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Flyers win in a cloud of smoke

by Brian Hunter
A few thoughts while we try to digest every last nugget from Super Saturday and kick back to relax before the season resumes Monday night:

Hardly a stinker — The second game of a home-and-home series between the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils was everything one would expect from two bitter Atlantic Division rivals, and a little more.

Jeff Carter's goal 3:44 into overtime gave the Flyers the additional point and ended a hotly-contested battle. It also came seconds after the game was resumed following a delay when a fan at Wachovia Center threw a smoke bomb on the ice near the Devils bench that had players talking afterward.

"It smelled like New Year's," Flyers defenseman Ossi Vaanenen said.

Added Mike Knuble: "It's the first time I've seen that. In minor league hockey they would have fireworks explosions and the ice would water."

In addition to all the smoke, which took several minutes to clear, the acrid odor had some coaches and players temporarily retreating to the tunnel behind the benches to escape. Once the game restarted, the Flyers quickly got a victory that smelled perfectly sweet to them.

"To win close games like that against the Devils who pride themselves in winning close games, that was a real feather in our cap," Flyers coach John Stevens said after his team swept New Jersey. "I don't know what it looks like to the fans, but it was an inspirational game for us and it was great to get the win."

Starting to click — It was a tough start to the season for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who stunned the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings on opening night, then suffered through five consecutive defeats, three of them in shootouts.

Now the Maple Leafs have back-to-back wins, including Saturday's 3-2 triumph over the Ottawa Senators at Air Canada Centre, and own a 3-2-3 record good for nine points and a tie for third in a very competitive Northeast Division.
Toronto also had defenseman Jeff Finger in the lineup for the first time against its Ontario rival. The free-agent signing from Colorado helped prevent the tying goal in the third period by sweeping away a loose puck that got behind goalie Vesa Toskala. He said the Leafs are making strides toward where they want to be.

"I don't know if it's a message being sent yet," he said. "But that's the goal we want as a team — for the other teams to know it's not going to be an easy game. That's what we want to do."

Toskala sees the progress as well, especially in the way the Leafs toughed it out at the end after a shorthanded goal in the final minute of regulation drew the Senators within one.

"Even with the lead now, we still kept skating and we didn't turn the puck over," said Toskala. "I would say that was our smartest game so far."

Big man in townJean-Sebastien Giguere had so many friends and family in attendance at Bell Centre on Saturday night that he had to rent a suite to accommodate all the ticket requests. The Anaheim Ducks goaltender didn't disappoint the legions that came out to watch him play in his hometown.

Giguere made 47 saves in a 6-4 win against the Montreal Canadiens, but afterward he was more interested in talking about some key forwards who finally busted out for the Ducks. Corey Perry notched a goal and two assists, while linemates Ryan Getzlaf and Chris Kunitz each had a goal and an assist.

"They're young guys and they were going through something that's very difficult, something they've never really been through before as young players, but I think they're going to be better players because of that," Giguere said. "We're expecting a lot from them and there's a lot of pressure on their shoulders, but deservingly so. They're big players, they can do everything out there and they showed that tonight."

Giguere showed it as well with his performance in net, continuing a four-game run that has seen him post a .947 save percentage and allow just eight goals.

"We were fortunate that our goaltender made enough stops at critical times and our power play came through for us," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said in assessing why his team won.

60 minutes, 60 shots
Cam Ward must have felt as if pre-game warm-ups never ended. Pucks kept flying at the Carolina Hurricanes goaltender right and left after the game started, only now it was the New York Islanders shooting them — and they weren't doing it for practice.

Ward stood tall, making a career-high 57 saves and preserving a 4-3 Carolina win by stopping New York's 60th attempt on goal, a penalty shot awarded to Doug Weight with :00.7 left in regulation after Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason was called for playing the puck in the crease with his glove during a late Islanders' flurry.

