Ravaged by illness and injury, the Carolina Hurricanes
relied on a gritty effort from their veterans and a spark from some minor-league callups Thursday. With captain Rod Brind’Amour now lost for the season with a torn ACL, the ’Canes will need a lot more such efforts to hold on to the Southeast Division lead.
Ray Whitney had a goal and two assists and Ryan Bayda also scored for his first point of the season as the Hurricanes defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2 at RBC Center.
But the two points came at a huge cost. Carolina president and general manager Jim Rutherford announced after the game that Brind’Amour will require reconstructive knee surgery and miss four to six months. Carolina’s captain collided with Pittsburgh’s Nathan Smith and Georges Laraque along the boards just 1½ minutes in and didn’t return with what was termed a knee injury.
With their second straight win since completing a four-player deal with the Ottawa Senators on Monday, the Hurricanes moved into sole possession of first place in the Southeast. Erik Cole and Eric Staal added power play goals, and Cam Ward made 20 saves.
“We can't afford to sit back and say, ‘Oh well, close was good enough tonight, with the personnel we had,’” Whitney said. “We had to go out and try to get a win.”
Carolina’s newest acquisitions weren’t present — defenseman Joe Corvo, who picked up an assist in his debut for the club in Boston on Tuesday, was scratched with the flu while forward Patrick Eaves is still recovering from a shoulder injury — but the team relied on players like Bayda, a left wing, and defensemen Tim Conboy, Casey Borer and Joey Mormina to fill in and log significant minutes.
"We were put to the test mentally with everything that's going on – the illnesses, we've faced some injuries, but you can't say enough about the kids that came up today," Ward said. "They played like true pros and looked like they've been playing for years. ... They deserved it.”
The Penguins held a 2-1 lead after a rare goal by defenseman Brooks Orpik —his first in 181 games — and Evgeni Malkin’s power-play goal 2:37 into the second period, his team-leading 33rd of the season.
Staal tied the score at 2-2 with his first goal since he won MVP honors at last month’s All-Star Game in Atlanta, converting the rebound of Whitney’s shot midway through the second period.
"We were solid defensively. We threw everything at the net," Staal said. "We created a lot of chances offensively, and obviously, the power play was big."
Whitney scored the go-ahead goal 3:45 into the third period as Carolina cashed in with the man advantage for the third time. Whitney took Staal’s feed in the slot and rifled the puck past Dany Sabourin. Bayda’s goal with 8:21 remaining gave the Hurricanes some insurance.
Sabourin stopped 42 shots while trying to make a case for an NHL job after Marc-Andre Fleury returns from a high-ankle sprain. He was under siege for much of the night.
"They kept it simple with traffic in front," Sabourin said. "I had a tough time against them."
Erik Cole had put the Hurricanes on the board 3:13 into the first on the power play, shortly after the team saw Brind’Amour helped off the ice.
Lightning 5, Flyers 3 | Video
Turning their fortunes around on the road may help the Tampa Bay Lightning salvage their season. The Bolts, who couldn’t buy a win away from home for the first half of the season, improved to 7-0-2 in their last nine games away from the St. Pete Times Forum as five players scored and Johan Holmqvist made 27 saves.
Vaclav Prospal, Dan Boyle, Jan Hlavac, Martin St. Louis and Jason Ward had goals as Tampa Bay kept pace with Carolina and stayed within six points of the lead in the Southeast with its eighth consecutive win at Philadelphia.
“It’s one of those things that we know we have to play good hockey and every time we’re out there we’ve got to get wins,” Ward said. “We got ourselves back into this race and now we’re getting hungrier and hungrier to hopefully get on top and be ahead at one point – and the most important point is at the end of the year.”
The Lightning, owned by Michigan-based Palace Sports & Entertainment since 1999, announced Wednesday that the team has been sold to OK Hockey LLC, a group controlled by Los Angeles TV and movie producer Oren Koules. The NHL still has to approve the deal, which is expected to be completed in 3½ months.
Tampa Bay, which hasn’t lost at the Wachovia Center since January 2003, turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 advantage with three second-period goals.
Boyle, healthy again after missing 36 games following wrist surgery, tied the score at 2:13 on the power play. Hlavac put the Lightning ahead to stay midway through the period and St. Louis scored what stood up as the game-winner when Boyle’s slapper got a piece of his stick and popped over Martin Biron’s shoulder with 3:25 left.
"We play hard against these guys," Boyle said. "They seem to get the best of us so we get excited to play here."
Joffrey Lupul and Jeff Carter scored at even strength and Steve Downie had a shorthanded goal for the suddenly struggling Flyers, losers of five straight.
"I think we should all be concerned," coach John Stevens said. "If we don't win hockey games, we're not going anywhere. What I sense is, we are just playing the game. We are not dictating the pace of play."
Islanders 5, Maple Leafs 4 | Video
It was a game between two teams desperate for points, and the play in the third period showed it.
