It’s been almost two decades since the Detroit Red Wings
have struggled so mightily, but on Sunday, they had a reason to smile.
and Valtteri Filppula
each had a goal and assist, and Dominik Hasek
made 22 saves against his former club as the Wings skated past the Buffalo Sabres
by a 4-2 score at HSBC Arena.
It was only the second win in 12 games for Detroit (2-8-2), which hadn’t gone through such a slump since it went 0-9-3 early in the 1989-90 season.
''We were waiting for a game like this,'' Hasek said. ''We weren't playing bad, we just couldn't score the goals. Today, we finally scored a few goals and played well defensively. Overall, I think Buffalo didn't have too many chances.''
Part of that was due to the fact that the majority of the first period was played in the Sabres’ zone. The Red Wings outshot Buffalo by an 18-9 margin in the opening 20 minutes. Patrick Kaleta
actually gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead 2:59 into the game before Dallas Drake
beat Ryan Miller
roughly nine minutes later.
''We talked a lot about just getting to the net and shooting the puck,'' Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. ''We got off to a good start, and had the puck a lot.''
Filppula gave the Wings their first lead of the night when he scored on the power play 5:11 into the second period. It was the second of three unanswered tallies by the Wings, as Filppula finished off a tic-tac-toe play with Jiri Hudler
and Franzen for his 18th goal of the season. Franzen made it 3-1 with his 13th goal at 14:16.
"We didn't play the way we wanted to,'' said Sabres forward Jason Pominville, who cut the lead to 3-2 with a power play goal 3:12 into the third. ''As the game went on we got better, but against a team like Detroit, the best team in the League, it was too late.''
Kirk Maltby restored the Wings’ two-goal lead with 4:08 remaining in regulation. Maltby’s line, which also included Drake and Kris Draper, combined for two goals and an assist as Detroit found a way to win without an offensive contribution from Henrik Zetterberg.
''We need to contribute more to help out,'' said Maltby, who scored for the first time since Oct. 26. ''We've been finding ways to lose games, and we weren't getting the job done. Tonight, we got the lead and finished strong.''
Penguins 3, Thrashers 2, SO | Video
Marc-Andre Fleury returned to Mellon Arena in grand fashion on Sunday, as he went 3-for-3 in the shootout to lead Pittsburgh past the struggling Thrashers.
It was Fleury’s first start in the Steel City since Dec. 3, as the former first-round pick missed three months with a severely sprained ankle. He made 31 saves through regulation and overtime before stealing the show in the shootout.
''I was a little nervous in overtime, but we still played good and it was fun to get the win,'' Fleury said. ''It was good to get that first game behind me.''
Atlanta – which has lost seven straight – was able to erase a 2-0 deficit on goals from Jim Slater and Slava Kozlov, but still dropped its second shootout decision in as many days. The Thrashers lost in a shootout at Boston on Saturday.
The Penguins, meanwhile, improved to 11-6-4 without injured captain Sidney Crosby. While it’s still unknown as to when Crosby will return to the lineup, Pittsburgh is hoping recently-acquired Marian Hossa will be back on the ice during a three-game road trip that commences on Tuesday night at Tampa Bay.
“It seems like forever,” Pens forward Ryan Malone said when asked if he remembers the last time all of Pittsburgh’s key players were in the lineup at the same time.
But Fleury got the Penguins – who had a 2-0 lead 2:09 into the game on goals from Malone and Maxime Talbot – headed in that direction on Sunday. His stellar play in the shootout helped Pittsburgh jump ahead of idle New Jersey for first place in the Atlantic Division. Kris Letang scored the lone goal in the shootout and is now 5-for-8 this season in the breakaway round.
''Give credit to our goalie,'' Letang said, deflecting attention to Fleury. ''We had to bounce back.''
Fleury was forced to face former teammate Erik Christensen in the shootout. Christensen was dealt to Atlanta last week in the trade that brought Hossa to Pittsburgh. He tried to beat Fleury with a wrist shot, but came up empty. Fleury also denied Eric Perrin and Ilya Kovalchuk to secure the victory.
"There's not much I can do against him, he sort of knows me,'' Christensen said.
Blackhawks 4, Canucks 1 | Video
Calder Trophy candidate Patrick Kane had two goals and an assist, as Chicago improved to 7-3-0 in its last 10 games with a victory over Vancouver at the United Center.
With his three points, Kane regained the lead as the League’s leading scorer among rookies. He passed Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals, who were idle on Sunday.
It was a gritty win for the Blackhawks, who were missing six regulars due to injuries. Still, they held the Canucks to a season-low 10 shots on goal. The victory moved Chicago to within six points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Vancouver, meanwhile, lost its third straight game to remain in a three-way tie for the No. 8 seed.
''Ten shots on goal? That's embarrassing,'' Canucks captain Markus Naslund said.
''Considering where we are, we should be more desperate than they are.''
Chicago outshot Vancouver 9-2 in the first period and took a 1-0 lead on Andrew Ladd’s goal 17:02 into the game. After Kane stole the puck from Canucks’ defenseman Willie Mitchell, he fired a shot that was stopped by Roberto Luongo. But Ladd – who was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes last Tuesday – was able to fire the rebound home for his second goal in three games as a Blackhawk.
Kane put Chicago up by a pair when he scored his first goal of the afternoon at 4:19 of the second period. With the Blackhawks on a power play, Kane took a pass from Jason Williams and fired a shot from the slot that beat a screened Luongo to make it 2-0.
''It was a big game and we stepped up,'' Blackhawks coach Denis Savard said. ''We stuck to our gameplan. There were barely any turnovers and we finished our checks.''
