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Gomez helps Blueshirts end skid

by Brian Compton /
A few thoughts while the Montreal government arranges for police escorts for Ryan O'Byrne:

Welcome back, Scott -- The New York Rangers' bench was loose for the first time in weeks on Monday.
That's because Scott Gomez and his sense of humor were back.

Gomez, who missed 5 games with an ankle injury, returned to the lineup and contributed with an empty-net tally as the Blueshirts earned a 4-1 victory against the Phoenix Coyotes at Madison Square Garden.

“This was good win for us,” Gomez said. “The excitement being back here at MSG was just great for me.”   

Rangers coach Tom Renney certainly didn't ease Gomez back into the lineup, as No. 19 logged 22:40 of ice time. He won 19 of 23 faceoffs and recorded five shots on goal. His presence also may have been the reason why Brandon Dubinsky was able to end a 14-game scoring drought.

“More than him being a special hockey player and one of the best on our team, what I really noticed tonight was the calming effect he has on our team,” Dubinsky said, who also added an assist. “I think Scott takes the pressure off each of us, myself included.”

I'm sorry -- If Ryan O'Byrne had access to a DeLorean, the first place he'd travel to would be Nov. 24, 2008. And then he'd make sure not to put the puck in his own net.

That's exactly what the Montreal Canadiens defenseman did Monday night, erasing a 3-2 lead for his team in a game it would eventually lose to the New York Islanders in a shootout, 4-3.

The gaffe caused many in the capacity crowd of 21,273 at the Bell Centre to boo for a long time after the goal that was credited to Isles captain Bill Guerin. Many of them also mocked O'Byrne as the Habs left for the dressing room following the loss.

''I feel bad. I apologized to everyone in the room,'' said O'Byrne, who didn't see the ice for the rest of the game. ''The fans are eager for victories and they had a right to react the way they did.''

Several of O'Byrne's teammates came to his defense afterward. After all, it's not as if the 24-year-old did it intentionally.

''I know it's tough because they expect a lot and we expect a lot out of ourselves as well,'' said Josh Gorges, who scored in the loss. ''I know how it feels. I've put the puck into my net before. It's never intentional. It's a bad break, and nobody feels more sick to his stomach about it than Ryan does.

''I just thought to chant his name was tough because I know how he feels and he'd give anything to take it back.''

High five
-- Mike Knuble showed he still has plenty of gas left in his tank at the age of 36. Monday night, his pair of goals helped the Philadelphia Flyers win their fifth-straight game.

“Everybody wants to talk about age,” said Knuble, who now has 10 goals this season. “I still feel I’m pretty effective, and able to play and complement [the younger players].”

Skating alongside Simon Gagne, Knuble was pretty effective Monday. Flyers coach John Stevens is starting to realize that reuniting Knuble and Gagne was indeed the right move.

''I think he looks reborn,'' Stevens said of Knuble. ''Those two have chemistry together. Mike keeps himself in good shape. He works hard at his game. He is out long after practice.''

That's better -- Shortly after Florida Panthers coach Peter DeBoer promised changes if his team didn't reverse its fortunes, it responded with a victory.

Despite blowing a two-goal lead, the Panthers came away with a 3-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday at BankAtlantic Center as Gregory Campbell scored with 2:18 remaining to break a 2-2 tie.

"We found a way to weather the storm," DeBoer said. "We did a lot of good little things."

Florida built a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from David Booth and Ville Peltonen, only to see Carolina rally with a pair of tallies in the second.

"We fell asleep for about 10 minutes," Panthers defenseman Bryan McCabe said. "We got back to the way we started the game. We cycled the puck a lot and we held it in their zone for a while."

Now, it's just a matter of putting forth a 60-minute effort. Once the Panthers can do that, McCabe believes his team will be a force with which to be reckoned.

"We’re a hard-working team and if we keep turning the ‘D,’ going to the corners for the pucks, get on the forecheck, we can be dominating," McCabe said. "If you spend 30 or 40 seconds in their zone, it’s good for us and bad for them."