Ruslan Fedotenko scored two of the Islanders’ four power-play goals and Freddy Meyer’s empty-netter with 51.5 seconds left ended up the game-winner as New York moved within four points of an Eastern Conference playoff berth with a victory at Air Canada Centre. Bryan Berard and Mike Comrie also scored for the Islanders, who got 27 saves from Rick DiPietro to win for the second straight game after losing seven in a row.
|New York's Ruslan Fedotenko has scored four goals in the Islanders' last four games.
“We have to have a sense of urgency throughout the whole team,” coach Ted Nolan said. “You’re going to win some games, your special teams is a big part of it. Penalty killing’s been huge almost all year, and our power play tonight was really good.”
The Leafs, listless for most of the first two periods, woke up in the final 10 minutes and closed to within a goal twice — first on a goal by Matt Stajan and finally when Alexei Ponikarovsky knocked a rebound past DiPietro with 18.3 seconds remaining. But they couldn’t get the equalizer tie and dropped behind Tampa Bay into last place in the East.
"We should've won that hockey game, but we didn't play well," Stajan said. "We can't come in here and say we played as well as we could, because we didn't."
Darcy Tucker and Mats Sundin gave Toronto a 2-1 lead with goals 1:30 apart in the second, but Fedotenko scored twice during a power-play binge that also featured a go-ahead goal by Comrie with 2:35 left in the second period.
"This is a big win for us," Fedotenko said. "Everyone is fighting for a playoff spot and we need these points."
The Islanders made a late run last season, winning their last four games with Wade Dubielewicz in net to qualify for the playoffs. DiPietro watched it unfold as he worked his way back from a concussion and believes they have what it takes to do it again.
"We saw the improbable last year when we were left for dead," DiPietro said. "There's still a lot of hockey left."
Blackhawks 6, Predators 1 | Video
Despite playing for the second time in as many nights at the end of a seven-game road trip, Chicago looked like the much fresher team in putting six unanswered goals on the scoreboard at Sommet Center.
Defenseman Duncan Keith set the tone by scoring 1:04 after the drop of the puck and Jonathan Toews had two more first-period goals as the Blackhawks led 3-0 after 20 minutes — one night after jumping to a 4-0 first-period lead in Columbus.
Patrick Lalime rewarded coach Denis Savard’s decision to start him with a 24-save performance and received additional offensive support via goals from Rene Bourque, Cam Barker and Patrick Sharp. Chicago went 3-2-2 on the road swing.
“Overall, the last two games, it takes a lot of grit, a lot of character to play the way we have,” Savard said. “Our guys are not looking for excuses. It’s been a long trip but they found a way to get the job done.”
Jason Arnott ended Lalime’s shutout bid 6:12 into the third with his 20th of the season and 750th career point. It was a rare highlight for the Predators, whose effort showed little of the determination and passion they exhibited in Tuesday’s 4-2 win over the League-leading Detroit Red Wings.
“We didn’t work tonight and we got our lunch handed to us,” center Scott Nichol said. “Don’t take anything away from Chicago; they played a very good game. They skated, they moved the puck and we stood around and watched them. We probably had the best seat in the house.”
Keith set the tone when he beat Chris Mason with a one-timer from low inside the left circle. Before the first period was over, Toews had staked the Blackhawks to a 3-0 lead with goals 6:20 apart. The rookie center, who now has 17 goals, scored on a wraparound at 6:22 and beat Mason’s pads from the left circle at 12:42. They were the first goals for Toews in his third game back after missing 16 straight with a sprained knee.
"We are getting some luck goals here and there the last couple of games," Toews said. "I think it is the result of the effort we have been putting out. I don't think it is just a coincidence."
Nashville switched goalies after Toews’ second goal, putting Dan Ellis in net, but it had little effect.
"We did talk about it to make sure that we were not and I don’t think that we were overconfident but lacked focus and urgency,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “We just weren’t prepared the way we should’ve been and it’s not any one person’s fault; it’s my fault, the team, and coaches. We just weren’t ready to play the way we needed to in order to beat Chicago."
Blues 4, Avalanche 1 | Video
The formula for St. Louis to make the playoffs is straightforward: any win is a good win, particularly when it comes on the road against one of the teams with which you’re jockeying for position.
Manny Legace made 39 saves and the Blues climbed within five points of the Avalanche for eighth in the Western Conference with two games in hand. Legace was at his best in the third period, when the Avalanche enjoyed a 16-6 advantage in shots, but managed just one goal, by Ben Guite.
|Manny Legace made 39 saves in the win as the Blues climbed within five points of the Avalanche for eighth in the Western Conference
“It’s always good to beat these guys,” said Legace, who faced the Avalanche in many a big spot during his days with the Red Wings and is now 13-2-0 with a 1.88 goals-against average. “It was a huge rivalry, obviously with Detroit … every single game against them was a playoff game. They were fun to play in, and it’s still fun to play against a high-powered team.”
Paul Kariya and Jay McClement got the Blues off to a strong start with first-period goals, while Ryan Johnson tallied only the second shorthanded goal of the season for St. Louis early in the second period off Jamal Mayers’ assist.
