The Boston Bruins
were just a little hotter than the New Jersey Devils
In a game that looked more like a playoff contest than the final game before Christmas, Boston won its sixth in a row by beating the New Jersey Devils 2-0 at the Prudential Center. Tim Thomas stopped 25 shots as Boston won the first meeting of the season between two of the NHL's hottest teams.
"It was a good test and good game for us," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "It was one of those games where you have to be really patient, strong on the puck and minimize mistakes. It was a nice win."
The game was scoreless until Milan Lucic pounded home the rebound of Zdeno Chara's slap shot for a power-play goal 49 seconds into the third period. Thomas made the lead stand up with big stops on Travis Zajac and David Krejci in the final four minutes until David Krejci hit the empty net with 48 seconds remaining.
"Z was just trying to get the puck on net," Lucic said of his goal. "It was a lucky bounce for us. It landed on my stick and I tried to get it off as quickly as I could."
The Devils have been coping well with the loss of four-time Vezina Trophy winner Martin Brodeur, who's out until at least late February with a bicep injury that required surgery. They had been 12-2-1 in their previous 15 games. Scott Clemmensen made 22 saves, but it wasn't enough to extend New Jersey's three-game winning streak.
"Both teams played really tight," Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "It was a playoff-type game. We did have some opportunities but it just didn't go in. What were the scoring opportunities for, five or six for each team? That's how tight it was."
It was a good night for Thomas, who hadn't played since surrendering five goals in the first two periods last Thursday against Toronto.
"New Jersey just doesn't give you much offensively," Thomas said. "The key to that is to be patient and play good defense yourself. We certainly did a good job of that tonight. My teammates helped me out tonight big-time, getting to rebounds. They gave me a pretty good Christmas present."
Flyers 6, Senators 4 | Video
The Flyers wished their fans a Merry Christmas with a victory before their annual holiday road trip after nearly giving the game away.
Jeff Carter scored his League-leading 26th goal as Philadelphia rolled to a 4-2 lead and what looked like an easy victory. But Ottawa, which began an eight-game road trip, tied the game when Dany Heatley and Chris Phillips scored in a 2:59 span midway through the third.
But Simon Gagne put the Flyers back in front by scoring with 5:30 left with a shot that pinballed off a couple of defensemen and past Alex Auld. Mike Richards added an empty-netter as Philadelphia won its sixth consecutive game at the Wachovia Center. They play their next six on the road and don't return home until Jan. 8.
"I think last year, maybe this is a game we'd lose," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "The team comes back. I just see a lot of guys who want to be on the ice, that want you to call their name, that think they can make a difference."
One of those players is Carter, who isn't on the All-Star ballot but is likely to earn a trip to Montreal one way or another. His power-play goal at 6:00 of the second period put the Flyers ahead 3-2 — and they do every time he scores this season, the Flyers flashed "Write Him In!" on the scoreboard to make sure he makes it to Montreal for the Jan. 25 game.
"When you're winning games on a regular basis like we are, it makes everything easier," said Carter, who surpassed his career high of 24 goals, set last season. "Everybody's got confidence in this room. If we give up a couple of goals late or get down a goal late, nobody panics on our bench. We keep going right to the end."
The Senators, who will head West after Christmas, are making the long trip while the World Junior Championships take over Scotiabank Place. They'll have to improve their play away from home to get back into the playoff race: Ottawa is last in the NHL with three wins and eight points on the road.
"We're a fragile team, but I thought we came out and showed some desperation in the third period," Ottawa coach Craig Hartsburg said. "I think the guys have to get away from the game for two days. We have to show more desperation. We're in a desperate state here. We have to get points. We had a chance to get a point tonight and let it slip away."
Lightning 2, Penguins 0 | Video
Tampa Bay has a reason to smile heading into the break. The Bolts limited Pittsburgh to just 15 shots and Mike Smith stopped all of them as the Lightning won for just the second time in 14 games and the eighth this season.
Smith, who hadn't won a game in more than a month, didn't know how to react when the final buzzer went off.
"It's like a sigh of relief," he said after winning for the first time since Nov. 21. "You almost forget how to win."
Paul Szczechura set up Matt Pettinger's goal 5:15 into the second period, then scored on a power-play deflection at 11:14 of the third to give Smith all the support he needed to win a shutout for the first time this season. He was credited with a shutout against Minnesota on Oct. 18 in a game the Lightning lost 1-0 in a shootout.
