With the rest of the Southeast Division coming up fast behind them, the Carolina Hurricanes
couldn’t afford to let Thursday night’s home game against the Toronto Maple Leafs
slip away. Captain Rod Brind’Amour and the ’Canes power play made sure they left RBC Center with two points.
Brind’Amour converted Ray Whitney’s feed in the slot 3:20 into overtime and Carolina survived Mats Sundin’s game-tying tally in the waning seconds of regulation to claim a 3-2 victory.
"We got a lucky break that we got a power play and their guy didn't clear the puck and it ends up in their net," Brind'Amour said. "I don't care how we get our two points."
Toronto’s penalty-killers failed to clear the puck at the right point, and Whitney wound up with a two-on-one down low. But instead of shooting, he waited for Brind’Amour, who came racing into the slot and beat a defenseless Vesa Toskala.
Defenseman Tim Gleason had a goal and an assist, and Scott Walker scored as the Hurricanes maintained a three-point lead on the Washington Capitals, who were overtime winners Thursday against Montreal. Carolina jumped four points ahead of the idle Atlanta Thrashers.
“I think there are some things we can grab onto here and try to harness, and use that momentum to see if we can’t put some wins together,” Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said.
Carolina was just 11.4 seconds away from a regulation victory when Darcy Tucker took a shot that deflected off Sundin’s skate and past goaltender Cam Ward. A video review confirmed the goal was legal, sending the teams onto overtime. Laviolette used the delay during the review to make sure his players remained positive.
“He was all positive,” Gleason said. “He was yelling, ‘let’s go, let’s not give up, let’s go for the points here,’ and we obviously got that job done for us.”
Ward stopped 24 shots, but he was hung out to dry on an odd-man rush that resulted in Jiri Tlusty’s goal 3:20 into the first period. The rookie’s fourth of the season came on a blast from the slot and gave the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead.
Gleason, who entered with only 10 points on the season, was involved in both Carolina goals in regulation. He tied the score with 6:41 left in the second when his slapper from the right point hit Toronto defenseman Ian White in front and skittered past Vesa Toskala.
“I’ve been trying to practice shooting the puck with my head up, and it’s so hard it’s unbelievable,” Gleason said. “Guys like (Nicklas) Lidstrom and those guys, they can shoot it like that all day long. That’s something I’ve been working on. It’s a tough thing to do, but I settled in down, threw it in front and luckily it went in for me.”
Gleason followed his second goal of the season with his 10th assist when he set up Walker’s go-ahead tally at 3:29 of the third. Walker was able to keep his stick below the crossbar as he deflected another Gleason drive from the point for his sixth goal.
Rangers 4, Flyers 0 | Video
The road hasn’t been a kind place for the Rangers over the past two months, but Stephen Valiquette gave them a reason to smile. The 30-year-old career backup made 20 saves for his first career shutout and the Rangers chased Antero Niittymaki with four goals in the game’s first 22 minutes in winning a franchise-best sixth straight against Philadelphia, and 10th in 11 games at the Wachovia Center.
"They seem to bring out the best in us and it's a hostile environment here," said Rangers coach Tom Renney. "We wanted to make sure we took the crowd out of it and tried to play our game. We had that success tonight."
The Rangers have won just two road games since Dec. 1, and both have come with Valiquette in net – he backstopped them to a 6-1 win in Toronto on Dec. 29. Valiquette also became the first Rangers goalie to earn a shutout in Philadelphia since Glenn Healy on Jan. 19, 1996.
"I'm pumped, yeah, but with a 4-0 win, we're more excited about that as a team than a shutout for me, that's for sure," Valiquette said.
Nigel Dawes and Petr Prucha staked New York to a 2-0 lead after one, then Chris Drury and Brendan Shanahan further silenced the home crowd by netting goals during the first 1:41 of the second period. That led Flyers coach John Stevens to replace Niittymaki, who faced just 12 shots, with Martin Biron.
It took a little while for the Rangers to get going – the Flyers held a 5-0 advantage in shots after the game’s first five minutes – but when Dawes took a Drury pass, skated up the left wing and around Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen and beat Niittymaki from a bad angle at 8:18, they had all they would need.
"I wanted to be aggressive, but I was too excited there," Niittymaki said.
Prucha was set up in front to put home the rebound of Dan Girardi’s shot and make it 2-0 with 2:04 left in the first.
