The Philadelphia Flyers
blew two third-period leads before winning in a most unusual way for them: a shootout.
Philadelphia wasted 2-0 and 3-2 third-period leads against the New York Rangers — a team that has owned them in their own building. But they came away with a 4-3 victory on Friday night when Mike Richards and Jeff Carter scored in a shootout.
The victory, which ended a seven-game home losing streak to the Rangers, moved the Flyers into seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff race, one point ahead of Boston and two ahead of Washington.
“To have a big win in a shootout and to pick up two points is very important to us right now,” said goaltender Martin Biron, who stopped Brendan Shanahan and Nigel Dawes in the tiebreaker to give Philadelphia only its second win in seven shootouts this season. Philadelphia is 7-17 all-time in shootouts, the worst record among the NHL’s 30 teams.
The Rangers got a point to move within three of New Jersey and Pittsburgh for first place in the Atlantic Division. However, they lost leading scorer Scott Gomez to an undisclosed upper body injury after the center went shoulder-first into the boards during the first period.
“I don’t know how long upper bodies take (to heal),” Gomez said coyly after the game in response to a question about how long he might be out. He’ll get some time to heal: The Rangers are off until Tuesday.
Rangers backup goalie Steve Valiquette lost to the Flyers for the first this season after blanking them twice in Philadelphia and winning a shootout at Madison Square Garden last month in a game in which he relieved Henrik Lundqvist after the first period.
Valiquette finished with 27 saves, but Richards beat him between the pads on the Flyers’ first shootout attempt and Carter scored with a backhander past his stick.
"He kept them in the game, he made some big saves, but at the end of the night we were able to beat them," said Daniel Briere, who scored twice in the third period for the Flyers.
For more than 50 minutes, Richards’ breakaway goal at 4:27 of the first period was the game’s only goal. Then the offensive floodgates opened.
Briere made it 2-0 with 9:10 remaining, and that seemed like a comfortable lead with the way the Flyers were playing. But the Rangers stunned the sellout crowd when they scored goals 1:48 apart by defenseman Marek Malik and Dawes to tie the score. Malik beat Biron with a slap shot from above the left circle with 7:59 remaining, and Dawes tied it when scored from the high slot.
"You could sense that they were desperate and it was a big game for them," Shanahan said. "You could sense that the building felt confident and we answered back."
Briere put the Flyers back in front with 3:37 left, knocking a loose puck past Valiquette and then crashing into the net himself. But once again the lead wouldn’t last, as Jaromir Jagr scored on a backhander with 1:51 to play for the 640th goal of his NHL career, tying him with Dave Andreychuk for 12th on the career list.
Jagr’s goal forced overtime, followed by a shootout in which the Flyers would prevail.
"The thing I liked was that we kept going and kept attacking," Briere said. "We didn't play scared and that's the way it's got to be for us down the stretch."
Islanders 3, Devils 1 | Video
Even with a lineup that’s full of minor-league call-ups, the Islanders found a way to beat the Devils. Rookie Kyle Okposo scored his first NHL goal with 2:35 left to break a 1-1 tie and give the Isles their sixth win in seven meetings with New Jersey this season.
The injury-ravaged Islanders were outplayed all night, but Okposo, their first-round pick in 2006 who was called up from the minors earlier this week, gave them the win when he ripped a shot from the right circle past Martin Brodeur during a power play. Trent Hunter added an empty-net goal as the Islanders snapped a six-game losing streak.
''Scoring a game-winning goal against one of the best goalies in history, that's not bad at all,'' said Okposo, who had his helmet knocked off seconds before the goal. ''I don't know what could be better.
''He's a great goalie and I grew up watching him. It felt great to get that first goal in my second game. I got cross-checked and all of sudden, here comes the puck. Parkie (Richard Park) gave me a great pass, and I had to knock it in.''
New Jersey outshot the Islanders 35-16 but was stymied all night by the play of Wade Dubielewicz, who made 34 saves and outplayed Brodeur.
''Dubie was just great,'' Isles captain Bill Guerin said. ''It was good to pull out a win for him. We haven't played that well for him. We're really into it and we showed that we still care and have pride.''
The loss was a painful one for the Devils, who remained tied for first place in the Atlantic Division with the Penguins as they head to Pittsburgh for a game Saturday night. New Jersey also stayed one point behind Montreal in the Eastern Conference standings.
