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Hurricanes top Sabres 2-1 in shootout

by Brian Hunter
The acquisition of Jussi Jokinen might have flown under the radar, but the Carolina Hurricanes ended up with a player who possesses a valuable skill when they picked him up in a trade with Tampa Bay on Feb. 7.

Jokinen has been one of the NHL's top shootout snipers since the NHL began using the breakaway competition in 2005, Jokinen secured the crucial second point for the Hurricanes Thursday when he scored the only goal of the penalty-shot tiebreaker in a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres at the RBC Center.

Carolina pulled even with Buffalo for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. Both teams have 69 points, but the Sabres hold the first tiebreaker by virtue of having played one fewer game.

Jokinen scored just 6 goals and 16 points in 46 games this season for Tampa, but ever since entering the League in 2005-06 with Dallas he has shown an uncanny knack for scoring in the shootout. Jokinen converted the first nine attempts of his career before finally getting stopped, and has remained a weapon ever since.

"Since the lockout, points in the shootout can decide if a team makes the playoffs or not," Jokinen said. "That's something I've been good at all four seasons. I've spent a lot of time in the summers practicing. When you get a chance you just try to be confident and forget everything else and the fans and do what you've done thousands of times before."

Patrick Lalime and Cam Ward each made saves to begin the shootout before Jokinen skated in, made a quick move and beat Lalime to his blocker side. Ward, who finished overtime with 36 saves after getting pulled in his previous start against Ottawa, denied the next two Buffalo shooters to make Jokinen's goal stand up.

"I watched (Tuomo Ruutu) and (Lalime) was coming far out, so, if I stop, it's tough on the goalie," Jokinen said. "They have to think, 'What's he going to do?' I tried to freeze him out a little bit and I got a pretty good shot. It was a big two points for us."

Lalime stopped 31 shots but lost his second straight since taking over for injured starter Ryan Miller. He carried a shutout and a 1-0 lead into the third period, but the Hurricanes peppered him with 18 shots and finally tied the score when Anton Babchuk scored on a one-timer from near the right circle with 12:26 remaining.



Until then, the only goal of the game belonged to the Sabres' Patrick Kaleta. Ward made stops on Clarke MacArthur and Paul Gaustad during a scramble in front, but Kaleta swooped in and converted on the third try to open the scoring with 7:17 left in the second period.

"The opportunities are there," Buffalo forward Pominville said. "That's usually a good sign. But we've got to put them away if we want to win games. We all know how important this game was for us -- this point was huge. We wanted to come out of here with two."

Buffalo, which has played the last eight games without one of the League's top goal scorers in Thomas Vanek, sidelined with a broken jaw, suffered lost defenseman Jaroslav Spacek with an upper-body injury just before Babchuk's tying goal.

"He got a little rattled -- he got a shot to the head," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "But I think he's going to be OK."

Bruins 6, Ducks 0 | Video

If the trade of Chris Kunitz earlier Thursday was meant to shake up the Ducks, it certainly didn't manifest itself in a good way. Michael Ryder and Chuck Kobasew each scored a pair of goals for Boston and Tim Thomas made 35 saves to earn his fourth shutout while adding an assist as the Bruins won in a rout at TD Banknorth Garden.

Ryder added an assist and has five points in two games since coming back from surgery to repair a broken bone in his face.

"He's a threat whenever he's out there," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We talked about putting some emotion in our game when we were sliding, putting some jam and grit into it, and it allowed us to score some goals."

Matt Hunwick and Byron Bitz also scored for Boston, which tied last season's total of 42 wins with 20 games still to play. The Bruins also stayed nine points ahead of Washington for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Hunwick got the scoring started with 2:06 left in the first period, then Ryder and Kobasew scored in the first 3:43 of the second to chase Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who allowed the three goals on only eight shots.

Earlier in the day Anaheim sent Kunitz to Pittsburgh for defenseman Ryan Whitney, a Boston native who was actually in town attending to a family matter and suited up for the game, wearing No. 19.

"It found a way to turn in their favor in a hurry and we didn't respond well to adversity," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "That's a first-place hockey club. They played well and stuck to their system."

Jonas Hiller relieved Giguere and kept the deficit at 3-0 until another quick burst by the Bruins late in the second. It was the same culprits getting the job done, as Ryder took a long pass from Thomas and scored with 1:59 left, the goalie picking up his first point of the season on the play. Kobasew added his second 16 seconds before intermission, scoring into a wide-open net off a cross-ice feed from Dennis Wideman.

"A goalie's assists aren't really important. If I get 98 more maybe there's a bonus in my contract," Thomas said. "If (only) they could get me six goals every game. We set the bar high."

