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Hurricanes extend Leafs' woes with 4-2 victory

by John Kreiser /
Getting shots is no problem for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Getting those shots into the net is quite another matter.

The Leafs fired 40 shots at Carolina's Cam Ward on Tuesday night, giving them 133 in their last three games. Just five of those shots have gone in -- including only two in their 4-2 loss to the 'Canes at the Air Canada Centre. Patrick Dwyer scored with 4:26 left in regulation on one of Carolina's 18 shots.

The loss to the NHL's 30th-place team left the Leafs talking to themselves.

"I don't have much to say," said Leafs forward Phil Kessel, who's scored just one goal in 13 games. "We're not playing good enough. It's a number of things. We've got to be better."

Eric Staal, Brandon Sutter and Ray Whitney had the other goals for Carolina, which won for just the fourth time in 22 road games. Lee Stempniak and Nikolai Kulemin scored for the frustrated Leafs.
"You can't win many games with only one or two goals," Stempniak said.
The Leafs are 4-9-2 in their last 15 games despite outshooting every opponent in that span.
"This game, an inch here and inch there, that's all it takes," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said.
In contrast to the Leafs, the 'Canes appear to be finding their game after a dreadful start. They've won three in a row, a first this season.

"It's just a matter of coming to the rink and competing," said Ward, who made 38 saves. "It's finally time that we found ways to win. Even though the game wasn't exactly the greatest game, we found ways to battle through it at key times in the game."

The Leafs actually led 2-1 when Kulemin scored 51 seconds into the second period. But Sutter tied it at 6:52, and the Leafs kept firing away unsuccessfully. Niklas Hagman hit the post shortly before Dwyer scored to break the tie.

"I think we played a good game but once again we don't have those bounces with us," Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson said. "We had a post just a couple of seconds before they scored their (winning) goal. So that's the way it is now. We've just got work even harder the whole team and start winning."

Thrashers 6, Senators 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

Everything finally went right for the Thrashers, who steamrolled the injury-riddled Senators at Philips Arena for their first regulation victory in 21 games.

Coach John Anderson put his team through a tough (and unannounced) practice after an embarrassing 8-1 home loss to Washington on Saturday. Whatever he said and did worked wonders.

"As a coaching staff, it helps us teach because they were doing the things that we were asking," Anderson said. "When you get a few bounces here and there, that's what creates confidence."

Having Ilya Kovalchuk didn't hurt either. The Thrashers' captain had a goal and a pair of assists. Pavel Kubina broke a 1-1 tie at 17:08 of the first period, and Kovalchuk made it 3-1 just 83 seconds later. The Senators never recovered. Todd White and Tobias Enstrom added goals in the second period and Bryan Little connected in the third.

Peter Regin had Ottawa's only goal midway through the first period after Eric Boulton's power-play goal had put Atlanta ahead.

"We had two or three scoring chances from point blank on breakaways," Ottawa coach Cory Clouston said. "Obviously, we've got to score those opportunities, and when they get their chances, we've got to make the save."

Predators 5, Oilers 3 | HIGHLIGHTS

Nashville used a three-goal first period to beat the reeling Oilers in Edmonton for its second win in as many nights in Western Canada.

"Sometimes getting on the road can be good for your hockey team and you can get things in order. I thought we did a really good job of getting on top of them quickly. Their confidence is shaken a little bit and that really helped."
-- Predators coach Barry Trotz

Shea Weber and Marcel Goc scored early goals 28 seconds apart, and J.P. Dumont scored on a wraparound in the final minute to give Nashville a 3-0 lead in a period that saw Edmonton outshoot the Predators 13-11.

Coach Pat Quinn said the Oilers were their own worst enemy in their fifth consecutive loss and 12th in 13 games..

"It's still about turnovers," he said. "Good hockey teams don't double-cross themselves, and we did that.

"Suddenly in a game where it looked to be that we had some energy, a good start, all of a sudden it's 2-0 on six shots -- and a whole different complexion. I think we got shell-shocked for a little bit."

Patric Hornqvist fired home a feed from Goc at 6:40 to make it 4-0. Jean-Francois Jacques ended Pekka Rinne's shutout bid 7:22 into the third, and the Oilers sandwiched power-play goals by Ryan Potulny and Dustin Penner around a goal by Ryan Jones to make the outcome look closer.

"Statistically, later on we started to do some better things," Quinn said. "But when it goes to 4-0, they don't have to play good then. We started to get some more opportunities to score, but we couldn't seem to put it in."

The Predators, who won 3-2 at Vancouver on Monday, are now 10-2-1 in their last 13 road games.

"We were struggling a little bit at home of late," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "Sometimes getting on the road can be good for your hockey team and you can get things in order. I thought we did a really good job of getting on top of them quickly. Their confidence is shaken a little bit and that really helped."

Jones said every point is important in the Western Confidence right now.

"It's crazy," he said. "It seems like every time you win, everybody else wins. You have to gain ground any chance that you can. Last year I think 92 points was the cutoff for making the playoffs. This year it looks like it could be 100 points."

It was the Oilers' first game since a four-day mini-camp the team held to try working itself out of its recent funk. The Oilers had originally planned on taking a golf trip to Palm Springs.

Defenseman Sheldon Souray didn't see that many changes from his team's recent efforts.
"It was a lot of the same," he said. "There were a lot of turnovers. It's definitely deflating."

Blues 4, Blue Jackets 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

St. Louis gave interim coach Davis Payne his first home win and snapped a five-game losing streak at Scottrade Center by beating the Blue Jackets.

Payne was running the Blues' AHL affiliate in Peoria for the first four losses of the streak, but he could appreciate the sense of relief after the win -- St. Louis' first at home since beating Calgary on Dec. 15.

"I haven't been here long enough to be able to address the true tone of what it's felt like to go through it," Payne said. "I think we should understand with the energy we have in this building and the great fans we have, if we come out and play like we did and play like that consistently, we should expect good results.

"If we don't, we shouldn't."

The Blues blitzed Mathieu Garon for three first-period goals on nine shots as they improved to 7-14-3 at home. Jay McClement, B.J. Crombeen and Alexander Steen scored for St. Louis, which has won two in a row overall.

"It's great to smile in here after a game," forward David Backes said. "To get to hoo-rah it up a little and hopefully build on this effort."

McClement, a member of the checking line, said the Blues kept the energy level high -- as they do when they're traveling. St. Louis is 12-5-4 on the road.

"It was definitely our road game, the road game we've had all year," McClement said. "For whatever reason we haven't had the same efforts at home and it was tough to be able to figure out why."
Fedor Tyutin scored in the second period for the Blue Jackets, who have lost 14 of 16 on the road but were on a three-game winning streak.

"The first period was what killed us," captain Rick Nash said. "The first 10 minutes they took it to us."

Material from team media and wire services was used in this report

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