''All games are tough when you lose,'' Devils coach Brent Sutter said. ''I don't care when it is. I knew the Islanders would play hard and keep it close. In a game like this, you have to score. You have to capitalize on the chances that you get. We scored one goal, it wasn't enough. We can't take a penalty late like that. It decided the game. It's undisciplined play.''
Okposo set up the game’s first goal when he fed Blake Comeau, who circled out of the corner and beat Brodeur from the circle at 4:46 with Park in front of the net. Travis Zajac tied it nine minutes later, tucking a power-play rebound behind Dubielewicz.
The Devils had what would have been a second power-play goal waved off early in the second period when a video review showed the net had come off its moorings before Sergei Brylin’s backhander entered the net.
''It was definitely a disallowed goal,'' Sutter said. ''The (net) peg comes out of the ice for a split second and then the puck goes in. They made the right call.''
Brodeur, who has started every game since Jan. 5, had to leave briefly in the second period to get his skates sharpened. Backup Kevin Weekes played about two minutes and made one save before Brodeur returned to a standing ovation with 7:24 remaining in the period.
Maple Leafs 4, Sabres 1 | Video
Toronto won’t go down without a fight. The Leafs kept their flickering playoff hopes alive as Vesa Toskala stopped 35 shots in Toronto’s fifth consecutive road victory.
The Leafs, remained five points out of a playoff berth in the East while dealing the Sabres’ playoff hopes a blow. Toronto improved to 4-1-0 in its last five games despite the continued absence several injured players, including captain Mats Sundin.
''Everybody's written us off when we lost Mats,'' said Matt Stajan, referring who collected a goal and an assist. ''We're not going to die in here. We're going to keep going until it's over.''
Buffalo fell into 10th place overall, two points behind eighth-place Boston and one in back of Washington.
''We have to take care of our own business,'' coach Lindy Ruff said. ''There's nothing we can do looking at the outside anymore.''
The Sabres had outscored their opponents 20-7 in winning their three previous games, but they were frustrated by Toskala, who stopped 28 shots in the first two periods. The Sabres were also hurt by an inept power play; they were 1-for-8 and couldn’t convert on a pair of two-man advantages.
''We've kind of dug ourselves into a hole,'' Sabres forward Jason Pominville said. ''We have to make sure we get a good start, because when you don't get a lead, teams are patient and it's tough to come back.''
Toronto’s Jason Blake opened the scoring 8:39 into the game, taking a centering pass from Alex Steen and snapping a shot from the slot past Ryan Miller. Darcy Tucker made it 2-0 less than four minutes later, tapping in a rebound through Miller’s legs.
Thomas Vanek gave the Sabres some life by scoring a power-play goal 31 seconds into the second period, but rookie Anton Stralman scored his first career goal at 8:27 to restore the Leafs’ two-goal lead.
Toskala made his most acrobatic save with 10:50 left in regulation and the Leafs still leading 3-1. He got a piece of Pominville's hard, bouncing shot from the right boards, but the puck had enough momentum to dribble past him. Toskala reached back with his stick and swept the puck out of the crease inches before it crossed the goal line.
Stajan added an insurance goal with 6:52 remaining, knocking his own rebound past Miller.
''That's a great confidence-booster, and I don't think you can manufacture that kind of confidence that comes from success like that,'' Toronto coach Paul Maurice said.
Wild 2, Canucks 1 | Video
Minnesota stayed on top on the Northwest Division with some help from a lucky bounce and a dose of top-flight goaltending by Niklas Backstrom, winning its third straight game at GM Place. The Wild increased its lead in the division to three points over the Canucks and Calgary Flames, their opponent at the Pengrowth Saddledome on Saturday night. The Canucks and Flames share seventh place in the West.
“I was extremely happy with this game,” Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. “We played hard for the whole game.”
The lucky bounce came early in the second period. Brian Rolston’s power-play shot from the left side was headed wide, but hit Vancouver defenseman Willie Mitchell’s upper body and deflected into the net at 4:52.
“They got a lucky bounce,” said Mitchell, a former teammate of Rolston. “The puck was going to miss the net by five or six feet.”
Backstrom, who had robbed Ryan Shannon in the first period, foiled him again late in the second when he gloved a goalmouth pass before Shannon could tip it past him.
