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Freefall continues for Rangers in loss to Flyers

by Brian Compton
First it was the Islanders on Saturday. Twenty-four hours later, the Philadelphia Flyers took care of the New York Rangers.

Mike Richards set an NHL record by scoring his third career 3-on-5 goal during a four-tally outburst in the second period as the Flyers cruised past the Blueshirts in a 5-2 victory at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon.

Philadelphia won for the third time in four games and completed a New York, New York weekend sweep that began with a 5-1 blowout of the Isles at the Wachovia Center. With Sunday's win, they moved three points ahead of the Rangers, who are 1-5-2 in their last eight games.

"We won two very big ones for us," said Flyers goalie Martin Biron, who made 35 saves. "We feel pretty good about the situation we're in."

The Blueshirts aren't feeling good about much these days. Combined with Carolina's 3-0 win against Buffalo on Sunday night, the Rangers are now only five points ahead of the No. 9 Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference.

"Losing is no fun. Each and every night it kills you and it eats at all of us," Rangers captain Chris Drury said. "We have to find a way to get wins."

The Garden faithful agree -- so much so that it was calling for the heads of coach Tom Renney and general manager Glen Sather during Sunday's debacle. The Rangers will visit St. Louis on Monday night before returning home to host the Islanders on Wednesday. They'll be forced to play Monday's game without defenseman Paul Mara, who was injured during a fight with Arron Asham early in the third period.

"I take full responsibility for where this team is right now," Renney said. "My job is to correct this, get us winning, get us feeling better about ourselves, getting a solution. It's as simple as that.

"It's not any one thing. It's going to have to be a collective effort. We have to come back to what makes us a good team."

Philadelphia scored the first five goals in Sunday's matchup. Claude Giroux scored the lone goal of the opening period with his second in as many days at 8:12. The Flyers outshot the Rangers 9-7 in the first.

But Philadelphia blew the hinges off in the second. Down two men, Richards took a pass from Braydon Coburn, split Drury and defenseman Michal Rozsival at the blue line and raced in alone to beat Henrik Lundqvist at 1:18.

New York, in a 1-for-31 power-play drought, got caught for its League-worst 14th shorthanded goal. Philadelphia has scored an NHL-high 14 times shorthanded.

"I didn't know their history on power plays or short-handed goals," said Richards, who has 20 goals. "Whenever we play, we always try to take advantage of them maybe getting a little bit too relaxed."

The Flyers then chased Lundqvist by scoring two more goals in a span of 54 seconds later in the second. Matt Carle made it 3-0 at 7:03 before Glen Metropolit tallied his third goal of the season to end Lundqvist's day. He allowed four goals on 14 shots.

"Every goal is pretty important. We can't afford too many mistakes," Lundqvist said. "It's a tough one for us. It's a disappointment."

Lundqvist was replaced by Stephen Valiquette, who allowed a goal on the first shot he faced. Mike Knuble made it a 5-0 game with his 19th tally of the season at 8:52 of the second.

The Rangers finally solved Biron when Lauri Korpikoski scored 12:25 into the second period. Nikolai Zherdev rounded out the scoring at 9:39 of the third.

"We were all over the place, no one was in position or playing the way we were supposed to," Rangers forward Markus Naslund said. "We have to get back to being the team we know that we can be."

Capitals 4, Panthers 2 | Video

Florida put an end to Mike Green's historic streak, but it couldn't come up with an answer for Alex Ovechkin.

The Russian superstar notched his third hat trick of the season on Sunday, leading Washington to its second straight win. Ovechkin leads the League with 41 goals and his team is 9-2-2 in its last 13 games and extended its lead over the second-place Panthers in the Southeast Division to 13 points.

Ovechkin's second goal broke a tie with 2:31 left, and he completed his eighth career hat trick with an empty-netter at 19:41. Ovechkin said after the game he told Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun during pregame warmups he would score two goals off him.

"I'm sure he tells every goalie that, and when it comes true, he's telling you guys," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He's sort of covering himself a little bit there. But it wouldn't surprise me."

On the winner, Ovechkin took a long pass from Nicklas Backstrom deep in Florida territory, and ripped a wrist shot that went through All-Star defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and beat Vokoun through the legs.

"I tried to use my speed just a little, use my body and after that I just tried to shoot the puck and it was in," said Ovechkin, who had only two assists in Washington's first two games against Florida this season.



His first goal gave Washington a 1-0 lead at 15:38 of the first period. He scored on the power play when his wrist shot along the ice beat Vokoun while he was being screened by Caps forward Brooks Laich. Eric Fehr also scored for Washington, extending his goals streak to four games.

Green, who broke the defenseman goals streak record against Tampa Bay on Saturday night, had four shots on goal. His best scoring chance came in the second period on a power play, but Vokoun stopped his one-timer from the high slot. He also failed to record an assist, ending an eight-game points streak.

"It has to come to an end," Green said. "Couldn't score for the rest of the year, but it would have been nice. But as long as we get the win, that's all that matters."

