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Canadiens finally beat 'Canes at home

by John Kreiser
The Montreal Canadiens closed out their first homestand of the season by doing something they hadn't done since 2004 — beat the Carolina Hurricanes at the Bell Centre.

Carolina had won its last nine visits to Montreal. That all changed Tuesday night when Saku Koivu scored the only goal of the shootout to give the Canadiens a 3-2 victory.

The Hurricanes were 6-0 at the Bell Centre during the regular season and 3-0 during the 2006 playoffs, when Carolina eliminated Montreal in six games on the way to winning the Stanley Cup.

Koivu put a backhander past Ward in the second round of the shootout. Carey Price, who had already stopped Matt Cullen and Eric Staal, turned aside Ray Whitney's wrist shot for the win.

"I saw that he took the blocker side away from Alex (Tanguay, during a first-period penalty shot), so I kept that in mind," said Koivu, now 11-for-22 lifetime in shootouts. "I know what move I'm going to make before I reach the puck at center ice. Sometimes if the goalie takes something away, I'll adjust, but I didn't have to tonight."

It was also the first time that Carolina goaltender Cam Ward lost a game at the Bell Centre; he had been 7-0-0 in regular-season and playoff games.

"We've been very successful in this building, but at least we still got a point," said Ward, whose career save percentage at the Bell Centre dropped to .949 after stopping 23 of 25 shots. "No question it's fun playing here with all the atmosphere the fans bring; it just would have been nice to be on the winning side."

Despite his success in shootouts, Koivu isn't necessarily a big fan of using them to decide games.

"The shootout is an exciting way to decide a game, but maybe not the best way," the Montreal captain said after the Canadiens improved to 2-1 in the penalty-shot competition this season. "It's easy to see why we're doing well in shootouts so far this year; there aren't many teams who can feel really good about sending five or six guys out for a shootout the way we can."

Though his team still left Montreal with a point, it wasn't much solace to Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette.

"I'm in favor of the shootout, but it leaves you with a pit in your stomach, like you did something wrong," he said. "It's quiet in there, it's like we buried a dead cat. But it's a point."

Carolina opened the scoring 11:04 into the game when Anton Babchuk's power-play floater from the point sailed past a screened Price. Montreal tied it at 15:56 when Alex Kovalev stole the puck at the Carolina blue line, went in on a 3-on-1 break, and beat Ward with a wrist shot from the right circle.

Tanguay put Montreal ahead with 10.1 seconds remaining in the opening period when he scored on a penalty shot after defenseman Dennis Seidenberg was called for gloving the puck in the crease during a 5-on-3 power play. It was the second time in two games that the Hurricanes had been assessed a penalty shot for the same reason — Ward stopped the Islanders' Doug Weight with less than one second remaining to preserve a 4-3 win on Saturday.

After a scoreless second period, Cullen tied it 40 seconds into the third when he beat Andrei Markov to a sloppy rebound left by Price and swatted the puck into the net.

"It was a shot that popped out of my glove," Price said. "I thought it would get chopped away, but it wound up getting chopped toward the net instead."

Lightning 3, Maple Leafs 2 | VIDEO

One day, this game may be remembered as the night Steven Stamkos got his first NHL assist. For now, the night belonged to goalie Mike Smith, who made 37 saves, and Vincent Lecavalier, who scored twice as the Lightning won for only the second time this season.

Stamkos, the No. 1 pick in the NHL Entry Draft in June, got his first point when he was credited with the secondary assist on Lecavalier's second goal of the night, a power-play blast from the slot off a feed from Vaclav Prospal 4:08 into the second period.

Stamkos, who grew up rooting for the Leafs and reportedly had to buy about 50 tickets for family and friends, was thrilled to earn his first NHL point in Toronto.

"It was a dream come true to play in Toronto, and getting the first point here was pretty special," he said. "Getting the win was even better.

"I think it was louder than when the Leafs scored," he said of the cheer that greeted the announcement of his assist. "It was great to have that fan support."

But it was Lecavalier, not Stamkos, who left Leafs coach Ron Wilson frustrated.

"We had plenty of opportunities; a guy like that buries them," Wilson said of Tampa Bay's captain. "He's one of the top players in the League. You give him a couple of opportunities he's probably going to score one; you give him three opportunities, he might score two.

"Some of our guys need five opportunities to score one."

Lecavalier's second goal made it 3-1, but the Leafs cut the margin in half on Mike Van Ryn's goal at 13:15.

