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Carbonneau now an All-Star as well

by Brian Hunter
A few thoughts as Mats Sundin continues to acclimate himself to the NHL and Brendan Shanahan starts down his own path toward a return:

So much for a vacation -- Four of his players were elected to start in this season's All-Star Game, which will take place at Bell Centre, the arena he calls home. Now the coach of the Montreal Canadiens will be there as well.

Sergei Kostitsyn scored with 21.2 seconds left Saturday night, accomplishing a couple of things in the process. Most important, he gave the Canadiens a 5-4 win over the Washington Capitals. But he also clinched a spot for Carbonneau as assistant coach for the Eastern Conference by virtue of a better winning percentage than the Caps' bench boss, Bruce Boudreau.

Carbonneau originally had a mini-vacation planned, but instead he'll stand alongside Boston coach Claude Julien, who's in charge of the East squad, when the game comes to Montreal on Jan. 25.

"I was going to go to Florida, lie on a beach and enjoy it," Carbonneau said. "I never had a chance as a player to go to the All-Star game. Even if it's a game that doesn't have a lot of intensity, it will still be special."

Intensity was hardly lacking from Saturday's game, as the Canadiens rallied from a 2-1 deficit after two periods. They took leads of 3-2 and 4-3 only to see the Capitals respond with tying goals, and overtime loomed until Kostitsyn took care of business by scoring unassisted.

Washington missed a chance to pad its lead in the Southeast Division, which troubled Boudreau much more than getting edged out by Carbonneau for the assistant coaching position.

"The story of my life," joked Boudreau, who won the Jack Adams Award as the League's top coach as a rookie last season. "You know what, I'm more interested -- quite frankly -- in the fact that Florida won. We could have gained on Carolina and stayed closer to Boston, so it was a heartbreaker to watch us lose like that but maybe we learn by our mistakes."

The best of the rest -- When it comes to the All-Star Game, one thing you can always count on is there being more worthy candidates than spots on the rosters. Every year a solid team can be created out of the perceived All-Star snubs, and one of the big names not to make this year's game was David Krejci of the Boston Bruins.

If Krejci is harboring any resentment about not being invited to Montreal, he took some of it out on the Carolina Hurricanes with a goal and two assists Saturday in a 5-1 win at TD Banknorth Garden. Krejci's latest big effort gave him 16 goals and 46 points this season.

"It will make him better," said Bruins forward Marc Savard, who will represent the Bruins for the Eastern Conference. "He is out there proving every night he deserves to be there."

Added teammate Michael Ryder, who turned two of Krejci's passes into second-period goals: "He's playing unbelievable. You can't get any more confident than he is right now."

One person who didn't seem overly concerned about the Krejci getting left off the team was his coach, Claude Julien, who said it shouldn't be confused as a lack of recognition for the second-year forward.

"We make too much about All-Star selections," said Julien, who will guide the East squad. "Not being on the team is one thing, but the fact that everybody is talking about him not being on the team speaks for itself."


Third-period surge -- They've clawed their way back into the playoff picture, but it took the Florida Panthers more than 40 minutes to shake an Atlanta Thrashers squad that has played better as of late.

Ville Peltonen scored twice in a five-goal third period that helped the Panthers break a 3-3 tie and double up the Thrashers with an 8-4 win at BankAtlantic Center. Florida closed within one point of Buffalo and Carolina, which hold the last two Eastern Conference playoff spots.

"After the second period, we decided we have to go back to our game and getting the puck through the neutral zone," Peltonen said. "We just owned them again in the third."

Energized after a 4-0 win at New Jersey on Thursday, the Thrashers erased a 3-1 deficit with a pair of goals in the second. But then it all fell apart for goalie Kari Lehtonen, who followed up on his shutout by yielding seven goals and getting pulled in favor of Johan Hedberg.

"I don't think there's anything that stands out," Lehtonen said. "But when there's so many goals, that's pretty bad. We have to forget about this and go forward. It feels bad after the great game we had in New Jersey."

Buried by an Avalanche -- Pepsi Center hasn't been an easy place for the Pittsburgh Penguins to play under the best of circumstances. With the team struggling mightily, that didn't change on Saturday afternoon.

David Jones scored twice while adding an assist and Wojtek Wolski picked up the go-ahead goal midway through the second as the Colorado Avalanche won 5-3 and handed the free-falling Penguins their seventh loss in eight games.

"The whole team has been pitching in," said Wolski, who has a three-game goal streak. "David Jones had three points tonight, two goals, just going hard to the net and getting his stick on the ice."

