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Crosby struts his stuff against Devils

by Dave Lozo /
A few thoughts as we formulate intelligent questions to ask Ron Wilson at his next press conference:

Crosby does the trick – Sidney Crosby's detractors love to say he's a diver, a flopper. Someone who draws penalties by acting like he was just hit with a sniper's bullet.

That's probably OK with Penguins fans after Saturday night's performance against the Devils.

Crosby registered his second career hat trick, and first at Mellon Arena, scoring his third goal into an empty net after a hustling, diving effort in Pittsburgh's 4-1 victory against the Devils.

"It's nice to do it at home," Crosby said. "It's something that you don't know when it's going to happen again, so it's nice."

While Crosby will never toot his own horn – although it hasn't been confirmed that he owns a horn – Devils goalie Scott Clemmensen had a great view for two of Crosby's goals and was happy to share his thoughts after the game.

"Obviously this whole league is full of talented players, and then there's the elite players who are even more talented," Clemmensen said. "And when those guys are the hardest-working players on the ice, then that is scary good. Just scary good."

The 2006-07 NHL scoring champion, Crosby had only three goals during his first 14 games this season, but has 10 in the nine since. Through 23 games, Crosby has 13 goals and 21 assists.

New era in Toronto – Brian Burke is undefeated as president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Sure, he wasn't exactly instrumental in putting together the team that beat the Flyers 4-2 on Saturday night, but it still goes into the books as a win for Burke in his first game with the organization. And it was the kind of hard-nosed victory that he could appreciate.

"Our team plays a North American game, we're throwbacks," Burke said before the game. "We don't apologize for that. It's black and blue hockey."

The first period featured two fights, and Toronto's first three goals were all a result of players driving hard to the net. Even Dominic Moore's breakaway goal in the second period got past Flyers goalie Martin Biron after Moore collided with the netminder.

Vesa Toskala was stellar for the Leafs, turning aside 28 shots in his second strong performance in a row.

But the story of the night was Burke, who watched the game from high above the Air Canada Centre.

Before the game, Burke addressed the team and assured them that they didn't need to put their houses on the market. At least not yet.

"I think Brian did a good job to relax them from -- I hate to be blunt -- but the dumb questions you guys have been asking our players, that they're all going to be traded," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "Brian assured them that wasn't going to happen and that's the best thing that he could have done."

Take note. The new Leafs want black-and-blue hockey and intelligent questions. It really is a new day in Toronto.

Manny being Manny in Boston – Just when you think Tim Thomas has finally entrenched himself as the Bruins' No. 1 goalie, along comes Manny Fernandez with back-to-back impressive victories.

After stopping 22 of 24 shots in a win against the Islanders on Friday afternoon, Bruins coach Claude Julien went right back to Fernandez against the defending Stanley Cup-champion Red Wings the following night. Fernandez did not disappoint, making 29 saves in a 4-1 victory.

"They realize it's me they want to make sure sometimes it's going to be a little different than Timmy and they have to get accustomed to that," said Fernandez, who started because Thomas was feeling ill. "They've been getting more goals when I'm in for whatever reasons and playing well defensively at the same time."

Fernandez played well enough Saturday night for the crowd, which booed him earlier this season, to chant, "Manny, Manny." It marked the first time that chant was heard in Boston since the Red Sox traded outfielder Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers.

The goaltending situation on the other side of the ice has been nearly the opposite.

Goaltender Ty Conklin was given the start for the Red Wings in place of Chris Osgood, whose goals-against average has been north of 3.00 for almost the entire season. But Osgood's night off lasted for barely half the game, as Conklin was pulled in the second period after allowing three goals on nine shots.

Don't feel too bad for the Wings. They still have the second-best record in the Western Conference.

San Jose knows the way – Down two goals on the road? Not a problem for the League's best team. Joe Pavelski scored twice as the Sharks rallied from a 2-0 deficit in Phoenix for their seventh straight victory. Rob Blake also scored for San Jose, which boasts a 20-3-1 record.

"It's a combination of skill and we've got some grit with that skill," said San Jose coach Todd McLellan, whose club also won seven straight earlier this season. "The players are pulling in the same direction, they believe in what we set out to do in training camp, and they're getting results so their confidence is growing as we go."

Things could not be more different in Phoenix, where coach Wayne Gretzky yanked starting goalie Ilya Bryzgalov after he allowed two goals on two shots.

"Bryzgalov has just not played at the level we need him to play at," Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. "He's better than the way he's performed. There was no reason to keep him in ... two shots, two goals. And the second goal, the guy scored from the stands. It's as simple as that."

To be fair and balanced, scoring from the stands might look bad if you're the goaltender. But if you're Blake, scoring from the 10th row will go down as one of greatest goals in League history.



Mason building a reputation – Raise your hand if you thought rookie Steve Mason would have as many shutouts as any goalie in the NHL except for Roberto Luongo entering December. Anyone? Anyone?

That's the case after Mason picked up his second shutout of the season in the Blue Jackets' 3-0 win against the Capitals. With Luongo out for an unknown period of time, perhaps Mason can claim the League lead in shutouts before the season is over.

"He played great. If Mason continues to play like this, the way the standings are and how valuable points are, we've got to play him," Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We've got to play him quite a bit."

"The guys made it really easy," said Mason, who improved to 5-2-1 and lowered his GAA to 2.09. "They were making sure that the lanes were open so I could see the shot from the point."

Rick Nash scored twice for Columbus, but it was Mason who was the star of the show. He cooled off the hottest player in the NHL, Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin, who saw his 10-game points streak come to an end.

"We score goals -- that's the big difference when we play at home," Ovechkin said. "The goalie played well tonight. Still, we had lots of chances to score goals, especially in the second period. I had a couple of chances. We just didn't score."

