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Canucks blow big lead but beat Stars

by John Kreiser

"It was a roller coaster, but it was a great game for us. We got kind of a grinding goal to win it, but it was an all-around great game."
— Vancouver's Ryan Kesler
Watch highlights from the Canucks' victory
A lucky bounce was just what the Vancouver Canucks needed to hang on to the last playoff berth in the Western Conference.

The reeling Canucks had blown a 3-0 lead in Dallas and the Stars were dominating play before Markus Naslund’s centering pass pinballed off Brendan Morrison and into the net 3:04 into the third period for the tie-breaking goal in Vancouver’s 4-3 victory on Saturday night.

Morrison was credited with his ninth of the season after a video review showed that he didn't intentionally kick the puck in.

''It was a roller coaster, but it was a great game for us,'' Vancouver's Ryan Kesler said. ''We got kind of a grinding goal to win it, but it was an all-around great game.''

The Canucks desperately needed the victory. Nashville’s victory earlier in the day had pulled the Predators even with the Canucks for the eighth and final playoff berth in the West. The win restored Vancouver’s two-point lead as the Canucks head home for a Monday night game with Phoenix after a 2-2 road trip.

“We look at it as a decent road trip now,” Naslund said. “We had a .500 road trip. We didn’t play as well as we had to, but hopefully this is the start of something good.”

The Stars lost for the fourth time in five games.

''They get a bounce in the third and win the game,'' center Stu Barnes said. ''Bounces happen, but in this League you have to play from start to finish and have a complete game. We didn't do that.''

The Stars had won seven straight at home against the Canucks and were 11-3-2 overall versus Vancouver in their previous 16 regular-season meetings. But Dallas coach Dave Tippett opted to use backup goaltender Johan Holmqvist, who hadn’t started since being acquired by the Stars on Feb. 26. He was torched for goals by Matt Pettinger, Kesler and Naslund in the first period and was replaced by starter Marty Turco at the start of the second.

''Maybe I was a little too excited,'' Holmqvist said. ''But no excuses. I'm disappointed. It was a big night for me, and I let the team down.''

Joel Lundqvist made it 3-1 late in the first period and goals by Mike Modano and Brad Richards in the second period got the Stars even, with Richards getting the tying goal on a shorthanded breakaway at 13:58.

But the new line of Pettinger, Naslund and Morrison — a trio formed after the Canucks had scored just three goals in their previous three games — came through to produce the game-winner, its third goal of the game.

''We wanted to try something to see if it couldn't kick-start our offense,'' Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. ''Matt gives the line good speed. Mo (Morrison) and Nasly (Naslund) are really finding themselves.''

Luongo made 35 stops in his 21st consecutive start. He preserved the win when he robbed Modano on what appeared to be a sure goal with an outstretched glove save with five minutes left in regulation, spoiling the Stars’ hopes for another comeback.

"We have to get going in the right direction," Richards said. "There are some things we need to clean up. We have to keep concentrating how little things can change the way a game goes. We have to grab momentum and keep it."

Predators 3, Red Wings 1 | Video
Less than 48 hours after losing to the League’s worst team, the desperate Predators beat the best in the NHL. Dan Ellis made 34 saves and Rich Peverley’s second-period goal broke a 1-1 tie as Nashville ended Detroit’s five-game winning streak.

"We really put the pedal down," Ellis said after the Predators snapped a three-game losing streak that included a loss to Los Angeles on Thursday and stayed within two points of eighth-place Vancouver in the West. "Now we realize the way we have to play.”

After Nashville’s Dan Hamhuis and Detroit’s Niklas Kronvall scored in the first period, Nashville went ahead to stay at 6:10 of the middle period. Osgood and Kronvall had a mix-up behind the net when Osgood left the puck for the defenseman. But Peverley, who was closer to the puck than Kronvall, pounced on it and put it in from the side of the net for his third goal.

"I have to look at the video on the plane to see what happened," Kronvall said. "I thought I had the puck on my blade, but it might have bounced over it. ... It may have been too far. It happened too fast."

The Predators survived a four-minute Detroit power play after defenseman Greg Zanon drew a double minor for high-sticking with just under 12 minutes to play. Jerred Smithson scored into an empty net with 17 seconds remaining.

