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Ex-Sabre Briere scores twice as Flyers win 6-4

by John Kreiser
Daniel Briere saved his best offensive game in five months for his old teammates.

The former Buffalo captain, who's missed much of the season with stomach and groin injuries, scored twice in a 2:05 span of the second period as the Philadelphia Flyers outscored the Sabres 6-4 on Friday night, damaging his old team's playoff hopes.

Briere, who last had a two-goal game on Oct. 18 at San Jose, tied the game at 3-3 with 2:40 to go in the second period, slapping in a rebound. He scored the go-ahead goal with 35 seconds remaining, beating Patrick Lalime with a slap shot from the slot -- much to the consternation of his former teammates.

"I think he's kind of battling his way back. He's had a tough season," Buffalo's Jason Pominville said of Briere, who signed a big-money deal with the Flyers after the 2006-07 season. "I'm sure he was pumped up for this game, and he ends up getting two big goals for them. We're not happy about it."

The tying goal was Briere's first since Nov. 11.

"On the first one, a lot of weight came off my shoulders," said Briere, who has missed 53 games with groin and stomach problems. "The second one I got to enjoy a little more."

Mike Knuble and Jeff Carter added third-period goals for the Flyers before Chris Butler scored with 1.2 seconds remaining.

"We had defensive breakdowns and Philadelphia seemed to capitalize on all of them," Buffalo captain Craig Rivet said.

The victory gave the Flyers 86 points, the same number as Pittsburgh as the in-state rivals battle for fourth place in the East and the last home-ice berth in the opening round. Philadelphia, which visits Pittsburgh on Sunday (12:30 ET, NBC), has three games in hand.

"This is huge," Briere said. "If we split, we're a lot closer to each other. It makes a huge difference. We're in control of our own destiny instead of needing some help from other teams."

Philadelphia took a 1-0 lead on Mike Richards' power-play goal with 1:32 left in the opening period -- 42 seconds after Lalime stopped him on a penalty shot.

Buffalo grabbed a 2-1 lead on goals by Thomas Vanek and Dominic Moore in the first 6:22 of the second period, but Simon Gagne tied it at 2-2 with a power-play goal at 10:14. Derek Roy put the Sabres up 3-2 with 5:54 to go before Briere scored twice to put Philadelphia on top to stay.

"He really came through for us," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "We were kind of on our heels for a little bit. He scored a couple of big goals, and that's obviously great for us."

If the Sabres miss the playoffs, their play against the Flyers is a big reason why. The Flyers swept the four-game season series, outscoring the Sabres 19-8. It was Philadelphia's first season sweep of Buffalo since winning all four meetings in 2000-01.

The Sabres play at New York on Saturday night -- they trail the seventh-place Rangers by six points, and a loss would be devastating.

"It's going to be tough," Rivet said. "We're here to battle and we're going to do everything we can. We're not going to quit."

Penguins 4, Kings 1 | Video

The NHL's top two scorers were too much for the Kings. Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby each had a goal and an assist to help Pittsburgh win its third in a row and stay even with Philadelphia in the battle for fourth in the East.

The teams play Sunday afternoon at Mellon Arena, where the Penguins have gone 3-0-1 in the first half of an eight-game homestand. They improved to 12-1-3 under Dan Bylsma, who took over as coach when Michel Therrien was fired on Feb. 16.

"There's a confidence and a swagger to our team," Bylsma said. "We have every right to have that right now with our record over the past 16 games."

Crosby opened the scoring at 12:33 of the first period, stealing a pass from Justin Williams in the right circle and firing a backhander past Jonathan Quick. Crosby extended his points streak to 12 games with his 28th goal.

Malkin redirected Crosby's pass into the net for a power-play goal at 17:28. Tyler Kennedy and Bill Guerin scored 2:23 apart midway through the second period to blow the game open.

Malkin, who assisted on Guerin's goal, leads the NHL with 104 points -- 33 goals and 71 assists. Crosby, with 94 points, passed Washington's Alex Ovechkin for second place on the scoring list.
Bylsma, a former Kings player who was coaching against Los Angeles for the first time, was happy with his team's aggressive play.

"This was a game where it didn't matter if it was Los Angeles, Boston, or Philadelphia," he said. "We needed to focus on playing the right way. It was good to see us come out and play the right way.

The only disappointment for the Pens came when Michal Handzus scored a power-play goal 7:27 into the third period to spoil Marc-Andre Fleury's shutout bid.

"It seems like everything is going good for us," Fleury said. "We're having more fun. We're happy, smiling, and the team is improving."

The loss damaged the Kings' flickering playoff hopes, leaving them seven points behind eighth-place Nashville in the West with 11 games remaining.