Pittsburgh got contributions from its core players: Evgeni Malkin connected on the power play, Sidney Crosby scored at even strength and Jordan Staal added a shorthanded goal. But the overall effort wasn't good enough to get the Penguins out of what has become a serious and troubling slump.

"It is tough. We've got to hang in there and keep our heads up and make sure we're working hard," Pittsburgh coach Michael Therrien said. "Eventually, if we get the right approach we'll get out of this."

Persistence pays off -- Ryan Miller all but stood on his head Friday night in denying 43 shots through overtime and all three shootout attempts to lead the Buffalo Sabres over the New York Rangers.

It took some time for the Detroit Red Wings to solve Miller on Saturday night, but they kept shooting and eventually found a few cracks. Jiri Hudler tied the score with three minutes left in the second period and goals 59 seconds apart by Mikael Samuelsson and Marian Hossa late in the third carried the Wings to a 3-1 win at Joe Louis Arena.

"We were hoping to wear (Miller) down. We thought if we stayed at their net, we'd get our opportunities," Red Wings' coach Mike Babcock said. "He made some great saves early, but we stayed patient and were able to get the win."

Detroit ended up peppering Miller with 48 shots, including 23 in the third period. That was more than Wings goalie Ty Conklin faced for the entire game, but he did his job by stopping 21 of 22 shots for the victory.

"They're tough. Ryan gave them a good chance to win," Conklin said. "He made some big saves. The longer games like that stay close, and we're controlling the play, we're going to break through."

Filatov fills the net -- They already have the leading Calder Trophy candidate in their locker room in Steve Mason. Now the Columbus Blue Jackets have another rookie who can provide some exciting moments.

Nikita Filatov, the sixth pick in last June's Entry Draft, registered his first NHL hat trick in a 4-2 win over the Minnesota Wild at Nationwide Arena. Filatov, who recently rejoined the team after a stint with Russia at the World Junior Championships, opened the scoring 3:21 into the game and added a pair of third-period goals that proved decisive in the outcome.

"He's a scorer and he looks like a scorer on the ice," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He's a smart, smart offensive player. He positions himself, offensively, really well. He finds holes other people don't look for."

"It's unbelievable," Filatov said. "I have so many emotions, so many feelings. Unbelievable moment."

Filatov had scored one goal in five NHL games prior to Saturday. His outburst helped sink the Wild and left coach Jacques Lemaire shaking his head over the team's effort.

"This cannot happen," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. "To show up like this, it can't happen."

Unlikely sources -- The secret to success for the New York Rangers was the impeccable goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist and goals from a pair of players who had endured long scoring droughts.

Lundqvist made 33 saves and the Rangers got goals came from Brandon Dubinsky and Lauri Korpikoski in a 2-0 win over the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place. Dubinsky had gone 19 games without a goal, while Korpikoski's score was his second of the season and first in 23 games.

"It's been a struggle for me to score goals," Dubinsky said. "I've had chances and felt like I was playing well and making good shots but they weren't going in for me. To have a gift like that is nice. Hopefully the floodgates will open and they'll start going in a little more now."

The Senators returned home after a difficult 1-6-1 road trip threatened to bury them in the Eastern Conference standings. They got a solid effort from rookie Brian Elliott in net, in just his second NHL start, but their offensive struggles continued as they were blanked for the fourth time this season.

"We got better as the game went on and took over in the second, but we didn't have that last push for us to get close in the third," captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "The difference was the second period. If we score there, we're in the game."

Lethal combination -- With Martin Biron keeping the puck out of his own net and Jeff Carter putting it into the opponent's, the Philadelphia Flyers continued their winning formula.

Biron made 41 saves and Carter scored twice to take back the NHL goal lead as the Flyers erupted for three in the third period of a 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Wachovia Center.

"Whenever he (Carter) touches the puck, you know he's going to get a scoring chance or he's going to create something," Biron said. "Jeff has a great shot and a great reach. He comes in with so much speed. He's a good skater and comes in so quick it's tough for a goalie to cover that much ground in that short amount of time."

Carter snapped a 1-1 tie on a Flyers' power play 5:59 into the third, going forehand to backhand before putting the puck high over the stick side of Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala. His empty-net goal with 1:48 remaining was his 29th of the season, two more than Washington's Alex Ovechkin and Buffalo's Thomas Vanek.

"I thought we outplayed them for most of the night," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. "But at the end of the game, their goalie (Biron) was the difference. He made saves when we had them under siege for multiple shifts. We couldn't find a way to crack him."