It was Nashville's first win in Detroit in almost two years. The Predators’ last victory at Joe Louis Arena was on March 21, 2006.

"There couldn't have been a better time to get the win here," Hamhuis said.

The Red Wings, who clinched the Central Division title and reached the 100-point mark for the eighth consecutive season when they beat Dallas on Thursday, didn’t appear to have the same urgency as the Predators.

"I thought they played hard, and we didn't compete as well as we always do," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "Give their goalie credit, he made some good saves."

Bruins 3, Flyers 2, SO | Video
Boston solved its offensive problems just in time to avoid dropping into eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings, thanks to a pair of low-scoring defensemen. Brad Ference’s first goal of the season tied the game with 27 seconds left in regulation and Aaron Ward’s first since Jan. 12 won the game in overtime.

Instead of falling into eighth place with four teams closing in on them, the Bruins stayed solidly in seventh and moved within one point of the sixth-place New York Rangers. The Flyers, still eighth but now just two points ahead of Buffalo, are 1-2-2 in their last five games.

"It gives us a little cushion — not much," Ward said of the two points. "There's no room for error, but this helps us."

It was the first time this month that the Bruins have scored three non-shootout goals in a game. Ward hadn’t scored since getting the OT winner against the Flyers on a Saturday afternoon nine weeks earlier.

"He seems to have Philadelphia's number in overtime games," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Too much ice and too little amount of players there."

Goaltender Tim Thomas gave the Bruins a chance to win moments before Ward’s goal by stopping Jeff Carter’s breakaway attempt after Ference coughed up the puck.

"I'd hate to have been sitting here having lost 2-1, thinking we can't score," Thomas said. "I saw the breakaway developing clearly, and I thought to myself: 'If you stop one here, it's easier than a shootout, when you have to stop three."'

Chuck Kobasew’s goal at 12:21 of the first period gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead, but second-period goals by Mike Richards and Danny Briere put the Flyers ahead. They preserved the lead until Ference slapped a rebound past Biron from the lower left circle.

“When you're in the lead in the third period, you should be able to close it out," Briere said. "We've thrown away a lot of points lately. We're frustrated that we're blowing leads, but we're right there, still in the hunt.”

Richards returned to the Flyers’ lineup after missing nine games with a torn hamstring. But they lost defenseman Derian Hatcher, who injured his right leg blocking Ference's shot in the first period and said he feared it might be broken. Instead of going with the team to Pittsburgh for Sunday’s nationally televised game, he went back to Philadelphia for an MRI.

Sabres 6, Maple Leafs 2 | Video
The Sabres gave their playoff chances a big boost and may have ended Toronto’s hopes by routing the Mats Sundin-less Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.

Sundin missed his first game of the season due to a groin injury sustained Wednesday in Philadelphia. The Leafs also lost their No. 2 scorer, Nik Antropov, who played less than three minutes before injuring his knee and didn’t come out for the second period.

“He's one of the best players in the world, and a very big part of our team,” Leafs coach Paul Maurice said of his captain and leading scorer. “I didn't get the feeling of resignation from the players, that we couldn't score or couldn't win, but when (Mats) goes down and then Nik goes down early, we get pretty small pretty quickly."

The Sabres, who’ve had their own injury problems — especially on defense — got a goal and two assists from Jason Pominville and Jochen Hecht to move within one point of eighth-place Philadelphia in the East.

That’s all they’re concerned about right now.

“It's pretty much us against everybody right now," said Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who stopped 30 shots. "You go out and you worry about your own game and get your own points. You're definitely not concerned about the other teams because it's their own problem. You've got to worry about yourself."

The Sabres had been slumping before beating Carolina and Toronto on back-to-back nights.

“(It's important) to get on a roll right now," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "This is the time of year where you scoreboard watch and look at what the teams around you are doing.

"I told the team that we've just got to focus on one game at a time and I thought we did a good job tonight of staying focused."

Toronto is 12th and dropped to six points behind the Flyers.

Ales Kotalik opened the scoring at 7:06 while Buffalo was on a 4-on-3 power play, beating Vesa Toskala with a quick wrist shot.

After Toronto’s Ian White tied the game at 13:39, Hecht put the Sabres back in front on the very next shift, redirecting Pominville’s pass behind Toskala at 14:24. Drew Stafford’s wrist shot beat Toskala at 17:41 for a 3-1 lead.

