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Habs handle Flyers - again

by Brian Compton

Alex Kovalev had a goal and two assists as the Montreal Canadiens sent the struggling Philadelphia Flyers to their seventh straight loss on Sunday night.
Watch Kovalev beat the Flyer's Antero Niittymaki
It wasn’t too long ago the Philadelphia Flyers were sitting atop the Atlantic Division.
Now, they’re on the brink of disaster.
Alex Kovalev had a goal and two assists on Sunday night, as the Montreal Canadiens handed the Flyers their seventh straight loss in a 5-3 decision at the Wachovia Center. Twenty-four hours earlier, the Habs earned a 1-0 win over the reeling Flyers.
Sunday’s loss prompted Philadelphia coach John Stevens to hold a closed-door meeting, as the Flyers attempt to do anything and everything to prevent a complete implosion.
''We've got to start doing everything in our power that's going to be in the best interest of our team winning hockey games,'' Stevens said.
Meanwhile, the Canadiens pulled even with the Ottawa Senators for the overall lead in the East. Ottawa has two more wins, but each team has 73 points.
''Our goal was to make the playoffs and it's still our goal. Sometimes you're ahead a little bit of the curve and I think we are,'' Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said.
Francis Bouillon broke a 1-1 tie in the closing seconds of the opening period with his first goal in 75 games ( 700K ). A mental breakdown by the Flyers allowed Bouillon to skate practically the entire length of the ice, as he beat Antero Niittymaki on an odd-man rush to give Montreal a 2-1 lead.
Bouillon was given so much space after teammate Josh Gorges goaded Philadelphia’s Jim Vandermeer into a standoff near Montreal’s net.
''I think if each guy is better and more aware every shift on the ice, that's the only way we're going to stop this thing,'' Vandermeer said. ''If I'm a little more aware where the puck is, if I'm back, maybe it slows the play up a little bit.''
Stevens would like to see everyone on his club become more aware.
''Everyone stopped. They thought it was going to be a fight,'' Stevens said. ''That's just a killer. You can't stop playing.''
Braydon Coburn was able to tie the game for the Flyers just 34 seconds into the second period ( 700K ), but Michael Ryder restored Montreal’s lead at 2:15 ( 700K ), when he slammed home a rebound for his ninth goal of the season.
Saku Koivu made it 4-2 at 10:10 of the second ( 700K ), when he capitalized on a 5-on-3 man advantage. Maxim Lapierre helped the Canadiens pull away with an empty-net goal at 18:36 of the third ( 700K ). Riley Cote scored his first NHL goal with 18.1 seconds remaining ( 700K ), when the game had already been decided.
''Desperation is the word right now,'' Flyers center R.J. Umberger said.

Blues 5, Blue Jackets 1 | Video
After facing 44 shots in a 2-1 overtime loss to Nashville on Saturday night, St. Louis decided to give goaltender Manny Legace a night off.
Sort of.
The Blues held Columbus to just 18 shots on goal on Sunday, as Legace had a relatively easy game on a night that saw St. Louis pull even with the Blue Jackets in the standings.
''We wanted to obviously make Manny's job a little bit easier,'' Blues coach Andy Murray said. ''I reminded them quite strongly before the game, challenged a few guys, and indicated last night our goaltender played his butt off for us and we didn't help him very much.”
Brad Boyes snapped a five-game point drought by scoring one of three power play goals for the Blues. Rick Nash scored the Blue Jackets’ lone tally, which came shorthanded. It was the 31st goal of the season for both players.
Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock was upset to see his team follow up such an impressive victory – the Blue Jackets earned a 5-1 victory over Detroit on Friday – with such an ugly performance.
''We took some really poor penalties, by people that should have known better,'' Hitchcock said. ''It's pretty disappointing.''
The Blues – who also got goals from Andy McDonald, Matt Walker, David Perron and Keith Tkachuk – have won three of their last four games. St. Louis captain Eric Brewer had a career-high four assists.
''The boys came out unbelievable and just played a beautiful game,” Legace said.
Penguins 4, Sabres 1 | Video
Evgeni Malkin continued his red-hot play, recording a goal and an assist as the Pittsburgh Penguins knocked off the Buffalo Sabres 4-1.
Ty Conklin stopped the first 25 shots he faced and finished with 36 saves overall, while Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist as Pittsburgh overcame a sluggish start to beat Buffalo.
Despite being badly outplayed early on, the Penguins found themselves with a 2-0 lead midway through the second period, even though they were being outshot by a margin of 23-8.
''Certainly we had to weather a bit of a storm early, but I think we got our legs under us as the game went on,'' Conklin said. ''We capitalized on our breaks.''
Petr Sykora also had a goal and an assist for Pittsburgh, while Jarkko Ruutu and Colby Armstrong found the back of the net in helping the Pens move into a first-place tie in the Atlantic Division with the idle New Jersey Devils.
Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien deflected all the credit in the direction of Conklin, who improved to 15-4-3 since replacing the injured Marc-Andre Fleury.
''When your goalie's giving you the performance like Ty gave us, it gives your team some confidence,'' Therrien said. ''He's a big part of the reason why we had success.''
Thomas Vanek picked up the lone tally for the Sabres, who have dropped back-to-back games after going 8-0-2. They remained tied with the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference with 64 points apiece.
''The first 15 minutes, we played picture perfect,'' Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. ''We have to hold ourselves responsible for not putting them into the back of the net.''

