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Chewed-out Rangers rally for 4-2 victory

by John Kreiser
When John Tortorella speaks, the New York Rangers get the message. At least they did on Thursday night.

Tortorella aired out his team after a sloppy first period at Nashville that saw the Predators skate off with a 2-1 lead. Though Tortorella wouldn't say what he told his players, they obviously got the point -- the Rangers dominated the final 40 minutes and rolled to a 4-2 victory that put them back into the top eight in the Eastern Conference.

The Rangers' new coach did his own version of the "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" routine, saying he wouldn't discuss what was said after the first period -- other than to confirm that he benched forward Nikolai Zherdev, whose turnover led to Nashville's second goal.

But center Scott Gomez, who scored the tying goal and assisted on two others, said the message was an eye-opener. The Rangers are 4-2-1 since Tortorella replaced fired coach Tom Renney.

"He wasn't happy after the first period," Gomez said. "It has been a while since I've heard a speech like that. We were playing too timid. Nashville had the 2-1 lead and we thought it was over.

"He let us know what it is going to be like from now on. He lit into all of us. We were feeling sorry for ourselves and he spotted that right away. He called us out. I thought we responded well."

Gomez tied the game 3:01 into the second period, then set up defenseman Mark Staal's go-ahead goal, a blast from the slot at 17:29. Fredric Sjostrom's shorthanded goal 7:59 into the third period added some insurance. Sean Avery scored in the first period for the Rangers before goals by Shea Weber and J.P. Dumont put Nashville ahead -- and Tortorella on edge.

Henrik Lundqvist, who sat out Monday's 3-0 loss at Carolina because of a stomach ailment that has bothered him for about 10 days, stopped 19 shots for his 30th win of the season. He is the first goalie in NHL history to win 30 games in his first four seasons and the first Rangers goalie to do in any four-season stretch.

"It is a great feeling to be part of history," Lundqvist said. "The first four years have been great. When I look back on my career I will definitely think about this accomplishment. Part of this is because of my teammates, as well."



Lundqvist also was inspired by Tortorella's talk.

"He let us know how we should play and how we should have played in the first period," he said. "It is pretty obvious to us that when we get more involved, play more physical and go after teams that we are a better team.

"That is what we started doing in the second period. We made it a lot tougher for them to create chances and get confidence."

The Rangers got their four goals against Dan Ellis, who made his second consecutive start in place of Pekka Rinne. He also noticed the Rangers' surge after the first period.

"They started taking it to us a little bit more in the second period, and we never really recovered from it," Ellis said after the Preds dropped one point behind Edmonton and Dallas, which hold the last two playoff spots in the West. "They came with a lot of pressure. That's what the scouting report was on them -- that they were going to come at you no matter where you were on the ice."

Capitals 2, Flyers 1 | Video

Here's a goaltender's nightmare: Alex Ovechkin in front of the net, all by himself. That bad dream became reality for Philadelphia's Martin Biron when the Flyers blew an assignment during the second period and Ovechkin capitalized to score the game-winning goal and give Washington its fifth consecutive road win.

Biron never saw Ovechkin's 48th of the season, which came on a quick wrister following a passout from Alexander Semin at 17:19 of the second after Semin picked off Darroll Powe's pass behind the net.

"Ovechkin's the last guy you want alone in front of your goalie," Flyers coach John Stevens said in one of the biggest understatements of this or any other season.

Brooks Laich redirected Ovechkin's shot past Biron for the only goal of the first period to put the Caps ahead. Mike Knuble tied it at 11:32 of the second before Ovechkin put Washington ahead to stay.

"He's not going to put it in my belly, he's going to put it under the bar and that's what he did," said Biron, who made 28 saves and is solidifying his status as the Flyers' No. 1 goalie.

But Washington's Jose Theodore was even better, stopping 35 of 36 shots to help the Caps win their fifth in a row on the road for the first time in nine years.

Theodore said a simple shift in the game plan has the Capitals building on their road successes.

"We were trying too hard to score goals and now we're focusing on our defensive game and it's paying off," he said.

Caps coach Bruce Boudreau was also pleased with his team's no-frills play.

"On the road, we're not trying to impress anybody. We're just trying to win," Boudreau said. "At home sometimes you get too cute and try to make the great play. Whatever the situation is, I'd like to continue this formula."