"You never want to give up a goal right after you get one," Pominville said. "It's a momentum-swinger, you create energy that way. For us I think we stopped everything they got by scoring there."

Toronto rookie Jiri Tlusty woke up the quiet sellout crowd at 7:29 of the third period when he scored his first goal in 19 games, firing a power-play rebound past Miller from just outside the crease.

But Pominville took the life out of the crowd at 11:36 when he completed a tic-tac-toe passing play with Hecht and Paul Gaustad, and Daniel Paille sent a lot of Leaf fans to the exits when the puck bounced off him and into the net at 14:55. Henrik Tallinder hit the empty net at 17:45 after Maurice pulled Toskala with about four minutes remaining.

The Leafs now have three teams between themselves and the eighth-place Flyers.

"We're probably going to have to run the table and get some help," White said. "But we've got (Buffalo) two more times and Boston twice, too."

Lightning 3, Rangers 0 | Video
A couple of days in Florida cooled off the red-hot Rangers, who lost for the second time in two nights. Goalie Mike Smith made 20 saves and fellow newcomer Alexandre Picard had one big stop — as well as a goal — in Tampa Bay’s third consecutive victory.

The Rangers were 10-0-3 before Friday night’s loss to the Panthers. They were a step slow against the Lightning, which is still last in the East but looked revived after wins over the Islanders and Bruins earlier in the week.

''We give an effort like this, this is what happens,'' Rangers center Scott Gomez said. ''Everyone should be pretty upset with themselves, but in saying that, we know what type of team we are. We can't dwell on this.''

The loss left the Rangers in sixth place in the East with 83 points, just four ahead of ninth-place Buffalo.

''It's very disappointing,'' said goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who made 27 saves and was one of the few Rangers who played well. ''We came on this trip with a lot of confidence, and we felt like our game was where it should be. But it felt like we were missing a little bit of intensity in our game and got outbattled a little bit.''

Smith got his first shutout since being acquired by Tampa Bay at last month’s trading deadline. He survived some stickhandling misadventures, including one third-period pass that went right to Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr. With Smith out of position, Picard dove across and prevented a sure goal by blocking Jagr’s shot.

'A big save by Pic,'' Smith said. ''The shutout goes to him, I guess. I said, 'I'd kiss you after the game,' and I did.''

Picard, acquired from Philadelphia one day before Smith came from Dallas, did the job offensively as well, getting the game’s first goal with 47 seconds remaining in the second period when he knocked in a rebound.

Martin St. Louis’ power-play goal after a foolish penalty by Rangers’ agitator Sean Avery made it 2-0 at 6:40 of the third period. The Rangers pulled Lundqvist in the final minute and Smith tried to score into the empty net. His lob shot veered wide, but Michel Ouellet earned him an assist by tucking the puck into the vacated net.

'They had nothing to lose,'' Jagr said. ''Skating up and down, they had more scoring chances than us.''

Canadiens 3, Islanders 0 | Video
Jaroslav Halak continues to be unbeatable at the Bell Centre. Montreal’s backup goaltender stopped 30 shots in his first home start of the season as the Canadiens shut out the struggling Islanders to move back into first place in the Northeast Division.

Halak was 7-0 with two shutouts in Montreal last season, but spent the season with Hamilton in the AHL until Montreal dealt starter Cristobal Huet at the trading deadline. The 22-year-old Slovak is 2-0 in four games with the Canadiens this season, including a 35-save performance one week earlier in his first start of the season, a 5-2 win in Los Angeles. He is 12-6 overall in 20 career games with Montreal; one of the losses came on Long Island last February.

Rookie Carey Price was given the starting job when Huet was traded, but Halak is making a case for more playing time.

“Whenever any player puts up a performance like that, it definitely forces our hand a bit, and that's what we're looking for, we want internal competition," Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said. "At first, because we were playing Carey more, we could see (Halak) was frustrated. We could see he wanted to play, that he wanted to show what he could do — and he's done that."

Halak has allowed only three goals on 86 shots this season — a save percentage of .965. He made a big pad save on Richard Park with just under three minutes to play, drawing chants of "Halak, Halak" from the sellout crowd of 21,273, and he received a big hand when he was named the game's first star.