Last goalie standing -- Ilya Bryzgalov and Marty Turco staged their own private duel at Arena. Standing at opposite ends of the ice, neither goalie blinked -- or let a puck get past him -- for 65 minutes of regulation and overtime, leaving the Phoenix Coyotes and Dallas Stars scoreless going into a shootout.

Each goalie's armor was dented a bit in the penalty-shot tiebreaker, but it was Bryzgalov who came out triumphant when Kyle Turris scored in the fifth round to give the Coyotes a hard-fought 1-0 win.

"It's the NHL. Nothing's easy here," Bryzgalov said after stopping three of five Dallas shootout attempts. "I just react with the play and follow the players."

The Coyotes had their backs against the wall when James Neal scored for the Stars to begin the fourth round of the shootout. But Steven Reinprecht answered with the tying score and after Bryzgalov denied Mike Modano, it was Turris using a forehand fake before beating Turco on a backhander to win it.

"I think they know I'm going to shoot so I tried to change my angle up a little bit," Turris said. "I've practiced it. I just kinda thought about it when the other guys were shooting and thought I'd try it out."

Making up ground -- If the Nashville Predators expect to make it back to the playoffs this season, they know they need to start beating the teams ahead of them in the standings. A 4-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks was a good start.

"We need to string some wins together," said David Legwand, who both opened and capped the scoring. "Our goal is to get back in the race."

A recent five-game losing streak dropped the Predators to fourth in the Central Division and into a tie for 11th in the Western Conference, but they've responded with nine goals in a pair of victories over Pittsburgh and Chicago.

"The goals are coming from playing the game the right way offensively and defensively," coach Barry Trotz said. "We are getting goals because we are forechecking well and creating turnovers. We are getting goals because we are going to the net hard. We are making good decisions and shooting the puck. Those are all of the things we have been practicing and preaching."

Another nice storyline to Saturday's victory was the return of Steve Sullivan, who played his first game since Feb. 22, 2007, after recovering from two back surgeries. The Sommet Center fans were thrilled to have Sullivan back and let him know it.

"I was thrilled with the ovation," he said. "These are probably the best fans in the world. For them to wait for me and show me the respect they did was awesome."

Seizing the opportunity -- Kevin Weekes got used to sitting for weeks last season and the first month of this one as the backup to Martin Brodeur. When the New Jersey Devils lost their star goalie long-term, it looked as though Weekes would ascend to the starting job, but instead it's been more of the same, as Scott Clemmensen made 13 starts in a row prior to Saturday night.

Weekes found himself back in net as the Devils started a West Coast trip at Staples Center, and he responded with a 34-save effort to lead them to a 5-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings.

"It has been a while, and obviously our team had been playing well and Clemmer got a great opportunity and he was playing extremely well, too," Weekes said. "There haven't been that many starts, but I just try to work as hard as possible every day and I have an upbeat and positive attitude, and that helped me tonight."

Weekes, who stopped all 16 shots he faced in the second period and 11 more in the third as the Devils pulled away, said he doesn't begrudge Clemmensen all the playing time he has received and is behind him the same way he was Brodeur.

"We're doing this thing by committee, really," Weekes said. "That's what it's all about. He knows that I support him when he's playing and he's more than supportive of me when I get to play. … It goes a long way, because the other guy wearing the pads is the only other guy in that room who knows how you feel, and it's important to have a good camaraderie with your goalie partner."

Still getting there --
Mats Sundin played his third game with the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night and experienced the ups and downs of working his way back into a groove.

On the plus side, Sundin scored a goal in front of the G.M. Place crowd, his first with his new team and the 556th of his illustrious career. However, he was also in the penalty box when the winning goal was scored for the second game in a row, as the San Jose Sharks doubled up the Canucks, 4-2.

"Being out of the game for so long now, you're obviously looking to get back into things," Sundin said. "I knew it was going to be a big challenge to come back … it's a challenge to get into the game where guys are 3-4 months into the season. So step by step, felt a little better tonight I thought than the previous two games, and hopefully we'll go from here."

Sundin tied the score at 1-1 with 7.6 seconds left in the first period, firing the puck into a wide-open net after Kevin Bieksa's point shot caromed off a crowd in front. But his high-sticking penalty 7:30 into the third led to the first of two Patrick Marleau goals that turned the game in the Sharks' favor.

"It's the intensity of the game," Sundin said when asked what the biggest adjustment has been so far. "The battles, that someone's holding you or you're in the corner battling for the puck. But also the intensity of the game, where every shift you're 30-40 seconds, but it's pretty much a full sprint when you're out there. All of that, you need to play games to get back into that."

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

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