The Lightning, perhaps with an assist from the schedule-maker, gave the weary Penguins few opportunities. Smith faced only seven shots after the first period as the Pens finished a stretch of four games in six days with a 2-2 record. One of the wins was a 4-3 overtime victory at Buffalo on Monday.
"You can't say enough about the way the guys played," Smith said. "The defense was great. As a core, they played outstanding. The forwards were coming back and helping the defense out. In order for us to win, we have to have that full commitment from everybody."
Penguins coach Michel Therrien wasn't buying fatigue as an excuse.
"The schedule is pretty tough. We just played four games in six days. Those are excuses," he said. "We don't have the right attitude. We like to complain about each other on the bench and on the ice. They better wake up pretty quick. ... I'm really disappointed with their work ethic and the concentration.
Until they change their attitude, we are going to have the same results."
Defenseman Ryan Whitney, who made his season debut after offseason foot surgery, put it more simply. "You lose to the last-place team in the League at home," he said. "It doesn't get much worse than that."
Kings 3, Blue Jackets 0 | Video
A date with the Blue Jackets was an early present for Los Angeles, which blanked Columbus for the second time in as many meetings this season as rookie Jonathan Quick stopped 24 shots for his first NHL shutout.
"Our penalty kill and our defense played excellent all game long," said Quick, who got the start in relief of Jason LaBarbera because Erik Ersberg was out with a groin injury. "They limited their chances. They cleared rebounds, they picked up sticks in front. They took care of most of the work for me so it made it a bit easier."
Raitis Ivanans and Patrick O'Sullivan had first-period goals for the Kings, who ended a four-game losing streak and won for the first time in five road games. Peter Harrold, an Ohio native, added a second-period goal.
"The first period was probably our best first period of the year," coach Terry Murray said. "We came out and responded to a disappointing game, or the way we finished, in Detroit [in a 6-4 loss on Saturday]. The players felt a responsibility to come out with a lot of energy. And they did."
The Kings beat the Jackets 3-0 for the second time in 17 days. LaBarbera made 23 saves in a win at Los Angeles on Dec. 6. Quick faced almost no testing shots, although Columbus' Rick Nash had a goal disallowed midway through the third period because of a high stick.
"They kicked us hard early. They won all the board battles," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "It took us 25 minutes to get into the game. [The Kings] played hard, they're big and strong. They have a lot of veteran, strong players and guys who know how to compete."
Steve Mason stopped 39 shots for Columbus, which had won its last five at home.
"Other than our goaltender, we were poor today," Hitchcock said.
Thrashers 4, Islanders 2 | Video
The Christmas break can't come soon enough for the Islanders, who lost their 10th in a row and are all alone at the bottom of the NHL standings after losing to the struggling Thrashers for the third time this season.
Bryan Little broke a 2-2 tie with a power-play goal 7:42 into the third period after the Isles had overcome a two-goal deficit to get even. Colby Armstrong added an empty-netter after Johan Hedberg made a handful of big saves to preserve the lead and drop the injury-riddled Islanders to 0-9-1 in December.
"We have to take the positives out of tonight," said forward Andy Hilbert, who scored the Isles' first goal late in the second period. "When everything's working, we're a good team."
The Thrashers were coming off a 6-2 home loss to Toronto on Monday in which they played poorly. But Atlanta took a 1-0 lead 8:54 into the game when Mathieu Schneider's long slap shot sailed past Joey MacDonald. Little made it 2-0 at 6:38 of the second period when he buried a second rebound.
"It's always good when you win. It was a good moment. This year, I don't find the back of the net as much, but we have guys in front of the net to put the puck in." -- Ilya Kovalchuk
The Islanders began to show a little life later in the period and were rewarded when Hilbert tipped Richard Park's cross-ice feed behind Hedberg at 16:48. Sean Bergenheim's shorthanded goal 23 seconds into the third period tied the game.
But after a needless penalty by Isles center Mike Comrie, Little backhanded home a rebound after MacDonald was unable to control Ilya Kovalchuk's blast. The assist was Kovalchuk's 500th NHL point in his 500th game. He got point No. 501 with an assist on Armstrong's empty-netter.
"He's a great player, and he tries to do a lot more," said Thrashers coach John Anderson, who was pleased with his star forward's play without the puck. "Look at how good he was defensively tonight. He blocked a shot, and made some solid defensive plays."
Kovalchuk was glad that the milestone came in a victory.
"It's always good when you win," Kovalchuk said. "It was a good moment. This year, I don't find the back of the net as much, but we have guys in front of the net to put the puck in."
