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Gaborik leads Rangers past Capitals

by Brian Hunter
The stars were certainly present and accounted for at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, and the New York Rangers and their fans had to like the end result.

Marian Gaborik scored a pair of goals and helped set up the game-winner by Chris Higgins with 1:10 remaining as the Rangers edged the Washington Capitals, 3-2.

"Both teams had a full lineup," said Gaborik, who assisted on a goal against Detroit in his preseason debut on Monday. "It's getting close to the regular season, so I think every team wants to get sharp and wants to get a full lineup out there, and I think it was a good game."

Alexander Semin and Keith Aucoin scored for the Capitals to wipe out a pair of previous one-goal leads by the Rangers. Washington rallied from a 3-1 deficit last spring to oust New York in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It was as close to a regular-season game as you can have," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "The tempo and the intensity made it a real good test for us. The game was pretty even for the most part, but they scored at the end."

Overtime appeared imminent until Gaborik sent a pass from the neutral zone ahead to an onrushing Brandon Dubinsky. Playing in his first preseason game after signing a contract late last week, Dubinsky drove to the net around Matt Bradley of the Capitals and centered the puck to Higgins, who got his stick on it enough to send it past goalie Jose Theodore.

"Dubie took it in deep there and I was just trying to go to the net and draw defenders to me," Higgins said. "Dubie made a great play getting around the defenseman … it kind of just fell on my stick. It wasn’t the prettiest goal, but I guess we'll take it with a minute left."

Theodore and his counterpart, Henrik Lundqvist, each made eight saves during a scoreless first period before the teams opened up a little in the second.

Gaborik opened the scoring 36 seconds in with a shorthanded goal. Michal Rozsival was serving the final seconds of a hooking penalty when Capitals defenseman John Erskine coughed the puck up in the neutral zone under pressure from Ryan Callahan. Gaborik went in on a breakaway and beat Theodore between the pads.

Semin tied the score at 8:51, shortly after Rangers defenseman Matt Gilroy made a nice play in his own zone to deny Alex Ovechkin of a scoring chance. Semin picked up the puck, went around the net and maneuvered into the right circle before whipping a wrister past Lundqvist.

The Rangers were skating on a 6-on-5 during a delayed penalty call when Gaborik blasted home the rebound of a Vaclav Prospal shot for a 2-1 lead with 7:23 left in the second. But the Capitals drew even again three minutes before the intermission when Keith Aucoin converted a 2-on-1 feed from Ovechkin.

Flyers 2, Devils 1 (OT)

Even though the calendar only showed September, it was a typical grudge match between a pair of Atlantic Division rivals.

Philadelphia clamed the victory on the first shot of overtime when Mika Pyorala beat New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur, much to the delight of the Wachovia Center crowd.

"I saw Danny (Briere) got the puck behind the net and I just tried to find an open place," Pyorala said. "It was a perfect pass and I think it went glove side."

The 28-year-old Pyorala signed with Philadelphia this summer and is trying to earn an NHL roster spot after playing seven seasons in Finland and the past two in the Swedish Elite League.

"I think that helps me a lot," Pyorala said of his international experience. "I'm an older player, been in a couple world championships, and I've been playing in tough games so I know how to work on the ice."

Briere set up both goals for the Flyers, including a power-play goal by Matt Carle midway through the first period. Ray Emery had a strong game in net, making 31 saves.

"I really like the way he finds pucks through traffic, and then the save he made in the third period on a 2-on-1 where he had a little cross-crease play was incredible," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "He's got a lot of fight in him and he seems like he never quits on a puck, and that was certainly indicative of his success tonight."

Brodeur will face Philadelphia again in a little over a week, playing in his 1,000th NHL game when the Devils host the Flyers in their regular-season opener. In his preseason debut Thursday, the winningest goalie in League history stopped 27 shots, including a James van Riemsdyk drive from in close with 9.7 seconds left in regulation.

Matt Halischuk scored off a Nicklas Bergfors rebound 8:37 into the third for New Jersey, which was playing only its third preseason game and lost for the first time.