Bitz capped the offensive outburst with 6:19 left in the third. The Bruins have won two in a row at home following a 1-3-1 road trip.

"We just came back here and told ourselves we've got to go back to the way we played before," Bruins forward David Krejci said. "We got six goals last game, and six goals this game. Things are going our way right now."

Maple Leafs 5, Islanders 4 (SO) | Video

Toronto is attempting to make a late playoff push, seemingly at the expense of the teams from the New York area.

After sweeping a home-and-home from the Rangers with an overtime win Sunday and a shootout victory on Wednesday, the Maple Leafs went the full 60 minutes and then some again on Thursday, eventually securing a shootout win over the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum when Tim Stapleton -- making his NHL debut -- beat Joey MacDonald in the third round.

Jeff Tambellini put New York ahead in the second round of the shootout, beating Vesa Toskala, but Jason Blake responded with a spin-o-rama before slipping the puck past MacDonald. Toskala followed by stopping Kyle Okposo and Stapleton scored the decisive tally on a wrist shot.

"I didn't even know I scored until I curled after the shot and saw my teammates jump off the bench," said Stapleton, an undrafted free agent signed last June. "I'm just fortunate it went in."

Toronto has won three straight but still trails Buffalo and Carolina by nine points for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Nikolai Kulemin, Dominic Moore, Pavel Kubina and Nik Antropov scored for the Leafs, who held a 2-1 lead before a wild third period that saw the Isles rally from a 4-2 deficit to force overtime. Toskala finished overtime with 40 saves.

"It was an ugly game," said Toronto coach Ron Wilson, who joked, "I'm growing my hair long so you can't see how gray it is."

Dean McAmmond scored his first goal for New York following a trade with Ottawa last week, and Sean Bergenheim, Mark Streit and Jon Sim also had goals as the Islanders lost their second one-goal game in as many nights. MacDonald made 29 saves after Yann Danis backstopped a 1-0 loss in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

Islanders defenseman Brendan Witt was lost for the rest of the night after a five-minute major for elbowing and a game misconduct 2:21 into the third. But Bergenheim, who had earlier been denied on a shorthanded penalty shot, promptly tied the score when he stole the puck at the Toronto blue line and beat Toskala on a backhander.

Kubina struck with the Leafs still on the power play at 5:35 to put them back in front and Antropov made it 4-2 at 7:05 on a close-in shot during a 4-on-4 situation. The Islanders didn't buckle, though, coming right back on a wrister by Streit with 8:31 left and Sim's drive from the right circle that appeared to deflect off a Toronto player before sailing past Toskala with 3:07 remaining.

"It was a great pass from Streit," Sim said, "and I let it rip."

It was the second two-goal rally for the Islanders, who found themselves down a pair after Kulemin scored 1:27 after the opening faceoff and Moore added a shorthanded goal 57 seconds into the middle period. McAmmond made it 2-1 with 5:28 left in the second, setting up the back-and-forth third.

"Other than the slow start, the first two goals, I thought our guys gave a pretty good effort," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. "We had a lot of offensive-zone pressure, we moved the puck, (got) multiple opportunities. So from my side of it, half full. Especially when you consider the fact we had a five-minute major against us, the way our team battled back from down 4-2 and to be able to come back and tie it up."

Capitals 4, Thrashers 3 | Video

If the Thrashers didn't know ahead of time by looking at the statistics, they learned a valuable lesson in a costly fashion. Atlanta kept putting Washington on the power play, and the Capitals repeatedly cashed in on the man advantages.

Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich and Mike Green all scored power-play goals, with Semin adding a pair of assists for a three-point night, and the Capitals maintained second place in the Eastern Conference by earning two points at the Verizon Center.


GOALS: 1 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 3
SOG: 7 | +/-: -2

Eric Fehr's goal 4:47 into the third stood up as the game-winner after Todd White's scored shorthanded for the Thrashers with 1:57 remaining -- but it was too little, too late.

"Especially against that team, we can't take that many penalties," Atlanta captain Ilya Kovalchuk said. "We take those two stupid penalties and then it was 2-zip."

Kovalchuk had a power-play goal of his own and Rich Peverley also scored for the Thrashers, who received 36 saves from Kari Lehtonen but never fully recovered from the Capitals' early blitz.

White went off early for hooking and Semin scored his 23rd of the season at the 4:27 mark, taking a Sergei Fedorov pass from just outside the blue line, splitting a pair of defenders and beating Lehtonen into the upper right corner of the net. Eric Perrin received a slashing call on the play, putting the Capitals right back on the power play, and Laich tapped in a Green drive at 5:20 that had trickled behind the goalie and might have gone in on its own anyway.