Stars 8, Maple Leafs 2 | Video
Dallas held a team Christmas party at the Air Canada Centre, with 13 players getting at least one point and rookie James Neal earning his first NHL hat trick against the weary Leafs.
Neal, a native of nearby Whitney, Ont., put on a show in front of a number of relatives and friends.
"Just being able to step out onto the ice was something special, and things were going in for me," he said. "Everything I shot found a way in."
Dallas led 3-0 before Toronto had a shot on goal and 7-0 before Jason Blake's goal late in the second period broke up the shutout. Neal, Steve Ott and Fabian Brunnstrom beat Vesa Toskala in the first 10:45, triggering boos for the goaltender — although he was left helpless for most of the night. Brad Richards made it 4-0 before the end of the first period, and Krys Barch, Mike Ribeiro and Neal again scored in the second before coach Ron Wilson gave Toskala the rest of the night off.
"He didn't have a chance on any of those goals," Wilson said. "I don't think it was fair that the fans got on him, if that was their intention."
The showing was quite a shock for the usual sellout crowd at the ACC — the Leafs had won five of their last six and came home after blowout wins at Pittsburgh on Saturday and Atlanta on Monday. It looked more like last season, when Toronto lost five home games by five or more goals.
"We didn't have our legs, we didn't have our mind to be able to play a shutdown game," Wilson said. "Unfortunately, it got ugly."
Stars coach Dave Tippett, whose team hadn't played since a 5-4 overtime loss at Ottawa on Saturday, said the Leafs' travel situation made this a game his team had to win.
"They obviously were a team that traveled late last night," Tippett said. "We wanted to go out and jump on them early, get a lead, and we were able to do that.
"It's pretty hard to come back when you're a tired team."
After Blake got the Leafs on the board, Mikhail Grabovski added a goal midway through the third period before Neal completed the biggest night of his fledgling NHL career by beating Curtis Joseph with 1:26 to play.
"It's a special day, coming home and playing the Toronto Maple Leafs," Neal said. "It's a dream come true playing here because of watched them my whole life as a Leaf fan. I had a lot of family and friends here, so it's something special that I'll never forget."
Red Wings 4, Blues 1 | Video
Pavel Datsyuk is no longer the afraid-to-shoot rookie Manny Legace played with in Detroit seven years ago. Legace, now the St. Louis Blues' goaltender, learned that the hard way when Datsyuk, a rookie on the 2001-02 Cup winners for which Legace served as backup goaltender, scored twice and set up another goal as the Wings coasted to victory at Joe Louis Arena.
"It was hard to get him to shoot the puck, but now he's got confidence," Legace said after the Blues lost for the seventh time in eight games.
"I always talk about I need more shoot. Now maybe I'm start a little bit more shoot," he said. "And Homer [Tomas Holmstrom] always do [screen the goalie] for me. Now I think I feel more confidence."
He should feel a lot: Datsyuk has five goals and 10 points in his last four games.
"Everything he's doing out there, he's holding on to the puck, he's making good decisions. He's shooting the puck more, too, and it's paying off for sure." -- Tomas Holmstrom on Pavel Datsyuk
"He's been playing great," Holmstrom said of Datsyuk. "Everything he's doing out there, he's holding on to the puck, he's making good decisions. He's shooting the puck more, too, and it's paying off for sure."
Holmstrom and Nicklas Lidstrom also scored for the Red Wings, who've won eight of their last 10. Patrik Berglund was the only St. Louis shooter to beat Ty Conklin, who made 33 saves.
Datsyuk scored a power-play goal 5:03 into the game, beating Legace with a wrist shot from the right circle. Lidstrom made it 2-0 at 10:21 during a 5-on-3 advantage. Holmstrom's tip-in and Datsyuk's shorthanded goal made it 4-0 after two periods before Berglund spoiled Conklin's shutout bid early in the third.
Wild 3, Hurricanes 2 | Video
There are nights when the crowd can be like an extra man. After making 35 saves and helping the Wild hold off Carolina during a 5-on-3 advantage for a full two minutes in the third period, goalie Niklas Backstrom said this was one of them
"Guys threw their bodies out there blocking shots, diving for the puck," Backstrom said. "I've never played in front of a crowd like that. It was unbelievable how the crowd got pumped for that."
Carolina led 2-0 early in the second period, but couldn't beat Backstrom again. Second-period goals by Cal Clutterbuck, Marian Gaborik and Stephane Veilleux put the Wild ahead, and Backstrom did the rest.