Michael Frolik and Nathan Horton scored for Florida, which lost in regulation for only the fourth time since Jan. 1 (12-4-3). Jose Theodore made 29 saves for the Caps.

"We had an opportunity to get a point, but we didn't get it and we've got to bounce back because we've got a tough week," said Florida coach Pete DeBoer, whose team's next three games are at home against Chicago and division leaders New Jersey and Boston.

Avalanche 6, Red Wings 5 (SO) | Video

There's something about Joe Louis Arena that brings out the best in Colorado.

Jordan Leopold scored in the fifth round of the shootout to give Colorado a dramatic victory over Detroit on Sunday. The Avs won in their only other trip to Motown back on Dec. 15 and have won three straight against the defending Stanley Cup champs.


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

"Going up against guys like (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg and (Marian) Hossa -- it's challenging and it certainly keeps you focused," said Colorado goalie Andrew Raycroft, who made 40 saves through regulation and overtime and allowed only Zetterberg's shootout tally in Round 2.

Ian Laperriere and Ben Guite each had a goal and an assist, and Ruslan Salei, Marek Svatos and Milan Hejduk also scored in regulation for the Avalanche, while Cody McCormick had two assists.

Ironically, Leopold scored on a penalty shot against the Wings in the first game between the teams in Detroit. Colorado coach Tony Granato remembered it vividly.

"Leo is one of the guys we've had in our back pocket for quite a while as the fourth or fifth shooter," Granato said. "He had a penalty-shot goal the last time we were in here and he's good in practice in those situations. We told him to be ready to be one of the extra shooters. He made a nice shot."

Hossa and Dan Cleary each had two goals, while Jiri Hudler also scored for Detroit. Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski and Valtteri Filppula each had two assists and Chris Osgood made 23 saves.

"There were lots of changes in momentum going in this game," Hossa said.

The Avs jumped out to a 2-0 lead as Laperriere scored just 16 seconds into the game before Ruslan Salei tallied his fourth goal of the season 23 seconds into the second period with a slap shot from the boards.

"When we go up 1-0 on the first shift and 2-0 early in the second, you know they're going to start putting pucks on the net," Raycroft said. "They're going to draw penalties and you're going to have to make some saves."

Detroit responded by scoring three times in a 4:37 span. Cleary tied the game with a pair of goals in 26 seconds before Hossa gave the Wings the lead with his first of the night at 8:58.

The teams exchanged goals in the third, with Hejduk erasing a 5-4 deficit with 7:29 remaining. He tipped in a rebound shot, from just outside the crease as the puck slowly slid into the net between Osgood's and Lidstrom's skates. It was his 21st goal of the season.

"Maybe they play a little too wide-open against us. I'm not sure," Avs defenseman Adam Foote said.

Hurricanes 3, Sabres 0 | Video

After two losses that saw Carolina outscored by a 10-1 margin on home ice, Eric Staal was fed up. It was time to turn things around.

The skilled center helped his club do just that on Sunday night, as he had a goal and two assists while Cam Ward stopped all 36 shots he faced in a win at Buffalo.

"The bottom line is we had to respond," Staal said. "Any time you have embarrassing home losses, you remember that. And I thought everybody did tonight and responded well."

Chad LaRose and Sergei Samsonov also scored for the Hurricanes, who outshot the Sabres 34-21 through two periods and 47-36 overall. Aside from winning a season-best third straight road game, the Hurricanes (28-24-5) gained ground in the Eastern Conference standings. With 61 points, ninth-place Carolina moved within three points of Buffalo (29-22-6) and Florida, who hold down the final two playoff spots.

Ryan Miller was pulled after allowing two goals on 18 shots in the first period. Patrick Lalime stopped the first 26 shots he faced before Samsonov converted his own rebound with 2:12 left.

"I don't even know what to say right now. It's unacceptable," Sabres captain Craig Rivet said. "They had more desperation. They worked harder. They beat us tonight in every aspect."

Ward made his presence felt in the opening minute, as he stopped Derek Roy's shot from the right circle and recovered in time to deny Drew Stafford's rebound attempt. Staal then gave Carolina a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 9:20 of the first before LaRose ended Miller's night 4:30 later.

Ward's best save came with 13 minutes left, when he got his glove up to snag Tim Connolly's snap shot from the right circle.

"Our best players were our best players and that hadn't happened the last game," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. "Eric Staal breaks the game open and his line was fantastic. Cam Ward slams the door at the back end, and that was the difference for us."

Thrashers 8, Ducks 4 | Video

Back-to-back wins must have had Anaheim feeling pretty confident. On Sunday, though, reality set in.

Ilya Kovalchuk extended his goals streak to four games by notching his first hat trick in almost a year as Atlanta beat the Ducks for the first time since Dec. 5, 2003. The Thrashers, second to last in the Eastern Conference standings, had a season-high 45 shots on goal and chased Jean-Sebastien Giguere during the second period.