"When you're down 4-0, you have to keep working at your game, and that is really important when you're in that situation," coach Terry Murray said. "We're a young club that has to figure that out."

Hurricanes 5, Islanders 4 | Video

Carolina survived one of its worst periods of the season to come back and beat the Islanders, giving the Hurricanes their seventh consecutive home victory and sole possession of sixth place in the East.

Chad LaRose's second goal of the game with 4:21 left in regulation broke a 4-4 tie after Matt Cullen's power-play goal 2:17 earlier had tied the game, negating a four-goal second period that put the Islanders ahead 4-2.

The win gives the Hurricanes 83 points, one more than the New York Rangers, two more than Montreal and three more than ninth-place Florida -- though all three of those teams have two games in hand on Carolina. The 2006 Cup winners haven't made the playoffs since winning the title.

"We just look at the board over there and realize where we are," forward Ray Whitney said.

The 'Canes led 2-0 after one period. Cullen got a freebie 44 seconds into the game after Isles rookie goaltender Peter Mannino misplayed a dump-in, and LaRose converted a pass by Cullen at 18:52.

But the Islanders, last in the overall standings, took advantage of repeated defensive breakdowns by the Hurricanes to grab a 4-2 lead. Frans Nielsen flipped in a rebound at 2:30, Richard Park scored on a breakaway at 5:54, defenseman Bruno Gervais put the Islanders ahead at 14:51 and Kyle Okposo's power-play tip at 18:57 made it 4-2.

"I think it shows we have a lot of potential and we can score goals," said Isles forward Tim Jackman, who set up the goals by Park and Gervais. "When we're doing the right things, good things happen."

The outburst by the 30th-place Islanders stunned the Hurricanes.

"We sat back on our heels," LaRose said. "Even in the first period, they got a lot of scoring chances. We were a little upset with ourselves after the second period. We did not play well in the second, and it showed. We just didn't want to come in here with any regrets after the game."

But just 9 seconds after Okposo's goal, Tuomo Ruutu banged in a rebound after Erik Cole drove to the net and crashed into Mannino, giving the Hurricanes some life entering the third period.

The Hurricanes, 6-1-2 in March, try to continue their hot streak Saturday against visiting Washington, the Southeast Division leader. Whitney said the effort must be more consistent than it was Friday.

"If we learned anything, it was that we can't take a lapse for 10, 15 minutes in a game," he said. "If we do that against Washington, it's not 4-2, it's 6-2. This gave us a little bit of humbling. We realized we're only as good as how hard we work."

"He really came through for us. We were kind of on our heels for a little bit. He scored a couple of big goals, and that's obviously great for us." -- Flyers coach John Stevens on Daniel Briere's two goals
Oilers 5, Blackhawks 4 (SO) | Video

The weary Oilers, who thrived in shootouts in 2007-08 but have struggled this season, got goals in the breakaway competition from deadline acquisitions Patrick O'Sullivan and Alex Kotalik to get two much-needed points in Chicago.

O'Sullivan, who came from Los Angeles, beat Nikolai Khabibulin in the first round and Kotalik, a former Buffalo Sabre, ripped home a wrist shot as Edmonton solidified its hold on seventh place and moved within one point of sixth-place Columbus in the West.

The Oilers arrived at their hotel in Chicago at 3 a.m. following an 8-1 win at Colorado on Thursday night. Still, they managed to skate to a 4-4 tie through overtime with the Blackhawks in the up-tempo game. After a scoreless OT, O'Sullivan and Kotalik converted Edmonton's first two shootout attempts to win it.

''It was tough,'' O'Sullivan said. ''Every team has to go through it, but points are critical right now. Seventy games in, you're going to be a little bit tired."

Dwayne Roloson made 39 saves, including one on Jonathan Toews' penalty shot with 7:07 left in regulation and the game tied at 4-4. In the shootout, Toews lost control of the puck on Chicago's first attempt, then Roloson stopped Patrick Kane.

Roloson extended a team record by making his 27th straight start.

''He's an absolute warrior,'' Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. ''Great save on the penalty shot. It was one of the keys in a game where it seemed there were many keys.''

The Oilers took a 4-3 lead at 18:19 of the second period when Sam Gagner, who scored three times at Colorado, beat Khabibulin on a breakaway. But Chicago pulled even 7:23 into the third by lifting the rebound of Glen Seabrook's shot over Roloson.

Toews was awarded his penalty shot with 7:07 left after being hooked from behind on a breakaway by Sheldon Souray. Roloson made a right pad save on Toews.

The Blackhawks' 0-3-2 winless streak is their longest this season, and they're 3-7-3 in their last 13. With a point, Chicago moved into a fourth-place tie with Vancouver in the Western Conference.

