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Hanging onto leads isn't always easy

by John Kreiser
So your team has just scored to go up two goals. You can relax, right?

Well … no. While it's certainly better to lead by two goals than trail by two, multigoal leads are no guarantee of victory.

As the season reaches the three-quarter mark on Friday, comebacks continue to be plentiful. Though 917 games, 87 teams have overcome a deficit of two or more goals to win the game, whether in regulation, overtime or via the shootout. That means roughly once in every 10.5 games, a team has won after trailing by more than one goal. On 71 occasions, a team has overcome a two-goal deficit. Another 14 teams have rallied from three goals down to win (and eight other teams have overcome a three-goal deficit to get a point in an overtime or shootout loss), and two teams have won after trailing by four goals.

No team has seen more points slip away than the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts have lost nine games in which they've led by more than one goal, including back-to-back home games against Chicago and New Jersey last week in which they couldn't hang onto two-goal leads. They've lost twice after leading by three goals and seven other times when trailing by two.

The only teams that haven't blown at least one two-goal lead this season are the Columbus Blue Jackets (22-0-0) and Colorado Avalanche (17-0-0). Washington had won all 27 games in which it led by at least two goals before blowing a 2-0 lead in Tuesday's 4-2 home loss to Philadelphia.

Also, the Avs are the only team that's perfect when leading after two periods -- they're 18-0-0 when leading after 40 minutes. Toronto, which has lost a League-high four times in games in which it led by three goals, hasn’t lost in regulation when leading after two periods -- but the Leafs have been beaten eight times in overtime or shootouts; no other team has lost more than four.

Party poopers
-- At least the New York Rangers didn't invite the Boston Bruins to be the opponent last Sunday when they retired the jerseys of Hall of Famers Harry Howell and Andy Bathgate. The Bruins improved their mark to 3-0 this season against teams holding retirement ceremonies prior to the game when they recently beat Carolina 5-1 after the Hurricanes retired No. 2 in honor of defenseman Glen Wesley. The Bruins also spoiled the night for fans in Montreal (Patrick Roy) and Chicago (Keith Magnuson and Pierre Pilote) back in November.

Of course, the Rangers didn't need any help -- they lost in overtime to Toronto on Sunday and are now 2-3-2 in the seven games they've played after retiring a number. That includes a shootout loss to Atlanta earlier this month after Adam Graves' number was raised to the Madison Square Garden rafters.

Rough starts -- John Tortorella couldn't break this year's new coach jinx. Tortorella became the sixth newcomer to lose his first game with his new team when the New York Rangers dropped a 2-1 decision in a shootout at Toronto on Wednesday. He joins Pittsburgh's Dan Bylsma, Chicago's Joel Quenneville and Tampa Bay's Rick Tocchet in a foursome that lost Game 1 in a shootout. Ottawa's Cory Clouston and Carolina's Paul Maurice lost their first games in regulation.

Last season's three newcomers did considerably better in their debuts. Bob Hartley (Atlanta) and Bruce Boudreau (Washington) won their first games; only Bryan Murray (Ottawa) lost his.

Great eight -- Montreal goaltender Jaroslav Halak loves playing at the Bell Centre. The 23-year-old extended his home winning streak to eight games on Tuesday with a 34-save performance in a 3-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. That matches the longest winning streak by a goaltender at Bell Centre, which opened in March 1996. The other goaltender to win eight in a row in the Canadiens' current home? Halak -- he won his first eight career decisions at the Bell Centre from February 2007 to March 2008. Overall, he is 18-3-1 at home, 8-14-1 on the road.

Zeroes in Big D -- Alas for San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, the Sharks have no more games in Dallas this season. Nabokov's 1-0 shutout win at American Airlines Center on Monday gave him a 7-0-0 record with a 1.35 goals-against average, two shutouts and a .949 save percentage in his last eight starts in Dallas. It was also the fifth 1-0 road victory of his career, second only to Martin Brodeur's 13 among active goaltenders.

It was also the third 1-0 loss this season for the Stars -- a franchise record. Three of Dallas' five shutout losses this season have been by 1-0.

Doing the most with the least -- Anaheim made the most of its opportunities in last Saturday's 5-2 win at Columbus. The Ducks got their five goals on just 13 shots against Calder Trophy candidate Steve Mason, including two in two tries in the second period.

The 13 shots are the fewest this season by a winning team. The Ducks were on the other end of the only other game in which a team won with fewer than 15 shots -- they lost 2-1 to the New York Islanders on Jan. 21 despite outshooting the Isles 40-14.

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