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Flyers roll over Penguins 6-3

by John Kreiser /
It's a great time to be a Philadelphia hockey fan … or a Flyer. Just ask Mike Knuble.

The Flyers rolled to their fourth win in a row by burying Pittsburgh 6-3 on Saturday to move into second place in the Atlantic Division — pretty good for a team that lost its first six games.

"It's fun to come in and pick up the paper and see us climbing in the standings,'' Knuble said after scoring twice. "It's two points that they can't have and two more that we were able to get."

The Flyers have been climbing like a rocket leaving Cape Canaveral. They are 7-0-2 in regulation in their last nine at the Wachovia Center and 12-1-3 in their last 16 games overall. Joffrey Lupul, Mike Richards, Scott Hartnell and Jeff Carter also scored, and Kimmo Timonen added a career-high four assists as the Flyers moved two points ahead of their cross-state rivals and stayed within four points of the division-leading New York Rangers — with four games in hand.

Lupul said he's surprised at the surge that has followed the slow start.

"We didn't expect to put this kind of a run together, but then again we didn't think that we deserved to start the season the way we did,'' he said.

The Penguins are going the other way. They've lost four of five to drop to third in the division, and captain Sidney Crosby questioned the team's desire.
"We obviously wanted a better effort," he said. "It's a big game in the standings. These are always intense games. We should always be ready for these games."
Lupul and Knuble scored on power plays to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead after the first period. Pittsburgh's Jordan Staal poked a backhander over Martin Biron's shoulder to bring the Penguins within 2-1 at 7:08 of the second period. But the Flyers then took command with a pair of goals

Richards, who also had two assists, extended his point scoring streak to seven games (6 goals, 6 assists) with his 12th goal on a wrist shot from the crease at 10:09. Hartnell fought off a Pittsburgh defender to poke in a shot from the slot for his 10th goal at 12:38.

Knuble scored his 200th NHL goal and 12th of the season on a deflection with 2:56 left in the period. It was the 24th two-goal game of his career.

The third period was almost academic. Jeff Carter got his 21st for the Flyers, while Eric Godard and Ruslan Fedotenko scored for Pittsburgh.

''The biggest thing in the last 15 games is that we are playing as a team,'' said defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who had four assists. ''We're forechecking well, getting back, and everybody is working hard.''

Penguins coach Michel Therrien, whose team came to Philadelphia after routing the Islanders 9-2 on Thursday, said his team lacked energy.

''We were not good in every department,'' he said. ''The energy was not there and a lot of times when the energy is not there, the concentration is not there.''

Bruins 4, Thrashers 2 | Video

Boston completed a home-and-home sweep of Atlanta thanks to Phil Kessel's 19th goal of the season, tying his career high.

"He's been hot with the stick, and it's something we've been looking for for a long time -- someone that can be a threat every night," Bruins coach Claude Julien said of Kessel, who also had an assist and extended his points streak to 15 games. "He's always been comfortable in the offensive zone."

Michael Ryder scored twice and Dennis Wideman added a goal as the Bruins won for the 16th time in 19 games to stay on top in the Eastern Conference.

Kessel scored a power-play goal six minutes into the game and Ryder made it 2-0 at 13:43 before Nathan Oystrick beat Manny Fernandez at 19:22.

Wideman restored the Bruins' two-goal lead at 18:16 of the second period and Ryder added some insurance with 4:12 left in regulation. Marty Reasoner got a late goal for the Thrashers with 2:20 remaining, but it wasn't enough to keep Fernandez from winning his eighth consecutive decision and improving to 6-0-0 lifetime against Atlanta.

The Thrashers, who lost 7-3 to Boston at Atlanta on Friday, held a team meeting after losing for the 11th time in 13 games.

"We're not happy with what's going on," forward Jason Williams said. "We're at rock bottom right now. We're trying to find out why things didn't work."

How important is Kessel to the Bruins: When he got into a skirmish with Atlanta's Boris Valabik behind the net late in the second period, captain Zdeno Chara sped over to intervene. Chara wound up getting two minutes for instigating, five minutes for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct.

''It says a lot about him that he would come to my defense,'' Kessel said. ''It shows what kind of character he is."

Said Chara: ''Obviously, he was doing his job trying to play hard against Phil and I'm not going to let him do that. And we both did what was necessary.''