''We're having a hard time keeping the puck out of our net and getting momentum in games,'' Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. ''We've gotten the effort the last few games. It's a matter of confidence. A win is what we're looking for.''

Blues 3, Flames 2 | Video

The Blues refuse to quit. One night after a disappointing loss at Vancouver, Andy McDonald and Jay McClement scored 51 seconds apart in the third period as St. Louis stunned the Flames at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

The win moved the Blues into sole possession of ninth place with 75 points, two behind Nashville for the final playoff spot in the West, and gave them a pick-me-up after losses to the Canucks and Oilers earlier in the week.

"It was a huge third period for us," McClement said. "It was a tough road trip, but it was also three good teams. We didn’t play good enough to win the last couple, but thankfully we pulled it out in the third and Mase (Chris Mason) held us in there."

The Flames dominated the second period and took a 2-1 lead on goals by Mike Cammalleri and Dustin Boyd in the first 7:35. But McDonald tied it at 9:24 of the third when he took a cross-ice pass from Brad Boyes and hit a wide-open net with Miikka Kiprusoff trapped out of position.

McClement put the Blues in front by curling out of the corner and scoring on a harmless-looking shot that somehow trickled past Kiprusoff, giving the Blues only their second win in their last 18 meetings with the Flames.

McClement said the Blues got a clear message in the locker room before the third period.

"We can't wait for other guys to do it -- that was the message," he said. "You've got to go out and do it yourself -- we can't always wait for our big line to score for us. Everyone's got to chip in."

Flames center Craig Conroy said Calgary took its foot off the gas in the third period.

"When we sat back, they came at us," he said. "We've got to play 60 solid minutes. We just couldn't get it done at the end."

Mason was sharp in net for St. Louis, making 33 saves to improve to 19-20-6 -- including 15-6-5 in his last 26 games, when he's put up a 1.99 goals-against average.

"This is our season on the line," Mason said of the second-intermission discussion in the locker room. "We've been fighting all year. We've got to give everything we have. We have to do what we say we're going to do. There's a lot of positive talk -- we believe in there. The bottom line is doing what you say you're going to do, and the guys did it in the third period."

The Flames, who appeared to have the Northwest Division locked up a couple of weeks ago, have seen their lead over Vancouver drop to three points. Despite adding high-scoring center Olli Jokinen at the trade deadline, the Flames haven't been playing up to their potential.

"We made the trades. We should be rolling, but we're not rolling right now," Conroy said. "We have a really, really good team. We have to start being more consistent and seeing that night in and night out. We've put ourselves in a great spot, but we can't sit back on it now."

Red Wings 6, Thrashers 3 | Video

Marian Hossa's homecoming was a success. The former Thrasher had a goal in his first game back in Atlanta as the Red Wings coasted to victory in their first visit to Philips Arena since Dec. 13, 2005.


GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 6 | +/-: +2

The Thrashers dealt Hossa to Pittsburgh at the 2008 trade deadline, and he signed with Detroit as a free agent last summer. He was booed by about half of the sellout crowd -- but cheered by thousands of red-clad Wings fans as he helped Detroit to its fifth consecutive road win.

"I played lots of games on this rink," Hossa said. "It was a mix of cheers and boos. I'm enjoying the atmosphere. The fans were great. It's always good for every player to score against a former team."

Compared with the reception he got when the Wings visited Pittsburgh earlier this season, this was much more enjoyable.

"It was kind of mixed in the crowd, more favorable than Pittsburgh," Hossa said. "Obviously, we played a pretty good game until the end. We allowed a few extra goals in the net."

The Wings led 3-0 before each team scored three times in the final 20 minutes.

Detroit now has 105 points, three in front of San Jose for first in the Western Conference and the overall standings -- though the Sharks have two games in hand.

Brian Rafalski scored the only goal of the first period, and goals by Pavel Datsyuk and Jiri Hudler two minutes apart in the second period made it 3-0 after 40 minutes. Johan Franzen, Hossa, and Dan Cleary connected in the third period for the Wings, alternating goals with Atlanta's Bryan Little, Slava Kozlov and Colin Stuart.

Chris Osgood had a shutout through 50 minutes but had to settle for 31 saves and his fourth consecutive victory.

"Osgood made some great saves in the first period," Thrashers first-year coach John Anderson said. "Games change complexion when one team is down ... and if we had gotten up, it might have changed the way we played."

Hossa said he appreciates playing on a team with so much offensive capacity.

"It just shows how this team is special," Hossa said. "Not a lot of teams have four 30-goal scorers. It's nice to see lots of guys contribute by scoring goals. Every night it's somebody else taking up the slack. It's not always the same guys, which is huge for the team."

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

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