GOALS: 3 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 4
SOG: 6 | +/-: +1

"We shot ourselves in the foot," Anaheim center Ryan Getzlaf said. "We've got to go back to work. Every bounce ended up on their stick. We're a team that prides itself on not giving up so many shots. We didn't respond the way we needed."

The Ducks made mistakes right from the get-go, as they were handed 15 minutes in penalties in the opening period. Bryan Little broke a 1-1 tie with a power-play goal at 18:57 as Atlanta held a 2-1 lead and outshot Anaheim 19-11 after 20 minutes. Little's tally was the first of five unanswered goals.

"Everything that you don’t want to happen happened," said Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer. "We made our share of mistakes and they scored their share of goals. I guess those nights do happen once in a while. Unfortunately, we can't afford right now. That is the worst part of it."

All three of Kovalchuk's goals came in the second period, the first coming at 1:26. After Colby Armstrong gave Atlanta a 4-1 lead at 5:41, Kovalchuk scored twice in a span of 37 seconds to bust the game wide open.

"I think he has really been skating well the last three or four games," Atlanta coach John Anderson said of Kovalchuk, who has 27 goals. "He is starting to feel like himself again. He's hounding the puck, he's chasing the puck. He gets it -- he's dangerous, obviously."

Teemu Selanne and Bobby Ryan scored for Anaheim to cut the deficit to 6-3, but Colin Stuart scored shorthanded at the six-minute mark to make it a four-goal game again. Andrew Ebbett beat Kari Lehtonen (31 saves) at 10:02, but the Ducks couldn't get any closer and had their fate sealed when Niclas Havelid scored into an empty net with 2:07 to play.

"Those are ones that you bang your head against the wall and you try to figure out how we could perform to the level we performed in," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "It just seemed that we didn’t have anything going in a lot of areas. We tried to battle back, but we just got frustrated. Pucks bounced away form us in every situation. We started to do too much as individuals and just feed their attack."

The Thrashers -- who have won only three of their last 10 games -- will play the second of a four-game road trip on Monday night at Los Angeles. "It's the right way to start the road trip with a big win," said Kovalchuk, who leads Atlanta with 58 points. "But now we have a big game tomorrow.

We just need to be more consistent and win a couple of games in a row to feel better about ourselves."

Canucks 4, Canadiens 2 | Video

Daniel and Henrik Sedin each had a goal and an assist, as Vancouver sent reeling Montreal to another loss at General Motors Place.

The victory helped the Canucks catapult from ninth to fifth place in the incredibly-tight Western Conference. Vancouver -- winners in five of six -- is now one point ahead of Dallas, Columbus and Anaheim. The Canucks (27-21-8) also improved to 10-0-1 against Montreal since its last loss way back on Nov. 30, 2003.

Daniel Sedin and Alexander Edler set the stage early with goals just 48 seconds apart. Sedin broke a scoreless tie at 10:28 of the first with his 24th tally of the season, and Edler quickly followed as he one-timed Mattias Ohlund's feed past Jaroslav Halak to make it 2-0. It prompted Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau to use his lone timeout.

"It was a solid 60 minutes … that's the type of hockey we want to be playing," said Canucks captain Roberto Luongo, who made 25 saves. "We got two goals right away in the first, and that sets the tempo for the rest of the match."

Saku Koivu cut the deficit in half with 1:46 remaining in the first, but Luongo stopped all eight shots he faced in the second period and Henrik Sedin made it 3-1 when he beat Halak at 19:11 of the middle frame.

Halak got the start in favor of Carey Price, who gave up a career-worst seven goals in Edmonton his last start. Price is 2-7 with a 3.87 goals-against average and .864 save percentage since coming back after missing three weeks with an ankle injury. Montreal has lost five of six and 10 of its last 13 games to drop to fifth in the Eastern Conference.

"We've tried everything. Obviously there's nowhere to hide," Carbonneau said. "We just can't find that spark that gets us going. Every time we make a mistake, whether it's a big mistake or small mistake, the puck ends up in our net, whether it's a bad bounce or a bad play."

Ryan Kesler increased Vancouver's lead to 4-1 at 5:54 of the third when he finished of a 2-on-1 with Mats Sundin. Andrei Kostitsyn made it 4-2 with 2:27 left. It was his 20th goal of the season. Luongo stopped the other 11 shots he saw in the last 20 minutes.

"I felt pretty good all night," Luongo said.

So did Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, whose team did not have to kill a penalty all night long. Vancouver went 0-for-2 with the man advantage.

"We found a way not to give up a power-play goal," Vigneault joked. "We were real solid tonight at both ends of the rink. We didn't give up a lot of chances. We really dominated that game in all areas. It was a good team win."

With friends and family in the audience, Carbonneau put Price in the game with about nine minutes to go. Price grew up about 340 miles northeast of Vancouver.

"I knew there was a lot of people here that wanted to see him," said coach Guy Carbonneau. "At 4-1, it's not like we were going anywhere."

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

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