Kings 3, Wild 1 | Video

Minnesota had plenty of shots, but the Wild's offensive struggles continued as Erik Ersberg stopped 33 of 34 shots for the Kings in Minnesota's fourth consecutive loss.

''I think really we only had a couple of chances to score. That's not enough. That's not a good effort,'' Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. ''The guys practiced well and they had good energy — and then the game comes the next day and there's nothing. We didn't play good enough against a team who really worked hard today. They moved the puck well, they were strong with the puck and they made great plays. You just have to play better than this."

It's only the second time in franchise history that the Wild has lost four in a row in regulation. Brent Burns' power-play goal with 1:53 remaining spoiled Ersberg's shutout and made it 2-1, but Alexander Frolov hit the empty net with 26 seconds left.

The Kings converted penalties by Wild defenseman Marek Zidlicky into power-play goals by Anze Kopitar and Michal Handzus, spoiling a 40-save performance by Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom.

Kopitar opened the scoring at 15:08 of the first period during a goalmouth scramble while Zidlicky was off for interfering with Dustin Brown. It was Kopitar's 10th goal and fifth in five games. 

''I wouldn't say we weren't ready, but we definitely need to be better to start the game — especially on the road,'' Minnesota left wing Stephane Veilleux said.

Handzus banged in a rebound at 2:58 of the third period, with one second left on Zidlicky's holding penalty. Ersberg did the rest, making 16 saves in the final period.

"Ersberg was great. He was focused and he killed a lot of plays," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "The plays they had at the net were quick plays, hard plays, stuff coming from around the back of the net. Then they end up with a player driving to the net looking for a redirect, and it goes in."

Blue Jackets 3, Islanders 1
| Video

Rookie Steve Mason is making his case to become Columbus' No. 1 goaltender. He improved to 8-4-1 since being called up by making 24 saves to hand the reeling Islanders their sixth consecutive loss.

"The guys made it really easy tonight," said Mason, a first-year pro who played three games in the minors before getting the call. "There really weren't any second opportunities. (They were) making sure that I could see the shots from the point. Everybody did a great job in front of me."

Fredrik Modin, Jason Chimera and Andrew Murray scored to help the Blue Jackets win their fourth straight home game. They've never lost to the Islanders at Nationwide Arena, going 5-0-1.

Richard Park's shorthanded breakaway in the final seconds of the second period was the only shot to beat Mason as the Islanders went 0-4 on their road trip.

"It's tough but we have got to try to keep it positive and try to do the things that we know that work for us," Islanders forward Sean Bergenheim said. "We can't be too negative. We have to keep on going. We can't quit here."

"It's fun to come in and pick up the paper and see us climbing in the standings. It's two points that they can't have and two more that we were able to get." -- Flyers forward Mike Knuble
Columbus' League-worst power play produced the game's first goal at 4:01 of the second period when Fedor Tyutin's point shot hit Modin's shin pad and deflected into the net. Chimera burst past some less-than-diligent Islander checkers for a breakaway goal at 18:06.

After Park's goal at 19:50 cut the margin to 2-1, Murray jammed in a rebound at 10:47 of the third to give the Jackets some breathing room.

"It was nice to get that third goal," Murray said. "It kind of deflates their team a little bit, getting behind by two."

The Blue Jackets, who've never made the playoffs, feel that things are starting to go their way.

"The nice part for us was we got goals from support players," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "When your top six (forwards) aren't collectively scoring, it magnifies everything."

Sabres 4, Devils 2 | Video

One night after the Sabres couldn't score and the Devils couldn't miss, Buffalo came to the Prudential Center and rallied to beat New Jersey behind two goals by League leader Thomas Vanek.

The Sabres came to Newark after a 2-1 home loss to Toronto and looked like they might lose again when Patrik Elias and Bobby Holik scored 4:11 apart early in the second period to take a 2-1 lead.

But the Sabres tied it at 11:05 of the second on a power-play goal by Drew Stafford, then got goals by Derek Roy and Vanek during a dominant third period.

"When they scored two, it crushed a little bit of our energy,'' said Vanek, who has 24 goals. ''We slowly worked our way back into it, and dominated the last 20 minutes."

The Devils had won four in a row, including Friday night's 8-5 goal-fest against the New York Rangers. But they managed just 22 shots against Buffalo backup Patrick Lalime, who was 1-4-1 entering the game.