“I was shocked when Cristobal got traded, but it was a big challenge and a big opportunity for me," Halak said. "We always win when I play here, so whenever I get a chance to play here again, hopefully we can keep the streak alive."

Montreal, which has nine games remaining, regained the Northeast Division lead with 89 points, two more than idle Ottawa. The Canadiens are one behind New Jersey for the Eastern Conference lead. They swept the four-game season series against the injury-riddled Islanders, who lost their fifth in a row and have dropped nine of their last 11.

"I think we controlled the play territorially," Isles coach Ted Nolan said of a lineup that featured a half-dozen minor-league call-ups. "You can only ask the guys for a strong effort. The pucks will eventually bounce our way if we keep up the work ethic."

Halak and Isles goaltender Rick DiPietro matched saves until former Islanders defenseman Roman Hamrlik scored a power-play goal at 7:04 of the second period, converting the rebound of Mark Streit’s screened point shot.

Alex Kovalev beat DiPietro on a 2-on-1 break at 5:54 of the third period, and Guillaume Latendresse went in alone after a bad line change by the Islanders and scored with 2:12 remaining.

“I thought Ricky played a great game,” Nolan said. “We’ve got to score some goals for him. We did a lot of good things. We just didn’t finish.”

Wild 2, Kings 0 | Video
Nicklas Backstrom’s first shutout since Oct. 10 put the Wild back on top in the wild, wild Northwest. Backstrom stopped 24 shots and Marian Gaborik scored his 200th NHL goal to give Minnesota 84 points, matching Colorado, but the Wild have played one fewer game. The Avs come to the Xcel Energy Center on Monday.

''If we want to make the playoffs, that's the way it has to be,'' Backstrom said. ''I have to be there and make the saves when the team needs that and help them so they don't have to score four or five goals every night.''

Brian Rolston scored at 14:11 of the second period to put the Wild ahead, stuffing the puck past Erik Ersberg at the left post. Gaborik used a teammate as a decoy on a 2-on-1 and whipped a wrist shot past the rookie goaltender with 4:04 left in regulation for goal No. 200 — and some insurance.

Gaborik had played a sloppy game for the first 56 minutes with two penalties and two turnovers in Minnesota's zone before his goal, which earned him a standing ovation from the sellout crowd when his milestone was announced.

''Especially to score it in a winning game when we haven't won in a while,'' Gaborik said. ''This is a huge two points for us. It's nice to get that goal in a two-point game. It's huge.''

Ersberg made 27 saves for the Kings, who went 0-for-5 on the power play.

''You get five power-play chances,'' coach Marc Crawford said, ''and you've got to connect on one of those five. ... So this is one where our power play has to take some ownership of our performance.''

Nine of the Wild's final 10 games are against division opponents — and while the Wild now leads the Northwest, they’re only four points ahead of Nashville, the ninth-place team in the West.

''As always, the next game is the biggest one for us,'' Backstrom said.

The Kings, last in the overall standings, are still playing hard — they won in Nashville on Thursday and made life tough for the Wild.

''We look at it almost like playoff games for us, trying to spoil something for these teams that are fighting for a playoff spot,'' Ersberg said.

Oilers 5, Coyotes 2 | Video
Dwayne Roloson’s 38-save performance in his first start in six weeks kept the Oilers’ slim playoff hopes alive — and damaged the Coyotes’ chances.

Ales Hemsky, Joni Pitkanen, Kyle Brodziak, Marty Reasoner and Fernando Pisani all scored for the Oilers, who’ve won the first three meetings between the teams this season. The win kept the Oilers seven points out of the last playoff berth in the West.

''It was a complete effort in Colorado (a 5-1 loss Thursday) and it was a complete effort tonight from polar opposites of the spectrum,'' Oilers coach MacTavish said after his team’s fourth win in five games. “There wasn’t anybody who wasn’t good tonight. It was as good a 60-minute effort by 20 guys as we’ve had all year.”

Phoenix fell five points out of a playoff berth despite goals by Shane Doan and Mathias Tjarnqvist.

''This was the biggest game of the year for us and we got outplayed,'' Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. ''We got beat to loose pucks, they had a little more discipline than we did as a team and they just played a much better hockey game. It's as simple as that.''

