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Crosby finally scores in shootout

by Brian Compton
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has struggled mightily in shootouts this season -- so much so that he was 0-for-4 heading into Wednesday's game against the San Jose Sharks.

But No. 87 came through against the top team in the Western Conference, as he got the lone tally in the shootout against Brian Boucher to lead the Pens to a thrilling 2-1 victory at Mellon Arena. Crosby is now 10-for-33 lifetime in the breakaway competition.

"It's an experience thing … the more you do it, the more you're comfortable," Crosby said of the shootout. "I've missed a lot. I just tried to do something different. I'm happy it went in."

Marc-Andre Fleury made 36 saves for the Penguins, who have 26 games remaining in the regular season and continue to fight for their playoff lives. Pittsburgh pulled within one point of No. 8 Florida in the Eastern Conference. Fleury stopped all 21 shots he faced through the first two periods before Joe Pavelski erased a 1-0 deficit at 11:07 of the third.

"Flower did a great job. He made the key saves at the right moments," Pens defenseman Kris Letang said. "We keep building the chemistry of the team. We played a great game defensively against a really good team with really good offensive players."

Bill Thomas had given Pittsburgh the lead with his first goal in 22 months. He scored with 1:34 left in the second on a sharp-angle shot that deflected off Sharks defenseman Rob Blake and past Boucher.

''It was kind of a fluky play, but that's what you do -- you've got to throw the puck to the net, you never know what's going to happen,'' said Boucher, who started for the first time since Jan. 10. ''Blake's trying to do the right thing, but it happens to ricochet off him and in through my legs.''

Boucher stopped all 14 shots he faced in the third period to send the game to overtime. After a scoreless extra session that featured a combined three shots on goal, Crosby scored at the start of the third round and ultimately put the game on Fleury's pads. The Pens' goaltender enabled his team to pick up an extra point in the standings when he denied Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle.

"We kept our focus," Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said. "It was a good team effort. Guys really battled hard. Even when they scored to tie the game in the third period, we never quit. I thought we even upgraded our intensity after that goal. It was a great game from everyone."

Crosby agreed.

"We were rewarded for some good hockey," he said. "We played well last game, but tonight it was nice to get rewarded. We've just got to keep going -- it's our playoffs.

"We proved we can compete with some good hockey teams. That's a confidence builder. When you're measured against those teams, sometimes it brings out the best in you. We have to find a way to maintain that level."

San Jose, coming off a 5-2 win at Boston on Tuesday night in a matchup of the two NHL conference leaders, is 1-2-2 in its last five games despite its 37-7-8 record. The Sharks are 10-1-2 against Eastern Conference teams.

"It was a tough night for us, an emotional win from (Tuesday) night, the travel,'' Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. ''They played pretty hard and I'm not sure we had our gas tanks where we needed them to be. We found a way, at least, to get a point.''

Blackhawks 3, Thrashers 1 | VIDEO

Nikolai Khabibulin may have put an end to Chicago's goaltending controversy.

Khabibulin made 36 saves -- including 16 in the third period -- as the Blackhawks escaped Philips Arena with a win over Atlanta. His play helped Chicago extend its points total on the road to 35 -- the fourth-most in the League. He also may have wrestled the No. 1 job away from Cristobal Huet, who signed as a free agent last July.

''He put on a show tonight,'' Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of Khabibulin. ''He was spectacular and the reason we won.''

Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews scored power-play goals for the Hawks, who were coming off a 7-3 loss at Vancouver on Saturday. Toews scored what proved to be the game-winner at 18:26 of the second period -- just 21 seconds after Ilya Kovalchuk had erased a 1-0 deficit. Dave Bolland iced the victory with an empty-net goal with 10 seconds remaining.

''It felt like a slow game,'' Toews said. ''Every time I tried to make a play, it was going against the grain. The puck was bouncing.''

Once again, it didn't bounce Atlanta's way. The Thrashers lost their fourth straight at home and failed to win for the 16th time in their last 20 games in Atlanta. Their 20 points on home ice are the fewest in the League.

