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Bruins polish off Penguins 4-2

by John Kreiser
The Boston Bruins started 2009 the way they ended 2008 — by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Two nights after a 5-2 victory in Pittsburgh, the Bruins completed a home-and-home sweep by beating the Penguins 4-2 for their 10th win in a row. The victory moved the Bruins past San Jose and into first place in the overall NHL standings with 62 points, one more than the Sharks.

"When you have that kind of talent on the other side ... you have to be extremely disciplined and I like the way we responded," Bruins coach Claude Julien said.

The Bruins have lost just twice since Oct. 30, and the winning streak is their longest since March 9-28, 1973. At 29-5-4, Boston has its best 38-game start since 1929-30, when the Bruins had a club-record 67 points with a 33-4-1 record.

"It is unbelievable to do what we are doing," said goalie Manny Fernandez, who made 30 saves to improve to 9-0-0 at TD Banknorth Garden. "Looking at those numbers kind of scares me... you don't want to be the one to drop the ball."

Pittsburgh's struggles continued. The Pens held a players-only meeting following Tuesday's loss, but it couldn't prevent them from losing for the fourth time in five games, during which Pittsburgh has scored just five goals.

"I like the way they responded from their meeting," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "That's a tough place to play."

The Penguins got off to a good start when rookie Dustin Jeffrey wristed a shot past Fernandez at 2:59 of the opening period for his first NHL goal. But the lead lasted only 66 seconds, until David Krejci converted a feed from Blake Wheeler. Krejci extended his points scoring streak to 10 games; he has 6 goals and 11 assists in that span.

P.J. Axelsson put Boston ahead to stay when he batted Marc Savard's shot out of the air and over Dany Sabourin's shoulder at 9:24 of the first.

Milan Lucic made it 3-1 by beating Sabourin at 12:25 of the second period. Ruslan Fedotenko tapped in his own rebound at 6:20 of the third period to make it a one-goal game, but the Penguins couldn't capitalize on a late penalty against Savard, who hit the empty net with 2.6 seconds remaining.

"There's no doubt it's really tough right now," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. "If we are going to start feeling sorry for ourselves and hanging our head, we won't find a way to win."

The Bruins aren't ready to claim anything. After all, the 1972-73 team that won 10 in a row in March lasted only five playoff games in April.

"They preach in this locker room that the season is a marathon and not a sprint," Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward said. "They talk about capitalizing on the highs, and that is what we are doing."

Capitals 7, Lightning 4 | Video

The Bruins aren't the only team on a tear. Washington won its fifth in a row and improved to 16-1-1 at the Verizon Center by running and gunning its way past Tampa. Seven players scored as the Caps beat Tampa Bay for the seventh consecutive time.

Alex Ovechkin had a pair of assists before scoring the final goal with 1:46 left in regulation as the Caps held off the pesky Bolts, who cut a three-goal deficit to one on three occasions before late goals by Chris Clark and Ovechkin finally put the game away.

Former Washington defenseman Jamie Heward was taken off the ice on a stretcher with 13:15 to play after being checked hard into the glass by Ovechkin. Heward was turning in the left corner when Ovechkin, leading with his shoulder and forearm, sent him tumbling.

After the game, Ovechkin was more concerned with his ex-teammate's health than his own performance.
Clad only in a towel, Ovechkin waited in the hallway for an update on Heward, who sustained a concussion and was taken to Sibley Memorial Hospital, where he was to be held overnight for further evaluation.
"I didn't know what to think," Ovechkin said. "I saw him and he turned around and ... I didn't mean to hit him. Sure, you're concerned. I want to know how he is.

"It was an accident and I'm very sorry," Ovechkin said. "I never want to hurt somebody, especially my old teammate. It's hard and I'm very sorry, but it's a game and it's a moment. He turns and I have speed. ... I hope he is OK."

Lightning coach Rick Tocchet, whose team was already short a defenseman because of injuries to Lukas Krajicek and Paul Ranger, thought Ovechkin left his feet before making contact.

"I was more concerned that (Heward's) arms and legs were moving so we could tell his wife," Tocchet said, adding that Heward was unconscious for about 90 seconds. "I felt sick for her, sitting at home and watching the game and seeing her husband on the ice. ... It made us feel a little bit better -- temporary relief."