My defenseman has a first name ... -- Nicklas Lidstrom. Dan Boyle. Brian Campbell. Freddy Meyer?

"I know in the minors, I had two hat tricks," said Meyer after scoring two goals and adding an assist as the Islanders beat the Senators 4-2 on Long Island. The 27-year-old defenseman entered Saturday night's game with 12 goals in four-plus NHL seasons.

Joey MacDonald, who was pulled during the Islanders' 7-2 loss to the Bruins on Friday, stopped 19 shots to pick up his eighth win of the month. MacDonald entered the season with just three wins in 17 career games.

Senators coach Craig Hartsburg, meanwhile, was less than enthusiastic about his team's performance.

"I don't think we competed hard enough for 60 minutes," Hartsburg said. "We didn't play well."

Despite having three of the most dynamic players in the NHL in Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson, the Senators are tied for the fewest goals scored in the League with the Florida Panthers.

Roloson shows he's sponge-worthy – Allowing two goals on his first six shots wasn't how Oilers goalie Dwayne Roloson wanted to start his Saturday afternoon. But with his team down 2-0 to the Blues after one period, Roloson didn't let another puck past him as the Oilers rallied for a 4-2 victory.

"When he's on his game, he's like a sponge and everything is absorbed in the body," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said of Roloson. "He was good and he was really solid."

While Roloson was showing off his absorption powers by stopping the Blues' final 23 shots, Shawn Horcoff, Dustin Penner, Sheldon Souray and Andrew Cogliano scored goals during the second and third periods to erase the first-period deficit.

"Two things changed. Their team played stronger in the second period and we knew they were going to and we didn't play as strong," Blues coach Andy Murray said. "It was a case of them turning their game up and us not."

The Blues have had problems turning their offense up since leading scorer Andy McDonald broke his ankle Nov. 17. In the five games since his injury, the Blues have scored only nine goals.

Making them count – If you're going to score a goal once every 29 games, might as well make it a game-winner.

Derek Armstrong scored his first goal since Feb. 15 of last season to break a 2-all tie in the third period and help lift the Kings to a 5-2 victory against the Blackhawks. The goal was even sweeter for the 35-year-old center, who has been a healthy scratch on many occasions this season.

"It's definitely tough, but that's my role here now and that's what I've got to accept," said Armstrong.

"We've got a great team here, so it doesn't matter what your role is -- especially when you get older. It's all about winning games. As you get older, you appreciate winning hockey more than anything."

The Kings aren't world-beaters just yet, but they are improving. They have 23 points through 22 games this season, five more than they had through the same amount of games last season.

Home for the holidays – In 100 years of hockey, the Canadiens have never had a homestand as long as the one they embarked on Saturday night. It's off to a fantastic start.

Carey Price made 26 saves, and the Canadiens rode a three-goal second period to a 3-2 victory against the Sabres. Montreal will play its next six games at the Bell Centre.

"We're still up and down, we're still looking for our game and I think we can play better," said Andrei Markov, who scored the winner for the Canadiens.

Buffalo's Thomas Vanek took over the League lead in goals from the Flyers' Jeff Carter by scoring twice, giving him 17 for the season. But after the game, Vanek was more concerned with his team's inability to hold a lead.

"We had the lead twice and let them come back, and when you let a team as good as Montreal come back in it, chances are you're going to lose," Vanek said.

Wild really take advantage – No one in the NHL was better at killing penalties at home than the Nashville Predators. That was before the Wild came to town.

Minnesota scored five times on the power play – a club record for man-advantage goals on the road – to blow away the Predators, 6-2.

"When you go into the box as many times as we did against one of the best power plays in the league, you expect to give that team a little life," said Ellis, who allowed all six Wild goals. "With the 5-on-3s, and all the good players on their team, they have a good track record of putting it in the net."

Backup goaltender Josh Harding was the beneficiary of all that offense. Niklas Backstrom was given a rare night off, and Harding made the most of his second start of the season. He stopped 25 shots to earn his first win.

"The key for us was playing as a team for the whole 60 minutes," the Wild's Mikko Koivu said. "We kept it kind of tight and got a big win for us."

Wolski picks up slack – With Joe Sakic on the shelf indefinitely, Wojtek Wolski stepped up his game with the Avalanche needed it most.

Wolski scored two goals, Marek Svatos had three assists and the Avalanche held on to beat the Lightning 4-3 on Saturday.

"I've been looking for it. Everybody has," Wolski said of his goal scoring. "It's something that's been expected. It should have happened a lot more than it has so far this season."

Wolski had a goal in the season opener, then went 17 games before getting another one. He doubled his season total Saturday with a couple of first-period goals 1:36 apart as Colorado carried a 3-0 lead into the second period.

Sakic, meanwhile, has missed eight of the last 11 games with his back injury and will not be with the team on its upcoming three-game road trip.

Flames take home-and-home – Calgary clamped down on defense against Vancouver, holding the Canucks to just 18 shots in a 3-1 victory to sweep the home-and-home series.

After a scoreless first period, Daymond Langkow's power-play goal beat Canucks goalie Cory Schneider, who stopped 28 of 31 shots in his NHL debut. David Moss and Matthew Lombardi added goals for the Flames, while Kyle Wellwood was the only Canuck to beat Miikka Kiprusoff.

"It was one of those games where both teams really wanted the points, it was a defensive battle, but we got a few more shots and were fortunate to get some goals and get the win," Langkow said.

It's always great for the fans when they can get to see a game between two teams who really wanted the points. There's nothing worse than a game where one team is indifferent about getting the points.

Material from wire services was used in this report.


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