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Ellis shines for Nashville in big win against Sharks

by Brian Compton /
A few thoughts while I applaud the Penguins and Red Wings after one of the best regular-season games in recent memory:

Saving the day — If not for Dan Ellis' heroics Tuesday night, the Nashville Predators would have been more doomed than Corey Feldman's film career.

The Predators' netminder made 54 saves, 41 through the first two periods, and Ville Koistinen scored 2:28 into overtime as Nashville garnered a 4-3 victory against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion.

The loss was San Jose's first on home ice this season. The Sharks shattered the franchise record of 50 shots well before overtime, finishing with 57, but only Devin Setoguchi (twice) and Rob Blake managed to beat Ellis, who helped his team snap a three-game losing streak.

Afterward, Predators coach Barry Trotz experienced no problems stating the obvious.

''We stole this game,'' Trotz said. ''Danny Ellis stole it, bottom line. He's the reason we won. They were letting us hang around. They kept us on life-support, then we got off the table and scored a goal. I am absolutely thrilled we won a game we shouldn't have.''

The most impressive aspect of Ellis' performance was his ability to shut down all the weapons the Sharks possess. He stopped 20 of 21 shots in the first period, then 21 of 22 in the second. Jason Arnott and Vernon Fiddler chipped in by erasing a 2-0 deficit.

''It's difficult to defend when they have so many big bodies,'' Ellis said. ''I was trying to find the puck a lot. They put persistent pressure on you, and you want to be on your toes. I had to fight just to see the puck and wanted to respond as soon as possible, control the rebounds and give the team a chance.''

The Sharks were certainly frustrated with the loss, but at least they were able to pick up a point in the standings on a night when the opposing goaltender was hotter than the Sahara Desert.

''It's obviously disappointing when you get all those shots,'' Setoguchi said. ''Give their goalie props, he made a lot of stops. ... I'm frustrated with the loss, and he played good. There's nothing more to say.''

Taking advantageDustin Boyd knew that if he didn't perform while skating on Jarome Iginla's line, his time there would be limited. So he made the most of it.

The 22-year-old center scored twice, including what proved to be the game-winner, as the Calgary Flames notched a 4-3 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

"It's just a matter of confidence," Boyd said. "When you're playing with confidence, you just go with the flow and good things happen. Tonight, I was lucky enough to play with Jarome and it was a good night. We created a lot of chances and moved the puck around well and we were strong defensively."

Iginla, who certainly is known to make the players around him better, was happy to see Boyd take advantage of such a golden opportunity. Boyd had just 7 goals in 48 games with the Flames last season.

"He had a couple of big goals for us tonight," the Calgary captain said. "He's playing with a lot of confidence. He's on the ice in important situations and he's been good all season. His confidence is growing and growing."

A complete game — Heading into Tuesday night's showdown at the Bell Centre, the Montreal Canadiens knew they would need a 60-minute effort out of everyone in order to shut down the surging Ottawa Senators.

Mission accomplished.

Carey Price was sensational between the pipes (28 saves) for his first shutout of the season, and Christopher Higgins recorded his first NHL hat trick as the Habs earned a 4-0 victory.

Price denied all 10 shots he faced in the third period, including Dany Heatley on a breakaway with a little more than 12 minutes remaining.

''I thought that was a pretty big point in the game,'' Price said. ''Other than that breakaway, I didn't think they really got a whole lot generated tonight. It's the best complete game we've played so far this year."

It was also a night Higgins won't soon forget. The Smithtown, N.Y. native dedicated his performance to the woman who spent many years of her life driving her child around to from one rink to the next.

''The hat trick was definitely for my mom,'' Higgins said. ''I think my dad gets a lot of credit for where I am right now but I'd just like to say, 'Sue, thank you.'''

That reminds me … I'd like to dedicate this Morning Skate to my mom. Thank you, Mary.

What a rematch
— In the end, Tuesday's rematch of the 2008 Stanley Cup Final was everything we could have hoped for.

And more.

"We stole this game. Danny Ellis stole it, bottom line. He's the reason we won. They were letting us hang around. They kept us on life-support, then we got off the table and scored a goal. I am absolutely thrilled we won a game we shouldn't have." -- Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz
What appeared to be a blowout turned out to be one for the ages, as Jordan Staal helped the Pittsburgh Penguins erase a 5-2 deficit in the third period en route to a phenomenal 7-6 overtime victory against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.

Staal scored three times in the third, then stole the puck from Pavel Datsyuk at the Red Wings' blue line and set up Ruslan Fedotenko for the game-winner at 3:49 of the extra period.

"He's always in the shadow, but he's a good player — maybe underrated," said Marian Hossa, who left the Pens as a free agent to sign a one-year deal with Detroit last summer. "He plays with power and takes the puck well to the net."

If Tuesday night proved anything, it showed that the Penguins are still a force to be reckoned with even sans Hossa, who has 8 goals and 11 assists in 14 games this season.

"They still have a lot of skill up front with good, quick forwards," Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. "And they have young players that are getting better."

Frustration setting in — The Dallas Stars are sick of being mediocre.

They once again found themselves swimming in a pool of mediocrity when they dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center. It marked the end of a five-game road trip that saw the Stars accumulate just three points in the standings.

For captain Brenden Morrow, that's simply not good enough. Not with the amount of talent in the Stars' locker room.

"I don't think any of us look at the road trip as a success," Morrow said. "Every team in our division is collecting points. We're puttering around. We need to collect points."

One way to do that would be to fix their dreadful power play. The Stars have converted only twice on their last 24 opportunities with the man advantage.

"We've got to get better opportunities than we got," Dallas coach Dave Tippett said of his power play. "We didn't get shots through and we didn't get enough chances."

Bailey arrives — It took him more than a month to heal, but Josh Bailey finally made his NHL debut Tuesday afternoon in the New York Islanders' 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at Nassau Coliseum.

It wasn't the debut he was hoping for — Bailey failed to record a shot on goal in 12:35 and was hit with two penalties — but the 19-year-old felt pretty good, all things considered.

"He looked like he belonged.  Outside of the penalties, I can’t be too critical of anything he did. He didn’t do anything to make us think he couldn’t play at this level." -- Islanders coach Scott Gordon on Josh Bailey
"As the game went on, I got more comfortable out there," said Bailey, who was grabbed in the first round (No. 9) by the Isles in the 2008 Entry Draft. "Hopefully that will continue into the next game. I didn't really know what to expect. It's nice to feel like you're part of things again and get back in the mix."

Bailey can play up to nine NHL games this season before the Islanders must ultimately decide whether to keep him or send him back to the Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey League, where he would be that club's captain. Isles coach Scott Gordon was pleased with what he saw out of No. 12 on Tuesday.

"He looked like he belonged," Gordon said. "Outside of the penalties, I can’t be too critical of anything he did. He didn’t do anything to make us think he couldn’t play at this level."

Bailey says he'll go along with the decision Islanders brass makes, but that doesn't mean he's not determined to make it a tough call.

"They've pretty much just said I'm going day-by-day," Bailey said. "I have to play desperate and work my way onto the team. That's what I plan on doing. Who knows what tomorrow brings? I have to have that mindset going forward."
Contact Brian Compton at:

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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