Bruins 5, Senators 3 | Video

There's always something new in hockey -- even 36-year-old defenseman Aaron Ward scoring on a shorthanded breakaway. Ward scored his first shorthanded goal in 750 NHL games to help the Bruins build an early lead and hold off Ottawa.

"I've never scored on a breakaway. I didn't know what to do," Ward said, semi-seriously. "It's like an offensive lineman scoring in football. Hopefully they won't have video of it. I think my eyes were closed."

Ward came out of the penalty box just in time to take Patrice Bergeron's pass for a point-blank, breakaway slap shot at 3:17 of the opening period for a 1-0 lead. P.J. Axelsson scored another shorthanded goal -- again just after stepping out of the box -- at 6:52 for a two-goal lead.

Chuck Kobasew's power-play goal at 10:24 put Boston up by three before Jason Spezza got Ottawa on the board at 12:48.

Phil Kessel restored Boston's three-goal lead 4:31 into the third period. The Senators made the crowd at TD Banknorth Garden sweat a little when Christoph Schubert and Spezza scored before the midway point of the period, but Kessel hit the empty net with 56 seconds left to keep the Bruins six points ahead of second-place New Jersey in the East.

"It's important to keep in mind that we just played a team that isn't going to make the playoffs, and we just skidded by," said Boston goaltender Tim Thomas, who made 25 saves. "We have to get that killer instinct."

The Senators, who've been playing better since Cory Clouston replaced Craig Hartsburg last month, made Boston work for its fifth win in 16 games.

"They looked a bit fragile when we scored to make it 4-2," Clouston said. "It seems like they've had a tough go of it lately, and that might have crept into their minds."

Sabres 3, Panthers 1 | Video

It might have been stretching the point to say the Sabres' season was riding on this game -- but not much.

"It was the biggest game of the year," captain Craig Rivet said after a victory that moved the 10th-place Sabres within three points of the last playoff berth in the East. "We needed this game to get us back in it. We still have a ways to go but we're going to keep pushing."


SHOTS: 31 | SAVES: 30
SAVE PCT: .968 | GAA: 1.00

Buffalo took the lead 3:04 into the game when Jaroslav Spacek scored, but the Panthers tied it at 9:36 when rookie Michal Repik got his second NHL goal. The Sabres went ahead to stay at 17:05 when Daniel Paille's wrist shot from the left circle deflected off Florida defenseman Nick Boynton and past Tomas Vokoun.

The Panthers had a great chance to pull even midway through the third period when they had a 5-on-3 advantage for 67 seconds, but managed only one shot on Patrick Lalime. Thomas Vanek's power-play goal with 2:55 remaining provided insurance.

It was a big win for the Sabres, who fell apart in the third period while losing their previous two games to Ottawa and Philadelphia.

"There's still lots of points out there," Vanek said. "We just need to get more of them."

So do the Panthers, who've lost two in a row after winning three of four and dropped a point out of the last playoff spot in the East.

"It's crucial points, especially against a team like Buffalo," right wing Radek Dvorak said. "Every time you lose a game like this, it's bad for us."

The game marked Florida forward Richard Zednik's return to Buffalo, where he nearly bled to death 13 months ago after severing the carotid artery when he was cut by former teammate Olli Jokinen's skate.

"I thought about it for one second, what happened last year," he said. "Then it was like any other game."

Islanders 3, Canadiens 2 (OT) | Video

The worst moment of the season for Yann Danis and the New York Islanders came last Nov. 1, when the Montreal Canadiens scored four times in the third period to turn a 4-1 deficit into a 5-4 win. Winning at the Bell Centre on Kyle Okposo's goal 26 seconds into overtime was sweet revenge for the former Montreal farmhand.

"I was really looking forward to this game to bounce back, and to have it here is something special," Danis said. "I can't thank enough the guys. I think they showed up tonight and they played a really hard game."

Danis' play has been a key to the Islanders' 5-1-2 surge.

"I spoke to him last week and asked him if he wanted to play against Montreal and his eyes lit up," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. "It was obviously a great feeling for him to come back here, and he did a great job in the first, especially the first half of the period. Montreal came out hard and set the tempo early and we weathered the storm, and a lot of it was because of the play of Yann."

The Canadiens came out storming and grabbed an early 1-0 lead on Tomas Plekanec's power-play goal at 5:04. But the Isles weathered the storm and pulled even at 11:33 on rookie Mike Iggulden's first NHL goal at 11:33.

Frans Nielsen's power-play deflection 51 seconds into the third period put the Islanders ahead for the first time, but Tom Kostopoulos' goal midway through the period forced overtime.

