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Grossman's OT goal gives Stars big win

by John Kreiser
Niklas Grossman's second goal in 138 NHL games couldn't have come at a better time as far as the Dallas Stars are concerned.

The 24-year-old defenseman scored the rare goal at 2:23 of overtime Saturday night, giving the Stars a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild and a big two points in the wild Western Conference playoff race. Grossman took a pass from Loui Eriksson and fired a shot from beyond the right circle that beat a screened Niklas Backstrom.

"I don't score a lot, so this one feels really good," he said. "It was a big faceoff win, there was good traffic in front, and I was lucky enough to get it through. It honestly feels a little unreal. All the guys coming over and celebrating was a good feeling."

The victory, the Stars' 10th in a row over the Wild at home, gives Dallas 74 points, putting them into seventh place in the West.

"This is huge because every point counts and every game is going to be like the playoffs the rest of the way," Grossman said. "This has to be the biggest goal I've scored."

Dallas got two early goals from Steve Ott, who beat Backstrom just two minutes into the game and again 38 seconds into the second period -- with Eriksson and Mike Ribeiro assisting on both.

"We knew it's going to be an extremely tight game," Ott said. "When you build momentum it can go either way in a hurry. Right now this is playoffs. It's going to be like this every night. Every single night is a fight for that playoff spot."

Minnesota tied it on goals by Mikko Koivu and Andrew Brunette in a 1:51 span late in the second. Koivu connected from the slot 18 seconds into a power play at 12:09 and Brunette's deflection tied it.
"It's a big point," Minnesota's Pierre-Marc Bouchard said. "We stuck together and we showed some character. We started creating and taking shots and got some energy."

Minnesota has lost three in a row, but all three have been in overtime or a shootout, meaning the Wild is still picking up points. They have 72, just one out of the last playoff spot.

"To get a point after they got a 2-0 lead is huge, especially at this time of year," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said.

Avalanche 3, Oilers 2 (OT) | Video

Colorado's mastery in games that go beyond regulation continues. The Avs improved to 12-1 in overtime/shootout games when John-Michael Liles scored 42 seconds into the extra period.

Liles carried the puck into the Edmonton zone, dished to Marek Svatos, then drove to the net and knocked the rebound of Svatos' shot through Dwayne Roloson's pads to give the Avs back-to-back wins and move them out of last place in the West.

"(Svatos) did a great job of holding up on the play and getting a shot through," Liles said. "The puck came right to me -- it was one of those bounces that you're fortunate to get."

Getting one point kept the Oilers in the top eight in the West. They have 73 points, tying them with Nashville, but have played one fewer game.

"We were fortunate to get one point," defenseman Sheldon Souray said. "But this was a game where we needed two."

The Oilers came out as if they were going to run the Avs out of the building. They took an early lead on Robert Nilsson's unassisted goal 3:09 into the game and had several chances to add to their lead, but didn't.

"We had exactly the start we wanted," coach Craig MacTavish said. "We had three semi-breakaways -- two after we went ahead.

"We had a great opportunity to win the game early, but we missed the opportunity."

The Avs survived the Oilers' early surge and tied it on Darcy Tucker's power-play goal at 15:02. Paul Stastny put Colorado ahead with another power-play goal at 4:20 of the third period. Sheldon Souray tied it with 5:20 left in regulation.

"I think we came out a little slower than we would have liked," Liles said. "The guys picked it up and Budaj made some key saves for us. Our power play clicked a couple of times, which was big."

The Avs have beaten two playoff contenders, Minnesota and Edmonton, in their last two games and hope to make life miserable for other playoff contenders down the stretch.

"It's been a tough season," Liles said. "We'd like to be a little bit closer to the playoffs, if not in the playoffs, but unfortunately we're not. We're trying to make the most of the rest of the year. We're trying to play for pride, play for each other, and hopefully be spoilers down the line."

Predators 2, Coyotes 0
| Video

Pekka Rinne didn't have to work hard for his seventh shutout of the season as Nashville limited floundering Phoenix to 18 shots to end a three-game slide and move into ninth place in the West.