''We really didn't control the puck tonight,'' Elias said. ''For the most part we played into their hands. Instead of calming down and controlling the game, we were a little hasty.''

Vanek put Buffalo ahead 70 seconds into the game, steering in the rebound of Jochen  Hecht's backhander off Kevin Weekes' pads for the 10,000th goal in franchise history.

In the third, Roy put Buffalo ahead to stay with a 4-on-3 power-play goal from the bottom of the right circle at 8:43. Vanek gave the Sabres some insurance when he beat Weekes at 12:54.
"He's doing a good job finishing," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said of Vanek. "We did a good job of putting it away when we got the key opportunities."

Holik was disappointed with his team's performance one night after the big win over the Rangers.

"It was a game for us to win and we didn't," Holik said. "I think we played right into their hands. I think we had a great opportunity to continue our streak but we didn't play smart enough."

Rangers 3, Hurricanes 2 (SO) | Video

Henrik Lundqvist bounced back from a dreadful effort at New Jersey on Friday by doing what he does best — winning a shootout. Lundqvist stopped all five Carolina attempts and Chris Drury scored in the fifth round as the Rangers beat Carolina.

Drury, who missed a shorthanded breakaway late in regulation, beat Cam Ward with a deke and a high backhander after coach Tom Renney made him the Rangers' fifth shooter.

"He knew I was frustrated, knew I had missed one in the third," Drury said. "For some reason, I thought he would come to me. As I was watching the shootout, I had an idea what I was going to do and I just had a feeling he was going to call me."

One night after allowing eight goals to the Devils, Lundqvist made 29 saves through 65 minutes and five more in the breakaway competition to improve to 8-1 in shootouts.

"I'm happy that Tom gave me the opportunity to play right away," Lundqvist said. "I didn't have a couple days to think too much, just get back there right away and play a game."

Markus Naslund and Blair Betts scored first-period goals for the Rangers, and Tuomo Ruutu and Ray Whitney connected for the Hurricanes. Carolina wasted a big chance to go ahead in the third period when the 'Canes couldn't covert on a 5-on-3 advantage for a full two minutes.

Overall, they managed only three shots on a pair of 5-on-3 power plays.

"We need to put one in there," coach Paul Maurice said. "One or two chances are not what we're looking for."

Carolina goaltender Cam Ward got back into the net for the first time in five games following a groin injury and stopped 27 shots.

''I felt great. I'm just trying to get back into the game,'' Ward said. ''You're never satisfied with a shootout loss. You play the game to win and there is always room for improvement, but I think we've shown a lot of good signs, a lot of positives."

Senators 2, Lightning 0 | Video

Martin Gerber lost his starting job to Alex Auld after a poor start. He made the most of his fourth start in 23 games by stopping 24 shots for his first shutout of the season.

"I try to use the ice time I can get and give myself a chance to go back in there and that's pretty much all I can control," said Gerber, who had lost his last two starts despite allowing just three goals.

Gerber made Alexandre Picard's power-play goal 5:04 into the game stand up until Daniel Alfredsson hit the empty net with 45 seconds left.

''I think he's played really well and kept us in games when he's been in there,'' forward Dany Heatley said. ''The last two nights he's played exceptionally well. The night he played in Chicago, he deserved a better fate. Tonight he made some big saves down the stretch for the win."

Tampa Bay star Martin St. Louis left the game after being hit in the forehead by linesman Derek Amell's skate in the final minute of the third period. St. Louis was bleeding profusely and needed eight stitches to close two cuts on his forehead.
''We really didn't control the puck tonight. For the most part we played into their hands. Instead of calming down and controlling the game, we were a little hasty.'' -- Predators goalie Dan Ellis
''They're stitching him up right now. Pretty good gash,'' coach Rick Tocchet said.

The Lightning are off until Thursday night, but they shouldn't expect a vacation.

''There will be a lot of practice time in the next four days," Tocchet said. ''It's not about a system; it's about grit and wanting to win — and we didn't want to win.

"That was some bad hockey out there, and if I was a fan I'd want to get my money back because that was terrible hockey. You can't blame the refs even though there were I don't know how many power plays. It was just garbage hockey."