Matt Bradley, Boyd Gordon and Mike Green had a goal and an assist each, Sean Collins scored his first NHL goal, and David Steckel and Chris Clark added goals for Washington. Vincent Lecavalier had two goals for Tampa Bay.

The Caps jumped out to a 3-0 lead after one period on goals by Collins, Steckel and Green against Mike Smith, and the Lightning never recovered.

"It's nice to get a lead, especially a three-goal lead after the first," Bradley said, "but as we showed tonight, we kind of relaxed after the first period and thought it was going to be an easy game."

Sabres 4, Maple Leafs 1 | Video

Two nights after being called out by their coach, Buffalo's tandem of Jason Pominville and Derek Roy spoiled New Year's Night in Toronto. The linemates each scored twice as Buffalo won a road game on Jan. 1 for only the third time in 11 tries since entering the NHL in 1970.

Lindy Ruff blasted his "best players" after a lackluster 4-2 loss to Washington on Tuesday. Suffice it to say he was a lot happier with this one.

"We were hard on a lot of plays and there wasn't much to dislike," Ruff said. "Special teams were good, our counter-attacks were good, we made it easy on our defense. It was a big improvement from the other night.

"We need (Pominville), we need (Roy). They were better … but we need them. There's no secret. We need them to be our best players."

Roy, who also had an assist, agreed with Ruff's comments from Tuesday.

"It's funny, I didn't hear the interview after the game, and I know he said our best players weren't our best players and I totally agree with him," Roy said. "I'm gonna go out every night and prove I'm the best player on the ice. I just have to work hard at it and work hard with my teammates."

The game turned with a minute left in the first period when Ryan Miller stopped Toronto's Niklas Hagman on a penalty shot. Buffalo then blew the game open in the second period by scoring three times in a span of 4:29.

"I think if we'd have found a way to break the ice in the first period with some of the chances we had on the power play, and obviously the chance leading up to the penalty shot and the penalty shot, it might've been a different outcome," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "We didn't capitalize on our chances and they capitalized on all of theirs."

Pominville's high slap shot sailed over Curtis Joseph's shoulder at 6:50 for a power-play goal. Roy was credited with a goal at 9:11 when the puck went off his body and into the net during a scramble. Pominville stole the puck from Nik Antropov in the corner, came out and beat Joseph inside the right post at 11:29.

Roy added a power-play goal 5:58 into the third period before John Mitchell tucked Jamal Mayers' rebound behind Miller at 8:29.

Canucks 2, Predators 1 | Video

Jason LaBarbera made a good impression on his new team by stopping 31 shots as Vancouver won its fifth straight game against Nashville.

The Canucks acquired LaBarbera from Los Angeles on Tuesday, hours before backup-turned-starter Curtis Sanford went down with a groin injury. Though he hadn't played in two weeks, LaBarbera was sharp right from the start — a big change from his last start against Nashville on Oct. 25, when he was pulled after allowing three goals in the first 13 minutes.

"He hadn't skated in two days and doesn’t know a lot of players on our team," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "To come here and play the way he did was real encouraging. There are some games where you go out and play real well and win, and some other games where you just play so-so, like we did tonight, and the goaltender is capable of keeping you in the game and helping you win. That's what happened tonight."

The win was especially sweet because LaBarbera is a native of British Columbia.

"When that buzzer went at the end of the game, I know it was pretty amazing for me," he said. "I know there was a lot of pretty happy people for me. I know a lot of people who are Canuck fans. That makes this more special."

Jason Jaffray was credited with the winning goal when he deflected Willie Mitchell's shot behind Pekka Rinne with 4:06 remaining in regulation.

Vancouver opened the scoring when Ohlund, shooting low from off of the left boards, beat Rinne high to his glove side with a wrist shot at 7:19 of the first period. The Predators tied it on Randy Peverley's goal at 7:53 of the second period. Peverley found the net with a one-timer from the left wing.

"I really like the way he challenged the shooters," Vigneault said. "When I met him this morning, he said he wanted to play. I was really happy to hear that, and I put him in nets."

The Preds continue to struggle to put the puck in the net. They've scored just nine goals in their last seven games.

"We’re scoring a goal a game and it’s hard to win because there isn’t a much of a margin for error," coach Barry Trotz said.

Nashville could be facing some lineup moves in an effort to shake up the offense.

"One of the things we are going to have to look at is that we have some guys in Milwaukee going really good," Trotz said, "and a lot of times you need to shake something up and win some hockey games."

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

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