Blue Jackets 5, Penguins 2

Gearing up to begin a title defense, Pittsburgh's main concern wasn't a loss to Columbus but rather the departure of captain Sidney Crosby after just three shifts due to a groin injury. The Penguins said it was not believed to be serious.

"It was more precautionary than anything else," coach Dan Bylsma said. "It's been tight for a couple of days."

Crosby didn't seem overly concerned, saying he planned to rest Friday but would skate Saturday in the hopes of being ready for Sunday's exhibition at Detroit, a rematch of the past two Stanley Cup Finals.

"It's better to stay off it. I'm hoping for just a few days," Crosby said. "I've hurt my groin before. It's not as bad. I think I missed five games with one last year. It's just something you have to be careful with."

Youngsters Jakub Voracek and Derick Brassard each had a goal and an assist for the Blue Jackets, as did captain Rick Nash. Michael Blunden and Derek MacKenzie also scored in support of goalie Steve Mason, who made 26 saves.

Evgeni Malkin and Nate Guenin recorded the Penguins' goals. Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 27 saves. Pittsburgh has won only once in five preseason games.

Bruins 2, Canadiens 1 (SO)

"I had a move in mind, but I read something else from the goalie so I had to go 5-hole. It wasn't the first intention that I had, but it worked out."
-- Patrice Bergeron

If the Bruins find themselves in a shootout right off the bat in the regular season, Tim Thomas and Patrice Bergeron appear to be ready to go.

Thomas denied all three Montreal shooters in the penalty-shot tiebreaker and Bergeron scored in the second round as Boston won its second straight 2-1 game from its Northeast Division rival this preseason.

"I had a move in mind, but I read something else from the goalie so I had to go 5-hole," Bergeron said. "It wasn't the first intention that I had, but it worked out."

After Bergeron beat Jaroslav Halak in the second round of the shootout, Thomas made a save on Scott Gomez to clinch the victory at Bell Centre. He also turned aside Matt D'Agostini and forced Tomas Plekanec to miss the net. Thomas stopped 33 shots through regulation and overtime.

"I had a rough first outing in the preseason and it's good to follow it up with a strong one," said Thomas, the Vezina Trophy winner last season as the NHL's top goalie. "It doesn't mean that everything's perfect now, but it's a step in the right direction."

Matt Stuart scored 1:37 into the third period to tie the score and force overtime for the Bruins, who also defeated the Canadiens in Quebec City on Sunday.

Sergei Kostitsyn beat Thomas 59 seconds into the second period to open the scoring. Halak made 26 saves for Montreal, which lost Michael Cammalleri after the first due to an undisclosed lower-body injury.

"It's more precautionary, nothing serious," Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said. "We just wanted to make sure that it didn't get worse and we feel that it'll be all right. Whether he'll play Saturday, we'll see, but what's more important is Oct. 1."

Blues 4, Wild 1

If St. Louis can keep Andy McDonald and Erik Johnson healthy this season, the Blues could take a step toward building off last season's playoff appearance.

McDonald scored two of the Blues' three power-play goals and Johnson was credited with an assist in a win against Minnesota at Xcel Energy Center. They were named the top two stars of the game.

McDonald missed almost three months last season due to a broken leg, while Johnson lost the entire season due to a knee injury. St. Louis still made its first postseason appearance in five years, but went out in four games to Vancouver in the first round.

Patrik Berglund also lit the lamp during a man advantage, opening the scoring at 8:15 of the first period, and the Blues increased their lead to 3-0 over the next six minutes on goals by Alex Steen and McDonald.

"This was the first time that we've had all our power play people on the ice in one game. We've worked on that the last couple days so that's really nice to see," coach Andy Murray said. "We should have scored on the fourth one, too."

McDonald made it 4-0 with 7:40 left in the second when he banked a shot off Minnesota defenseman Jaime Sifers and past goalie Niklas Backstrom, who made 17 saves.

"We just tried to emphasize getting our shot-based power play and getting shots through," said Johnson, who joined Paul Kariya at the point on the power play. "We felt pretty good, but there's still room for improvement."

