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Devils nip Thrashers, 6-5

by John Kreiser
The Atlanta Thrashers found a way to score some goals.

They’re still looking for a way to win a game.
The Thrashers thought they had found the right combination Saturday night against New Jersey. They led 4-2 late in the second period, then rallied to tie the game at 5-5 late in the third period. But Patrik Elias’ second goal of the game, with 27 seconds left, gave the visiting Devils a 6-5 victory.
''It seems like every mistake, the puck ends up in the back of our net,'' coach Bob Hartley said after Atlanta lost its fifth straight and remained the NHL’s only winless team. “We’re playing tight, and it’s going to take something big to turn this around. We need to get one win to gain confidence, because we’re a very fragile hockey club.”
The Thrashers scored three times in the second period to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead. But captain Bobby Holik said they fell back to the losing form they showed in a 6-0 loss to Buffalo on Thursday night.
“We played smart. We played well for 30 minutes,” Holik said. “We had a two-goal lead, then decided to pick up where we left off last game.”
Ilya Kovalchuk’s second goal of the game with 3:20 left in the third period tied it at 5-5, but Garnet Exelby was called for a holding penalty in the final minute, and Elias made the Thrashers pay dearly.

“That was as close as it gets,'' said Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, who got his first win of the season despite stopping only 12 of 17 shots. “That's Atlanta for us. Every time we play here, it's a wild one. We almost messed it up. Right now, we’ll take anything.”
The five goals were more than the Thrashers had scored in losing their first four games by a combined tally of 17-4. But all they got was another loss.

 “We let the game get away from us because we stopped playing,” said Holik, who helped the Devils win two Stanley Cups. “It’s one thing to lose a game when you try to make plays. After the first 30 minutes, we stopped wanting the puck. We stopped controlling the game.”

Penguins 6, Maple Leafs 4
Sidney Crosby finally found the back of the net, scoring twice – including the game-winner in the third period – as Pittsburgh outscored Toronto at the Air Canada Centre.
Crosby came into the game with just two assists in three games, but got his first goal of the season 6:31 into the second period when his pass deflected off Leafs defenseman Pavel Kubina and behind Vesa Toskala. That made it 3-2, and Pittsburgh pulled even 19 seconds later on Maxime Talbot’s first of two goals.
“It's not something I was too worried about,” Crosby said. “If I wasn't getting chances I'd be a little worried, but I thought it was just a matter of time.”
Crosby broke a 4-4 tie with 5:22 left in regulation when he tapped in a loose puck after Toskala stopped Darryl Sydor’s shot but couldn’t control it.
“I remember last year I went eight to 10 games without a goal, so I was hoping it wasn't going to be that long,” Crosby said of his early drought. “But that happens, that's part of playing hockey. The seasons are full of ups and downs. You just have to battle through it.”
Toskala was under siege all night, facing 52 shots.
“I feel sorry for Vesa, he’s kicking 50 shots aside,” Leafs forward Alex Steen said. “We’re taking too many penalties, and they took advantage at the end.”
Bruins 2, Sharks 1
A power failure cancelled the ceremonies before San Jose’s home opener at HP Pavilion. The Boston Bruins ruined the rest of the night.
After San Jose’s Milan Michalek scored with 38.1 seconds left in regulation time to tie the game at 1-1, Boston defenseman Aaron Ward beat goaltender Evgeni Nabokov with 12 seconds remaining to give the Bruins a stunning victory, their first in San Jose in eight years.
A power outage delayed the start of the game by almost a half hour and forced the Sharks to call off the opening-night festivities. San Jose looked out of synch through much of the first period, as Boston had a 12-4 margin in shots – and the only goal, by Patrice Bergeron at 16:23.
The Sharks dominated play in the second period, outshooting Boston 13-0, but were unable to beat Tim Thomas, who finished with 26 saves.
Michalek converted Joe Thornton’s pass with Nabokov on the bench for an extra attacker. But Ward quieted the still-cheering fans when he took a pass from Marco Sturm at the top of the right circle and beat Nabokov, sending the Bruins home from their season-opening Western swing with a 3-2 record.
Sabres 7, Capitals 3
It took Buffalo nearly 35 minutes to solve Washington goaltender Brent Johnson – but once the Sabres got the first goal, they were unstoppable.
Brian Campbell had a goal and three assists and Jaroslav Spacek scored twice on the power play as Buffalo won at home while outshooting the Capitals, 53-26 – including 37-10 in the first two periods.
Washington led 1-0 when Spacek finally beat Johnson with 5:09 left in the second period, and the Sabres added three more goals in the next 4:32 to take a 4-1 lead.
“After they started coming at us hard in the second period, it was almost unbearable for a little bit,” Johnson said. “It felt like the ice was tilted the other way.''
Buffalo scored three more goals in the third period and has 19 in four games this season.
“We want to keep this going,'' said Campbell, who has seven points in his last two games.