Ryan Kesler got the Canucks on the board when he beat Patrick Lalime with 1:29 remaining in the second period. With the teams skating 4-on-4, Kesler gained control of a loose puck at the Chicago blue line and fired a wrist shot past Lalime to make it 2-1. Lalime, who made his fifth straight start, stopped the other nine shots he faced.
''They wanted it more than we did,'' Naslund said. ''They came out hard and we didn't respond to them at all.”
Chicago restored its two-goal lead when Patrick Sharp found the back of the net 5:26 into the third period. It was the 32nd goal of the season for the two-way forward, as he redirected Keith’s blast from the left point past Luongo as the Blackhawks took a 3-1 lead.
Kane rounded out the scoring with his second goal of the day at the 9:24 mark of the third. The rookie finished off a 3-on-1 as he put home Ben Eager’s rebound for his 16th goal of the season.
''Every win is huge,'' Kane said. “We'll try to do things the right way to get in (to the playoffs). From defense comes offense, like the last goal today.''
Panthers 1, Islanders 0 | Video
On most nights, 29 saves would make for a solid performance by a goaltender.
Florida’s Craig Anderson accomplished the feat in the second period alone on Sunday.
When the final horn sounded, Anderson had 53 saves in his pocket, as the Panthers blanked New York on the day it honored the core members from the 1980-83 dynasty.
''Most of the shots were from the outside,” said Anderson, who recorded his first shutout of the season. “They did a good job of clogging up the middle and allowing me to see the puck. A lot of times, I got point shots that hit me in the chest.''
David Booth scored the lone goal of the game, which came midway through the first period. After a sluggish start, the Islanders outshot the Panthers 29-8 in the second period, but failed to solve Florida’s backup goaltender.
''It shouldn't be hard to put a little black puck in a big net,'' Isles forward Ruslan Fedotenko said. ''We have to find a way to score goals.''
Wade Dubielewicz got a rare start in goal for the Islanders, as All-Star netminder Rick DiPietro was attending his grandmother’s wake. Dubielewicz hadn’t started a game since Jan. 3. He finished with 29 saves.
"Dubie was really good," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. "He gave everything that we asked of him."
New York set a franchise record with its 29 shots on goal in the second period. The Isles last recorded 28 shots in a period against Florida on March 17, 2004.
"We had at least 25 to 30 good opportunities," Nolan said. "They worked hard. They threw everything at the kid, especially in the second period. The way the team worked, you couldn't ask for anything more. You have to give their goaltender credit. He made some real big saves. He didn't give us too much on the second and third shots."
The one-goal game was Florida’s 40th of the season. The win upped the Panthers’ record to 18-14-8 in those contests.
''The second period, we didn't move the puck around well,'' Florida coach Jacques Martin said.
''Andy gave us a big game.''
Wild 2, Kings 1, OT | Video
Martin Skoula’s third goal in 145 games has Minnesota back atop the Northwest Division.
Skoula scored with 1:15 remaining in overtime on Sunday, as the Wild beat Los Angeles at Xcel Energy Center to move two points ahead of the idle Calgary Flames for the division lead.
Standing near the top of the goal crease, Skoula took a pass from Marian Gaborik and poked it past rookie goalie Erik Ersberg for his second goal in 23 games.
''I was just kind of waiting for the whistle, but nobody blew the whistle. I kept looking and it was in the net,'' Skoula said.
It marked the seventh straight one-goal victory and the 21st overall for the Wild, which tied them with the New York Islanders for the most in the NHL. Gaborik believes such a statistic will only benefit Minnesota come playoff time.
''This is a good way to learn how to play under pressure a little bit and when there's a tight game,'' Gaborik said. ''We need to do a big push, and I think this is going to be a good learning experience for us to go to playoffs.''
The loss was the Kings’ fifth straight on the road. Michael Cammalleri scored the lone goal for Los Angeles – his third in four games – late in the first period. Gaborik tied it early in the second with his 34th goal of the season.
''I thought our guys played terrific tonight and we deserved a better fate,” Kings coach Marc Crawford said. “But it was a close game. They are used to playing those close games, and they got a nice goal to win it. It was a good play, an honest goal, so you can't really complain too much.''
Oilers 4, Blue Jackets 3, SO | Video
Edmonton’s 14th shootout victory of the season put it over the .500 mark for the first time since the fourth game of the season.
Ales Hemsky beat Pascal Leclaire with a gorgeous wrist shot for the shootout winner, as Mathieu Garon went 3-for-3 in the shootout and improved to a remarkable 30-for-32 on the season.
“It’s not how we win, it’s how many we win,” Garon said. “Maybe we weren't that satisfied with our first two periods, but we came back hard in the third and got the two points."
Edmonton did rally in the third, as it erased a 2-1 deficit by scoring twice in a span of 20 seconds. Hemsky scored a power play goal at 11:51 before Steve Staios beat Leclaire at 12:11 on a shot from the point that hit a player in front before floating over Leclaire’s shoulder.
Dick Tarnstrom – who was acquired from the Oilers just before the deadline – tied the game for the Blue Jackets with just 2:39 to play in regulation. But Columbus lost for the second time in three games and is four points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"The disappointing part for us was that we had the lead in the third period and we needed to do a better job," Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We took a penalty in our own zone that was really unnecessary, and those are the errors that you make that end up costing you two points."
Edmonton concludes a five-game homestand on Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators – one of several teams battling for a playoff spot. Edmonton is seven points behind Nashville, which is tied with Vancouver and Colorado for seventh place.
"It's been a year-long struggle," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish on trying to achieve a winning record. "You have to get to .500 before you can improve on it. We all know we have to get 10 or 11 or 12 games over .500 to have a fighting chance. At least now we know we are going in the right direction."
Material from wire services and team websites was used in this report.