The rest of the night belonged to Smith, whose early-season brilliance has earned him the starting job. He was at his best in the third period, when the Leafs dominated the play and outshot the Lightning 13-6. Smith made a terrific stop on Alexei Ponikarovsky with five minutes to go and another on John Mitchell with two minutes left as the Leafs (3-3-3) had their two-game winning streak ended.

"This is a game we easily should have had," forward Matt Stajan said. "We know we've got to be better, we can't take bits and pieces of nights off, especially on home ice against a team that's been struggling like them."

The Lightning, now 2-3-3, led 2-1 after a first period in which both teams wasted long 5-on-3 advantages.

Jussi Jokinen opened the scoring at 5:08, depositing a pretty cross-ice pass from Mark Recchi into an empty net. Stajan tied it 1-1 at 7:34 with his first of the season by tipping Nik Antropov's centering pass up in the air and past Smith.

Lecavalier put the Lightning ahead to stay at 15:37 when he dragged his leg at the Leafs blue line to stay onside as he took Prospal's home-run pass, then broke in and tucked a one-handed backhander past Vesa Toskala.

"It was a perfect pass behind me, which is perfect because it bounced right in front of me," Lecavalier said. "I just went to the net and I wasn't sure if his pad was going to get the puck, but it went."

Flyers 7, Thrashers 0 | VIDEO

The Thrashers can change personnel, they can change coaches — but they still can't beat the Flyers. The Flyers made it 11 consecutive wins over the struggling Thrashers and eight straight at Philips Arena as Mike Knuble, Joffrey Lupul and Simon Gagne each scored twice and Antero Niittymaki made 24 saves to improve to 10-0-0 against Atlanta.

Knuble said there's no logical reason for the Flyers' domination.

"They are a better team than they showed tonight," he said. "Maybe we're not as good as we showed."

Gagne also added two assists as the Flyers, who started the season 0-3-3, won their third in a row and improved to 14-0-1 in their last 15 meetings with the Thrashers

"We got great results today," Knuble said. "We scored every kind of way. It was good, a lot of fun tonight. It's kind of another good stress breaker for the team. We had a tough go at the beginning, but we followed it up with these good wins."

The Thrashers are going the other way. Atlanta fell to 2-5-2 and has just one victory in eight games since an opening-night win over Washington.

"We win as a team and we lose as a team," coach John Anderson said. "Hopefully we can grow from this.

"The hard thing for me is that I can't go out there and play for them. They have to find this from within. This is a part of growing as a team."

Flyers coach John Stevens feels the Flyers are beginning to match the intensity they showed last season, when they advanced advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.

''We were up-tempo,'' Stevens said. ''We were a little worried because their's is a different style of play. After two emotional games against the Devils, it would've taken away from those games if we hadn't won this one.''

There was no danger of that happening.

Kari Lehtonen stopped a third-period penalty shot by Mike Richards — making him 6-for-6 in his career — but was often left to his own devices by a defense that has struggled for most of the season. He's now 0-7 lifetime against the Flyers.

The backbreaker was Gagne's first goal, a shorthanded wrist shot on a 2-on-1 break with 15 seconds remaining in the second period that made it 3-0. Knuble and Lupul scored power-play goals 37 seconds apart early in the third period, Gagne added his second at 7:56 and Glen Metropolit completed the rout with 2:40 remaining.

"We weren't ready and from the start we didn't have the effort we wanted," Atlanta forward Colby Armstrong said. "There were a couple of good bounces for them, but at the same time, the game was there for us. After they got up a few, we just kind of folded the tent."

Capitals 4, Predators 3, SO

For one night, at least, the Caps survived the absence of Alex Ovechkin and came away with a victory when Michael Nylander scored against Dan Ellis in the fourth round of the shootout.

After Alexander Semin scored in the second round of the shootout and Ville Koistinen tied it for Nashville in the third, Nylander banked in a shot off the crossbar before Jose Theodore stopped Martin Erat for the win.

"They have a lot of talent," Ellis said of the Capitals. "Even missing their star player, they played a heck of a game."

"Obviously, we miss Ovie. Our hearts are with him and what he's dealing with.  But we want to be known as the Washington Capitals — a good hockey team, not just a team with one or two good players" -- Brooks Laich
Ovechkin, the NHL leading scorer and most valuable player last season, left for Russia on Monday to be with his ailing grandfather. The reigning Hart Trophy winner had played in 203 consecutive games and 253 of 254 in his career.