Predators 3, Stars 0 | Video

For one night, Dan Ellis' results caught up with his performance. Ellis stopped 27 shots against his former team for his second shutout in six games.

However, he has just one victory in those two games. Ellis shut out St. Louis through 65 minutes on Nov. 25, but lost 1-0 in a shootout.

"My win-loss record stinks," said Ellis, who's now 9-11-3. "The last few games have been frustrating for our team because we were playing strong and we didn't get anything out of it or we only got one point.

"I have to find ways to help the team and contribute a little bit more. I might have had some decent games, but I wasn't helping in terms of the standings. It's nice to be able to get two points, especially on home ice."

Predators coach Barry Trotz thinks that Ellis is glad to be back in a rhythm in net after some struggles.

"Dan has had some games where he has played well and didn't get the win," said Trotz. "Plus, he got dinged up and Pekka Rinne came in and was goaltender of the week. You always get nervous when that happens.

"But Dan has played very solid since he has come back, and the same can be said of Pekka. From our standpoint, we have both goaltenders going in the right direction and where we want them to be."

Joel Ward had his first multi-goal game in the NHL and David Legwand also scored as the Preds ended a three-game losing streak. Ward beat rookie Tobias Stephan with a backhander 4:27 into the game and Legwand put a shot between Stephan's pads at 7:05 of the third period. Ward hit the empty net with 1:26 left.

The injury-riddled Stars were trying to build on Friday's 3-1 home win over Detroit, but came up short.

"They're valuable points," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "I don't care who is in your lineup, you have to find ways to win. We didn't push hard enough. We were looking to make a difference tonight, but it just wasn't enough. No one made a difference tonight. These are valuable points and we just didn't find a way to win."

Red Wings 5, Coyotes 4 (SO) | Video

Try as they might, the Coyotes can't find a way to beat the Red Wings. They came close this time, but Johan Franzen tied the game with 19.9 seconds left in regulation and Jiri Hudler got the deciding goal in the shootout as Detroit defeated Phoenix for the ninth consecutive time.

It looked like the Coyotes might end the streak and silence the sizeable contingent of Wings fans at Arena when Mikkel Boedker's power-play goal with 9:30 left in regulation tied the game at 3-3 and Steven Reinprecht put Phoenix ahead when he banged Peter Mueller's rebound past Chris Osgood with 4:40 left. But after the Coyotes' Zbynek Michalek took a delay of game penalty and Phoenix missed a pair of tries at the empty net, Franzen beat Ilya Bryzgalov from the low slot.

''When you're at a point where you tie it up late you're happy, and when you're tied up upon you're unhappy,'' Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said.

Mueller put the Coyotes in front by scoring in the first round of the shootout, but Henrik Zetterberg scored for Detroit in the second round and Hudler beat Bryzgalov in the fourth round. Osgood then stopped Shane Doan to give the Wings their fifth win in six games and earn his 375th career victory.

"The way it's going I'm just trying to push onward and play better and better,'' said Osgood, who sat out the Wings' three previous games. ''I'm close to where I want to be but I'm not over that hump yet.'' 

The Wings needed only 33 seconds to score against Bryzgalov, when Zetterberg took a pass from Niklas Lidstrom at the bottom of the right circle and put a shot over Bryzgalov's glove. Joakim Lindstrom tied it with 27 seconds left in the period when he one-timed a pass from Martin Hanzal past a partially screened Osgood from the right circle.

Doan gave Phoenix a 2-1 lead at 1:47 of the second, beating Osgood on a breakaway. Franzen got the Wings even at 6:37 when he stole the puck from Boedker and beat Bryzgalov on a shorthanded breakaway. Zetterberg's redirection of Brian Rafalski's shot at 10:17 made it 3-2.
Boedker said the game gave the Coyotes something to build on

"We were kind of nervous because we're a young team — me included. I'm a little nervous going into a game against a (team) I never faced before," said Boedker, the No. 8 pick in last June's Entry Draft. "When we get comfortable, we just play — we skate hard, work hard, get in on the forecheck. I think that showed today, that we can keep up with the best team in the League, and we almost beat them.

"They came out and beat us in the last second. But we played a great game, and we need to keep that going."

The game marked the return of Detroit defenseman Chris Chelios for his 25th season. Chelios, who turns 47 in January, missed the Red Wings' first 29 games after fracturing his right tibia during the preseason.

