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Canes beat struggling Rangers 2-1 in OT

by John Kreiser and Brian Hunter

"I thought some of our best chances were the ones we shot wide, let alone the four or five posts that we hit.  We have to score goals. We hold their scoring chances to single digits, and we simply don't score. You try to stay patient, but the bottom line is we have to start scoring goals in these type of games. We lose a point because we simply don't bury a couple of our chances. It shouldn't be going in overtime." -- John Tortorella

Carolina began the New Year with a rare road win. For the New York Rangers, the first game of 2010 merely brought another loss at Madison Square Garden.

The Hurricanes won for only the third time on the road this season when Ray Whitney scored 3:45 into overtime, giving Carolina a 2-1 victory. It was the eighth loss in nine home games for the Rangers, who had beaten the 'Canes 2-1 in Raleigh on Thursday.

As they did on New Year's Eve, the Rangers outplayed and outshot the Hurricanes -- but this time, they couldn't outscore them. Cam Ward made 27 saves and got help from the posts and crossbar as the Rangers drilled the iron four times.

"I thought some of our best chances were the ones we shot wide, let alone the four or five posts that we hit," coach John Tortorella said. "We have to score goals. We hold their scoring chances to single digits, and we simply don't score. You try to stay patient, but the bottom line is we have to start scoring goals in these type of games. We lose a point because we simply don't bury a couple of our chances. It shouldn't be going in overtime."

Ward was the biggest reason it went to overtime.

"He's the catalyst. When he's on his game we have a chance to win," Whitney said. "Even though we lost the other night in Carolina, it was no fault of his. He was spectacular again. It's good to see he's back to the form he was before he got injured."
"I feel a lot more comfortable now," Ward said. "I don't know how many games in a row this is, but I'm feeling more confident on the ice after being out for a month."

Marian Gaborik's backhander past Ward 9:08 into the third period was the Rangers' only goal. Henrik Lundqvist was beaten by Tom Kostopoulos with 46 seconds left in the second period and saw Whitney flip Matt Cullen's pass into the net on a nice give-and-go for the game-winner.

"Hopefully 2010 will be better than the end of '09," Whitney said after the 'Canes improved to 11-23-7 overall -- by far the worst record in the 30-team League.

The Rangers have scored just 32 goals in Lundqvist's last 17 starts.

"I've seen these guys score in practice; I know they can do it," Lundqvist said. "I think in a lot of games lately we create chances. Hopefully it will turn around."

Canucks 3, Stars 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

Roberto Luongo showed why he's one of the NHL's premier goaltenders by stopping 31 shots as the Canucks completed a 3-0-1 road trip with a win in Dallas.

The Canucks' captain stopped all 14 shots he faced in the third period. Daniel Sedin broke a 1-1 tie with a power-play goal 2:38 into the final period, and Alex Burrows added an empty-net goal at 19:43.

''I think a lot of it starts with goaltending,'' Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. ''Roberto, when he gets on a roll like he is now just gives everybody that extra boost of confidence.''

Luongo preserved the lead with a tremendous save on Loui Eriksson in the final minute of regulation after robbing Mike Modano on a one-timer with just over six minutes to go.

''I actually didn't see (Modano's shot) and it was kind of a desperation play by me,'' Luongo said. ''I didn't even see the shot go off or the puck, I just put my leg out there and was able to get my skate on it. It was just a reaction and fortunately I got a piece of it.''

Vancouver's Ryan Kesler opened the scoring 90 seconds into the second period. Loui Eriksson tied it 37 seconds into the third.

''We got seven out of a possible eight points, so I'm real happy with the overall road trip,'' said Vigneault, whose team is off until hosting Columbus on Tuesday after improving to 9-2-1 in its last 12 games. ''The third period was more challenging, but that's why you pay the goalie the big bucks, to make the big saves, and he did.''

It was the just the Stars’ second loss at home in their last 12 home contests (8-2-2).

"I thought we could have been a little bit more determined, had a little bit more of a playoff style, a to-the-net game, be a little bit more direct," Stars coach Marc Crawford said. "I think our best period was our third period."