Rangers 3, Sharks 1
| Video
The Sharks may be the League’s best road team, but they haven’t had much in the way of success at Madison Square Garden.
Ryan Callahan continued a recent scoring binge with a pair of goals and Chris Drury netted the game-winner on a power play early in the second period as the Rangers won their second home matinee in as many days.
Henrik Lundqvist matched his 29-save effort in a 5-1 victory over Buffalo on Saturday and is 2-0 since signing a six-year contract extension. New York had a tougher test on its hands Sunday – the outcome wasn’t decided until Callahan scored into an empty net with 1.6 seconds remaining.
"It was definitely a tough game, the second of back-to-backers, especially playing against a big, physical, talented team," forward Brendan Shanahan said. "It was a real good test for us and we really responded well."
Jonathan Cheechoo got San Jose on the scoreboard first and Evgeni Nabokov stopped 30 shots in his 57th start in 58 games, but the Sharks fell to 4-18-3-0 lifetime at the Garden and dropped the first of a season-high eight-game road trip.
"When you lose a game you always want to say it wasn't enough. I know we're trying hard, but it wasn't enough," Nabokov said. "Defensively I think we played well. They were forechecking, and it was surprising a little bit how hard they played."
Joe Thornton set up Cheechoo’s goal with his 500th NHL assist. Cheechoo made it 1-0 at 3:31 of the first when he set up in front of Lundqvist, took a Thornton pass from behind the net and banked the puck off Rangers defenseman Marek Malik into the cage.
Callahan tied the score at 11:34, shortly after a Rangers power play expired. Drury chipped a pass from behind the right post and Callahan put a quick shot past Nabokov.
Drury put the Rangers up 2-1 on a power play 5:44 into the second. After Milan Michalek of the Sharks came up an empty on a scoring opportunity, Scott Gomez raced up the left side before stopping and sending a cross-ice pass to Drury, whose slapper beat Nabokov inside the right post.
"It was weird," Thornton said. "Milan had a great opportunity then they turn around and put one in the back of our net. It was exciting hockey, but it went on the wrong end."
Callahan’s empty-netter gave him four goals in the last five games. After scoring in the first game of the season, Callahan endured a 25-game stretch without a goal.
"These are two big wins to build on," he said. "We have a long road ahead of us, but we can move forward and go from here. We have a lot of character in this room from top to bottom. You have to follow your leaders and go from there."

Blackhawks 2, Avalanche 1 | Video
Members of the Chicago Blackhawks raise their sticks to salute the fans after defeating the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 on Sunday afternoon.
The Colorado Avalanche have reached a point in the season when they need to get hot. Unfortunately for them Sunday, they faced a Chicago Blackhawks team that is already there.
Patrick Lalime turned aside 21 shots and defenseman James Wisniewski set up both goals as Chicago delighted the fifth sellout crowd of the season at United Center with its third straight victory.
Dustin Byfuglien and Martin Havlat scored goals for the Blackhawks, who are 4-0-1 in their last five games and making a push to stay in the Western Conference playoff hunt.
"It's our hard work and dedication," Lalime said. "We're battling right now. A lot of it is buying into the system; finally we're playing as a team."
Lalime has provided the Blackhawks with a solid veteran presence and has filled in admirably this season whenever Nikolai Khabibulin has struggled or battled injuries. Khabibulin is currently day-to-day with a right knee sprain, but it hasn’t stopped Chicago from surging.
"Hopefully we'll continue to play that way all down the stretch," coach Denis Savard said. "We're gelling. Whether we get in (the playoffs) or not, we're going to pay the price every night."
Jaroslav Hlinka ended Lalime’s bid for his first shutout of the year by scoring with 2:25 left in regulation, but the Avalanche remained on the outside looking in at the teams currently in playoff position.