Hard work pays off -- After spending tons of time before practice working on his shot, rookie Cal Clutterbuck got to put it to good use on Monday night.

The Minnesota Wild forward scored his first two NHL goals, helping his team earn a 4-3 victory against the injury-depleted Washington Capitals at Xcel Energy Center.

"Sometimes you wonder along the way if it's ever going to come," said Clutterbuck, who had 11 goals and 13 assists for the Houston Aeros in the American Hockey League last season. "You're working hard, and you're getting chances. It's a great feeling. It motivates you to work even harder."

The hope now is that Clutterbuck helped Minnesota out of a season-long offensive funk. The Wild entered Monday's action with just 45 goals, the third-fewest in the NHL. Clutterbuck, playing on the grind-it-out fourth line with Derek Boogaard, snagged a loose puck in the slot— after a big hit by Boogaard behind the net knocked it away from the Caps — and sent it high over Jose Theodore’s stick for a 1-0 lead in the first period. Clutterbuck muscled his way through the middle, pivoted and poked in a backhanded rebound for his second goal, which came in the second.

“This kid, we don’t look at him to be a steady player on our team at the start,” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. “He works so hard, and look where he is now.”
Awfully special -- There's something about the power play that has brought out the best in Anaheim Ducks forward Teemu Selanne.

The super sniper was at it again Monday night, as he scored twice with the man advantage to help the Ducks earn a 4-1 victory against the Colorado Avalanche at the Honda Center.

The pair of tallies gave Selanne 12 on the season. Eleven of those have come via the power play. His first goal of the night was the 200th power-play goal of his Hall-of-Fame career.

"Obviously, I’m playing with great players," Selanne said of power-play success. "All those guys who I play with on the power play, they can see the game so well. They can shoot and pass. You know that if you get open, the puck is going to come. That is a great feeling. It’s pleasure to play with those guys."

For the first time in a while, it was also a pleasure for the Anaheim fans to watch. Monday's win helped the Ducks climb back to the .500 mark on home ice at 6-6-2.

"We have to get that feeling back that this is our barn and getting points from here is going to be tough," Selanne said. "The last three years we’ve had a really good home record. The home advantage is huge. The good start, especially in your building is huge. We did a better job today and we have to keep doing that more often here."
No Luongo? No problem -- The Vancouver Canucks have been saying for the past few days that there is plenty of talent in their locker room to overcome the loss of goaltender/captain Roberto Luongo.

On Monday night,
“More than him being a special hockey player and one of the best on our team, what I really noticed tonight was the calming effect he has on our team. I think Scott takes the pressure off each of us, myself included.” -- Rangers forward Brandon Dubinksy on teammate Scott Gomez
they went out and proved it.

After erasing a late 2-1 deficit on a goal by Henrik Sedin, the Canucks dominated the overtime and won it on Sami Salo's power-play tally at 2:33. Vancouver outshot the defending Stanley Cup champions by an 8-0 margin in the extra session.

"It shows that we can battle through adversity," said Canucks goalie Curtis Sanford, who made 32 saves in his first start since Luongo suffered a strained groin on Saturday at Pittsburgh. "We're dealing with it head-on right now. We've got some key players out and we've had some key injuries in the last couple weeks. We're finding a way to get it done and guys are really stepping it up and playing hard."

That includes Salo, who missed the past two games while battling the flu. Not a bad way to return.

''I basically slept the last 96 hours before today, so it's a nice feeling to get the win,'' said Salo, who also assisted on Daniel Sedin's game-tying goal with 2:15 left in the third period.

Sanford was very strong in the second period, when he stopped all 10 shots he faced. The win was actually his third straight, as he beat Minnesota on Thursday before picking up the victory in relief of Luongo on Saturday. Clearly, he's helped Canucks fans remain confident while its franchise goalie heals.

''I felt confident out there and felt I was moving well,'' Sanford said. ''I think it just comes with playing. Every goalie wants to play all the time, but I feel I'm getting a little more comfortable every game and through every period.''

Contact Brian Compton at:

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

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