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Ducks look like a playoff team

by Brian Compton
A few thoughts before Anaheim scores again:

The Big Easy -- Anaheim needs two points every night to stay in this heated Western Conference playoff race.

Too bad they don't play the Colorado Avalanche every night.

Coming off a 2-1 shootout win in Nashville on Tuesday, the Ducks scored 2:11 into the game and led 3-0 after the first period en route to a 7-2 drubbing of the Avs at the Pepsi Center.

James Wisniewski tied a career high with 3 assists to help Anaheim move into seventh place in the West, a point ahead of idle Edmonton.

"It's always important when you're on the road to get yourself into the game right away," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "We were able to do that tonight."

Clearly, Anaheim won't cruise to victories like this down the stretch. But Carlyle felt fortunate to get a game like this at this point in the season.

"It's been a while since we've been on the right side of one of these," said Carlyle, whose club hosts the Avs on Sunday. "I can remember vividly about three weeks ago a 6-0 game in Boston that we were on the wrong side of the score. We were fortunate enough the pucks went this way."

They're also fortunate Colorado is struggling. The Avs have dropped five in a row and lost their previous home game 8-1 to Edmonton.

"We've given up 15 goals in the last two games here," Avalanche forward Ian Laperriere said. "I hope it's tough for everybody. If guys don't feel ashamed, don't feel embarrassed about this, I don't know what they are doing. And in our own building."

High five -- Another game, another win for Carolina.

The Hurricanes did it again Wednesday night, as Anton Babchuk scored a power-play goal with 6:01 remaining to lift the Hurricanes to their season-high fifth straight win, a 2-1 triumph against the Ottawa Senators at the RBC Center.

Carolina matched a club record with its ninth straight victory at home, a mark set during its run to the Stanley Cup in 2005-06. The Hurricanes also moved within a point of fourth-place Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

"We haven't done anything yet," said forward Rod Brind'Amour, who tied the game early in the third. "I'm proud that we're playing in every game, and even though we've got some big wins, we seem to be able to let that go, come back and know we've got to win that next one. … Even though we're in a situation where it looks good, 'Oh, you're in fourth or fifth,' or wherever you are, if other teams win those games, we're really just barely hanging on."

Cam Ward put forth yet another solid effort, making 21 saves. Coach Paul Maurice was pleased with his club's all-hands-on-deck approach.

"I think everybody did their jobs," Maurice said. "Eric Staal's line was actually more in defensive-mode tonight. They shut down their big line. I think their line skated very well. Clearly, Cam was very good."

Wild win a rough one -- For a stretch in the third period, Minnesota Wild coach Jacques Lemaire found himself scratching his head. He couldn't believe was he was seeing, but it was indeed three-on-three hockey.

''I think it goes back 40 years ago when I was playing,'' Lemaire said after his team's highly-physical 6-2 defeat of the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. ''I was like numb. I didn't know what to tell them because we never play three-on-three.''

Lemaire was proud of the way his team handled itself against the Isles, a group of young players who are trying to make names for themselves in the organization. Afterward, Lemaire had somewhat of a message for coach Scott Gordon's club.

''They tried to run us out of the building, but our guys kept coming,'' Lemaire said of the Islanders, who took 13 of the 23 penalties. ''It'll be interesting next year when we play them.''

It should be. With the loss, the Islanders have an eight-point "lead" in the race for the League's worst record. With only nine games left, there's a good chance either John Tavares or Victor Hedman will be playing on Long Island next season.

''It's a team that really has got nothing to play for so you have guys going out there kind of not really caring if they take stupid penalties at stupid times,'' Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck said. ''That's what they did and it cost them. It's a good thing nobody got hurt.''

Flower power -- Marc-Andre Fleury guided the Pittsburgh Penguins into sixth place.

Fleury made 31 saves for his fourth shutout of the season as the Pens moved past the idle New York Rangers with a 2-0 victory against the Calgary Flames at Mellon Arena. Pittsburgh also stayed just one point behind No. 5 Carolina and moved within two of No. 4 Philadelphia.

''It's like playoff hockey right now, with how that game was,'' Fleury said after Pittsburgh improved to 4-1-1 on its franchise-record eight-game homestand. ''Every goal was big and every save was big.''

The Penguins clearly have been a different team under Dan Bylsma, as they are 13-2-3 since he replaced Michel Therrien behind the bench Feb. 15. It certainly appears as if Pittsburgh is hitting its stride just weeks before the Stanley Cup Playoffs start.

"Fleury played very well tonight," Bylsma said. "He was solid. He made some big saves, but the guys played very hard in front of him. We battled around him. We limited their scoring chances, mostly to the outside. It was a great job by our goaltender, but it was a great job by our team defense, as well."

Harder than it had to be -- For a while, it appeared as if the Chicago Blackhawks were going to cruise past the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night at the United Center.

But coach Todd McLellan's club had other ideas.

After squandering a 4-1 lead, Chicago got shootout goals from Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to squeak past the Sharks, 6-5, which allowed the Blackhawks to move back into sole possession of fourth place in the Western Conference.

"We did it the hard way," Chicago forward Martin Havlat said. "But we got two points. It doesn't matter who we played."

After a five-game winless streak, the Blackhawks have managed to win back-to-back games. The hope now is Chicago can get its swagger back before the playoffs begin.

"We're looking forward to getting back on track," forward Andrew Ladd said.
"We're getting confidence back in this room. Slowly."
Digging deep -- These days, the Buffalo Sabres are in win-or-the-season's-over mode. On Wednesday night, they lived to fight another day.

Trailing 3-1 in the third period, the Sabres rallied behind Jason Pominville for a 5-3 defeat of the Florida Panthers at HSBC Arena. Pominville had a goal and 2 assists in a 2:07 span, helping the Sabres move within five points of eighth-place Montreal.

"We had to be desperate. This is that time of year," Pominville said. "For us to dig deep and get a win, it was a game we had to win, there was no tomorrow."

Mikael Tellqvist made 30 saves to earn his first win in only his second start for Buffalo since being acquired in a trade with Phoenix earlier this month. Even though he hasn't been with the club long, Tellqvist visibly was disturbed by recent criticism regarding the team's lack of character.

"Everybody's been writing us off and telling us we have no character in this room and blah, blah, blah," Tellqvist said. "This just shows everybody that we really want to win."

Contact Brian Compton at

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