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Fleury nets shootout winner for Flames

by Brian Hunter
Theo Fleury's improbable comeback bid got off to a rousing start Thursday night.

The 41-year-old right wing, trying to return to the NHL after a six-year absence with the team that originally picked him in the 1987 Entry Draft, scored the only goal of the shootout as the Calgary Flames edged the New York Islanders 5-4 before an electric crowd at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

"I've always been one of those guys who knows what to do on breakaways and I've had a flare for the dramatic as well," Fleury said. "I wasn't nervous at all, just went in and did what I do best."

Fleury, who didn't dress for the Flames' first preseason game Tuesday, played 17 shifts totaling 11:16 of ice time through regulation and overtime. He was credited with one shot on goal and received a hooking penalty early in the third that led to Matt Moulson's second power-play goal of the game and a 4-3 Islanders lead.

But David Moss drew the Flames even later in the third, and after the remainder of regulation and five minutes of overtime failed to produce a winner, the game went into a shootout. Calgary goalie David Shantz stopped Moulson and Trevor Smith and New York goalie Kevin Poulin turned aside Nigel Dawes before new Flames coach Brent Sutter gave the roaring crowd its wish and sent Fleury onto the ice.

"It was pretty unanimous on the whole bench," Sutter said. "The players wanted him to shoot, too.

"It was the right thing to do. Why not."

Fleury, a former 50-goal scorer for the Flames, skated in on Poulin, deked him to the ice and slipped the puck glove side inside the right post, bringing the house down. Fleury pumped his fists and lifted one leg as he skated back to the bench to celebrate with his teammates. Shantz followed with a stop on Greg Moore to preserve the victory.

"Originally I was going to try and shoot low stick side, but when I looked up after I picked up the puck he'd already kind of cheated over to that area, so I faked the shot and he went down and after that it was pretty easy," Fleury said.

Olli Jokinen netted a pair of power-play goals for the Flames, who also got scores from Dawes and Moss. In addition to Moulson's tallies, Smith and Blake Comeau also lit the lamp for the Islanders.

John Tavares, the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, was not in the lineup one night after making his NHL debut for the Islanders. They received a scare in the second period when forward Kyle Okposo had to be immobilized and taken off on a stretcher following a hit by Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf.

A CT scan showed Okposo had a mild concussion, Islanders spokesman Seth Sylvan said in a text message to The Associated Press. Sylvan said Okposo accompanied the team on the flight to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where the Islanders are conducting training camp.

"I thought it was a clean hit," Phaneuf said. "I stepped up and used my shoulder. You don't like to see guys get hurt, but that's part of my job when the hits are there, to take them."

Understandably, the Islanders didn't see things the same way.

"From what I saw -- and it happened really fast -- but I saw Phaneuf kinda go up in the air," said Martin Biron, who made 15 saves before giving way to Poulin. "I'd like to see the replay on that but it definitely looked like feet went up and he came across head hunting and those kinds of hits are what the League is trying to take away from the game."

Shootouts hadn't even been introduced to the NHL when Fleury last played for Chicago during the 2002-03 season. He left the game under suspension while battling substance abuse issues, but was reinstated earlier this month and came to Calgary's training camp bidding to win a roster spot.

"It was fun to be back here. It was fun to put that jersey on," said Fleury, who wore the No. 14 he made famous in Calgary during the run to the 1989 Stanley Cup. "When I walked in tonight and I saw it hanging up, I was quite emotional … because I worked really hard to get here.

"My children were here, my lovely wife was here, my two brothers, my nieces, my nephews, and those are the people who, today, are the most important people to me. They have supported me through thick and thin, they've gone through the pain and suffering I've gone through as well. I'm just thrilled to have this opportunity."

Maple Leafs 4, Flyers 0

Nazem Kadri played his junior hockey at the John Labatt Centre in London, Ontario, last season. He got to experience the building on a whole new level Thursday night.

Kadri, the seventh pick in this year's NHL Entry Draft, scored a first-period goal as the Toronto Maple Leafs picked up their first win of the preseason in London.

Lee Stempniak, Mikhail Grabovski and Christian Hanson also scored for Toronto, which got 17 saves and a combined shutout from goaltenders Joey MacDonald and James Reimer.

Stempniak opened the scoring 4:12 into the first period. A point shot by defenseman Tomas Kaberle was stopped by Flyers goalie Brian Boucher, but Niklas Hagman tipped the rebound across the crease to Stempniak, who scored inside the left post.

Kadri, who was on the ice for the first goal, made it 2-0 with 6:06 left in the first with a rocket past Boucher. He started the play in the neutral zone with a breakout pass to Hagman, who cruised down the right side into the offensive zone and dropped the puck back for Kadri to rip it into the net.

