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Canucks edge Ducks, move into first

by Brian Compton
Daniel Sedin and the Vancouver Canucks gained sole possesion of first place in the Northwest Division with a 2-1 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night.
The Vancouver Canucks took advantage of their dominance at home – and the Anaheim Ducks’ inability to stay out of the penalty box.
In the process, they moved into first place.
Daniel Sedin scored in the first period ( 700K ) after consecutive penalties to George Parros and Sean O’Donnell, and Matt Cooke found the back of the net in the second frame as the Canucks gained sole possession of first in the Northwest Division with a 2-1 win over the reigning Stanley Cup champs at General Motors Place on Sunday night. Vancouver has not lost a regulation game on home ice in 12 contests.

''We are taking a few too many penalties at times,'' Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf said. ''Tonight it wasn't that we took too many, it was a matter of taking a couple at the wrong time, and they were able to score a goal.''
Cooke’s tally came 4:18 into the second ( 700K ), when he finished off an odd-man rush by firing a 25-foot wrister past Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller for his sixth goal of the season. Hiller got the starting nod after Jean-Sebastien Giguere’s performance in Saturday’s 5-3 loss to Calgary.
Getzlaf closed the gap in the third period when he beat Roberto Luongo 9:43 into the third period ( 700K ), courtesy of a pretty no-look pass from Scott Niedermayer. It was Getzlaf’s 14th goal of the season. The Ducks’ forward is confident his team will be a contender in the Western Conference -- as long as it cuts down on the penalties.
''We are an aggressive team, and we are a physical team. The more that we can check with our legs instead of our sticks the more we will benefit in the long run.''
As for the Canucks, they’ll look to build off Sunday’s win on Monday night, when they finish 2007 with a game at the Pengrowth Saddledome against the Calgary Flames. One thing is certain: Vancouver certainly closed out the year with an impressive run on home ice.
"It's quite a change from the first month of the season," Luongo said of Vancouver's 1-6 start at home. "We've been getting off to some early leads and it's been key for us, playing with that confidence, that we can preserve that lead."
Flyers 1, Panthers 0 | Video 
The Sunshine State brought out the best in Philadelphia – even from some unlikely sources.
Derian Hatcher scored his 80th career goal, while Antero Niittymaki made 38 saves – including Radek Dvorak’s penalty shot late in the first period  – as the Flyers won their third straight and completed a two-game sweep of the NHL’s Floridian clubs.
On Saturday afternoon, Philadelphia recorded a 4-2 win at Tampa Bay behind usual suspects Joffrey Lupul and Martin Biron. Just over 24 hours later, it took a rare goal from Hatcher and some splendid goaltending from Niittymaki to knock off the Panthers.
Hatcher broke the scoreless tie at the 9:14 mark of the third period ( 700K ). It took a bit of luck for the puck to even wind up on his stick, as an initial shot from the left circle by Stefan Ruzicka deflected off Florida defenseman Bryan Allen before it found its way to Hatcher. The hulking defenseman beat Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun for the game’s only tally.
''It's always nice to score. What more can I say?'' said Hatcher, who has appeared in 1,022 career games. ''Ruzicka made a good play to try to get it through to the net and it just popped on my stick.”
Niittymaki’s best stop was on Dvorak’s penalty shot, which came with 1:08 remaining in the opening period ( 700K ). The Flyers’ netminder kept his team in the game early, as Philadelphia was outshot 14-3 in the first 20 minutes.
“I was kind of thinking he might go five-hole,” Niittymaki said of the penalty shot. “I was looking five-hole the whole time and he almost beat me. I got my blocker on it at the last second.”
Florida coach Jacques Martin was frustrated by the loss, especially after the way the Panthers took it to the Flyers early. In the end, though, Florida simply couldn’t solve Niittymaki, who made the most of his rare start.
''We doubled them in shots, doubled them in chances,'' Martin said. ''Their goaltender shut the door on us.''
Philadelphia (18-14-4) will look to make it four in a row when it opens the 2008 portion of its schedule on Friday night at New Jersey, which is the third of a six-game road trip for the Flyers.
''I think our team is finding ways to win right now,'' Flyers coach John Stevens said. ''The talk before was that we were finding ways to lose and letting games slip away. We didn't play our best hockey tonight, but we played a team that was desperate and we're having different people stepping up and finding ways to win.''
Florida also opens 2008 in New Jersey, as the Panthers will visit the Prudential Center on Wednesday. While Niittymaki’s performance was impressive, Florida captain Olli Jokinen had a different take on what transpired during his team’s second straight loss.
''If you shoot at his pads and glove every time, you definitely make him look good,'' he said.
Kings 3, Blackhawks 2, OT
Dustin Brown, right, celebrates his game-winning goal with teammates Patrick O'Sullivan and Brad Stuart in the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 overtime win.   
Dustin Brown’s second goal of the night came 3:31 into overtime, as Los Angeles rallied for its second straight victory.
Brown’s first tally came 2:43 into the third period, which cut a 2-0 deficit in half. Kyle Calder tied the game with a power play goal just under seven minutes later, as the Kings built off Saturday’s impressive 3-1 win at Colorado.
''Our goal is to wear down other teams,'' Brown said. ''The last two wins, we came back in the third and wore on teams.''
The rally cost Chicago its four-game winning streak. The Blackhawks jumped out to a two-goal lead on tallies by Jonathan Toews and Jacob Dowell – the latter’s coming 2:10 into the third period.
But Brown scored just 33 seconds later to make it a 2-1 game, as he took a pass from Ladislav Nagy and fired a wrist shot from the left circle past Nikolai Khabibulin, who finished with 33 saves.
After Martin Lapointe was whistled for hooking, Tom Preissing fired a blast that couldn’t find its way through a crowd. But Calder collected the loose puck in front and stuffed it past Khabibulin to tie the game.
''What happened tonight is we just didn't have enough experience after taking the lead,'' Khabibulin said.
Brown potted the game-winner with 1:29 remaining in overtime. It was his 18th goal of the season, which set a new career-high for the 23-year-old forward.
''You have to make good shots to beat a goalie of Khabibulin's caliber,'' Kings coach Marc Crawford said. ''He made a great shot to beat him.''

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