Kari Lehtonen could hardly be blamed for the loss. The Thrashers' goaltender made 25 saves and kept his team in the game. Atlanta went 1-for-4 on the power play.

''He has played two unbelievable games,'' Kovalchuk said of Lehtonen, who made 40 saves 24 hours earlier against Tampa Bay. ''When our goalie plays well, we always have a chance to win the game. He did it two nights in a row, but we didn't help him tonight.''

Devils 4, Islanders 2 | VIDEO

The decision to draft Robert Nilsson over Zach Parise could haunt the New York Islanders for a long, long time.

Parise tortured the Isles again by scoring twice and adding two assists to lead New Jersey past New York at the Prudential Center. Parise has a career-high 34 goals this season, while the Islanders traded Nilsson to Edmonton nearly two years ago in the Ryan Smyth deal.

Jamie Langenbrunner also scored twice for the Devils, who won for the 11th time in their last 13 games.

''This year I'm playing a little more confident, sometimes taking that extra second and that makes a big difference,'' Parise said. ''I just feel good on the ice right now. Travis (Zajac) is having a great season and so is Jamie. We are all kind of feeding off each other.''

Parise got his winner with 7:25 to play. Paul Martin, who had assists on the Devils' first three goals, took a shot from the point that was denied by Joey MacDonald, but Parise was there to put home the rebound.

"Trav and I just enjoy playing with him,'' Langenbrunner said. ''We know where he's going to be. It makes our job pretty easy. We get the pucks to the net and he finds way to put them in.''

Radek Martinek and Kyle Okposo scored for the Isles, who allowed 50 shots on goal and lost center Doug Weight to an undisclosed injury. He will be re-evaluated on Thursday.

"It's been a hard match for us all year," New York coach Scott Gordon said of the Devils. "There's a reason they're having the success that they are. We played (Tuesday) night and we weren't very sharp in all areas. Joey made some big saves. We didn't deserve to win the game. New Jersey outplayed us."

Senators 3, Sabres 1 | VIDEO

Not even 16 minutes in penalties to Jason Smith could deny Ottawa a victory.

Despite a 10-minute misconduct and a triple-minor for roughing on the veteran defenseman, the Sens got 31 saves from goaltender Brian Elliott, a pair of power-play goals and a tremendous job by their penalty-killing unit to win at Buffalo.

''Yeah, it was a long time in there,'' said Smith, who spent nearly an entire period in the penalty box after jumping Patrick Kaleta from behind. ''It was nice to get out, that's for sure.''

The Senators killed off 11 of Buffalo's 12 power plays, while Elliott stopped all 21 shots he faced through the first two periods. Ales Kotalik ruined his shutout bid when he scored with the man advantage 89 seconds into the third.

While a playoff spot appears to be a long shot, Ottawa appears to be finding some confidence under Cory Clouston, who took over after Craig Hartsburg was fired last week.

''It's a very upbeat locker room right now,'' said Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson, who had a goal and an assist in the win. ''Initially, (the coaching change has) been a real big lift for us. We seem to generate more momentum for ourselves.''

Jason Spezza and Shean Donovan also scored for Ottawa, which will look for its third straight win on Thursday night at Philadelphia. The Sens have won consecutive games only six times this season and are 2-1-1 since Clouston took over the coaching reigns.

The Sabres, meanwhile, lost their second straight to the Sens and will be without Thomas Vanek for at least another month due to a broken jaw that was suffered in Saturday's 3-2 loss at Ottawa.

''It's a step back. You can't be happy with that,'' Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. ''I didn't think we were crisp enough.''
Wild 3, Avalanche 2 | VIDEO

Twenty-four hours after accidentally flattening Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire in practice, Antti Miettinen made it up to his boss in a big way.

Miettinen broke a 2-2 tie with just 1:11 left in regulation as Minnesota picked up two huge points in the standings with a thrilling win against Colorado at Xcel Energy Center.