"Honestly, I'm speechless," Kadri said. "To have my first NHL goal -- well, exhibition game NHL goal -- in this barn is something else."

After scoring 25 goals and 78 points in 56 regular-season games for the London Knights last season and following that up with 21 points in 14 playoff games, Kadri finds himself in his first NHL training camp playing with Stempniak and Hagman as his linemates.

"It's unbelievable," Kadri said. "They're both unbelievable players, obviously played in the League for some time, so they're just taking me under their wing right now."

Grabovski extended the lead with 34 seconds remaining in the second when his shot ticked off the glove of Flyers defenseman Logan Stephenson, changed directions and found its way in. Hanson got several pokes at the puck before pushing it over the line with 5:34 left in the third to close the scoring.

Toronto, coming off a last-place finish in the Northeast Division and a preseason-opening 3-2 loss to Boston on Wednesday, played a complete game against Philadelphia, using skill and grit to deny the Flyers.

"We talked ever since training camp began about being aggressive all over the ice and make the other team make plays, and I think that's what (happened) tonight," Rickard Wallin said. "Also to get a good backcheck, which we also had a few times there, so I think we have to be happy with that, too."

Philadelphia lost its second straight, following a 3-1 setback to Detroit on Wednesday, and found itself in the box frequently against Toronto, amassing 61 penalty minutes.

"Overall I thought the guys worked a lot harder tonight, I thought we had some better things done in terms of puck pursuit," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "But yeah, we need to see that number of penalties come down, for sure."

Capitals 4, Sabres 3

Washington defenseman Brian Pothier put the exclamation point on a frantic finish after a ho-hum first 40 minutes in the preseason opener for both teams.

Pothier converted on a two-man advantage 49 seconds into overtime as the Capitals gave up the lead in the third period and then rallied twice against the Sabres to force the extra period.

"Eventually you get an opportunity and you win," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said.

Buffalo hadn't been penalized in the game until goalie Jhonas Enroth was whistled for delay of game with 36 seconds left in regulation. Defenseman Mike Weber received a boarding call just 22 seconds later. Washington enjoyed a 5-on-3 to begin overtime and Pothier ended it quickly with a blast from the center point off a Nicklas Backstrom feed.

Alexandre Giroux scored 8:30 into the game for the Capitals, and that goal held up until Jason Pominville and Clarke MacArthur struck less than four minutes apart early in the third to give the Sabres a 2-1 lead.

Mike Knuble, making his debut for the Capitals, drew them even with 6:31 remaining. Tim Kennedy put the Sabres back in front with 2:32 left, but it took Jay Beagle just 23 seconds to answer and send the game to overtime.

Semyon Varlamov made 20 saves in going the distance for Washington. Patrick Lalime stopped six of seven shots in the first period for Buffalo before Enroth took over and finished with 23 saves.

"Varlamov was the story in the first period," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "We could have ran away with the game, but he made four or five really good saves when we had 2-on-1s and outnumbered situations."

Veteran center Brendan Morrison, also making his Caps debut, drew the primary assist on the goal by Giroux, who is coming off five straight 30-goal seasons in the AHL, including 60 for the Hershey Bears last season.

"He finds openings," Boudreau said of Giroux. "You have to give him an opportunity to see if he can do it here. He finds ways to score."

Canadiens 3, Panthers 2

Newcomers Scott Gomez and Mike Cammalleri made solid first impressions in front of a sellout Bell Centre crowd that showed up in part to see their Montreal debuts.

The offseason free-agent signings got the Canadiens off to a great start, and Matt D'Agostini scored what held up as the game-winner in a win over Florida before 21,273 fans.

"I've got to admit since I was a kid I remember hearing, 'La premiere etoile!'" Cammalleri said. "That's something that me and my dad would always tease about, we'd say those words. He's here tonight so I'm sure it was special for him as well."

Carey Price played the first half of the game and stopped all nine shots he faced. At the other end, new Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen made 23 saves in two periods of work, but he was tested often and beat three times.

Montreal took 17 first period shots and finally cashed in when Gomez converted off a feed by another newcomer, defenseman Jarsolav Spacek, with 1:36 left. Cammalleri, who scored 39 goals for Calgary last season, also assisted on the goal.

Cammalleri made it 2-0 at 8:21 of the second when he took an Andrei Kostitsyn pass and beat Clemmensen under his left pad. D'Agostini continued the offensive onslaught with an unassisted goal 4:30 later.

"It's good to get your feet under you and get going," Cammalleri said. "I think a lot of guys had good games."

The Panthers made things close with a pair of goals against Curtis Sanford in the third. David Booth got them on the board at 5:27 and Evgeni Dadonov scored off a scramble with 9:22 remaining to make it a one-goal game.

