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Goaltending has Wings in prime position

by Brian Compton
A few thoughts while the Penguins wait to hear on Sidney Crosby's injury:

What a tandem -- After Dan Cleary and Johan Franzen scored 35 seconds apart in the third period to give Detroit a 4-3 lead over the Anaheim Ducks, the Red Wings put the game in the hands of Chris Osgood.

No problem.

It took a ridiculous glove save on Corey Perry in the final seconds, but Osgood -- who started his second straight game for the first time in almost a month -- and the Wings held on for the nail-biting victory.

''Osgood made a great save there,'' said Cleary, who has eight goals. ''Perry had the game-tying goal in his hands, and that was just a great save.''

One of the many reasons why the Red Wings are one of the League's elite teams and the defending Stanley Cup champs is goaltending. Last season, it was Osgood and Dominik Hasek. This time around, it's Osgood and Ty Conklin. The latter has been splendid for the Wings this season, as he's 15-5-1 with a 2.32 goals-against average and four shutouts, and coach Mike Babcock said he'll play at Los Angeles on Thursday night.

Confidence from the cage out. It's why the Wings are where they are. Anaheim is striving to feel the same way.

''We just found a way to lose,'' Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. ''Teams that play with confidence, they find a way to win. I think the Red Wings did that tonight."

'O' baby! -- Alex Ovechkin again made his case that he is the best player in the NHL.

No. 8 scored a pair of goals in the third period, leading the Washington Capitals to a 6-3 win against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena.

Not only did the Caps snap a three-game skid, but Ovechkin -- who now has 29 goals this season -- ended a four-game drought.

''When he gets in a slump and then breaks the slump, he doesn't break it just to break it,'' Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. ''He gets two or three ... That's what Alex does. He's a real emotional guy and he plays on that passion. And when he gets going, he's pretty hard to stop.''

The Penguins -- who have lost six of seven at home and eight of 10 overall -- found that out the hard way. And not only did Pittsburgh fail to garner any points in the standings, but it also lost Crosby to an undisclosed injury in the third period. His status is unknown.

''Today was very emotional game for us,'' Ovechkin said. ''We lost three in a row and had to go on the road to play against a tough team, and we bounced back.''

The question is, can Pittsburgh bounce back? After a 7-0-1 start to November, the Penguins have dropped 16 of their last 26 games in regulation.

"We can't look in the past and worry about it," Crosby told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review after his team's latest loss. "With the playoff picture, teams are certainly coming together ... We've got to make sure from here on in we're consistent through every game.

"We'll have to use our experience from last year. We've been through a lot together, a lot of the guys in there. It's easy to be a good teammate when things are great, so we'll have a good test here for the group we have. We're confident if we stick together we'll get out of it. We're confident with our chemistry we'll find a way to get things back on track."

How long? -- Though the Chicago Blackhawks got the effort and the result they were hoping for, their 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres could prove to be a painful one.

An open-ice hit by Buffalo's Drew Stafford on Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith forced the latter to leave the game. Replays showed that Stafford's elbow made contact with Keith's head -- a hit that will almost certainly be evaluated by League brass.

Keith experienced difficulty getting to his feet after the hit, but may have been dazed and not suffered a more serious injury. Stafford, who has just 10 penalty minutes this season, was remorseful afterwards.

''I hope he's OK. I'm not trying to hurt anybody,'' Stafford said. ''At the same time, you have to keep your head up if you're going to make a play over the blue line like that.''

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is hopeful that Keith won't be out an extended period of time.

''As far as I know, he's in good spirits,'' Toews said. ''He's chatting away and is his normal self. I guess we'll wait and see what the doctors say.''

Keep it going, boys -- "We won a game yesterday. We win one today, that's two in a row. We win one tomorrow, that's called a winning streak. It has happened before."  -- Lou Brown

Ottawa Senators coach Craig Hartsburg may have given a similar speech prior his team's game against the reeling Atlanta Thrashers. Whatever message he relayed seemed to have gotten through.

Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson each had a goal and an assist, as the Sens skated away with a 3-2 victory at Philips Arena. Combined with Tuesday's 5-1 home win over Carolina, it marked the first time in more than a month that Ottawa has won back-to-back games.

''The spirits are good,'' Hartsburg said. ''The guys are battling. Our guys showed a lot of character.''

One could make the case that the Senators have had a different feel to them since the arrival of rookie goalie Brian Elliott. The former ninth-round pick made 29 saves on Wednesday night, leading the Sens to just their fifth road win of the season. Elliott is 2-1-0 since arriving on the scene.

''He made some huge saves for us late in the game,'' Hartsburg said. ''I thought he looked a little nervous in the beginning, but he got bigger and bigger in the net as the game went on.''

That's exactly what Elliott needs to continue to do as he attempts to completely wrestle away the No. 1 job in Canada's capital. With the 23-year-old playing well, the Sens have indicated that Martin Gerber will be sent to AHL Binghamton for a two-week conditioning stint.

''I put a lot of pressure on myself,'' Elliott said. ''This is my goal and dream, to play at this level. When you get a shot like this, it doesn't happen this often. You have to make the most of it.''

Contact Brian Compton at:

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

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