With the victory, the Wild moved eight points ahead of the injury-plagued Avs in the Western Conference standings.

"It was huge. We were pretty focused tonight,'' said Miettinen, who caused his coach to undergo X-rays on Tuesday. ''I don't think we were quite at the top of our game, offensively ... but we still hung in there."

Despite heading into Wednesday's action with the second-worst record in the West, the Avs were just six points out of a playoff spot. But not even a two-goal performance by Ryan Smyth could save them against Minnesota, which improved to 11-6-1 over its last 18 games and also got goals from Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Owen Nolan.

"Persevere,'' Colorado coach Tony Granato said when asked what his team can do to escape this funk. ''Stay with it and come up with the effort like this tonight. If we can do that, and that's all we can ask of them, we can live with the results.''

Lemaire was able to live with the results of this one despite a sloppy effort by his team. The Wild gave the Avs six power plays, but only Smyth was able to capitalize when he erased a 2-1 deficit 7:23 into the third. Niklas Backstrom made 20 saves for the Wild, while Andrew Raycroft fell to 0-6 in his last six starts.

"You've got to be lucky,'' Lemaire said, ''because it's not the proper way to win games."

Coyotes 1, Stars 0 | VIDEO

Few goalies -- if any -- have been playing better than Dallas' Marty Turco over the past month. But this time, Ilya Bryzgalov was up to the challenge.

The Phoenix goaltender made 33 saves for his eighth career shutout and made Enver Lisin's second-period tally stand up in an impressive win over the Stars at the American Airlines Center that snapped a six-game losing streak.

Bryzgalov has three shutouts this season -- two against Dallas -- including a 1-0 shootout win Jan. 10. He's 3-1-1 against the Stars this season and has 71 saves in his last two appearances against Dallas, which was 11-1-1 in its previous 13 games on home ice and 7-1 in its last eight overall.

''We beat a great team tonight,'' said Bryzgalov, who performed an impromptu Russian dance for his teammates in the locker room after the game. ''They're playing great hockey right now. We beat them on the road and this is a huge win.''

As good as Bryzgalov was, Shane Doan may have made the biggest save of the game for the Coyotes. In the game's final seconds, Doan managed to make a diving block on a shot by Brad Richards that had a legitimate chance at tying the game.

"That's a desperation play," Doan said. "I know that Richards can shoot the puck so well and we knew that they were trying to get it over to him to shoot. I was just trying to buy some time."

"We beat a great team tonight.  They're playing great hockey right now. We beat them on the road and this is a huge win." -- Ilya Bryzgalov

Lisin broke the scoreless tie when he made a nifty move around Stars defenseman Darryl Sydor before beating Turco on the forehand 2:19 into the second period. It was the lone blemish on Turco's night as he finished with 28 saves.

''It's disappointing,'' said Turco, who made his 24th consecutive start, tying a franchise record. ''We're not in the business of looking good with no results.''

Gretzky was aware of just how good Turco has been as of late. He couldn't help but make his own goalie aware of it, too.

"Turco's probably been the best goalie in the NHL the last 15 games," Gretzky said. "He's on a great run here. I told (Bryzgalov) that he was going to meet one of the best goalies in hockey tonight. I'm really proud of the way Bryzgalov played. He had a great game and he answered the bell. It's a big win for us."

His captain concurred.

"It's huge," Doan said. "Brizzie won it by himself tonight. We only gave him one goal to work with. Thank goodness. It was a big win. You win two or three in a row and you're right back in the middle of it."

Phoenix will look to make it two in a row on Thursday night against Vancouver at Arena. Gretzky hopes Wednesday's win is the start of something big.

"It's a sign of a nice little streak for us the other way," Gretzky said. "They're a good hockey club and we just got fortunate that we got one more goal than they did. Both goalies were outstanding."

Ducks 3, Flames 2, OT | VIDEO

Two of Anaheim's biggest stars were on top of their game. Scott Niedermayer scored twice -- including the game-winner 55 seconds into overtime -- and Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 21 saves in his third straight start as the Ducks earned a thrilling victory against Calgary at the Honda Center.