"Obviously, we miss Ovie. Our hearts are with him and what he's dealing with," said Brooks Laich, who filled the void on Ovechkin's line. ''But we want to be known as the Washington Capitals — a good hockey team, not just a team with one or two good players."

Jason Arnott's second goal of the game, a redirection of Ryan Suter's point shot with 6:36 left in regulation, tied the game for the third time. Washington took a 3-2 lead when Semin fired Nicklas Backstrom's pass behind Ellis 1:58 into the final period for his eighth goal in nine games this season.

"Obviously (Ovechkin) is the star of our team, but Alex Semin is, I think, the best player in the League right now," Laich said. "Everything he touches turns to gold and goes in the net."

Viktor Kozlov put the Caps ahead 12:13 into the game when he roofed a shot after a centering pass deflected off Ellis. Ville Koistinen tied it 1:46 later with a one-timer from the point during a power play. But Washington went back in front at 15:58 when Dave Steckel stole the puck and scored on a shorthanded breakaway. The Caps outshot Nashville 19-4 in the opening period.

Arnott tied it at 11:21 of the second period, finishing off a tic-tac-toe passing play with J.P. Dumont and Patric Hornqvist.

For Nashville, the single point was better than nothing.

"Obviously we want to get the win," coach Barry Trotz said, 'but we'll take the point after the start we had."

Flames 3, Avalanche 0 | VIDEO

Calgary ended Colorado's five-game winning streak and cooled off one of the NHL's most potent offenses thanks to some hard work and a big effort by one of the League's hottest goaltenders. Miikka Kiprusoff won his fourth in a row by making 22 saves for his 150th NHL victory and 27th shutout.

The game was scoreless well into the third period before David Moss dug the puck out from behind the net and whipped a backhand pass to Curtis Glencross, who buried it behind Peter Budaj at 8:22.

"It was a long shift, and we kept grinding," Glencross said after scoring his first goal as a Flame. "Moss stepped out and put it right on my stick."

Rene Bourque made it 2-0 at 12:58 and Mike Cammalleri scored at 15:03 as the Flames outworked the Avs in the final 20 minutes, handing Colorado its first loss since a 5-4 defeat at Calgary on Oct. 14.

"We stuck to the game plan," said Glencross, who signed with the Flames during the summer. "We were able to cycle, which keeps the puck out of our zone. We got two of our three goals from behind the goal line."

Colorado came closest to scoring early in the second period when Ian Laperriere's slap shot from the right faceoff dot glanced off the webbing of Kiprusoff's glove before bouncing off the far goal post. Kiprusoff also made two good saves on wrist shots by Joe Sakic a few minutes later.

"He was good in the first two periods," Avs coach Tony Granato said. "He was solid."

But it was all Flames in the third.

"The first two periods were pretty even," Granato said. "Neither team wanted to flinch, and the defensive play was pretty solid. In the last 20 minutes, they were obviously better."

Bruins 1, Canucks 0 | VIDEO

For the first time in 72 years, the Bruins own back-to-back 1-0 victories. Boston followed up an overtime win at Edmonton on Monday by shutting down the Canucks thanks to a solid checking effort and 30 saves by Tim Thomas.

Michael Ryder scored during a delayed penalty at 10:16 of the first period on a wrist shot from the slot through traffic. The rest of the night belonged to Thomas, who followed up his performance against the Oilers by blanking the Canucks. The last back-to-back 1-0 wins by the Bruins were March 15-17, 1936, when they capped a run of three straight 1-0 victories.

"Give credit to their goaltender," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "Our goaltender was good, too — theirs was phenomenal. You've got to get to him early."

Thomas passed around the praise.

"When all was said and done, we played a solid game at both ends. But our top offensive players have to find ways to score goals." -- Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault
"What was working was our whole team," he said.

He also said playing two games in two nights was actually helpful.

"They had a lot of opportunities at the beginning of the first period," he said. "Coming off last night probably helped. I didn't have the shakiness I might have had if I hadn't played."

Thomas was anything but shaky moments after Ryder's goal, when he stopped Ryan Kesler on two dangerous close-in chances. Near the end of the first period, he stopped Daniel Sedin on a breakaway and also got his toe on Steve Bernier's ensuing rebound.

"We had some quality chances in the first period, and he shut us down," Vigneault said.

The Bruins slowed things down in the second period, but Thomas robbed both Sami Salo and Henrik Sedin in the third.

"In the second period, we had no room. They shut us down," Vigneault said. "In the third period, we had chances but we couldn't score.

"When all was said and done, we played a solid game at both ends. But our top offensive players have to find ways to score goals."

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