"Today was not good," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. "I didn't like how we played. We were on the receiving end all night. We were in our end a lot. We didn't handle the puck a lot. We made some direct passes from our stick to their stick. We haven't had many games like this."

It took a video review to credit Byfuglien with scoring the game’s opening goal at 4:48 of the first – Wisniewski’s name was initially announced after his shot from the blue line beat Colorado goalie Jose Theodore, but a second look confirmed Byfuglien deflected the shot.

"We've moved the puck on the power play, but hadn't gotten any goals," Wisniewski said. "It was nice on the first power play to get a 1-0 lead."

After the Blackhawks killed a 5-on-3 early in the second period, Havlat jumped on the rebound of a Wisniewski shot and made it 2-0 at the 2:53 mark. Havlat’s goal held up as the game-winner after Hlinka scored from the crease off a Cody McLeod centering pass late in the third.

Chicago returned home after going 3-2-2 on a seven-game road trip. The team paid tribute to the victims of Thursday's shootings at Northern Illinois University with a moment of silence prior to the game.

Wild 5, Predators 4, OT | Video
Marian Gaborik beat Chris Mason with 4.4 seconds remaining in overtime at the Xcel Energy Center on Sunday night, lifting Minnesota over pesky Nashville.
Gaborik finished off an odd-man rush with Pavol Demitra for the game-winner, as he tipped a cross-ice feed past Mason. Nashville forced overtime after scoring three times in the third period.

''Against the Wild, you tend to feel you don't have a chance sometimes when you fall behind,'' Predators coach Barry Trotz said. ''I just let them know, I've seen this team do a lot of good things, and this team – we're going to get a point out of here tonight. They showed their resiliency and character and just stayed with it.''
As thrilled as Trotz was with his club, it almost paled in comparison to how Wild coach Jacques Lemaire felt about Gaborik’s performance. Gaborik’s tally helped Minnesota improve to 25-0-1 when leading after two periods.
''He's playing his best hockey since he's been here,'' Lemaire gushed.
After Gaborik’s first goal of the night gave the Wild a 4-2 lead at 5:21 of the third period, Ryan Suter got Nashville within one just over three minutes later. Shea Weber then scored on the power play at 14:05 to tie the game.
''We love the drama,'' Wild forward Mark Parrish joked. ''We want our fans to get every penny's worth. We want to put them through all the emotions.''
The victory was Minnesota’s 17th straight in games that Gaborik has scored dating back to Nov. 21.
''When Demo got the puck, I just tried to race over the defenseman,'' Gaborik said. ''Demo made a beautiful dish and I had an open net, easy goal.''
Ducks 4, Flames 2 | Video
Teemu Selanne became Anaheim's new all-time leading scorer with his 670th point in the Duck's 4-2 victory over the Calgary Flames.
Soon after Teemu Selanne became Anaheim’s new all-time leading scorer with his 670th point, the recently un-retired forward predicted his teammates Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry would leave No. 8 in the dust.
''They were laughing. They don't think so, but they will for sure,'' the 37-year-old Selanne said after the Ducks knocked off Calgary at the Honda Center. ''Records are meant to broken, and those guys are going to be here a long, long time.''
Selanne set the new franchise record at 4:36 of the second period on a goal by Ryan Carter. The assist put Selanne ahead of current St. Louis Blues forward Paul Kariya.
''This has always been a happy place for me. I've said 100 times that I'm always smiling coming to the rink every day,'' said Selanne, who won his first Stanley Cup championship last season with the Ducks. ''Obviously, these guys have treated me so well, and this organization showed a lot of loyalty to let me wait this long to come back. So that means more to me than records. This is home for me.''
Getzlaf, Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger also scored for Anaheim, which scored all four of its goals in the second period against Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. The Ducks have won six of seven games since Selanne’s return.
''People love him, and you can see why,” Niedermayer said of Selanne. “He's obviously an exciting player to watch and he's a fun guy. He's got a big smile on his face all the time and it's great to have him around – for the fans and for us. He's a special person and a special player. He's got that charisma and he just loves life. And when he gets on the ice, he's a phenomenal hockey player. So it's been a lot of fun being his teammate.''
Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.

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