"He needs to get to 20 so I forgive him," Green said with a smile about Laich, who now has 15 goals for the season.

Green would eventually get on the board. After Kovalchuk cut the Thrashers' deficit in half with 3:49 left in the first and Peverley tied things up 3:56 into the second, the record-setting defenseman put Washington ahead for good with 7:35 left in the middle period. With Zach Bogosian in the box for hooking, Green notched his 23rd goal and 16th on the power play, both tops in the League among blueliners.

"That power-play goal he got was perfect, textbook. A great shot," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Before he's done, he's going to break a lot of records."

Michal Neuvirth gave Jose Theodore a rare night off and stopped 21 shots to earn his second win in as many NHL starts.

"The goaltending looks like it's going to be OK in the future," said Boudreau, who noted that Theodore will be in the net for Saturday's road game against Boston.

Sharks 2, Senators 1 | Video

Beating the top team in the Western Conference can involve walking a fine line. Ottawa rookie Brian Lee crossed the line during an unfortunate sequence for his team in the second period, and San Jose quickly turned the game around.

Milan Michalek and Patrick Marleau scored power-play goals 1:18 apart after Lee compounded a holding penalty by receiving another two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. Backup goaltender Brian Boucher made 23 saves and the Sharks prevailed at Scotiabank Place to rebound from a loss in Detroit one night earlier and stay a point ahead of Boston for the lead in the Presidents' Trophy race.

"Special teams are huge," Boucher said. "If you can win the special-teams game, you're going to win a lot of hockey games, and it seems like we've done that this year. It was probably not a good play by Lee -- I'm sure they're not happy about it -- but good for us to capitalize on it."

Mike Fisher scored on an Ottawa power play in the first period, but that was all the offense the Senators got on behalf of Alex Auld, who stopped 22 shots. Following a five-game winning streak, the Sens have lost four of five and are fading again in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

"It was a tough one, to get a double like that, but emotions are flying and it's part of the game," Fisher said. "We've just got to make sure we learn from it."

Lee had served a hooking penalty moments earlier, which the Senators killed, but taking four minutes worth of penalties against a lethal San Jose power-play unit proved costly.

"I feel responsible for the loss," said Lee, who acknowledged that he had argued the holding call.

Michalek jammed his 17th of the season past Auld at 11:26 of the second, with just 13 seconds remaining in Lee's first minor. That gave the Sharks the full two minutes of the second penalty to work with, and Marleau notched his 34th when Jeremy Roenick's one-timer from the slot went off the captain's skate and into the open left side of the net.

"On the bench we felt the momentum was kind of changed when (Lee's penalties) happened and then we really wanted to bear down and make them pay," said San Jose center Joe Thornton, who got his 54th assist on Marleau's goal. "We did that and that was the reason we won."

Boucher was flawless except for Fisher's goal, a deflection of Chris Campoli's shot with 6:14 left in the first and Tomas Plihal in the box for tripping.

"I saw the shot but it was a good tip by Fisher," Boucher said. "It was going more blocker side, he tipped it and it went glove side, so that's how you score goals nowadays. You've got to get in front of the net and you've got to have some courage to stand there and tip pucks."

Predators 4, Coyotes 1 | Video

Goals have been hard to come by at times for Nashville this season. But wins are a must this time of year as the Predators fight for their playoff lives, and Jason Arnott helped them to a big one.

Arnott's unassisted goal just 54 seconds after Ed Jovanovski had tied the score for Phoenix put Nashville ahead to stay. The Predators' captain brought the crowd at Sommet Center back to life with his 23rd of the season, and Pekka Rinne made 25 saves to win the franchise's 800th game.


GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 3 | +/-: +2

"Tonight was a pretty easy game for me," Rinne said. "They didn't have too many good scoring chances or anything like that. I don't think they were ready to go at the beginning of the game, and we took advantage of it. We really showed that we wanted these points, and there's no question about tonight's game who the better team was."

Steve Sullivan, Joel Ward and David Legwand also scored for Nashville, which sits 11th in the Western Conference, but just one point out of a playoff spot. Minnesota, Dallas, Edmonton and Anaheim are locked in a four-way tie for seventh with 65 points apiece.

"There are seven teams that are fighting for two or three spots," said Sullivan, who started the scoring with 6:31 left in the first period. "Everyone's looking at the standings every single day. We know where everybody is and what we have to do. We still believe our destiny is in our own hands. We have to win games here."

Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov turned aside 18 shots in the first period alone to keep his team close, en route to a 43-save performance.