Roloson was sharp despite not starting a game since Feb. 1.

''I was just trying to focus on the things I had to do,'' Roloson said. ''I made a few mistakes, but was able to get away with them.''

Doan’s deflection at 4:03 of the second period tied the game at 1-1. But the Oilers went ahead to stay at 7:45, aided by a mental error by Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who left the crease to help cover Edmonton's Robert Nilsson as the center skated to the left of the crease. But Nilsson passed behind Bryzgalov into the crease, where Pitkanen scored into the vacated net.

Brodziak’s deflection at 15:14 made it 3-1 and Reasoner gave the Oilers a three-goal lead 8:19 into the third period when he knocked in a rebound. Tjarnqvist cut the lead to 4-2 with 1:12 left in regulation when his shot deflected into the net off the skate of Oilers defenseman Ladislav Smid. But Pisani scored into an empty net 13 seconds later.

The Coyotes, who visit Vancouver on Monday and Edmonton on Tuesday, held a 15-minute players-only meeting after the game.

''It's hard to put your finger on it,'' Doan said. ''We've got 10 games to go and we're not out of it yet. We just made it that much harder. We had to win in Vancouver anyway. I'm not saying this wasn't big because it was. But we had to win anyway.''

Ducks 5, Blues 2 | Video
Home is where the wins are for the Ducks, who won for the franchise-record ninth straight time at the Honda Center — even without Chris Pronger — against a Blues team that’s feeling the effects of a long road trip.

Rob Niedermayer scored twice as the Ducks passed Dallas for second place in the Pacific Division and fourth in the Western Conference — which would give Anaheim the home-ice edge in the opening round of the playoffs. They did it without Pronger, their captain and an All-Star defenseman, who sat out the first of an eight-game suspension handed down earlier Saturday for stomping Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler three days earlier.

“You don’t want to miss one of your best defensemen,” Niedermayer said. “We want him in the lineup, but we’re going to have to have other guys step up.”

But Ducks coach Randy Carlyle wasn’t thrilled with his team’s performance — goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere faced 40 shots and had to be sharp even against a team that has struggled to score.

"We didn’t play to the level that is going to be required here, that is for sure," Carlyle said. "We’ll take the win, but we’re going to have to play a higher level than we played tonight, specifically in our next game against Dallas. We think it’s a decent sign that when you don’t play to your best, you still have some success."

The Blues fell to 0-5-1 after six games of a nine-game, three-week trip that has dropped them to 14th in the West and all but officially ended their playoff hopes.

''We've got 10 games left, and obviously we are out of it,'' goaltender Manny Legace said. ''We've just got to have an attitude to go in and spoil some team's home-ice (advantage). That's got to be our goal. We might as well make it fun.''

Niedermayer broke a 2-2 tie at 4:08 of the third period when his shot bounced off Legace and into the net. He made it 4-2 at 11:09, firing Travis Moen’s backhand pass into a wide-open net. Ryan Getzlaf hit the empty net with 1:38 remaining as Anaheim won for the 25th time at home, one short of the franchise record set in 2005-06 and matched last season.

''If it wasn't for our home record, we wouldn't be sitting where we are right now,'' Niedermayer said.

Mathieu Schneider gave the Ducks a 1-0 lead at 19:07 of the first period, whipping a backhander past Legace’s glove. Jamal Mayers tied it 1:57 into the second period, knocking the rebound of his own deflection past Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Teemu Selanne put the Ducks back on top at 15:10 when he picked up a blocked shot in the slot and scooped it under the crossbar for a power-play goal. But the Blues pulled even 54 seconds into the third period when his shot hit Anaheim’s Samuel Pahlsson and deflected into the net.

Giguere’s 38 saves were one less than his season high.

"Jiggy made some great saves," Schneider said. "If it wasn’t for his performance, we would have been in a much tougher spot. We had a couple of timely goals. We were able to stay on top and not play from behind."

St. Louis has dropped 10 consecutive games on the road, tying the club mark set in 1981-82 and equaled two seasons ago. They go to Montreal, Ottawa and Chicago before returning home on March 25.

''It's a joke is what it is,'' Erik Johnson said of the Blues’ slump. ''This is just unacceptable, what we're going through right now. There's too much character in this room to have this happen. It's really tough to bear.''

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


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