"He's a gifted player," Ward said of Weight, his former teammate on Carolina's 2006 Stanley Cup championship team. "I thought he might go five-hole, but I tried not to overthink it."

It would have been understandable if Ward required an IV after the game — he faced 17 shots in the first period, 21 more in the second and a whopping 22 in the third as the Islanders tried to fight from behind — but the goalie said it wasn't as difficult a night of work as the stats might make it appear.

"It looked like they were throwing everything at the net," Ward said. "But it's really not the number of shots that matters — it's the number of good chances, and I think our defense did a great job in clearing out rebounds so there were very few second chances."

Defending their turf — Even though the New York Rangers won all four of their regular-season home games last season against the Pittsburgh Penguins, what stuck in their memory banks was a five-game ouster against their Atlantic Division rivals in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

So when the Rangers rallied from a 2-0, third-period deficit Saturday at Madison Square Garden and edged the Penguins 3-2 in a shootout, it was more than just your average two points as far as the Blueshirts were concerned.

"Pittsburgh won the playoff round against us, so it was important for us to come out and show that we were hungry and wanted to beat them," said Fredrik Sjostrom, who scored the lone goal of the shootout in the third round.

The reason the Rangers made it that far was because Nikolai Zherdev followed up a three-point effort in Columbus against his former team Friday with the game-tying goal in the waning seconds Saturday. Zherdev's tally with 8.1 seconds left forced overtime and helped New York take its second straight.

"All that matters is that the team wins," Zherdev said. "Back-to-back games, everyone is tired. It's a big four points."

The secret weapon — It's no shocker that a big key to the San Jose Sharks' 7-2-0 start is their goaltending. What might come as a bit of a surprise is that Evgeni Nabokov has been only a piece of the puzzle.

Nabokov, as expected, has gotten the bulk of the work in net, but backup Brian Boucher continued to impress when he stopped all 22 shots the Tampa Bay Lightning put at him Saturday for a 3-0 win and his second shutout in as many games this season.

"Right now, it's been two wins and two shutouts, but I wouldn't look too much into it," said Boucher, who made 21 saves Oct. 12 in a 1-0 win against Los Angeles. "It's more of a byproduct of the guys playing well."

While the Sharks are playing exactly the way first-year coach Todd McLellan intended, his counterpart, new Lightning bench boss Barry Melrose, can hardly say the same about his team. Tampa Bay dropped to 1-3-3 — but it hasn't been the fault of the goaltenders, but rather an offense that has registered just 11 goals.

"It was very embarrassing," Melrose said. "Our goaltending has been great every game. But we've scored 11 goals in seven games. It doesn't take Albert Einstein to figure out that's not enough."

Room for improvement — The Nashville Predators' 5-4 win over the Los Angeles Kings right down to the wire — and that didn't sit too well with their coach, Barry Trotz.

"It should have ended 5-2 and our guys all realize that," Trotz said. "We found a way to stop the tide, but it was closer than we wanted it to be.

"The last two goals by Los Angeles were the result of sloppy coverages. We knew they were stretching their forwards. Instead of protecting the puck, we threw it up the middle and Los Angeles kept it in. And we were beat back to the net on the last goal."

"The last two goals by Los Angeles were the result of sloppy coverages. We knew they were stretching their forwards. Instead of protecting the puck, we threw it up the middle and Los Angeles kept it in. And we were beat back to the net on the last goal." -- Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz
Third-period goals by Jerred Smithson and Jordin Tootoo extended a slim lead the Predators carried into the third, but Dustin Brown and Alexander Frolov scored for the Kings in the final six minutes — leaving Trotz upset with his team, despite the win.

"There are a number of players who can do a better job," Trotz said. "We are making turnovers. On a routine breakout there was an errant pass and they turned that into a goal. It was a routine play with no pressure. We are having problems on the walls. And they are veteran players making mistakes. That is what concerns me."

Differing viewsRick Nash's apparent tying goal in the waning seconds caused all sorts of confusion at Xcel Energy Center. Naturally, the Columbus Blue Jackets saw it one way and the Minnesota Wild another. Even the officiating crew had differing opinions.