"We had some great shots, but their goalie made some big saves," said Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour, who scored at 18:46 of the first period and set up Ray Whitney's goal 1:35 into the second. "We had some real good looks but the puck just wasn't bouncing our way. Passes weren't quite on and it gave them time to recover. That was the difference in the game."
The Wild found their offensive game after coach Jacques Lemaire put Gaborik and Mikko Koivu together on the same line. Both players assisted on Clutterbuck's goal at 4:17 and Koivu assisted on Gaborik's power-play goal at 8:19.
"As soon as I start to put Gabby with Mikko and [Andrew] Brunette it seemed like there was better chemistry there," Lemaire said. "I started with Gabby and Mikko in one game and it wasn't good. So I guess they are better when they feel the other guy and then when they got back together they were active."
Veilleux's goal at 18:18 put the Wild ahead. But the lead looked shaky when Krys Kolanos took a double minor early in the third period and Antti Miettinen was called for hooking with 2:08 left on the four-minute penalty. Backstrom and the Wild buckled down from there -- clearing the puck twice and keeping Carolina from making cross-ice passes.
When it ended, the building sounded as if Minnesota was on its way to more than just a 3-7-1 December record.
"That's a feeling you'll never forget," Koivu said. "For sure next time you want to give it everything you have for them and do it together with them. I think every guy on the bench realizes that. We're here together as a team with the fans. If they give us that effort we want to give it back to them every chance we get."
Avalanche 5, Coyotes 4, OT | Video
Brett Clark atoned for the penalty that allowed Phoenix to score the game-tying goal by scoring 1:48 into overtime to give Colorado what may prove to be a costly victory.
Phoenix overcame a 4-2 deficit to force overtime on two goals by Shane Doan. He made it 4-3 with 4:07 remaining, then scored with 48 seconds left with Clark in the box for interference — a goal scored seconds after leading scorer Paul Stastny broke his right forearm when he was hit by a shot.
"He obviously does a lot of things for us," Colorado coach Tony Granato said after the Avs won to start a stretch in which they play 15 of 19 games at the Pepsi Center.
Clark made his 32nd birthday a night to remember when he teed up a slap shot at the top of the slot and ripped it past Ilya Bryzgalov.
"For us to get the two goals late was huge," said Doan, who scored with 48 seconds left in regulation tie the game. "Fortunately, we found a way to get one point. It's just disappointing not to get two."
"For us to get the two goals late was huge. Fortunately, we found a way to get one point. It's just disappointing not to get two." -- Shane Doan
Phoenix's Joakim Lindstrom and Stastny scored in the first period. Colorado took a 2-1 lead when Ryan Smyth made a diving centering feed to a streaking Milan Hejduk, who poked his 13th goal past Bryzgalov at 7:07 of the second period.
After Olli Jokinen tied the game at 2-2 6:48 into the third period, it appeared that the Avs were on their way to a win when John-Michael Liles scored with 7:55 left and Smyth got his 11th of the season 78 seconds later.
The Coyotes, who arrived in Denver in the early-morning hours after a 4-2 loss at Edmonton on Monday, were glad to get something for their effort.
"It was a tough game for us. We got here at four in the morning," said Bryzgalov, who made 43 saves. "It was tough to get ready. Colorado played very well tonight. The bottom line is we just got a point. Late in the game we were fortunate to start getting the pucks on the net."
Panthers 3, Predators 0 | Video
Tomas Vokoun reminded the Predators how good a goaltender he was when he wore a Nashville uniform. Vokoun, traded to Florida in the summer of 2007, made 27 saves for his second consecutive shutout as the surging Panthers blanked the Preds.
Nashville coach Barry Trotz was certainly impressed with his former goaltender's performance.
"He looks good," Trotz said. "Vokey's moving well. He looks like the dominant goalie we had for years."
Vokoun played eight seasons in Nashville. It was only the second time in his career he's played against the Predators, who beat him 4-3 at Nashville last season.
"It's probably the only team in the league I haven't won against," Vokoun said. "So it's nice to get a win, especially against your former team. It s a big game for us, big two points, so you've got to be happy about that."
Vokoun's best save came early in the third period when he stopped David Legwand's backhand from close range.
Michael Frolik scored twice and Cory Stillman once as Florida won for the eighth time in 11 games. The Panthers are 7-1-2 this month.
Frolik opened the scoring at 13:12 of the second period by firing Nick Boynton's passout behind Pekka Rinne. Stillman banged in a rebound with 4:32 remaining in regulation, and Frolik added an empty-netter.