The Rangers have been outscored 11-2 in the second periods of their nine January losses and hadn’t won a second period all month, but that changed when Drury beat Niittymaki through a screen 23 seconds in and Shanahan ended the goalie’s night just 1:18 later off a two-on-one break.
Valiquette was hopeful the Rangers could bottle their effort with two more tough road games coming up in the next three days.
“As long as we carry it over (Friday) in New Jersey and Sunday in Montreal, then we're back in the playoff picture and nobody can count us out anymore," Valiquette said.
Bruins 4, Senators 1 | Video
The Bruins were all too happy to take advantage of an Ottawa team without captain Daniel Alfredsson, jumping on the Senators for three goals in the opening 10 minutes and getting 30 saves from Tim Thomas in their third straight win.
Phil Kessel scored 26 seconds after the opening faceoff, and Milan Lucic, Marc Savard and Chuck Kobasew each registered a goal and an assist as Boston improved to 9-3-1 since snapping a six-game losing streak on New Year’s Eve.
|Marc Savard registered a goal and an assist as Boston improved to 9-3-1 since snapping a six-game losing streak on New Year’s Eve.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Bruins, as the League-leading Detroit Red Wings come to town on Saturday.
"We're ready," Savard said. "It's going to be a tough task."
Alfredsson, whose 68 points are second in the NHL, was sidelined with a nagging hip injury. The Senators also continue to miss Dany Heatley, out with a separated shoulder. In their absences, Antoine Vermette’s power-play goal with 8:24 remaining was all the offense could muster.
By that point, it was too late. Fans at Scotiabank Place barely had a chance to find their seats before Kessel recorded his 14th of the season off Savard’s faceoff win.
"It wasn't something I'm looking at," Savard said. "Obviously, you want to get one early. Faceoffs have been going pretty good for me lately and (Kessel) got a good shot off, and we just built off it."
Less than three minutes later, Lucic got his sixth off the rebound of Kobasew’s shot. Savard made it 3-0 at 8:21 when he beat Martin Gerber unassisted after Dean McAmmond’s giveaway.
"We dug our own grave in the first," Spezza said. "You give a team like that a three-goal cushion and it doesn't matter how good you play after that, it's tough to come back."
After Vermette drew the Senators within two, Kobasew’s empty-netter with 23 seconds left finished it off and allowed the Bruins to start thinking about the Red Wings.
"They're obviously a great team, leading the whole NHL in points, and they're a dominating team," Thomas said. "I watch them on TV and it seems like they always have the puck so it's going to be a real challenge."
Lightning 4, Canucks 3 | Video
Roberto Luongo returned for Vancouver, but it was Tampa Bay’s Brad Richards who stole the show. Richards set up a pair of goals before netting what proved to be the game-winner midway through the third period, as the Lightning won for only the third time this season when trailing after the first period.
Richards, the 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner when he led all scorers with 26 points during Tampa Bay’s championship season, is a League-worst minus-26 on the season. But he showed his immense upside by assisting on goals by Vaclav Prospal and Vincent Lecavalier before scoring his 16th on a drive from the right circle to put the Lightning ahead 4-2 at 8:34 of the third.
"He was great," Tampa Bay defenseman Shane O'Brien said. "It's no secret he's got tons of talent, and when he competes like that, he's one of the best in the League."
Luongo returned after passing on the All-Star Game and missing Vancouver’s first game after the break, a home loss Tuesday to Dallas, so he could spend time with his pregnant wife. He made 23 saves but couldn’t prevent the Canucks from dropping their eighth in 10 games.
It didn’t help that the team was without four regulars, including defenseman Sami Salo, who sat out with a groin injury.
"We're not going to use excuses," Luongo said. "We've had injuries before and we've had guys step up. We've got to play hard every night. I'm going to control what I can control and not be worried about anything else."
Luc Bourdon and Taylor Pyatt staked the Canucks to one-goal leads in the opening 20 minutes, and Alexander Edler scored on the power play with 24.1 seconds left to make it close, but Vancouver couldn’t beat Karri Ramo again.
"It didn't bother us when they scored a couple goals in the first," Ramo said. "We bounced back right away. The second period, I think was the best while I've been here. The overall game was pretty good. I think it was a team effort."
Prospal answered Bourdon’s score in the first and Tampa responded to Pyatt’s tally by jumping in front in the second. Chris Gratton pulled them even again at 3:12 and Lecavalier put the Bolts ahead to stay when he scored from the lower right circle off Martin St. Louis’ feed with 3:21 to play in the period.