“It was a great effort by Manny — obviously it starts with him,” Mayers said. “Nice contributions from Jay McClement, and it’s nice to see R.J. score. He works so hard out there blocking shots, and to get rewarded certainly deserves it.”
Johnson’s goal, on which he grabbed a loose puck and made a nifty move to get around Colorado forward Wojtek Wolski before beating Jose Theodore, was particularly deflating to the Avalanche.
"Every time you get a goal like that, it's always a backbreaker," forward Ian Laperriere said. "It's something we can't afford right now. They had a great start and they trapped the hell out of us in the end. We just need to be in a better position."
Guite provided the Avalanche with a glimmer of hope when he lined a shot over Legace’s right shoulder at 3:03 of the third period, but David Backes put the game out of reach by scoring an empty-netter with 1:27 remaining.
The Avalanche got Ryan Smyth back after he missed 18 games with a fractured ankle, but fell to 3-7-2 over their last 12 games at Pepsi Center.
"We're certainly disappointed with the record (in) the last stretch here at home," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. "We didn't have the start we were looking for."
Oilers 3, Sharks 2 | Video
Edmonton handed San Jose its second straight loss at HP Pavilion as the Sharks get set to embark on an eight-game road trip that begins with a five-game swing through the Atlantic Division. Ales Hemsky, Kyle Brodziak and Fernando Pisani scored to help the Oilers win for the fourth time in five games and pull within six points of the final Western Conference playoff spot.
"We rallied in the second and got what we needed to win," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "We put a lot of importance on the win, so it was a real feel-good win for everybody."
Mathieu Garon picked up his 19th victory, making 28 saves, and earned the praise of captain Ethan Moreau.
"Matty played great again," Moreau said, "and our defense did a good job of limiting second chances."
Pisani’s goal early in the third period gave the Oilers a 3-1 lead. Moreau grabbed the puck after Sharks defenseman Kyle McLaren couldn’t come up with it and fed Pisani, who slapped the puck between the legs of Evgeni Nabokov.
"I looked up and it seemed I had a lot of top glove there," Pisani said.
It turned out to be a crucial insurance goal when Mike Grier scored a shorthanded goal with a little over 11 minutes to play. A pair of late Edmonton penalties gave San Jose a 6-on-3 advantage in the final seconds with Nabokov on the bench for an extra attacker, but Garon and the Oilers held on.
Hemsky scored 1:31 into the second period to open the scoring. Sam Gagner’s wraparound attempt ricocheted off the goal and Hemsky put in the rebound for his 15th of the season. Brodziak also found himself in the right spot to make it 2-0 at 9:33 when he scored after Nabokov stopped Zack Stortini’s shot.
Joe Pavelski got the Sharks on the board before the end of the second when he cleaned up after Garon made the initial stop off a Marc-Edouard Vlasic drive.
The Sharks head east after a 3-2-1 homestand that left them disappointed.
"There's definitely some frustration," said Pavelski. "We wanted those two points, didn't get the start we wanted. We came back strong, had good opportunities to close the game and we weren't able to get the goals."
Wild 5, Canucks 4, SO | Video
Mikko Koivu picked an opportune time to net his first shootout goal of the season.
Stymied on three previous attempts, Koivu raced in and beat Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo to the glove side in the third round to give the Wild the extra point, capping a game with a back-and-forth third period that saw both teams cough up leads and then rally.
Defenseman Brent Burns also scored in the shootout for the Wild and Trevor Linden evened the tiebreaker on the Canucks’ third and final attempt before Koivu came up with the winner to disappoint the frenzied crowd at GM Place.
“We were better last year (on shootouts),” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. “I think this is only the second one we've won. We've been changing players. It was nice to see Burns have a few good moves and get some goals.”
Alexander Edler, another talented young blueliner, scored twice in the third period for Vancouver. Edler followed Ryan Kesler’s tying goal two minutes in by giving the Canucks a 3-2 lead just 16 seconds later. The Wild answered with goals by Kurtis Foster and Marian Gaborik to go up 4-3, but Edler beat Niklas Backstrom off a faceoff with 2:44 left in regulation to force overtime.
"It wasn't the third period I thought we were going to have," said Lemaire, whose team earned its league-best 17th one-goal win. "But our games are always close. In a way it's not bad because if we ever make the playoffs they're close games and our players will be used to playing under pressure all the time."
Stephane Veilleux scored in each of the first two periods, snapping a 33-game goalless drought, to stake Minnesota to a 2-0 lead. Brad Isbister got Vancouver on the board with 4:23 left in the second period, setting up a frantic finish.
Minnesota extended its lead in the Northwest Division to four points over idle Calgary, while Vancouver moved within one point of eighth-place Colorado in the Western Conference.
“That we battled back against a team that plays so well with a lead is a good sign,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “We have points in five of the last six games. Slowly but surely, we’re turning the corner here. We’ve got points in five of our last six games. Our focus has to be on us and not on what the other teams are doing. If we win our games, we’ll be OK.”
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report.