Brendan Morrison got the game-tying tally for Anaheim at 2:05 of the third period as the Ducks won the season series against the Flames for the second straight year. The loss was Calgary's fifth in sixth games and fourth straight on the road.

Niedermayer, who scored on a power play at 10:30 of the second period, ended the game with a backhand shot past Miikka Kiprusoff's glove after getting a lead pass from Todd Marchant. The goal -- Niedermayer's 11th in OT, the most by a defenseman in NHL history -- came with the teams skating 3-on-3, following coincidental roughing penalties against Chris Kunitz and Calgary's Cory Sarich at the end of regulation.

"It doesn't happen too often," Niedermayer said of the 3-on-3 situation. "There was a lot of room to skate and I tried to take advantage of that. I was a little lucky on the goal. You put it on net and you never know. I was just trying to get it on net and it got deflected in by the defenseman's stick."

Giguere stopped all 10 shots he faced in the third period to help extend the game to overtime. Todd Bertuzzi beat him just 2:55 into the game and Curtis Glencross gave Calgary a 2-1 lead at 14:17 of the second period. But Giguere was lights-out the rest of the way.

''We didn't take it to them when we had the lead,'' Flames coach Mike Keenan said. ''That has been symptomatic of our club. If it wasn't for Miikka Kiprusoff, who I thought was outstanding throughout the night, it probably wouldn't have even gone into overtime.''

Giguere had a lot to do with the fact that the game reached overtime, too.

"It's nice to get two big wins against a good team," Giguere said. "Hopefully, we can use this as a springboard for us. We're doing a lot of good things out there. If we keep playing that same way, we're going to win more than we lose."
Oilers 7, Canadiens 2 | VIDEO

Edmonton snapped its two-game skid in a big way. Meanwhile, the Habs extended theirs in eye-opening fashion.

Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner, Andrew Cogliano and Kyle Brodziak all had a goal and an assist as the Oilers trounced Montreal at Rexall Place and handed the Canadiens their ninth loss in 11 games. The victory moved the Oilers into a tie with the Vancouver Canucks for eighth place in the Western Conference.

"We've had our fair share of tough losses in this building so it was nice to see one go the other way," Brodziak said.

The Habs have also lost seven straight on the road and have fallen into sixth place in the East. Mathieu Dandenault and Francis Bouillon scored for Guy Carbonneau's slumping club.

"You can talk for days and months and weeks, but it's what you do on the ice that counts," Carbonneau said. "We can talk about bad bounces and breaks, like the fifth one, but it seems to happen a lot in the past month, and we're going to have to work on that.

"Obviously, I'm really disappointed by some of the efforts that we've had."

"You can talk for days and months and weeks, but it's what you do on the ice that counts.  We can talk about bad bounces and breaks, like the fifth one, but it seems to happen a lot in the past month, and we're going to have to work on that." -- Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau
Edmonton scored four times in the first period, as Sam Gagner got the party started with a power-play tally at 5:41. Zack Stortini, Cogliano and Hemsky then beat Carey Price three times in a span of 6:03 to bust the game wide open. Brodziak made it 5-1 with a short-handed breakaway midway through the second, and Edmonton took a five-goal lead late in the period on Penner's goal off a rebound.   

"We scored goals tonight that we haven't seen go in for a while," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "Carey struggled. He's a heck of a goalie but he struggled tonight. A few of those might have been stopped on another night."

Dwayne Roloson made 36 saves for the Oilers, who will look to make it three in a row on Saturday night in the first of a four-game road trip. Edmonton will make stops in Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Dallas before returning home to face Calgary on Feb. 21.

Montreal -- which was playing the second of a six-game trip -- will visit Colorado on Friday in a matchup of struggling teams.

"It's been going on for a while, and for the last three games, the way we've done it, it's not fun to be a part of," Canadiens captain Saku Koivu said. "I don't have a solution right now, but it's not just going to take one or two guys."

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

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