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'Canes win first with Maurice back behind bench

by Brian Hunter /
Eric Staal snapped a lengthy goal drought, helping Paul Maurice and the Carolina Hurricanes come up with a badly-needed victory.

Staal scored with 4:09 left in regulation to break a tie, Michael Leighton made 38 saves in his third consecutive start and the Hurricanes beat the Washington Capitals 3-1 in a Sunday matinee at RBC Center. They won for the first time since Maurice replaced Peter Laviolette as coach on Wednesday and ended a five-game home losing streak.

"You don't want to give them any points," Staal said. "It was a gritty win. I thought we competed extremely hard. We'll take it."

Ray Whitney scored twice for Carolina, his second goal providing some insurance with 2:02 remaining, but getting Staal going was a particular bright spot. The Hurricanes' captain hadn't scored in his last seven games, and his hat trick Nov. 21 against Phoenix marked Staal's only three goals in his last 16 games entering Sunday.

Staal scored his ninth of the season by digging the puck from behind the net, moving out in front and going short side on Jose Theodore with a backhander.

Nicklas Backstrom's power-play goal 8:28 into the third period was the only shot the Capitals got past Leighton, who has been pressed into starting duty with Cam Ward hurt. Leighton stopped 16 shots in the second, including an Alex Ovechkin penalty shot with 1.2 seconds left.

"I just explained to him exactly how this game was going to go tonight," Maurice said of the pep talk he gave Leighton. "They were going to come and he was going to have to be the difference in the game. The upside would be that if he could do that for us, we would look at it as three out of four points and that he was a big, big part of it.

"Good for him because it was a challenge, and I think he took it the right way."

Walker ended a dubious streak for the Hurricanes when he stuffed the rebound of a Joni Pitkanen shot past Theodore with 6:42 left in the first. It marked the first time in 13 games that Carolina didn't give up the opening goal.

Theodore, who made 21 saves, held the Capitals in the game after that until Backstrom was able to tie it in the third, right after a 5-on-3 advantage expired. Pitkanen was just returning to the ice after serving a hooking penalty when Backstrom took a pass from Ovechkin near the right faceoff circle and blasted the puck past Leighton's glove.

Carolina closed to within four points of the Southeast Division leaders with the two points, something that was eating at Washington coach Bruce Boudreau afterward.

"That's why I'm so frustrated right now," Boudreau said. "I thought we would have been in a good position right now. We're four ahead and it's a dogfight again."

Blackhawks 7, Coyotes 1 | Video

On a Sunday where the Bears also won, Chicago's hockey team put a "touchdown" on the board before the game was even halfway old, blitzing Phoenix with an offensive attack that featured a pair of goals by Ben Eager and a career-high four points from Andrew Ladd.

Ladd, Dave Bolland, Jonathan Toews, Dustin Byfuglien and Patrick Sharp all scored for the Blackhawks, who scored four in the first period and three more by the 8-minute mark of the second. That opened up a 7-0 lead before the Coyotes' Enver Lisin broke up Cristobal Huet's shutout bid with 43 seconds left in the middle period.

"I thought we played pretty well last night," Ladd said of a 5-4 shootout loss to Detroit on Saturday. "We wanted to come up with the same effort tonight. We figured we'd come up with a better result."

Chicago matched a season high with its first-period output. Bolland started the burst at 8:22 with a hard, low shot from the right circle. Just 29 seconds later, Toews finished off a give-and-go with Martin Havlat, following a Phoenix turnover at the blue line.

Byfuglien and Sharp doubled the lead in a span of 1:18 as first Byfuglien popped in a rebound from the crease with 2:46 left in the first and Sharp followed with a one-timer during a power play.

"It seems like we got production from a lot of guys tonight," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "The offense has been pretty consistent and everybody's contributing."

Eager sandwiched a pair of goals around one by Ladd as the Blackhawks extended the advantage to 7-0 by scoring three times in 2:55 of the second. Ilya Bryzgalov gave up all the goals but went the distance in making 21 saves. Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky explained afterward why he never went to backup Mikael Tellqvist.

"He had a minor injury and it was one of those things where we really couldn't take a chance of him getting hurt more," Gretzky said. "We made the decision today we were going to go with Bryzgalov. It's a simple as that."

Huet turned aside 20 shots in his fifth straight start as Chicago remains without injured goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.

