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Calm and collected Bruins win another

by Brian Hunter /
A few thoughts in the midst of a hectic weekend of hockey:

No reason to panic -- Very little has gone wrong for the Boston Bruins during the month of November, as they've raced to the Northeast Division lead while battling for the top overall spot in the Eastern Conference.

But the team finally hit a minor speed bump Wednesday against Buffalo with its first regulation loss in 11 games. Then the visiting New York Islanders got off to an early 1-0 lead in a matinee at TD Banknorth Garden. But the Bruins took the Alfred E. Neuman approach -- "What, me worry?" -- and stormed back with five third-period goals for a 7-2 victory.

"I just told them that we had to stick with it and things would break," Boston coach Claude Julien said.

And did they ever. Blake Wheeler and David Krejci stole the show when they combined for a pair of goals 10 seconds apart that turned a 2-1 nail-biter into the beginnings of a rout. First Wheeler one-timed a Krejci pass and beat Islanders goalie Joey MacDonald, then on the ensuing shift Wheeler poked the puck ahead to Krejci and he did the rest, cutting around a defender and slipping a shot inside the near post.

"We put on a good show," Wheeler said. "Some people say we're too defensively minded, but we can do that and move the puck down the ice. I think it's a good recipe for us."

In search of offense -- Zero turned out to be the loneliest number as far as the Chicago Blackhawks were concerned on Friday. They got an excellent goaltending effort from Cristobal Huet, but lost to the Anaheim Ducks 1-0 at Honda Center because Jonas Hiller was even better.

Although the Blackhawks entered the game second in the NHL in scoring, they haven't been getting the job done in one-goal games. With the loss to the Ducks, they've now won just two of their last seven in such situations.

"We have a young team and to get to the playoffs we have to learn how to win those games," captain Jonathan Toews said. "We have to find ways to score goals right now. The last couple of games we have struggled. I don't know what it is right now, but we have to find ways to put the puck in the net."

Hiller was flawless in stopping 26 shots, but he also caught some lucky breaks when Chicago had good scoring opportunities but missed the net.

"Sometimes you have to be lucky," said Hiller, who earned the second shutout of his career. "They had two or three open nets, and they missed all of them. All I did was try to put something there so the players had to think where they were going to shoot. Sometimes that's enough to make them miss the net."

Other side of the coin -- Hanging onto leads in the third period was becoming a problem for the Minnesota Wild, so they tried something new Friday and came from behind instead.

Marc-Andre Bergeron set up goals by James Sheppard and Mikko Koivu as the Wild turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Xcel Energy Center. In its previous two games, Minnesota almost blew a four-goal cushion and then let a 3-1 lead slip away in a loss.

"We showed that we can battle back and had a really strong third period, which is a big reason why we won," said Nolan, who has two goals in as many games for the Wild.

Bergeron, a defenseman who has always been known more for his offensive upside, helped create Sheppard's tally with a slap shot that the forward tipped home. He also picked up an assist on Koivu's game-winner.

"It's always a little more intense in the third," said Bergeron, who has five assists in Minnesota's last three games. "I've had a lot of shots blocked, so it's something I've been focusing on to get those shots through. The last couple games have been good."

Looking to create -- The Carolina Hurricanes could use a few extra goals. Eric Staal feels as though he should be scoring them.

Despite Staal being held without a goal for the fourth straight game, the 'Canes still won Friday at Wachovia Center when Sergei Samsonov scored with 1:07 left in overtime for a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

"I'm getting opportunities, I'm getting shots. They're just not falling," said Staal, who had one shot sting Flyers goalie Martin Biron in the shoulder area and another close-in shot Biron snared out of mid-air. "I consider myself an offensive guy. I want to score goals."

That would certainly make life easier for the Hurricanes, who had lost three straight before Friday, and in particular goaltender Cam Ward, who stopped 27 shots against the Flyers.

"He's been real good," Laviolette said. "He's seeing the puck really well and we have to give him a little offensive help."

Life goes on -- Olli Jokinen will be out for the next few weeks with a shoulder strain, but the Phoenix Coyotes got a major confidence boost Friday when they stepped it up without the veteran center and beat the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 at Arena.

Derek Morris and Kevin Porter each scored goals and Enver Lisin added a pair of assists for Phoenix, which won its second straight after a six-game winless streak.

"He's one of our top offensive guys and we need other guys to fill the scoring void, me being one of them," Porter said.

Something else that doesn't hurt when you're missing one of your top guns is a great goaltending effort, and the Coyotes received that as well from backup Mikael Tellqvist. Starting his second game in a row, Tellqvist stopped 37 of 38 shots.

"It's just for me to come in and stop the puck," said Tellqvist, who has made 74 saves the past two games. "But the defense also is doing one hell of a job, too."

Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky praised his goalie's play: "This is two outstanding games in a row for him. He's definitely been the difference the last two games."



Second time's the charm -- Jose Theodore spent parts of 10 seasons playing for the Montreal Canadiens before he was dealt to Colorado in March of 2006. When he faced his former team the following season, perhaps he was trying a little too hard. Regardless, it wasn't a good game for Theodore, who got shelled by the Habs for eight goals.

Theodore didn't see Montreal again until Friday night, as a member of his third NHL team, the Washington Capitals. This time around, you couldn't have written a better script. Theodore stopped 28 shots for his first shutout as a Cap and the 27th of his career, in a 3-0 win at Verizon Center.