Nashville now has 73 points, matching Edmonton's total -- though the Oilers are eighth because they've played one fewer game.

"We needed a big win for us, because everyone seems to be getting wins all around us" Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "We were in this position last year, so we just gotta take it one day at a time… Pekka was real good. I was getting a little worried because after two periods he hadn't faced a lot of shots, and I knew they were going to come with their best effort in the third and we were going to have to weather a few storms, but Peks  was up to the challenge."

J.P. Dumont's second-period goal was all the offense Rinne needed as the Preds held Phoenix to four shots in each of the first two periods. The Coyotes managed 10 in the third, but few tested Rinne seriously before David Legwand iced the win by hitting the empty net with 31 seconds left.

"The problem is it was all in the third period," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. "Eight shots after two periods in your home building, it's embarrassing. It's going to be better moving forward. It will be better."

Rinne is 12-3-1 since Feb. 1 and recorded his third shutout in six weeks. Three of those wins have come against the Coyotes, with the rookie netminder stopping 72 of 74 shots.

"Obviously it’s hard when you only face eight shots through the first two periods, but it's all mental, you try to be sharp and obviously I tried to play the puck as much as possible, so that kind of keeps me involved," he said. "The guys played so well, they didn’t have anything in the first two periods and it showed how important of a game it was."

The Coyotes' second-half collapse continues. Phoenix was fifth at the All-Star break, but is 4-16-1 since then and has dropped to last in the West. The Coyotes lost their fifth in a row and eighth in their last nine despite a 31-save performance by goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.

"I thought it might have been his best game of the year tonight and he's had a few good ones," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said.

Sharks 2, Kings 1 (OT) | Video

The return of starting goaltender Evgeni Nabokov gave a boost to the Sharks, though they needed a goal by Jonathan Cheechoo in the seventh round of the shootout to fend off the stubborn Kings.

Nabokov made 23 stops in regulation after missing seven games with the flu and an injury, then stopped six more shootout tries -- including Teddy Purcell's shot after Cheechoo scored against Erik Ersberg.


SHOTS: 24 | SAVES: 23
SAVE PCT: .958 | GAA: 1.00

"He was zeroed in," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "When he was tested he was very sharp."

Milan Michalek scored in the first period for the Sharks and Wayne Simmonds tied it by banging in a rebound 41 seconds into the second period. Ersberg kept the Sharks off the board the rest of the way, finishing with 39 saves.

"I thought we got a lot of chances," McLellan said. "Their goaltender was a money goaltender tonight. He played very well."

The Sharks were 2-5-0 without Nabokov and have dropped out of first place in the West. They trail Detroit by one point, though the Sharks have two games in hand.

Cheechoo said returning home after a four-game trip was a big boost.

"It's huge," he said. "We've got probably the loudest building in the NHL, so it's always great coming home and we've just got to keep this going when we go on our little road trip here coming up."

It was a painful loss for the Kings, who've dropped six in a row on the road and five straight to the Sharks. The one point kept them five out of the last playoff spot in the West.

"We hung in there," Ersberg said. "It was anybody's game. If we play like this over the last 14, we can make things interesting."

The Kings lost 4-2 at Vancouver on Friday and got into San Jose in the early-morning hours. Coach Terry Murray had no complaint with his team's effort.

"We played very well," Murray said. "Coming into San Jose at 3 in the morning from Vancouver and coming out with that kind of performance, it was as good as they can play."

Senators 4, Penguins 3 (SO) | Video

Mike Comrie beat Marc-Andre Fleury on the 10th shootout attempt, capping a furious rally by Ottawa in a win at Pittsburgh. The Sens trailed 3-1 with eight minutes left in regulation but improved to 11-6-3 under interim coach Cory Clouston.

''He is a quick goaltender, so sometimes getting him to move side to side you might be able to catch him," Comrie said. "I just tried to make a quick move, and I saw him come across pretty quick.''

Eric Godard, Sidney Crosby and Tyler Kennedy scored for Pittsburgh, which has lost two straight shootouts after a seven-game winning streak. The Penguins have gone to a shootout in a franchise-record four straight games. They also surrendered what could be a valuable point in the tightly packed Eastern Conference playoff chase.

