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Caps show there's more to them than Ovechkin

by Brian Compton
A few thoughts while we congratulate Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen on their "shotgun" wedding:

All hands on deck -- He may have 55 goals this season, but Alex Ovechkin wasn't relied upon to provide the offense in the Washington Capitals' 6-4 win Sunday afternoon against the Atlanta Thrashers.

Sure, he had two assists. But the more impressive feat was the fact that six different players found the back of the net -- a strong indication that there is plenty more to Bruce Boudreau's club than just No. 8.

"It's great to finally have some scoring from all over the place," said Eric Fehr, one of four Washington players to score in the third period. "Ovie's been carrying the workload pretty much all year."

The best news from Sunday's win was the end of a 14-game scoring drought for Tomas Fleischmann. The Caps' forward had 15 goals by the middle of January, but had only found the back of the net twice since then. He finally reversed his fortunes Sunday, when he beat Johan Hedberg 2:13 into the game.

"The relief on his eyes when he finally scored was like, 'Oh, man, I can play the game,'" Boudreau said. "You start to doubt yourself after a while, no matter who you are, when you have trouble scoring. I hope that adds a little confidence to his game."
Not on our watch -- Everyone knew how desperate the Minnesota Wild were when they entered Joe Louis Arena on Sunday afternoon.

But that desperation wasn't enough for the Wild to gain two points against the defending Stanley Cup champion.

Marian Hossa broke a 2-2 tie -- and probably the hearts of fans in Minnesota -- by scoring with 55 seconds remaining to lift the Detroit Red Wings to a 3-2 victory. The win snapped Detroit's three-game skid.

''We knew how desperate they are. They need to win every game to get into the playoffs,'' Hossa said. ''We felt an urgency in the dressing room, too, that this was a playoff game.''

Congratulations to Mike Babcock, who joined Scotty Bowman as the only coaches to win 50 games in four-consecutive seasons. The Red Wings became just the third team in history to accomplish that feat.

For Babcock, though, Sunday was more about getting his team back on track. After all, the playoffs are a little more than a week away.

"We've got too proud a group, too good a leadership, too good a people to play like we have been," Babcock said. "Our guys understand that it's time to get going. I thought we had a good effort. (It was) a good win for our hockey club."

 Hello, New York! -- Looks like the New York Rangers have some company.

The Florida Panthers inched closer to topping the Blueshirts for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference on Sunday, as Tomas Vokoun stopped 41 shots in a 4-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins at BankAtlantic Center.

With the victory, the Panthers moved into a virtual tie with the Rangers as each team has 89 points. New York, however, has one more victory, which is the first tie-breaking category.

Both teams are idle Monday. Florida will visit Philadelphia on Tuesday night, while the Rangers will host Montreal.

"We needed to win tonight. It was do-or-die," McCabe said. "That's one down. We're tied, same amount of games left. We've just got to keep winning."

Florida is vying for its first playoff appearance since 2000. It would certainly be a tremendous accomplishment for rookie coach Peter DeBoer if he can find a way to get the Panthers into the postseason.

"Obviously, we're in a hole tonight if we don't win," he said. "And (now) we can wake up tied for the last playoff spot."

Home, sweet home -- Kris Versteeg's goal with 1:50 left in overtime Sunday may very well have landed the Chicago Blackhawks home-ice advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Versteeg's tally broke a scoreless tie as Nikolai Khabibulin made 20 saves in a 1-0 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. Chicago moved three points ahead of Vancouver for the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference.

The Blackhawks have won three straight and six of eight, and snapped a season-high five-game road losing streak.

"What a hockey game," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "Both teams played hard, the pace was incredible. I don't know how many times we had five or six minutes of play without faceoffs or stoppages."

One day after clinching their first playoff spot in seven years, Chicago won again as Versteeg skated alone from beyond center ice to beat goalie Steve Mason with a low shot that bounced off the goalie's stick and into the net. , Mason, another star rookie, finished with 24 saves for Columbus,

"You can't really see much going in on that goalie," Versteeg said. "I was going five-hole and I guess I got lucky and it bounced in. Coming down against a guy like Mason I guess all you can do is shoot and pray to God it goes into the net."

California dreamin' -- It's been exactly 40 years since two California teams have met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but we may be on the verge of such a matchup in 2009.

And Sunday, we may have received a sneak preview.

It was the No. 1 San Jose Sharks who came away with a 3-2 victory against the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center, thanks to a goal and an assist from Jonathan Cheechoo. Anaheim currently sits in seventh place in the West, but it's just two points up on Nashville and St. Louis. San Jose is six points up on Detroit for the top seed.

In 1969, the Los Angeles Kings defeated the Oakland Seals in the opening round of the playoffs in a seven-game series that went the distance.

"These are fun games to be a part of. I mean, it's Anaheim. We get up to play those guys and I'm sure they get up to play us," Cheechoo said. "But they're all big right now. We want to establish our game, try to build some momentum, play the way we're supposed to play them, system-wise, and play to our strengths."

So, will we see the teams facing off next week?

"We'll see," Sharks forward Jeremy Roenick said. "Hopefully, we hang on to that top spot."

For you, Dad
-- The Calgary Flames got a huge boost from T.J. Galiardi on Sunday night. All it took was a request from his father.

Galiardi, a Calgary native, notched his first-two goal game in the NHL, leading the Colorado Avalanche to a 4-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks at General Motors Place. The win allowed the Flames to stay ahead of the Canucks in the Northwest Division.

The Northwest winner will secure the No. 3 seed in the playoffs, which means home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. The teams are tied with 94 points, but the Flames have a game in hand and hold the first tiebreaker with more victories.

"My dad is a big Calgary fan and he was saying, 'Get the win for them,' because obviously Vancouver is on their tail," Galiardi said. "It's kind of funny how it worked out that way."

It's also kind of funny that the Canucks bring out the best in Galiardi. All three of his goals have come at Vancouver's expense.

"I've had some chances against other teams, but I was just lucky enough to get a couple tonight," Galiardi said. "Obviously, you've got to be grateful to score on a guy like (Roberto) Luongo two times."

Contact Brian Compton at:

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

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