"I think the game was dictated by the physical play," Richards said. "I think they really wanted to get under our skin. We had to answer. I think we not only answered physically, but we answered by coming back in the game twice and getting a two-goal lead."
Kings 3, Islanders 1 | Video
The Kings are delighted by the start to their eight-game road trip. The Islanders aren’t quite so happy after letting a crucial two points slip away in an ever-tightening Eastern Conference playoff race.
Rob Blake’s power-play goal 7:22 into the final period and Jason LaBarbera’s 28 saves lifted Los Angeles, which earned a point in an overtime loss at Philadelphia on Tuesday and has captured three of a possible four points to begin their marathon journey.
"Three points for us is a lot," Blake said. "We understood the challenge at hand here coming on this type of a trip after the break. We had a good effort in Philly, and tonight we got the job done."
Matt Moulson opened the scoring in the first period and Alexander Frolov added an empty-netter with 41 seconds remaining for the Kings, who, despite residing at the bottom of the Western Conference, have enjoyed a 6-2-1 run since Jan. 10.
"You can't really look at the big picture," LaBarbera said. "It's probably good for us to get out here and see something different and get away from the stuff we've seen a lot of this year.
“We've played well the first two games on this trip and hopefully we can just keep doing what we're doing."
The big picture is a big concern right now for the Islanders, however. With the loss and the Rangers’ 4-0 win at Philadelphia, the team fell into ninth place and out of a playoff spot in the East.
Bryan Berard tied the game at 14:19 of the first and Wade Dubielewicz stopped 24 shots, but that wasn’t nearly enough for the flu-ridden Islanders, who were without two regulars and had two others play after missing practice due to illness.
"Before, we were in seventh place and looking to move up, and now we're out of a playoff spot," forward Mike Sillinger said. "There's still plenty of hockey left to play."
The Kings seemed to lull the Islanders to sleep during a quiet second period, which featured a 12-7 Los Angeles advantage in shots but almost no good scoring opportunities for either side.
“We didn't seem to be able to get anything going," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. "That second period was like watching paint dry. They didn't have anything and we didn't have anything."
Predators 4, Blue Jackets 2 |
Following a one-game hiatus, Nashville went right back to its usual winning ways against Central Division rival Columbus.
J.P. Dumont extended his points streak to 16 games, longest in the NHL this season, and the host Predators won for the 13th time in the last 14 meetings with the Jackets, jumping a point ahead of them and into a tie with Vancouver for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.
Alexander Radulov, Jason Arnott, Vernon Fiddler and Scott Nichol scored for the Predators, who had won 12 straight over the Blue Jackets before a 2-1 overtime loss on Jan. 12. Chris Mason made 31 saves.
"It was great especially against a team that beat us the last time we played them,” Dumont said. “We had their number for a while, and then they beat us last game. We just tried to make sure that we cut their cut their (streak) kind of quick and that’s what we did.”
Dumont teamed with Alexander Radulov to get Nashville on the board just 26 seconds into the game. Radulov’s blast from the slot found room between the pads of Columbus goalie Pascal Leclaire.
Arnott extended the lead at 11:48 off another Dumont assist. With the Predators skating on the power play, Dumont found him for a one-timer that went low past Leclaire’s glove.
"I thought we came out strong tonight and it was a great way to start the game with our first goal in the first 26 seconds,” Predators coach Barry Trotz said. “It was a great assist by J.P. Dumont to Radulov and it helped give our team momentum and was beneficial to us. I thought we came out and carried the first period which was a real key for us tonight."
Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock wasn’t happy with his team’s effort.
"We didn't play well enough to win," Hitchcock said. "It was the first period. You can't dig a hole like we dug for ourselves and expect to win."
The two sides swapped goals during a back-and-forth second. Nikolai Zherdev and Dan Fritsche twice drew the Blue Jackets within a goal, but the Predators answered each time with tallies by Fiddler and Nichol.
"We played awesome tonight, I think,” Mason said. “We knew it was going to be a big game for both teams. Especially we have a lot of games coming up in our building that we have to win. Especially the teams that are right around us. Its going to be a tough fight to the end."
Arnott extended his own points streak to eight games before leaving in the second period with a leg injury. Radulov has a point in five straight.
Material from wire services and team broadcast and online media was used in this report.