"I knew in the first period I was seeing the puck well," Theodore said. "Even if I didn't see a lot of shots early, I knew I would need a good shot to beat me."

But the best shots of the night were coming off the sticks of his own teammates. That included a third-period goal by Alex Ovechkin that continued a torrid 10-game run by the Washington superstar. During the stretch, A.O. has collected 11 goals and 11 assists, averaging 2.2 points per game. But afterward he was more interested in talking about Theodore and the focus he brought into Friday's game.

"Before the game, (Theodore) didn't talk. He just concentrated on (the) game," Ovechkin said. "Today, he played well and deserved it. He deserved it."

Making strides -- Consecutive wins isn't necessarily enough to convince Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff that his team is back to clicking on all cylinders the way it did during an 8-2-2 start to the season. Everything went downhill after that, to the tune of a 1-6-1 stretch, but after handing Boston its first regulation loss of the month on Wednesday the Sabres rallied for a 4-3 win Friday over the Pittsburgh Penguins at HSBC Arena.

"The all-around game was as good as we've played since the start of the year," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.

Drew Stafford and Paul Gaustad each scored his second goal of the game in the third period to bring Buffalo back from a 3-2 deficit. Before the goals, the Sabres killed off 53 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage for the Penguins.

"Killing that completely killed any type of momentum they had or could have had," Stafford said. "It all started there."

Gaustad, who missed the first nine games of the season with a thumb injury, said the Sabres ultimately prevailed by not trying to do too much.

"They're a great team and we know they have the firepower, but we stayed within our system and it paid off for us," Gaustad said. "We didn't run around and we stayed within ourselves. When we do that we're a strong team and a hard team to play against."

A popular guy -- Ryan Suter made a lot of friends in the Nashville Predators dressing room Friday. Scoring an overtime goal will do that for a player.

Suter ended a back-and-forth game by scoring on a breakaway 1:44 into overtime, defeating the Atlanta Thrashers 4-3 and giving the Predators their first win at Philips Arena since before the turn of the century -- or Dec. 6, 1999, to be exact.

"It was a smart play," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "He caught them in a line change."

Goalie Pekka Rinne, who improved to 3-0 on the season, was quite complimentary as well: "Big win. Big goal by Suter," he said.

Suter knocked down a lead pass by Shea Weber before beating Atlanta goalie Johan Hedberg for his third goal of the season. The defenseman could picture doing it again in bigger circumstances, but was happy to help get his team two points.

"That was pretty cool," Suter said. "Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals would have been better, but this will do for now. ... I knew the goalie was coming out. I aimed at the 5-hole."

Coming up short -- A pessimist would dwell on the fact the Florida Panthers just aren't winning games right now. An optimist would point out that at least the team has rallied late in its last two contests, getting single points in what easily could have been regulation losses.

David Booth scored with 1:33 left in the third Friday night but the New York Rangers would ultimately prevail in the shootout for a 3-2 win at BankAtlantic Center. Booth also tied Wednesday's game against New Jersey with eight seconds remaining before the Devils went on to an overtime victory.

"A point is better than no point but we can't settle for making one play every night, we have to make two," Booth said.

Craig Anderson played exceptionally well for the second straight game without much to show for it. Anderson relieved Tomas Vokoun against the Devils and shut them out for two periods only to give up the OT winner. He made 43 saves against the Rangers but was victimized on both shootout attempts he faced.

"That's about as hard as we can play," Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. "If you looked at the lineups on paper we probably didn't have any business being on the ice with them. Our guys, through guts and will, found a way to compete tonight."

Pulling his weight -- When Marian Hossa signed a one-year deal with the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings over the summer, he wasn't coming on board to ride on anybody's coattails.

"He puts a lot of heat on himself to deliver," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said Friday night, after Hossa scored his 12th and 13th goals of the season. The second one came with exactly two minutes left in regulation and led the Wings to a 5-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Joe Louis Arena.

Pavel Datsyuk assisted on both Hossa goals and after a couple months of playing together it's evident the pair have developed good chemistry.

"We had a plan. The inside wing is going to jump. The puck came up to me," Hossa said. "I surprised the goalie. Just tried to shoot basically at the paint. I think it just hit the outside of his pad and he put it in himself."

Hossa leads the team this season with 26 points, but his value goes far beyond what shows up on the stat sheet, veteran Kris Draper said.

"He's been unbelievable for this hockey team, not just the way he plays but he's a great guy in the room. He works so hard every night. I think everyone knew he was a world-class hockey player, but until you're with him every day you don't know how hard he works," Draper said.

A solid 60 minutes -- Here's a scary thought for the rest of the League: Even though the San Jose Sharks, at 19-3-1, haven't had a legitimate slump yet this season, their coach seems to feel they're only just starting to hit their stride.

"We were happy with our complete game," Todd McLellan said after Friday's 6-2 win over the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center. "When we were in these situations earlier in the year, we didn't compete in the third period. So that's the most satisfying thing for us."

Dan Boyle scored twice, Ryan Clowe had three assists, three other Sharks had multi-point games and 11 different players registered at least one point in the game.

"It's about getting team victories," Boyle said. "Everybody is chipping in. The defensemen are contributing offensively. From top to bottom, everybody is playing well."

The opposite seems to be true right now for the Stars, who were in a 1-1 tie after 14 minutes only to watch the game slip away after Boyle's goals late in the first period.

"We just fell apart," Dallas defenseman Darryl Sydor said. "The hole will keep getting deeper if we don't turn this around."

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


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