In the end, Nash's goal was disallowed because of a high-stick ruling and the Wild escaped with a 2-1 victory. One referees initially signaled the goal was good, but after a video review was inconclusive, the ruling was put back into the hands of the officials and the other three overruled the original call.

"Our description of it and our view on the video is different than the referee's, so what does it matter?" said an obviously displeased Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock. "It's not a goal. They won the hockey game."

On the other hand, Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said he never had a doubt.
"When I saw the replay on top, it was obvious," Lemaire said. "Nash is really tall, and he had his stick above the shoulders."

Capping it off — It had the makings early on of a game where the last shot to go in would be the winner, and fortunately for the Washington Capitals that shot came off the stick of Alexander Semin.

Sergei Fedorov claimed another record with a pair of goals in regulation, but Semin grabbed a share of the headlines when he scored 2:17 into overtime and gave the visiting Caps a 6-5 victory over the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Arena.

"We've always been resilient," said Washington coach Bruce Boudreau, whose team snapped a three-game losing streak that included back-to-back 2-1 losses at Calgary and Phoenix. "You can see the passion we have by how we reacted when we scored the overtime goal."

Fedorov scored in each of the first two periods to pass Alexander Mogilny for most goals by a Russian-born player. He now has 475 goals to go along with 678 assists and 1,153 points, both of which were already Russian records.

"Records are nice on a personal level, but most important was that we finally won a game," Fedorov said.

Hossa heating up — On another team, there might have been reason for Marian Hossa to press when he managed just one goal over his first six games. But with all the offensive talent surrounding him on the Detroit Red Wings, there was no reason for anyone to be concerned. Hossa was bound to come around, and now he's as hot as anyone in the Motor City.

After scoring two goals and an assist Friday in a win against his former teammates from Atlanta, Hossa finished regulation Saturday with a goal and an assist, then notched the shootout winner in a 6-5 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center.

"This was a tough game to play in," Hossa said. "Chicago played well, especially in the beginning. We came back strong."

Goals by Pavel Datsyuk and Jonathan Toews had the penalty-shot tiebreaker knotted at one when Hossa was tapped to shoot in the fourth round. He blasted a slap shot past Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, using a simple but effective strategy to get the Wings the second point.

"The goalie played different each shot," Hossa said. "So I didn't know what to do. The best thing is to shoot the puck."

A win and a loss — At least one thing went differently for the St. Louis Blues on Saturday: They won the game.

Brad Boyes scored a pair of goals to spark a 4-0 win over the Florida Panthers at Scottrade Center, but for the second straight night the Blues lost their starting goaltender to an injury. On Friday, Manny Legace left after one period with an injury he suffered taking the ice to start the game, when he slipped on a carpet put down so Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin could drop the ceremonial first puck. St. Louis native Ben Bishop finished out the 4-0 loss to Los Angeles and got his first NHL start Saturday, but had to exit early in the third period in favor of Marek Schwarz.

"Right off the bat, we got going. I think the forecheck worked out well, we didn't turn pucks over, shot the puck, the power play got us going good. I think every part of our game was much better than it was last night." -- St. Louis Blues forward Brad Boyes
"I was going to make one of the saves and something (wasn't right) in my lower body," said Bishop, who stopped 12 shots and did get his first NHL victory. "It's sad. I felt really good. It's unfortunate."

At least the Blues had something to celebrate this time, as they put an end to a two-game losing streak while snapping the Panthers' two-game winning streak.

"Right off the bat, we got going," said Boyes, who scored his sixth and seventh goals of the season. "I think the forecheck worked out well, we didn't turn pucks over, shot the puck, the power play got us going good. I think every part of our game was much better than it was last night."

Switcheroo — Neither the Boston Bruins nor the Atlanta Thrashers felt the unusual format of their game meant anything to the final outcome, a 5-4 Boston victory fueled by a three-goal performance by Milan Lucic.

