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Caps, Isles find leads hardly guarantee wins

by John Kreiser
A lot has been made of the fact that leads have been harder to hold in the last few years. The Washington Capitals and New York Islanders will be the first to agree that leads can disappear a lot faster than they used to.

The Caps have held the lead in the second period or later in all 25 games they’ve played this season. But they’ve turned only 14 of those into victories. The Caps have hurt themselves with their lack of third-period discipline. They’ve been shorthanded nearly twice as much in the third period as in the first, and have allowed 14 power-play goals in the third period or later – but just one in the first.

The Islanders continue to be unable to hold onto multi-goal leads. They’ve seen a League-high seven of them disappear this season, including a 3-0 lead in a 4-3 overtime win at Toronto Monday in which they allowed 61 shots. New York has lost four of those seven games – though the Isles have gotten a point in each.

Nor have the Islanders done well when scoring first. Though teams that get the first goal win about 65 percent of the time, the Isles have lost six of the 11 games in which they’ve scored first (5-3-3).

Lots of shots don’t mean wins – The Maple Leafs are the latest team to learn that a barrage of shots doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to win. The Leafs bombarded Dwayne Roloson of the Islanders with 61 shots in their 4-3 overtime loss – Josh Bailey’s game-winner came on the Islanders’ 21st shot.

It’s the second time in two years that a team has had 60 shots in a game and lost. The Islanders outshot Carolina 60-28 last Oct. 24, but lost 4-3 in regulation. In fact, only three of the last 10 teams to take 60 or more shots in a game actually won – the last one was Detroit, which had 60 shots in a 3-2 overtime win over Florida on Feb. 27, 2002.

But in Roloson’s case, the 61 shots he faced were just the beginning. Counting shots that were blocked or missed the net, the Leafs fired an incredible 116 shots at net, the most by any team in at least five years. Toronto missed the net with 27 shots, and the Islanders blocked 28 more.

New jersey, same resultAntero Niittymaki changed teams this summer, moving from Philadelphia to Tampa Bay. But he brought his dominance of the Atlanta Thrashers with him. Niittymaki was the winning goalie on Sunday when Tampa Bay beat Atlanta 4-3 in a shootout. It was his 14th win over the Thrashers without a loss. The only active goaltender with a longer perfect streak against an opponent is Chris Osgood, who has won all 17 of his decisions against the Lightning.

Flickering out – Anaheim is a popular place to visit, unless you’re a member of the Calgary Flames. Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped 41 shots Monday as the Ducks beat the Flames 3-2 in a shootout at the Honda Center. It was the Ducks’ 10th consecutive regular-season victory over the Flames at home, and Giguere is 9-0-0 against Calgary in that span – during which he has allowed more than three goals only once. The Ducks are 16-1-3 against Calgary in the Flames’ last 20 visits, covering more than a decade.

Mr. November – It’s hard to picture where the New York Rangers might be if they hadn’t signed Marian Gaborik this summer.

Gaborik reached Thanksgiving leading the NHL in goals with 19 – including nine in New York’s 10 games this month, He’s assisted on six others, giving him 15 points for a team that had scored just 23 times. Linemate Vaclav Prospal has 2 goals and 5 assists for 7 points; no other Ranger has more than five.

But Gaborik’s magic apparently doesn’t carry over to shootouts. He was stopped by Florida goaltender Tomas Vokoun in New York’s 2-1 win on Wednesday, dropping him to 1-for-15 in his career. That’s one fewer shootout goal than rookie P.A. Parenteau has scored in the last two weeks. Parenteau is 2-for-2, with game-winners at Ottawa and Florida.

No longer shootout Stars – When the NHL initiated the shootout in 2005-06, no team made better use of it than the Dallas Stars, who went 12-1 in the breakaway competition – by far the best mark in the NHL. Through the first four seasons of the shootout, they were 32-14, one of the best marks in the League.

Fast-forward to 2009-10, though, and the Stars have lost their touch. Wednesday’s 4-3 shootout loss to St. Louis was the Stars’ fifth in six tries this season, tying them with Tampa Bay for the worst record in the NHL. Marty Turco, who was 24-14 in shootouts entering this season, has lost four of five and stopped only 8 of 15 shots, a .533 percentage that is a huge drop from his .692 save percentage entering the season.


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