Lightning 3, Penguins 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

Pittsburgh ended 2009 on a slide that has continued into 2010. Zenon Konopka celebrated his 29th birthday with a rare goal to put the Lightning ahead to play as Tampa Bay handed the defending Stanley Cup champs their fourth consecutive loss.

Tampa Bay went up 2-1 on Konopka's second of the season at 14:26 of the second period. He knocked in a effort for his sixth goal in 79 career games. Steve Downie scored from the right circle 7:11 into the third period to add some insurance.

"I don't know if it's better on your birthday or against the Stanley Cup champs," Konopka said. "Obviously, it would have meant nothing if we lost, so a game-winner on your birthday is pretty cool."

Tampa Bay has played better since Konopka called out himself and his teammates for their poor play following a 5-2 loss to Philadelphia on Dec. 23.

"We're not there yet just because we won a few games," Konopka said. "Let's not get ahead of ourselves. It's starting to change in the right direction."

Martin St. Louis put the Lightning up 1-0 with a backhander past Marc-Andre Fleury just 63 seconds into the game, giving him 3 goals and 10 points during a seven-game points streak.

Bill Guerin backhanded a rebound past Mike Smith with 2:45 left in the first to get the Penguins even, but Smith stopped Pittsburgh's other 25 shots. Sidney Crosby, with one goal in seven games, and Evgeni Malkin, who's without a goal in his last four games, were shut out again.

"The urgency level now should be there if it has not been," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. "And maybe it hasn't been, looking at our record over the last few games."

The Penguins, who entered tied for the NHL's worst power play, went 0-for-4 with the man advantage and has just 2 power-play goals in its last 32 chances on the road.

"There's no real excuses," Crosby said. "We're not executing and we're paying the price for it. We've got a group who's got a lot of character and pride in their game, but our focus has got to be on executing."

Islanders 6, Thrashers 5 (SO) | HIGHLIGHTS

New York led 3-0 after one period and 4-1 and 5-2 in the second before Atlanta came all the way back and drew even. But shootout goals by Jeff Tambellini and Frans Nielsen ensured that the Islanders still came away with two points at the Nassau Coliseum.

Matt Moulson, Jon Sim, Richard Park, Trent Hunter and Josh Bailey all scored in regulation for the Islanders, who pulled within one point of the Rangers for eighth in the Eastern Conference.

"It shows a lot about our character," Bailey said. "We managed to bounce back and find a way to win. It's tough to keep that pressure and keep going but we were able to get the two points."

Ilya Kovalchuk earned the Thrashers a point when he scored a power-play goal with 8:37 left in the third period. Maxim Afinogenov had a pair of goals while Nik Antropov and Rich Peverley also scored for Atlanta, which has dropped eight straight.

"We're on a winless streak here but we found a way to get a point here and maybe that's the difference at the end of the season," Peverley said. "We just started to take it to them and shoot and when that happens, they're going to back off. That was the difference."

In the shootout, Tambellini and Nielsen scored on the Islanders' first two attempts against Johan Hedberg. Vyacheslav Kozlov got one back for the Thrashers in the second round, but Peverley fired wide of Dwayne Roloson on their final try.

Moulson, Sim and Park staked the Islanders to a three-goal lead after 20 minutes before the game really opened up in the second and the Thrashers mounted their comeback.

Afinogenov got Atlanta on the board just 50 seconds in, but Hunter restored the three-goal cushion for New York by scoring 39 seconds later. Afinogenov picked up his second of the night at 4:44, only to have Bailey respond at 10:02.

However, that was the last puck the Islanders would put past Hedberg until the shootout, and the Thrashers began their push only 10 seconds after Bailey's goal when Antropov beat Roloson. Peverley made it 5-4 with 7:02 left in the second. Things calmed down after that, but when Tambellini was assessed an interference penalty midway through the third, Kovalchuk took advantage to score the tying goal.

"We found some shortcuts to take and before you know it, it's in the back of your net," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. "Kovalchuk is a guy who can get the puck on his stick anytime and be a shot threat. He's got a hard shot, he's fast and great at protecting the puck.

"When you have a guy like that, he's going to keep his team in the game every night. We had a couple of shifts where we took the foot off the pedal and that was enough for them to get their opportunities."