"It’s a great win for us," Huet said. "My night was pretty easy because we played a great all-around game."

Ducks 5, Blue Jackets 3 | Video

Anaheim built leads of 2-0 and 4-1 before staving off a late Columbus rally to prevail at Honda Center. Ryan Getzlaf scored twice for the Ducks.

The outcome didn't seem in doubt until the Blue Jackets' Kris Russell put the puck past Jean-Sebastien Giguere with 2:55 remaining, and Fredrik Modin followed to make it a 4-3 game with 46 seconds left. But the Ducks quickly answered on Rob Niedermayer's goal 11 seconds later.

"When you have a 4-1 lead, you have to be able to stay focused," Getzlaf said. "We let up a little bit, a few plays were lackadaisical and that turns into scoring chances.

"We played 55 minutes of strong hockey tonight. We're going to take our win and go."

Ryan Carter and Bobby Ryan also scored for Anaheim, which got 29 saves from Giguere and the first multi-point game of George Parros' career, as he chipped in a pair of assists and was named one of the game's three stars.

Asked the last time he was a player of the game, Parros said, "Probably in the minors. It's been a while. I had to ask (Getzlaf) what to do."

Derick Brassard had the other goal for Columbus and Pascal Leclaire also stopped 29 shots.

"It's unfortunate that we ran out of time," Leclaire said. "It's tough to come back on those guys when they are up like that, but we almost did it. It's a matter of getting that effort all game."

Following a scoreless first period, Getzlaf got the Ducks on the board 1:33 into the second by knocking in the rebound of his own shot. Ryan and Carter teamed up to make it 2-0 at 7:29, as Ryan skated down the right boards and passed to Carter in the slot for an easy tap past Leclaire.

Brassard's power-play goal with 4:29 left in the second cut the Blue Jackets' deficit in half, but Getzlaf answered 2:24 later and Ryan made it 4-1 with 5:31 left in the third.

Avalanche 5, Canucks 4 (SO) | Video

Wojtek Wolski, Marek Svatos and Milan Hejduk all scored in the shootout for Colorado, with Svatos' goal determining the final outcome.

Kyle Wellwood answered Wolski's goal in the first round, but after Svatos beat Cory Schneider to put the Avalanche back in front, Peter Budaj stopped Pavol Demitra. Hejduk then clinched the second point by scoring.

Colorado won its eighth straight against Vancouver. The Canucks last beat their Northwest Division rivals on Nov. 9, 2007.

"It's definitely hard to beat these guys (eight) times in a row," said Hejduk, who netted one of two game-tying goals in the third for the Avalanche as they forced overtime. "We had a pretty bad first period. They were all over us. They scored one quick goal but we battled back and finished with two points."

David Jones, Ryan Smyth, Hejduk and Daniel Tjarnqvist scored in regulation for the Avalanche, while Budaj finished with 34 saves.

Darcy Hordichuk and Daniel Sedin had goals for the Canucks, and Steve Bernier provided them with leads of 3-2 and 4-3 by lighting the lamp twice. Schneider stopped 31 shots through regulation and overtime, but had no answers for the Avalanche shooters in the penalty-shot tiebreaker.

''Our shootout guys have been very good,'' Avalanche coach Tony Granato said. ''Those guys are all talented.''

Hordichuk scored the lone goal of the first at 2:17 and the teams traded leads in the second. Jones tied the score at 5:14 with a great individual effort, starting from his own end and chipping the puck into the Canucks' zone, skating by Shane O'Brien and shaking off the defenseman to slip a shot past Schneider. Smyth converted a Hejduk pass with a hard wrister that put Colorado up 2-1 with 8:35 left in the middle period.

Sedin and Bernier scored 2:04 apart to give the Canucks a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes. Sedin knocked in his own rebound with 4:11 to play and Bernier scored the go-ahead goal on a power play.

Hejduk flipped a loose puck past Schneider 2:50 into the third to make it 3-3, Bernier once again put Vancouver in front at 9:57 with a one-timer from the right circle and Tjarnqvist forced overtime by scoring his second of the season with 2:50 remaining, a shot Schneider said he thought glanced off another player and changed directions.

''In my mind we should have won this game,'' Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. ''I think we played well enough to win this game, but when you put two pucks in your own net by your own sticks, it's a little more challenging.''

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

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