''We want to get on a roll here and put a bunch together.''

Flyers 3, Islanders 1
The Flyers are showing that last season’s collapse to the bottom of the NHL standings may well have been an aberration. Martin Biron made 29 saves as the Flyers improved to 3-1-0 by winning their home opener.
'”This is not last year's team,” coach John Stevens said. “There's just a totally different attitude in the locker room. There's no question it looked like a different team pulled it out.”
Jeff Carter and Sami Kapanen scored less than two minutes apart in the second period and Biron made the lead stand up with 14 saves in the third, allowing only a shorthanded goal by Josef Vasicek before Jason Smith hit the empty net with six seconds left.

“Biron's been sensational,” Stevens said. “When there has been a breakdown, he's been there to stand tall.”

The Islanders, who won all four visits to the Wachovia Center last season, noticed the difference as well.

“They're a much improved team from last year," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said of the Flyers.

"With (Danny) Briere, (Mike) Knuble and (Simon) Gagne, they have a lot of firepower.”
 The Islanders looked much more like the team that won three of its first four games, rather than the one that lost 8-1 in Toronto on Thursday. But their offensive struggles continued: They’ve now scored just five goals in their last four games.
“I liked how our guys battled,” Nolan said. “We'll get our chances if we keep up the hard work.”
Islanders forward Chris Simon returned after completing his 25-game suspension for hitting Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg in the face with his stick last March.
Senators 3, Rangers 1
For the second straight Saturday night, the Senators needed less than a minute to get enough goals to beat the Rangers.
One week ago, they scored twice in 53 seconds early in the first period of a 2-0 home victory. This time, they set a team record in the second period by scoring three times in 52 seconds. Dany Heatley, Chris Phillips and Patrick Eaves all scored against Henrik Lundqvist as the Senators beat the Rangers for the fifth straight time.
 “In the first period, we were all over them and he made some big saves,” Heatley said of Lundqvist, who made 20 saves before the spurt. “It’s kind of funny that we scored three that quickly, but we felt that once we got one, more were going to come. And they did.”
Martin Gerber made 36 saves, 17 in the third period, and missed blanking the Rangers again when Jaromir Jagr scored with 1:09 left.
 “There's a highlight reel in itself, some of those saves,” Heatley said. ''It's a shame that they got a little lucky one at the end on him. He deserved a shutout.”
The Rangers were 0-for-6 on the power play and are 3-for-29 this season – with all three coming in the first period of Friday night’s win over Washington.
“I don’t think the pressure from outside is more than the pressure we put on ourselves in here,” said Shanahan, who had 13 shots on goal. “We just haven’t scored a lot of goals, even though we’ve been playing better.”
Panthers 6, Lightning 4
Scratch another team from the unbeaten ranks after Florida built a 5-1 lead and held off Tampa Bay.
Olli Jokinen’s power-play goal tied Scott Mellanby for the Panthers’ career scoring lead and choked off a Lightning comeback.
“Before the season, I knew the stats,”   said Jokinen, who has 156 goals and 198 assists for 354 points in seven seasons with Florida. “But the main thing is we got two points.”
Jokinen also had two assists as the Panthers built their four-goal lead. But Tampa Bay, playing its first road game, got within a goal as Vaclav Prospal scored twice before Jokinen’s goal assured the Panthers of their eighth win in nine games against the Lightning at the BankAtlantic Center.
“We don’t play as well as we should (there), that's for sure,” said Tampa Bay center Vincent Lecavalier, who had two assists. ''But we have to stop thinking that when we come here we don't play well. That's not the way we should approach the game.”
Hurricanes 3, Canadiens 1
Turnabout was fair play for the Hurricanes, which spoiled Montreal’s home opener 10 days after the Canadiens opened the season with an overtime win in Carolina.
Montreal fired up the sellout crowd at the Bell Centre when Chris Higgins scored 1:12 into the game. But the Hurricanes quieted the crowd when Cory Stillman scored at 15:52 and controlled the tempo of the game.
“They came out firing,” said goalie Cam Ward, who made 23 saves and improved to 4-0-1 in five starts. “We knew that it was their home opener and that they were going to have a lot of energy to start the game, and that's exactly what happened. I thought after that first goal against, we really responded well and took over the game from there.”
Cristobal Huet stopped 35 shots for Montreal, but had no chance on Matt Cullen’s game-winner from the slot with 34 seconds left in the second period.
“Their transition game is very good,” Huet said. “They're a little bit like Ottawa and they had some chances on the rush, some 2-on-1s, 3-on-1s ... that's a very dangerous team.”
Chad Larose added an empty-netter for the ’Canes, who completed a three-game sweep in Canada after wins in Toronto and Ottawa.
Flames 7, Predators 4
Nashville’s defense, so good in its first two games, is leaking badly.
Kristian Huselius had two goals and Jarome Iginla had a goal and an assist as the Flames won on the road for the second time in as many nights.
“It feels good as a team to put back-to-back wins together in two very tough places to play,'” Iginla said. “If you look at the standings, we are not happy with where we are at, but it is something to build on.”
Nashville allowed just one goal in winning its first two games. The Predators have allowed 17 in losing the next three.
“Our decision making the last two games has been atrocious,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “We dig ourselves a hole, fight back, then someone makes a poor decision and it ends up in our net.”