The Canadiens held on from there to give Jacques Martin a win in his first game behind their bench. Martin was the Panthers' GM last season and hired current coach Peter DeBoer to his position.

"I wish him all the luck in the world," DeBoer said. "He gave me my first opportunity to coach in this league and I'll be forever indebted for that. Hopefully they do well, other than against us."

Predators 5, Thrashers 0

From national champion to trying to make the Nashville roster, it's been a whirlwind past six months for rookie center Colin Wilson.

Wilson stated his case with a goal and two assists in the preseason opener, a blanking of Atlanta at Sommet Center. Goaltenders Dan Ellis and Mark Dekanich combined to make 22 saves.

"I think it's great no matter what -- with the fans coming out you want to get the win for them and just build a little confidence around the team," Wilson said. "I think it was great to get a win in, and a pretty big win against Atlanta."

Teemu Laakso, Jason Arnott, J.P. Dumont and Shea Weber also scored for the Predators, while Steve Sullivan and Patric Hornqvist each contributed a pair of assists.

"It's great to have the young guys out there. They played extremely well tonight," Arnott said. "I thought every one of them played hard and created a lot and showed us a lot."

Wilson, the seventh pick in the 2008 Entry Draft, scored 17 goals and finished with 55 points in 43 games during his sophomore season for Boston University, which won the national title in April with a thrilling overtime win over Miami of Ohio.

"I never really get too nervous before games," Wilson said. "I just know that I take care of my business and what I can control, and the rest takes care of itself, and the same with today. I didn't get too high, get too low, and that's what I've been told by a few guys that's what it takes to be a pro."

Drew MacIntyre played the entire game in goal for the Thrashers, finishing with 31 saves.

Avalanche 3, Stars 1

It was only one night in the preseason, but Colorado looked a lot better than the team that finished last season with the fewest points in the Western Conference.

Milan Hejduk assisted on goals by Marek Svatos and Wojtek Wolski, and new goalie Craig Anderson went the distance in making 18 saves as Colorado delighted the Pepsi Center crowd.

Ryan Stoa scored an unassisted goal for the Avalanche, who cleaned house after going 32-45-5 and missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since the franchise relocated from Quebec prior to the 1995-96 season. New coach Joe Sacco picked up his first victory.

Matt Duchene, the third pick in this year's draft, made his NHL debut and recorded one shot in 16:28 of ice time.

Dallas got an early bright spot as captain Brenden Morrow opened the scoring with a power-play goal 11:45 into the first period. Morrow played in only 18 games last season before an ACL injury in November took him off the ice.

Canucks 3, Ducks 0

Roberto Luongo stopped all 19 shots he faced and combined with Cory Schneider on the shutout as Vancouver won its second straight to start the preseason.

Kyle Wellwood assisted on goals by Steve Bernier and Kevin Bieksa, and Aaron Rome also scored for the Canucks, who played the 2009 Kraft Hockeyville game Monday in Terrace, British Columbia. Three nights later they found themselves in more hostile territory, facing Anaheim at Honda Center.

Wellwood was in the right spot just over seven minutes into the first period when an Evan Oberg wrist shot struck him in front of the net. Bernier converted the carom into the game's opening goal.

Bieksa made the Ducks pay for a Scott Niedermayer holding penalty with a power-play goal midway through the second. Using teammate Matt Pope as a screen, Bieksa's wrist shot from the left point beat Jean-Sebastien Giguere under his glove.

Rome made it 3-0 with 2:13 left in the second, taking a Mason Raymond feed and beating Justin Pogge from the left of the crease. Pogge ended up making 19 saves in relief of Giguere.

Sharks 2, Kings 1 (SO)

Thomas Greiss stopped 24 shots in regulation and all four Los Angeles attempts in the shootout, and San Jose got a goal from Jason Demers in the penalty shot tiebreaker to come away victorious at Staples Center.

Greiss was actually 9.5 seconds away from a shutout before Dustin Brown scored for the Kings to force overtime. Dan Hinote was called for high-sticking with 20 seconds left in regulation and Los Angeles, which had been 0-for-7 on the power play to that juncture, finally converted as Brown corralled a Teddy Purcell pass in front of the net and swept it past Greiss for the tying goal.

In the shootout, Demers beat goalie Jonathan Quick on a backhander. Quick made 22 saves, including several quality stops on a pair of Sharks power plays in overtime.

Former Boston College scoring sensation Benn Ferriero, trying to make San Jose's roster, staked the Sharks to a 1-0 lead with a first-period tally.

Dany Heatley, acquired last weekend in a trade from Ottawa, did not dress for San Jose, which also sat regulars Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle.

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

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