Avalanche 3, Blue Jackets 2 | HIGHLIGHTS

The frustrating times continue in Columbus, as the Blue Jackets let a third-period lead slip away and saw Colorado win on T.J. Galiardi's goal with 57.8 seconds remaining in regulation.

Steve Mason stopped a shot by Milan Hejduk as the game entered the final minute of regulation, but the puck bounced out to the left circle, where Galiardi collected it and beat the second-year goalie from a sharp angle.

"For some reason, it kicked out and I was lucky to be there," Galiardi said. "I just shot it on net and tried to go far side. I could tell it went in when the goalie put his head down."

Chris Stewart had tied the score earlier in the third and Kyle Cumiskey also had a power-play goal for the Avalanche, which maintained first place in the Northwest Division by a point over the Flames, who also won Saturday.

"A real solid road game for us," coach Joe Sacco said. "Our first period was OK, after that we got our skating and legs. We really sustained the level of pressure that we wanted to against them. We stuck with it right to the end. We found a way to get that last goal."

The Jackets, who continue to struggle offensively, managed goals by Kristian Huselius and Derick Brassard. Mason turned in another strong effort with 34 saves, but couldn't come up with the victory.

"We've had a lot of these games like this (where we've) played really well and create a lot of scoring chances and don't finish," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "These are disappointing losses for everybody. Every game is tense for us because there's no margin for error."

Huselius and Cumiskey traded power-play goals before the Jackets took a 2-1 lead with 6:51 left in the second on Brassard's sixth of the season.

They carried that lead into the third, but Stewart came up with the equalizer at 5:28 when he fed Paul Stastny and then got the puck back before settling it and wristing it off Mason's glove for his 12th of the season.

"I made a pass to Stastny cross-ice. Hats off to him, he came right back to me," Stewart said. "It was a little in my skates so I had to kick it up to my blade there and try to get everything on it."

Craig Anderson made 26 saves and kept the score tied until Galiardi provided the Avalanche with the winner.

"Tonight was a game where we had to do the little things right to be successful," said Colorado captain Adam Foote, a former Blue Jacket. "They are a desperate team over there, well-coached, and we were able to stay in the game and found a way to win."

Predators 3, Ducks 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

Jason Arnott and Shea Weber came into the game mired in long goal droughts. Anaheim probably wishes they would have waited until another night to bust out.

Weber tied the score in the second period and Arnott scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third as Nashville won its third straight. David Legwand added an empty-net tally with less than a second remaining.

"It's been crazy the last week or so with chances, posts, and things like that, but the other guys have been picking it up in that regard and winning games offensively," said Arnott, who hadn't scored in 10 games. "It gets a little bit of the pressure off of you a little, but you always want to go out and score goals to help the team win."

Mike Brown scored in the first period and Jonas Hiller finished with 33 saves for the Ducks, who have dropped three straight on the road.

"We didn't play our best the first two periods," Hiller said. "We gave up a lot of scoring chances."

Still, they entered the third in a 1-1 tie. Arnott changed that when he beat Hiller high to the stick side with a blast from just above the left faceoff dot after taking a Weber pass.

"The last couple of nights, he's had some glorious chances, but the pucks been jumping, hitting him in the skates, getting into the Bermuda Triangle as a player would call it, and really locking him up," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "Sometimes you can get a bit frustrated."

Weber scored his first goal since Nov. 25, a span of 18 games. He drilled three separate shots at Hiller in an 11-second span, and the third one finally hit the mark with 4:33 left in the second.

"Guys made some great plays getting me the puck, and I just tried to get shots through," Weber said. "Hiller played great in the first and did a great job for them. We could have been up a couple of goals coming out of the first."

Hiller stopped all 15 shots by the Predators in the first and the Ducks led 1-0 on Brown's fifth of the season. He got his stick on a loose puck after goalie Pekka Rinne was unable to control a shot by Evgeny Artyukhin.

"We gave ourselves a chance," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. "We missed an assignment on neutral ice, and Arnott made a big time shot."