Prior to Saturday night, the Flames’ last win in Nashville was Dec. 17, 2002. On Friday, they won in Dallas for the first time in nearly six years.

Blackhawks 2, Stars 1, OT

n less than a minute, Dallas rookie Tobias Stephan went from getting a shutout in his NHL debut to losing in overtime.

Robert Lang tipped Jonathan Toews’ shot into the net with 1.5 seconds left in regulation and Jason Williams scored a power-play goal 43 seconds into OT to give the Blackhawks a stunning victory.

“We probably scored one that shouldn't have gone in,” Lang said. “It was a shot that goes wide, but it hits you and goes in. I'm happy to take any of those.”
Stephan, a 23-year-old from Switzerland, is backing up Marty Turco while Mike Smith is out with an arm injury. He stopped 38 shots.

“He made a couple of big saves early on,'' Toews said. ''That gave him confidence. Bottom line: When you run into a hot goalie like that, we've got to stick with it. That's what we did tonight.”

The Stars had nursed Brenden Morrow’s first-period goal until the final seconds, when Lang scored his third of the season while the Blackhawks were skating 6-on-3 after pulling goaltender Patrick Lalime while skating with a two-man power play.

 “I feel bad for him,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “He played a helluva game. He was just under so much pressure.”
Avalanche 5, Blue Jackets 1
Joe Sakic is still the cornerstone on which the Colorado Avalanche are built.
Sakic had his 15th career three-goal game, one short of Peter Stastny’s franchise record, as the Avs improved their all-time record against Columbus to 22-1-1-1.
 “I didn't realize it was 15,” said Sakic, who got his first hat trick since March 3, 2004, against Vancouver and now has 614 career goals. “Hopefully, there will be another one.”
Milan Hejduk had two goals and an assist, and Peter Budaj had 24 saves for Colorado.
“Tonight, finally we were able to put some pucks on the net and it was a totally different game,” Hejduk said.
Defenseman Rostislav Klesla had the only goal for the Blue Jackets.
“They lost (Friday) night and were disappointed, and they played at a level of intensity that we had some people that were unable to keep that level or get up to that level,” Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said.

Wild 3, Coyotes 2

Minnesota proved it could win on the road, too, by rallying for a pair of third-period goals to win in Phoenix to improve to 4-0-0.

Eric Belanger’s shorthanded goal with 3:15 remaining in regulation broke a 2-2 tie after Mikko
Koivu’s tally with 6:20 left had pulled the Wild even.

''The best way to get back is to score the winning goal,'' said Belanger, who was hit in the face earlier in the game and lost a tooth. ''I was upset with what happened, and it was a cheap shot. We have three games against them, so we'll see what will happen.''

Marian Gaborik gave Minnesota an early lead, but Daniel Carcillo scored twice for the Coyotes late in the opening period, beating Niklas Backstrom, who had allowed just one goal in Minnesota’s first three games, all home victories.

“That was a heartbreaker to lose because we played well against a very good team,'' said Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky. ''It was a good effort, but we took three undisciplined penalties late, and two of those cost us the game.”

Canucks 4, Oilers 1

The Sedin twins were just two much for the Oilers as Vancouver completed a sweep of a home-and-home series by winning at GM Place.

Henrik Sedin set up Daniel for a pair of goals 2:18 apart in the second period. Henrik also set up Taylor Pyatt’s third-period goal as Vancouver beat Edmonton for the seventh consecutive time.

“It feels like we always play good against them,” said Henrik Sedin. “I don't know why that is, but it's just been that way.”

The Sedins have combined for 31 points in their last 10 games against Edmonton.
“I thought we played (the Sedin twins) OK and then they got loose in the second period on the power play,” Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. “Five on five, we did a better job than we've done against them in a while.”

Andrew Cogliano’s shorthanded goal with 7:39 left spoiled Roberto Luongo’s shutout bid, but the Oilers lost their fourth in a row after winning their first two games.

Material from wire services was used in this report
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