The teams traded ends midway through the third period after it was discovered before the game that the on-ice markings on the west end of the ice at the TD Banknorth Garden were incorrect. The faceoff dots were four feet further away from the net than NHL specifications.

The markings were out down before the Bruins' home opener on Monday and stayed that way through games against Pittsburgh and Toronto before the discrepancy was noted.

After the game, Boston coach Claude Julien said it didn't affect play in any game this season. "I don't think it had any bearing on any game we've played," he said.

Atlanta forward Colby Armstrong agreed: "I still don't even get what's going on out there. They tried to explain it to me and I still can't even figure out what's going on out so I've never seen that before. But it had nothing to do with the game."

Added Thrashers coach John Anderson: "I don't think it makes a difference. It was what it was. It's fair for both sides. It reminds me of European hockey. They used to do that all the time."

Miller time — Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller wasn't as upset about losing to Colorado in a shootout as he was about the fact that the game got that far.

The Sabres led 1-0 late in the third period when Jordan Leopold's shot deflected into the net. Miller was irate — contending that Ryan Smyth hit the knob of his stick and knocked him off-balance.

"Everyone knows Ryan Smyth comes through and hits the goalie's knob," Miller said. "I told the ref, 'I don't want the contact. I don't need a penalty, I just don't want the contact.' He comes by and twists me out of position. That was a slow-moving puck that I could reach if I'm set. I had the ice, I was there first. Don't touch me."

"Everyone knows Ryan Smyth comes through and hits the goalie's knob. I told the ref, 'I don't want the contact. I don't need a penalty, I just don't want the contact.' He comes by and twists me out of position. That was a slow-moving puck that I could reach if I'm set. I had the ice, I was there first. Don't touch me." -- Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller
Adding insult to injury in Miller's eyes — Smyth got the winner in a shootout that the goaltender thought should never have occurred.

"To work that hard and to have a chintzy little play be the difference to get it into overtime, it's pretty brutal," Miller said.

Complete effort -- They sputtered at the start, but now the Calgary Flames are starting to look like contenders in the Northwest Division.

Power-play goals by Todd Bertuzzi and Dion Phaneuf backed a 23-save effort in goal from Miikka Kiprusoff as the Flames claimed a 4-1 win Saturday at Arena, solving the Phoenix Coyotes for their third straight victory following a 1-3-1 start.

''This was an emotional division game, and we knew we had to elevate our game,'' said captain Jarome Iginla, who capped the scoring with an empty-net goal. ''I thought we moved the puck well and put the puck where we knew we could get it. Good puck movement was the key for us in this win.''

While Phoenix Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky was critical of his team's overall effort, Mike Keenan had plenty of positive things to say about his troops in the aftermath of Saturday's triumph.

''We limited their chances to score, and that was important for us,'' Keenan said. ''We defended the goal well and did the small things to get a chance to win. Right now, we have four lines playing well, and we need that consistency going forward.''

Turning on the power — The Vancouver Canucks returned home Saturday after a six-game road trip. Happily for them, their power play finally showed up.

The Canucks entered the game with only three power-play goals and a next-to-last 9.1 percent success rate. But they converted four times in six tries against Edmonton on the way to a 6-3 victory over the Oilers.

Mason Raymond scored twice with the man advantage. Kyle Wellwood had the tie-breaking goal during a power-play early in the third period, and Jason Krog added No. 4 late in the game.

The Canucks spent the last couple of days practicing their power play — and, as we all know, practice makes perfect.
"We had a few days to practice it and we had some new guys out there and I think we were able to move the puck well and when the puck went to the net it seemed to bounce the right way for us," said Wellwood, who scored his second power-play goal and third point in two games since replacing the injured Pavol Demitra on the second line and second power-play unit.
"We changed some things and now we're getting more setup time and you get more chances and eventually it's going to go in," Wellwood said.

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

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