Minnesota doubled its lead early in the third when Pavol Demitra stickhandled into the Vancouver zone and found Branko Radivojevic, who had snuck behind the defense. Radivojevic took the backdoor pass and tipped it past Luongo at 1:33.
“We made a mistake in the neutral zone that you can’t make against a team like this,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said.
Backstrom, who finished with 30 saves, made his best save not long after when he denied Brendan Morrison, who finished a three-way passing play with Markus Naslund and Matt Pettinger.
“He’s been more solid lately; the last five games he’s been really good,” Lemaire said of Backstrom. “He’s been making a difference.”
The Canucks finally solved Backstrom at 4:20, just 11 seconds after Keith Carney went off for cross-checking, when Sami Salo blasted a slap shot through a screen for a power-play goal. But they couldn’t generate much offense the rest of the way against a Wild team that was in full shutdown mode.
“Not being able to take a lead is tough against this team,” Shannon said. “They make it tough in the neutral zone. They try to slow you down.”
Sharks 2, Ducks 1 | Video
Jeremy Roenick continued his clutch play and San Jose completely shut down Anaheim in the third period by not allowing a shot on goal in winning for the 14th time in 15 games. Roenick scored during a two-man advantage 1:12 into the third as the Sharks outshot the Ducks 17-0 over the final 20 minutes and extended their lead in the Pacific Division to seven points.
“That’s Shark hockey,” Roenick said of the dominant defensive effort. “This team is running on some serious cylinders right now. We feel really good about ourselves. Obviously getting (Brian) Campbell has changed the makeup of our team dramatically, and you see it with the way we’re playing on the ice.”
The win put San Jose seven points ahead of Anaheim in the Pacific Division, and just five behind Detroit for the Western Conference lead.
With the game tied 1-1, the Ducks quickly put themselves behind the eight-ball in the third period when Samuel Pahlsson took a high-sticking penalty 36 seconds in and Travis Moen received a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass 19 seconds later.
The Sharks had failed to capitalize on an earlier 5-on-3 that lasted a full two minutes, but Roenick made the Ducks pay this time. He put a short shot through the pads of Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller for his 13th goal of the season and ninth game-winner. Roenick has also decided three other games in shootouts.
From there, the Sharks were methodical about not letting the Ducks back into the game.
''That was an unbelievable job, offensively and defensively,'' Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. ''We had the puck, it must have been 75 percent of the time, and if they did get the puck in our end, we were aggressive. We jumped them, didn't give them any time. It was just a great overall effort.''
San Jose beat Anaheim for only the second time this season and the first time in four tries at HP Pavilion — but it wasn’t easy.
The Sharks dominated play throughout, outshooting the Ducks 43-13, but Hiller kept the score tied through two periods with an outstanding effort. After Joe Thornton scored 40 seconds into the game following an Anaheim turnover, Hiller — who got the start because of an undisclosed injury to Jean-Sebastien Giguere — prevented San Jose from extending its lead.
Todd Marchant drew the Ducks even 5:35 into the middle period when he converted a cross-ice pass from Chris Kunitz. Hiller continued to stand tall as the Ducks killed off concurrent minors to Todd Bertuzzi and Mathieu Schneider with 4:17 left in the second.
''Hiller gave us a chance,'' coach Randy Carlyle said of his goalie, who needed postgame stitches after being hit in the mask by a third-period shot by Jonathan Cheechoo. ''We didn't create, and they trapped it in neutral ice. We kept giving the puck over.''
Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov had to make just 12 saves in earning his League-leading 43rd victory.
“We didn’t execute tonight and they trapped us in the neutral ice,” Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. “We kept turning the puck over and we didn’t make any good decisions about puck management. The third period was tough. We started poorly when we went down two men for the second time in the game. The first time we defended the goal but this time they scored.”
The 13 shots were one more than Anaheim’s franchise-record low. The Ducks had been held without a shot in just one previous period in club history: the first period against Dallas on Dec. 27, 2000.
''Some teams will use the trap to protect a lead,'' Marchant said. ''They did a great job in the neutral zone. Any time we tried to chip a puck behind them, they were able to knock it down and send it back up the ice. ... If it wasn't for our goalie, it could have been a lot worse.''
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report