Devils 5, Wild 3 | HIGHLIGHTS

One day after being named to the U.S. Olympic team, Jamie Langenbrunner celebrated by recording his first career hat trick in his home state of Minnesota.

"It's definitely been a good start to 2010 for me," Langenbrunner said.

His third of the night came into an empty net and helped New Jersey hold on to record its League-leading 29th win of the season. Dean McAmmond and Jay Pandolfo also scored for the Devils, who lead the Sabres and Capitals by five points for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

"They come to play every night. They work hard, and they're very easy to coach," said Jacques Lemaire, who returned to face the team he had coached from its inception until he resigned following last season. Lemaire, who is now in his second stint behind the Devils' bench, got a warm ovation from the 19,155 on hand -- the largest crowd this season at the Xcel Energy Center.

"It was nice," he said. "That I enjoyed."

Mikko Koivu's shorthanded goal with 38 seconds left in the second period rallied the Wild from a 2-0 deficit, but Langenbrunner quickly answered with four seconds left in the period and the Devils still on the power play.

"The building was rolling, and to give up that goal … was pretty deflating," coach Todd Richards said.

It was Langenbrunner's second power-play goal of the period. After McAmmond opened the scoring on a breakaway at 5:13, the New Jersey captain connected at 6:57 for a 2-0 lead. He has five goals in his last three games.

"I think I got away from shooting it a little bit," Langenbrunner said. "When the confidence is down, you start looking to pass and not shooting."

Eric Belanger and Andrew Brunette also scored for the Wild, who have lost three in a row and nine of the 10 games they have played against the Devils since coming into the League.

Belanger began their comeback from the two-goal deficit and Brunette answered after Pandolfo had given New Jersey a 4-2 lead by beating Niklas Backstrom with 8:25 left in the third. Brunette earned his 13th of the season the hard way, as the puck appeared to ricochet off his helmet during a scramble in front and got past Martin Brodeur with 3:51 remaining.

That allowed the Wild to push for the tie in the closing minute, but Brodeur, who made 29 saves, hung tough until Langenbrunner intercepted a Minnesota pass in the neutral zone and skated in for the empty-net tally. A few stray hats wound up on the ice, perhaps from the two busloads of friends and family members who traveled up from his hometown of Cloquet, Minn., to take in the game.

"I heard 'em a few times," Langenbrunner said.

Flames 3, Maple Leafs 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

The Flames scored twice in 52 seconds midway through the second period to overcome an early deficit and keep the Leafs winless at the Pengrowth Saddledome since 2002. Curtis Glencross scored two of Calgary's goals, including an empty-netter with 50.8 seconds left.

"That was a great momentum changer," said Calgary captain Jarome Iginla, who recorded a goal and a pair of assists. "The crowd got into it. And from there, we played a really good game.

"Off the start, we weren't creating a lot, but we didn't open it up. The last few games, we've been changing our mentality, trying to play pucks off the net. Because of it, we're playing a lot more in the offensive zone than we have been. Tonight, even though it was a little bit choppy, we had the right mentality."

Iginla engineered both of the second-period goals, tallying his team-leading 21st goal of the season at 10:35 and then picking up his 19th assist of the campaign at 11:27 to put the Flames ahead after Jason Blake's first-period goal had put Toronto ahead.

The Flames (24-12-5) have won four straight, including three in a row at the Saddledome, where they're now 12-7-2. The Leafs (14-19-9), meanwhile, have dropped five of six and seven of their past nine.

"We didn't win any battles for loose pucks," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. "The other team's working hard, and desperate, and if you're not as desperate as they are on the power play, you're not going to be very effective."

The Flames were playing their fifth game in seven nights, and the Leafs knew that very well, but couldn't capitalize.

"Yeah, that's what our game plan was. I think we got off to a pretty good start, and I think defensively in the first, we didn't give up too much. We played solid, we were physical, we got in on the forecheck," defenseman Francois Beauchemin said.

"(Calgary's) two quick goals changed things really fast. We tried to stay with it, but we couldn't really generate much offense. You've got to give them credit too. They were getting in the shooting lanes a lot, putting sticks on pucks, and (Miikka) Kiprusoff made some key saves at the end there."

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

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