Okposo won it when he outbattled Mathieu Schneider for a loose puck and slid a shot under Carey Price's pad. Price had robbed Jeff Tambellini in the final minute to preserve the tie and get the Canadiens a point.

"It's a huge point for us to lose," Kostopoulos said. "I mean, if it wasn't for our goalie we would have lost two points. We've got to change our second period, something's going on there, we've got to get more emotion and better forechecking. In the second, we seemed to sit back."

The Canadiens are 1-0-1 in two games since general manager Bob Gainey took over as coach after firing Guy Carbonneau. He wasn't happy after losing a point to the NHL's 30th-place team.

"I think they get out of synch with the play on the ice and we get trapped in our zone with tired players more than we can afford to," Gainey said. "Tired players do not respond or react to whatever situation is there.

"We sometimes give off the impression that we look like we are a deer trapped in the headlights because the players have more instinct than that, but whether it's tightness, the other team is taking advantage of our hesitation and our lack of assertiveness and confidence to play simple plays."

Lightning 4, Maple Leafs 1 | Video

Not much has gone right for Tampa Bay this season, but the Bolts have owned the Leafs. Matt Pettinger, Martin St. Louis, Ryan Malone and Paul Szczechura scored goals as 29th-place Tampa Bay beat Toronto for the third time in as many games this season.

The tired Lightning, who lost 3-2 in overtime at Ottawa on Wednesday, gritted out a victory after spotting the Leafs an early lead on Lee Stempniak's first-period goal.


GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 2 | +/-: +1

"My legs felt better in the third than they did in the first," said Malone, whose power-play goal with 5:25 left in regulation made it 3-1. "You get your second wind and kind of just roll with it."

The Lightning tied the game when Pettinger scored a breakaway goal 5:25 into the second period, and St. Louis put the Lightning ahead to stay at 17:10 when he fired Steven Stamkos' cross-ice pass into the a half-empty net for his 25th of the season.

"It's a lot easier to play with a lead," said St. Louis, who scored his 25th of the season.

Tampa Bay outshot Toronto 16-5 in the second period.

"We responded well from our loss in Ottawa," Malone said.

Szczechura capped the scoring by beating Martin Gerber with a wrist shot with 2:06 remaining.

"They took it to us in the second period and part of that was our fault," Stempniak said.

"We didn't take the extra stride to get pucks in or really pay the price to win the game. The game was right there at the beginning of the second period, but it just turned in their favor."

Stars 3, Hurricanes 2 | Video

With a number of their big guns sidelined with injuries, the Stars needed production from some lesser lights. They got just enough scoring to beat Carolina and move back into the last playoff spot in the West.

After Mike Ribeiro tied the game for the Stars 61 seconds into the second period, newcomers Steve Begin and Brendan Morrison connected for the Stars, who ended a six-game home losing streak.

"We're depleted so we're asking a lot of the guys who are left," said Stars center Mike Modano, who assisted on Morrison's goal. "It's critical that we get scoring from everybody."

Begin had gone seven games without a point since he was acquired in a trade with Montreal on Feb. 26 before knocking in a loose puck at 6:25 to put Dallas ahead.

"It feels very good to get it out of the way," Begin said. "Now I can think about something else."

Morrison hadn't scored in four games after being picked up off waivers from Anaheim on March 4 before his deflection past Cam Ward.

"I was brought in here to provide offense and when you don't get on the board right away, it's frustrating," Morrison said. "Now it's a matter of establishing some consistency."

Rod Brind'Amour scored in the first period and Ray Whitney added a power-play goal with 6:15 left in regulation for the weary Hurricanes, who had lost at Chicago on Wednesday.

"We looked like a team that was playing our fifth [game] in seven [nights] and got in at 3 in the morning," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "We had trouble moving the puck out of our own end."

Carolina remained eighth in the Eastern Conference. Despite the loss, the Hurricanes are 8-3-1 in their last 12.

"We got off to a one-goal lead, which is what we wanted to do, and we had some chances in the third period," center Eric Staal said. "We hit a couple of posts and had a couple of other good looks. It was a big game and we didn't come out ahead."

Avalanche 2, Wild 1 (OT) | Video

If the standings were based only on what happened in the first 60 minutes, the Avalanche would be the NHL's worst team. Get them past regulation, though, and they're world-beaters. The Avs improved to 11-1 in games that are tied after regulation as Wojtek Wolski and Milan Hedjuk scored in the shootout to cost the Wild a much-needed point.