Chris Mason stopped all 10 shots he faced before Ty Conklin relieved midway through the game. Conklin made seven saves, allowing Eric Belanger's power-play goal with 2:45 remaining that got the Wild on the board.

"I didn't think our compete factor was there for a good portion of the game," Minnesota coach Todd Richards said. "We had some guys whose levels were too low, and I know there's more there."

Stars 3, Avalanche 2

Loui Eriksson is coming off a breakout season for Dallas and he hasn't shown any signs of letting up, contributing two goals and an assist to a win over Colorado at American Airlines Center.

James Neal opened the scoring and assisted on one of the goals by Eriksson, whose production took a dramatic jump from 14 goals in his sophomore year to a team-best 36 last season.

Brad Richards added a pair of assists and Alex Auld stopped 32 shots for Dallas, which has split six preseason games.

"I thought he played really well for us tonight," Stars coach Marc Crawford said of Auld. "He allowed us to weather the storm and it's our third game in three nights, so maybe we had some tired people out there that needed to get their legs into the game. I thought he played a real solid game tonight."

Neal and Eriksson scored less than three minutes apart in the first period, then Eriksson made it 3-0 midway through the second.

Colorado answered on goals by Marek Svatos and Scott Hannan. The Avalanche lost despite a 34-16 edge in shots. Peter Budaj finished with 13 saves.

Lightning 4, Oilers 3 (OT)

The final seconds of overtime were set to tick off the clock, but Tampa Bay's top line made sure this game never reached the shootout.

Martin St. Louis scored his second goal of the night with less than seven seconds remaining to defeat Edmonton in a game played at MTS Centre in Winnipeg.

Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier was tied up on a faceoff in the offensive zone but managed to kick the puck over to Ryan Malone. He dropped a pass back for St. Louis, who stepped into a shot that zipped past Oilers goalie Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers for the winner.

"He's just smart, he's just dangerous on the ice," Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet said. "He's the ultimate pro. I'm glad Canada's got him for the Olympics because he's a hell of a hockey player."

Defenseman Kurtis Foster forced the extra period for Tampa when his shot from the blue line with less than two minutes left in regulation deflected off the stick of Edmonton's Ethan Moreau and into the net.

Malone and St. Louis staked the Lightning to a 2-0 lead after the first period, but the Oilers answered in the second on goals by Robert Nilsson and Andrew Cogliano, then took the lead in the third when Tom Gilbert scored off a centering pass from Gilbert Brule.

"They looked like they cared when they got the puck and they had good results," Quinn said of the line Nilsson-Cogliano-Sam Gagner line.

Ducks 3, Canucks 2 (OT)

Vancouver made another late comeback but couldn't pull out the victory this time, as Teemu Selanne's sharp-angle goal with 1:11 left in overtime helped Anaheim recover from blowing a two-goal, third-period lead.

The Canucks entered Thursday having won all six of their preseason games, including a shootout victory over Calgary on Monday after Daniel Sedin tied the score with 0.2 seconds left in regulation.

Defenseman Shane O'Brien forced overtime against the Ducks when he beat Jonas Hiller with 53.6 seconds to play. Matt Pope had put the Canucks on the board with 6:55 remaining.

"Anytime you can score, especially as a D-man, you'll take it," O'Brien said. "We didn't have a very good start and I thought our second period was maybe even worse, but I thought we came out and played well in the third."

Corey Perry started the scoring with 6:35 left in the second period and Ryan Whitney extended Anaheim's lead to 2-0 at 10:13 of the third. Ryan Getzlaf set up Whitney's goal in his first game since hernia surgery in late July.

Hiller finished with 23 saves. Andrew Raycroft stopped 26 shots for the Canucks, but didn't have an answer for Selanne.

"I've taken that last shot probably 1,000 times in the last five or six weeks, at goalie camps you do that for the warm-up," Raycroft said. "He just kind of fanned on it and fooled me enough to find a hole, which is obviously disappointing, but my body of work over the last three games I feel really good about the start of my season.

"I was able to make a few saves and get out there and just feel comfortable, which was nice. I had my feet under me and I was moving well and seeing everything well. A lot of positives."

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

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