"The first and third periods couldn't have been any better," Chelios said. "The second period, I made one bad decision."

Oilers 3, Canucks 0 | Video

Vancouver's seven-game road trip ended with a thud as Edmonton goaltender Dwayne Roloson stopped 23 shots for his first shutout in two seasons. Dustin Penner's goal 49 seconds into the game put Vancouver into a hole that it never climbed out of.

Ales Hemsky finished off a 3-on-1 by beating Curtis Sanford with 1:33 left in the second period and Robert Nilsson picked up an errant pass and scored on a breakaway 2:21 into the third period.

"We were kind of nervous because we're a young team — me included. I'm a little nervous going into a game against a (team) I never faced before. When we get comfortable, we just play — we skate hard, work hard, get in on the forecheck. I think that showed today, that we can keep up with the best team in the League, and we almost beat them. -- Coyotes forward Mikkel Boedker
Unlike a week earlier, when Roloson stood on his head with 41 saves in a 3-2 overtime win at San Jose, this one was a lot easier.

"It was totally different," he said. "The guys played great — they kept them to the outside all night long."

Roloson went long stretches without seeing a shot — and said that can be tougher than facing the bombardment he saw in San Jose.

"The tough part is staying sharp," he said. "I didn't feel as sharp as I was in San Jose."

The Oilers are one of the few teams carrying three goaltenders, but defenseman Tom Gilbert said he and his teammates have a lot of confidence in Roloson.

"He's doing a tremendous job for us," Gilbert said. "Rollie has definitely been on his game. Right now he gives us a lot of confidence."

The Canucks were 2-4-1 on their long trip, and coach Alain Vigneault was extremely displeased with the way his team played.

"The first goal wasn't a very good goal, and we got in trouble in the first two periods," he said during a brief meeting with the media. "There was not one positive thing to say about this game. We had two chances after 40 minutes … that tells a lot about our team."

Sharks 5, Blues 4 | Video

The NHL's best team is still unbeaten in regulation at home. This time, though, the Sharks had to come from behind after spotting St. Louis a two-goal lead.

Patrick Marleau broke a 4-4 tie with 5:03 left in regulation, making a spectacular move before beating Chris Mason with a high backhander for his second goal of the game and 15th of the season — just four fewer than he scored in all of 2007-08.

"We're never out of it," Marleau said after the Sharks overcame an early 3-1 deficit and improved to 16-0-2 at HP Pavilion this season. "We found ourselves down a couple of goals, but we just dug down deeper."

San Jose hasn't lost in regulation at the Shark Tank in 27 games (24-0-3).

Marleau opened the scoring at 12:53 of the first period before the Blues took command, scoring the next three goals. Brad Winchester scored at 19:41, B.J. Crombeen put St. Louis in front 41 seconds into the second period, and Winchester scored again at 1:38.

"We made a couple of mistakes and found ourselves down 3-1," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "But we got our team game back, followed the game plan and were lucky enough to pull this one out."

After San Jose killed off a four-minute St. Louis power play, Mike Grier cut the Sharks' deficit to one when he scored at 15:15, and San Jose got two quick goals early in the third period to go ahead. Devin Setoguchi finished off a pass by Joe Thornton at 1:15, and Ryane Clowe scored off a draw at 3:32.

"We lost momentum, but we never gave up," Setoguchi said. "The goal late in the second period gave us momentum, and we got a couple of big goals early in the third."

The Sharks killed off a two-minute 5-on-3 power play, but surrendered the tying goal at 10:29 when David Backes stepped around defenseman Dan Boyle going down the left side and beat Evgeni Nabokov.

"When you have the lead entering the third period you have to hang onto it," Backes said. "Give them credit, they kept the pressure on and when we didn't get the 5-on-3 goal, it changed the momentum."

The missed chance on the power play was what bothered Blues coach Andy Murray.

"We need to score on that," Murray said. "We need to move the puck quicker and score when we get the chance."

McLellan said Marleau's revival after a poor season in 2007-08 is largely a matter of change and confidence.

"I wasn't here last year, so I only know him from training camp on," McLellan said. "He's playing a different position, he's playing with some different players. He's getting the puck to the net a lot more than he has in the past.

"It's probably just the confidence. It's amazing what confidence can do for a person, never mind a player."

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

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