''We had a two-goal lead and got away from our game a little bit and didn't finish them off and let them back in it,'' said Crosby, who has at least one point in nine consecutive games. ''We left it up to chance, and they had the better shooters today.''

Chris Campoli scored the lone goal for Ottawa until Nick Foligno and Chris Phillips tied the game by scoring 1:54 apart midway through the third period. Campoli's goal came just 2:31 after Godard had given the Penguins a 1-0 lead.

Crosby put Pittsburgh in front with his 27th goal at 5:56 of the second. The Pens' captain finished off a nice setup by Mark Eaton and beat Brian Elliott for his sixth goal in seven games. Kennedy made it 3-1 with 1:34 left in the second when he finished off a 2-on-1 with Matt Cooke.

''When you're up 3-1, you can't let them get the momentum,'' Fleury said.

But that's exactly what the Penguins did. Foligno made it 3-2 with eight minutes left in regulation when he flipped a wrist shot from the far side of the left circle that beat Fleury high on the stick side. Phillips then tied it when he went to the net and slammed home Dany Heatley's rebound for his sixth goal of the season.

''We didn't quit,'' Comrie said. ''The third period was well-executed, and in overtime I think we outchanced them by a few chances. Anytime you get a win, especially when you're down a couple of goals going into the third period, you realize your character.''

Lightning 4, Panthers 3 (SO) | Video

The Penguins weren't the only team to see a desperately needed point go sailing out the window. Florida led 3-1 with less than seven minutes left in regulation, only to see Tampa Bay force overtime on goals by Martin St. Louis and Jeff Halpern, then win the shootout on a goal by Steven Stamkos.

Florida appeared to be headed back into the top eight in the East when David Booth backhanded a deflected puck past Karri Ramo 5:35 into the third period to put the Panthers ahead 3-1. But St. Louis' tip-in of Lucas Krajicek's shot with 6:18 remaining in regulation made it 3-2, and Halpern banged in Richard Petiot's cross-crease pass with 3:30 left following a Florida giveaway.

Stamkos gave Tampa the win when he beat Tomas Vokoun with a deke to the backhand in the first round of the shootout. Ramo stopped three shots in the breakaway competition.

"This says a lot about the character of this team going forward," Halpern said. "We never gave up and kept coming at them and coming at them. It's a big win for us and a tough one for them because they need the points."

Florida, which hasn't been in the playoffs since 2000, tied the Rangers with 78 points; the Rangers hold eighth because they have one more victory.

"We got a point and we've got to keep moving forward here," Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. "I don't want to sound redundant but we got a point with the injuries we have and the lineup we've got. The guys worked their tails off tonight."

Michael Frolik put the Panthers ahead when he scored late in the first period. Booth's first goal, a power-play backhander past Ramo at 17:11 of the second, made it 2-0. But Cory Murphy scored on the power play 70 seconds later to get the Bolts back in the game.

"I thought we dominated the first period, I just thought they got a couple bounces and the puck went in," Booth said. "But I thought we played pretty good. But I do think we've got to play better, especially with the teams we've got coming up here."

Capitals 5, Hurricanes 4 (SO) | Video

The Caps finally remembered how to win at home, though not without making the sellout crowd at the Verizon Center nervous. Washington blew a 4-2 lead and had to kill off a penalty in overtime before shootout goals by Alexander Semin and Alex Ovechkin ended a four-game home losing streak.

"We're a good team," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Good teams don't lose forever."

Semin, who has tortured the Hurricanes all season, scored once and set up the Caps' other three goals in regulation, then got the winner in the second round of the shootout. Ovechkin sealed the win by beating Cam Ward in the third round.

The Capitals won 18 of their first 20 home games this season but were just 7-8-1 since then -- though they have won their last five road games.

"We've been struggling a little bit at home. If you're going to have success in the playoffs, you have to have a great record at home," said center Nicklas Backstrom, who added a goal and an assist. "I mean, we have to start winning at home again."