"I kind of knew they would shoot from anywhere," Rinne said after making 40 saves. "They had a good start and we didn't have too much going on. It was a rough night from our side."
Flames 4, Ducks 3 | Video
Darryl Sutter has every reason to be a proud dad as well as a happy general manager. Sutter's son Brett scored in his NHL debut, tying the game and triggering a three-goal third period as the Flames beat the Ducks at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
Brett Sutter whacked home Mark Giordano's pass at 3:59 of the final period, just 14 seconds after Ryan Getzlaf had put the Ducks ahead 2-1. The eighth member of the Sutter family to score an NHL goal had been called up a day earlier from Quad City of the AHL.
''It's pretty special,'' said Sutter, a sixth-round pick by the Flames in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. ''I was out there for that first one, I thought that was pretty exciting but I didn't really do a lot. Once that second one went in for me, I was real excited.''
Giordano said the energy in the Saddledome after the goal was palpable.
''That was awesome. The fans were into it. It was one of those plays where it just bounced around and (Sutter) got rewarded for a hard night's work,'' Giordano said.
"You have to have a big shift after you get the lead like that and this is a veteran group in here, we should be able to go out and do that and preserve a lead in the third period." -- Brendan Morrison
Giordano helped turn that energy into victory when he put Calgary ahead to stay by scoring a power-play goal with 8:19 left in regulation, and Michael Cammalleri scored what proved to be the winner at 14:16. Brendan Morrison scored his second of the night with 3:41 to play, but for the second night in a row, the Ducks came up a goal short.
The Ducks also felt Sutter's goal was the game's turning point.
''You have to have a big shift after you get the lead like that and this is a veteran group in here, we should be able to go out and do that and preserve a lead in the third period,'' Morrison said.
David Moss put Calgary ahead 10:43 into the second period with his career-best 11th goal, taking Craig Conroy's pass and beating Jean-Sebastien Giguere with a 30-footer. Morrison, whose play has improved in the last month, tied it at 17:48 when he banged a loose puck past Miikka Kiprusoff.
Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer dismissed the fact Anaheim was playing for the second night in a row as a factor. The Ducks lost 4-3 at Vancouver on Monday.
"It was mental breakdowns more than anything, more then physical tiredness," Niedermayer said. "It's disappointing."
Sharks 5, Canucks 0 | Video
San Jose ended all suspense early with three quick goals, then added two more in the first minute of the second period to set a team record for fastest five goals from the start of a game and remain unbeaten at home in regulation this season.
The Sharks improved to 18-0-2 at HP Pavilion this season and are 26-0-3 at the Shark Tank, where they haven't lost in regulation since Feb. 14.
Rob Blake got the Sharks off to a fast start by beating rookie goaltender Cory Schneider at 4:22 of the first period. Dan Boyle then set up power-play goals by Patrick Marleau at 5:55 and Devin Setoguchi at 7:09. The Canucks, who flew to San Jose after a 4-3 home win over Anaheim on Monday, never recovered.
"We knew they had a tough game last night, and one of the things we wanted to do was establish our game early," said Marleau, who has 24 points in his last 18 games. "Everybody is looking for that perfect game, and I think we can do a little better job pushing for that next one, but I think we're happy."
Joe Thornton and Tomas Pilhal scored in the first 43 seconds of the second period to send Schneider to the bench in favor of Curtis Sanford, but by then, the damage was done.
"It's tough for them to come back after that," Thornton said.
Vancouver had 29 of its 33 shots in the final two periods but was unable to beat Evgeni Nabokov, who earned his second shutout of the season and the 42nd of his career.
"After we got the 5-0 lead, the game deteriorated," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "It got a little sloppy on both sides. But we'll take the win."
The Canucks, playing for the third time in four nights, were out of the game early.
"I don't think that's really an excuse for us," Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa said of the schedule. "We had a tough start to the game. They came out flying, like we knew they would. They're obviously a good team at home, and we put ourselves in a bad position right away with the penalties. They made us pay."
Coach Alain Vigneault also said it was the Sharks, not the schedule, that beat his team.
"You can't turn the puck over against a team that has that much offensive skill," Alain Vigneault said. "We turned it over. We got in penalty trouble right away, and that's something we couldn't do. We also needed a couple of saves early. Cory was challenged early, and those were good goals on their part, but sometimes you need a couple of saves.
"They took a big lead, and then we made two mistakes on turnovers right off the hop in the second and they made us pay. They're a good team. This had nothing to do with the schedule."
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report