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High drama rules Wednesday's NHL action

by Adam Kimelman
The moment may be six months old, but Predators forward Joel Ward remembers it like it just happened.

There's the Blackhawks' Patrick Kane, scoring a game-tying shorthanded goal with 13.6 seconds left in regulation of Game 5 of the teams' first-round playoff series. Moments later Marian Hossa scored in overtime, and the Hawks ended the Predators' season in Game 6 en route to the Stanley Cup.

Wednesday night, Ward got a bit of revenge, when he capped a dramatic night throughout the League by tapping in the winning power-play goal with 26.7 seconds left to lift the Predators to a 3-2 victory on the same United Center ice where Nashville's dreams were crushed last spring.

While a regular-season victory will never erase the heartbreaking playoff defeat, Ward said it does help him feel a bit better.

"It's the heat of the moment, and there's a lot of hockey going on," Ward said. "You don't really think about what happened a few months ago. We just kind of stayed focused on the task at hand, and that was concentrating on this game. We had a two-minute power play at the end and we just worried about capitalizing on it."

The Predators' win was one of four games decided in the final minutes of regulation or overtime on a wild Wednesday, as the Devils, Capitals and Lightning all won with dramatic, late heroics.

Like the Predators, the Capitals got a break thanks to a late power play -- and a fortuitous bounce. Alex Ovechkin's slap shot from the point deflected off Nicklas Backstrom's skate and past Dwayne Roloson with 3:39 left as Washington beat the Islanders, 2-1, for their fourth-straight victory.

Moments earlier Caps coach Bruce Boudreau had called timeout to discuss strategy and emphasize some key points.

Whatever he said must have worked.

"He just told us that we had to work hard and make simple plays," Backstrom said. "That was our key before (the game), was simple play and a lot of shots. That's what was working, and a lot of traffic in front of the net. We got a lucky bounce, too."

The same could be said for the Lightning, who got a Steven Stamkos power-play goal with 1:19 left to tie the Canadiens.

Vincent Lecavalier pulled the puck out of a net-front scrum and found Stamkos through a maze of sticks and skates on the left side of the slot to tie the game.

And then, with 51 seconds left in overtime, Ryan Malone was rewarded for his hard work in the offensive end with his first goal since Jan. 21. Dominic Moore won a faceoff and Malone pounced on the puck and took it behind the net. It rolled in front where Moore got knocked down by two Canadiens. Malone got away from Hal Gill and was able to elevate the puck over a prone Carey Price for the winner.

"I tried to keep getting to the front of the net, and the puck squirted my way," Malone told the Tampa Tribune. "I tried to whack it in as fast as I could."

The good feelings were the same in New Jersey, where the shorthanded Devils got their first win of the season on Ilya Kovalchuk's first goal of the season, 53 seconds into overtime.

Rookie defenseman Matt Taormina took the puck away from Buffalo's Andrej Sekera in the Sabres' end and found an open Kovalchuk in the right faceoff circle. He one-time a slap shot that beat Ryan Miller over his blocker.

"It's a great experience," Taormina told the Bergen Record. "Actually to get our first win under our belt is even better. To get Kovy's first goal, I know there's been a lot of pressure on him. There's a lot of pressure on us, the whole team. For him to get that is special."

It was a special night all around Wednesday.

Contact Adam Kimelman at
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