They almost didn't. Backstrom's power-play goal at 12:27 of the second made it 4-2, but Ray Whitney scored with 7.3 seconds left in the period and Niclas Wallin's goal at 10:47 of the third got Carolina even.

The 'Canes, desperate for points in the Eastern Conference playoff race, had a power play in overtime but couldn't beat Jose Theodore despite outshooting Washington 6-1.

"Nobody had any legs left," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. "We were dragging."

Carolina moved into seventh place in the East with 79 points, one point ahead of the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers and three in front of Buffalo. They've lost three games in four nights on the road, though they did get single points of two of them with late-game rallied.
"This is huge because every point counts and every game is going to be like the playoffs the rest of the way. This has to be the biggest goal I've scored." -- Dallas defenseman Niklas Grossman
"We worked our tail off in the third period to get ourselves back," Ward said.

Maple Leafs 8, Flames 6 | Video

There have been two 8-6 games played in the NHL this season -- and the Flames have now lost both of them. Mikhail Grabovski's two goals helped the Leafs overcome a hat trick and two assists by Olli Jokinen and beat the road-weary Flames.

Calgary, playing the finale of a seven-game trip, overcame a 3-0 deficit in the first period and nearly made up a 7-4 shortfall in the third. The Flames, who lost 8-6 at home to Tampa Bay on March 1 -- the last game before the trip -- cut the margin to 7-6 before Grabovski hit the empty net with 59 seconds remaining.

Leafs coach Ron Wilson said his team caught the Flames on the right night.

"That's a really good team that was in the seventh game of a seven-game road trip and 90 percent of the time, what happened tonight happens to that team on the seventh game of a road trip," Wilson said.

Goals by Jeff Finger, Jason Blake and Grabovski in a 2:25 span midway through the first period put Toronto up 3-0 -- but the Leafs couldn't get out of the period with a lead. Jokinen and Dion Phaneuf scored on the power play before Curtis Glencross connected at 19:32.

But the Leafs didn't let the blown lead bother them. Newcomer Jeff Hamilton put them back in front by banging in a loose puck at 7:05, and John Mitchell fired a shot from the high slot past Miikka Kiprusoff at 12:20 for a 5-3 lead. Jokinen's second of the night cut the margin to one at 18:15. He flipped the puck over Leafs defenseman Ian White before batting it out of the air with his backhand and into the net.

Nikolai Kulemin and Jamal Mayers scored in the first 6:51 of the third period to put Toronto up 7-4. Flames coach Mike Keenan lifted Kiprusoff after Kulemin's goal, and said later he should have given his starter the night off in favor of backup Curtis McElhinney.

"He'd like to have a better game, I'm sure, but I think it was probably my fault for even playing him tonight because of what he had to go through and the work he had last game (in Detroit)," Keenan said. "I take full credit for probably starting the wrong goaltender."

But the Flames kept coming: Jarome Iginla beat Martin Gerber from the slot at 10:44 and Jokinen completed his hat trick at 17:41.

Jokinen, acquired from Phoenix at the trade deadline, will play his first home game at Pengrowth Saddledome on Wednesday night after scoring 8 goals and 10 points in his first six games as a Flame.

"He's really flying," Iginla said.

Even though the Northwest Division leaders finished their season-long road trip with a 3-4-0 record, Keenan hopes that they have learned a valuable lesson during the past two weeks.

"That is probably good for our team to go through in terms of learning what it takes to have the mental discipline," he said. "To be able to sustain good levels of play. There's many teams in the Western Conference that have long extended road trips and the ones that are very, very successful have learned how to deal with the demands of travel.

"We're trying to learn that as well. We didn't succeed on this road trip."

Bruins 2, Islanders 1 | Video

Just under a year ago, Phil Kessel was benched by Boston coach Claude Julien during a first-round playoff series against Montreal. Recently, he was the subject of trade rumors.
On Saturday, he scored his 30th goal of the season for the Bruins in their win against New York at TD Banknorth Garden.


GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 3 | +/-: +2

"He's what you saw when he's on his game -- a game-breaker," Julien said of Kessel. "When he doesn't compete the way he's been competing lately, he is a player that doesn't bring as much to the table."

Boston earned its second straight win after losing five of six and remained six points ahead of New Jersey in the race for first in the Eastern Conference. Tim Thomas stopped 21 shots in matching his career-high with his 30th win.

The Bruins grabbed a 1-0 lead on Kessel's goal 3:16 in when he got to a rebound and beat goalie Yann Danis inside the left post with a wrist shot from the left circle. Kessel became Boston's first 30-goal scorer since teammate Patrice Bergeron had 31 in 2005-06.

"It's a nice season," said Kessel, who scored a key goal in Game 5 before the Bruins lost to the Canadiens in seven games last spring. "I give a lot of credit to my teammates and linemates I've been playing with this year."

Boston made it 2-0 after Kessel gathered in captain Zdeno Chara's long clearing pass at the Islanders' blue line and sent the puck to a charging Marc Savard, who fired a wrist shot past Danis' glove for his first goal since Feb. 7. Boston scored on the game's first two shots.

"I don't think you sneak up to 30," Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said. "Guys know where he is on the ice at all times. He's usually up against the top lines. When he's skating it shows he's certainly a dynamic player."

Mark Streit had the lone goal for Islanders, splitting the defense and beating Thomas with a wrist shot midway through the second period. New York has an NHL-worst 54 points, but has lost only twice in regulation in its last nine games (5-2-2) and gave the Bruins all they could handle after Boston grabbed the early lead.

"It's been great. Our guys have really come together. They're playing hard for each other," Isles coach Scott Gordon said of his team's recent play. "They're supportive on the ice and off the ice and in the room. It's something we've been striving for in the second half, and it's been consistent."

Red Wings 5, Blues 2 | Video

Pavel Datsyuk scored twice as Detroit scored three times in a 46-second span en route to a victory at St. Louis. The Red Wings lead the NHL with 257 goals.

Tomas Kopecky, Brett Lebda and Henrik Zetterberg also scored, and Chris Osgood stopped 30 shots for Detroit, tied with Boston for the NHL lead with 99 points.

"We shot the puck, we got it to the net and you really don't ever bank on scoring like that consistently," Wings forward Kirk Maltby said. "A couple good shots either surprised the goalie or handcuffed him and the next thing you know it's in the net. We definitely came out better in the second and that was kind of how we got rewarded."

T.J. Oshie and Jeff Woywitka scored for St. Louis, while David Backes had two assists. The Blues will host Minnesota on Sunday night.

"We've got a game to play in 24 hours," St. Louis coach Andy Murray said. "It's a big game for our team, and the players were given from the time that I left the room until (the media) walked in to feel sorry for themselves."

The Red Wings struck quickly to grab a 3-1 lead on goals by Datsyuk, Kopecky and Lebda. Datsyuk and Kopecky scored 10 seconds apart. Chris Mason was replaced after the second period by St. Louis native Ben Bishop and returned briefly with 5:11 remaining.

"We just kept creating turnovers," Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "We were working real hard to get the puck back and forechecking hard and creating some turnovers and we were shooting the puck. We made some quick passes and some quick shots, as well, so it's great to see the puck go in for us that way."

The Blues cut the deficit in half when Woywitka one-timed a cross-ice feed from Oshie from the right circle at 9:08 of the second. Osgood preserved the one-goal lead when he made a pad save from point-blank range on Jay McClement with 4:55 left in the period.

"It was a big goal at the time, but it's a tough loss," Woywitka said. "We're not worrying about it too much. We've got to put it behind us. We play (Sunday) and that's the biggest game of the year right now. That's what we're focusing on."

The Blues outshot Detroit 16-4 in the third period but could not get anything past Osgood, who blanked the Blues the previous time Detroit visited on March 3.

"The missed opportunities in the third period were every bit as bad as the goals we gave up in the second," Murray said. "Their goalie made some saves, and we'll give him credit, but you've got to bury some of those opportunities in the third period. We had more than enough for two goals."

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

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