they were going to be able to make plays," Granato said. "It would have been nice to get it done in regulation, but we feel pretty happy with the way the game was played."

The second period belonged to the Wings, who tied the game with three goals in less than four minutes late in the period. Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom scored power-play goals before Johan Franzen tied it at 18:03.

Datsyuk had a chance to win the game late in regulation on a breakaway, but shot high. Moments later, Jiri Hudler had the puck on his stick near the crease, only to have Budaj slide over and stop his shot.

"We battled back and fought all the way through," Zetterberg said.

Wolski then scored on the first shot and Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Hudler couldn't beat Budaj as Colorado improved to 7-1 in shootouts.

Flames 6, Senators 3 | Video

Rene Bourque's first NHL hat trick powered the Flames as the stumbling Senators lost their 11th consecutive game on the road.

Bourque scored twice in 58 seconds midway through the second period to tie the game after goals earlier in the period by Chris Phillips and Jason Spezza had given Ottawa a 2-0 lead. Andre Roy put Calgary ahead at 12:12, but Alexandre Picard's power-play goal 8:15 into the third period got the Senators even.

The tie didn't last long. Adrian Aucoin put Calgary back in front at 8:59, and Bourque completed his first three-goal game by finishing off a pass from Daymond Langkow at 14:25. Todd Bertuzzi added an empty-netter for the Flames.

"It's a good feeling," Bourque said. "The puck was going in for me tonight. Once I got that first one, we got a lot of turnovers, odd-man rushes and we got the ball rolling."

Bourque, who came from Chicago in an offseason deal, has 14 goals — two short of his career high and none on the power play — and is on the way to the best offensive season of his career.

"It was a fresh start for me," he said of the trade that brought him to the Flames. "I had some injuries the last couple of years, and to be back in Canada is always nice.

"I always knew I had the ability to score. Confidence is a big part of it. Right now, I've got some confidence and the guys are playing great."

The Flames have earned points in seven straight games (4-0-3) to open a three-point lead over Vancouver atop the Northwest Division.

Ottawa hasn't won on the road since Oct. 30 and has six games remaining on an eight-game trip that continues Sunday night in Vancouver.

"Every time we seemed to make mistakes they seemed to be in the back of the net," Spezza said. "When you're losing games, it's hard to get out of it. Obviously, we're not happy where we are right now, but we played pretty hard. We have to find a way to start getting some wins and get above .500 on this trip."

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

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