The Avalanche are 9-1 in shootouts and 2-0 in overtime, but their 18-37 record in regulation has them in last place in the Western Conference.


SHOTS: 41 | SAVES: 40
SAVE PCT: .976 | GAA: 0.92

"There's a lot of things you can go back on in a year," Avalanche coach Tony Granato said. "I'm sure every team is thinking the same thing right now."

Marc-Andre Bergeron had Minnesota's lone goal and Niklas Backstrom made 40 saves for the Wild, who are tied with Nashville with 71 points. They are one point behind Edmonton and Dallas, who hold the last two playoff spots in the West.

"The standings will change every day, every night," Backstrom said. "One point is better than nothing, but we have to go out and get two points every night."

The Wild opened the scoring on their second power play. Bergeron beat Peter Budaj with a one-timer from the point at 10:15 of the opening period for his 10th goal of the season. John-Michael Liles' power-play slap shot beat Backstrom 37 seconds into the second period to tie the game.

Minnesota was outshot 41-17, and Budaj only had to make four of his 16 saves in the third period and overtime.

"We totally deserved to win because we outplayed them," Budaj said. "In the third and overtime I think we dominated them. Backstrom made some big saves."

Thrashers 4, Oilers 3 (OT) | Video

Ex-Oiler Marty Reasoner cost his former team a valuable point by scoring on a breakaway against Dwayne Roloson with 50 seconds left in overtime to give Atlanta its fourth consecutive victory.

"It was definitely nice," said Reasoner, who matched his career high of 11 goals and also reached 200 career points. "I had a few chances and [Roloson] had gotten the best of me there, but I figured going in there, worst case, I throw it into his pads and start backchecking, but it squeaked in there."

The Thrashers regrouped after Patrick O'Sullivan and Robert Nilsson scored early in the second period to put the Oilers ahead 3-2. Zach Bogosian tied it at 12:08 with a power-play goal, and both teams had chances in a scoreless third period.

"I think we played very good as a team," goalie Johan Hedberg said. "They probably need the points more than we do. We're playing for next season, playing for pride, but the last five games are the best we've played all year."

The Thrashers won without captain Ilya Kovalchuk, who left with an upper-body injury in the first period and didn't return.

"We don't want to say too much right now because we don't know for sure," Atlanta coach John Anderson said after his team won for the sixth time in eight games. "He's day to day as we speak right now. He had a little problem yesterday and I didn't practice him. He said he was OK to go today and obviously he wasn't, but I've got to give him credit for trying."

The point kept the Oilers in the top eight in the West, but it was the one they didn't get that rankled coach Craig MacTavish.

"To say there was disappointment in the dressing room after a game like that is an understatement, to come up empty like that in overtime," he said.

"Especially in light of the fact there has been three of those in the last eight days with the same result. We can't even get them to the shootout. We've got really strong shooters, and I would have liked our chances in the shootout."

Blues 3, Sharks 1 | Video

The Blues just won't go away. St. Louis moved within two points of the final playoff berth in the West by beating the slumping Sharks, who look less and less like the team that was tearing up the NHL for the first half of the season.

"We've been doing this for two months trying to get back in it. so it has that intensity," said goalie Chris Mason, who helped the Blues continue their playoff push by making 24 saves. "It is playoffs for us, otherwise we don't get in. It's good preparation for when we do get there."


GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 4 | +/-: +2

Brad Boyes' wrist shot from the high slot beat Brian Boucher at 13:20 of the second period to break a 1-1 tie. Barrett Jackman added a shorthanded goal into an empty net with 25.1 seconds remaining.

Sharks captain Patrick Marleau scored his 35th goal for San Jose, which has slipped to second in the Western Conference following a 1-4-1 skid.

"They were pretty hungry out there," Marleau said of the Blues. "I think they were trying to get their forecheck going early and they were getting the puck in. I thought we did a good job of not letting the pressure get to us, but we made a couple of mistakes and they capitalized on them."

San Jose, which came into the game ranked second in the NHL on the power play (24.4 percent), took a 1-0 lead at 11:30 when Marleau scored from the slot during a man advantage.

The Blues tied it at 16:48 when David Perron and Andy McDonald executed a perfect 2-on-1 break. Perron carried down and fed a cross-ice pass to McDonald, who deked Boucher and slid the puck under him.

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


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