"The first period would have been 5-0 if not for the goaltending. We got outskated and came out flat," an unhappy Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. "We're paid a lot of money to play the game, and you should at least give an effort."

It momentarily looked like Bryzgalov would be able to steal one when Jovanovski's slapper from the blue line eluded Rinne at 11:04 of the second. But Arnott picked up the puck, skated into the slot and snapped a shot into the net to restore the Predators' lead.

"I thought that took a lot of wind out of their sails when we got that second goal right after they tied it up because they didn't have a lot of chances, and we had a ton," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.

The Predators carried that 2-1 lead into the third and extended it when Ward scored 1:25 in on a wrister from the left circle. Legwand put the game out of reach with 5:28 remaining as he finished off a 4-on-1 rush by catching Bryzgalov leaning to his right and scoring into the open part of the net.

"There were a bunch of chances back-and-forth and it was the perfect set up back-and-forth," said Ward, who drew the primary assist on Legwand's goal. "There were a lot of lanes to pass through too. It was a good boost and it felt good as well."

Blues 3, Stars 1 | Video

Chris Mason is on a roll, and all St. Louis can hope is that it didn't come too late as far as a playoff berth is concerned. Mason stopped 41 shots to improve to 10-3-4 in his past 17 games, and rookies T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund scored 2:09 apart in the third period to key a win against Dallas at American Airlines Center.

Jay McClement also scored for the Blues, who are 12th in the Western Conference -- but just three points out of a playoff spot.

"We've been climbing (in the standings) and it's been fun to be a part of," Mason said. "Every game means something. There's no team out of it. Every game is a playoff game."

Mason started the season 3-13-1 but went on a tear during January that has continued this month. He stopped all 27 shots he faced over the final two periods.

"It all started with Mason," Oshie said. "He definitely made a lot of saves that he probably shouldn't make. He's really what kept us in the game until we got our legs under us and started feeling better."

Dallas' Jere Lehtinen opened the scoring 6:16 into the game, tapping in a centering pass by Mike Ribeiro. But Dallas couldn't beat Mason after that and lost its third in a row.

"We didn't score, made mistakes and we have hit more posts the last two games than I can remember," Stars coach Dave Tippett said.

All told, the Stars rang four shots off posts and another off the crossbar. What the iron didn't stop, Mason did.

McClement answered Lehtinen's goal with 7:54 to play in the first, taking advantage of an attempted clear by Dallas goalie Marty Turco that landed right on his stick. All McClement had to do was deposit the puck into an empty net.

The 1-1 tie lasted into the third, when Oshie's sharp-angle shot from the right side beat Turco over his shoulder at 6:50. Berglund's 17th of the season provided some insurance, and Mason did the rest.

"Guys are battling so hard for me, blocking shots and making my job easier," Mason said.

Blue Jackets 1, Oilers 0 | Video

Raffi Torres got some revenge against his former team and Steve Mason notched yet another shutout.

Ex-Oiler Torres scored on a breakaway in the third period and Mason made 19 saves for his League-leading eighth shutout as Columbus edged Edmonton in a battle of teams trying to put some distance between themselves and the cutoff point for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.


SHOTS: 19 | SAVES: 19
SAVE PCT: 1.000 | GAA: 0.00

"When we play this way we're hard to play against," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We've got our energy back, and we've got some life in our legs again. It looks like the wear and tear of that (six games in nine days stretch) is over now and we can move forward."

The Blue Jackets got the all-important two points and with 68 are even with fifth-place Vancouver, three points ahead of Edmonton and three other teams tied for seventh.

"That was a real disappointing loss, one of the toughest of the year so far," Oilers defenseman Sheldon Souray said. "At this point, with the situation we are in battling for a playoff spot with that team, it's just too bad we couldn't come up with a little bit better of an effort."

Dwayne Roloson could hardly be faulted for his team's result, as he stopped all 24 shots he faced over the first two periods, including 17 in the second. He finally got beaten by Torres, who played in Edmonton from 2003-08 and scored a career-high 27 goals three seasons ago. He's battled injuries in his first season with Columbus and Thursday's goal was only his fourth in 31 games.

Torres controlled a long pass from Jared Boll and skated in alone on Roloson before sliding the puck between his legs 7:45 into the third to silence the Rexall Place crowd.

"Just contributing and helping these guys out is a big confidence booster for myself," Torres said. "These guys have been working extremely hard over the last couple months, and even all year, and to start helping out is good for me."

Mason wasn't tested nearly as much as his counterpart, but he came up with a big save when the game was still scoreless in the second. Erik Cole swung around for a quick shot in tight during a scramble with about five minutes left, but Mason denied him with a pad save.

"This was like a playoff game," Columbus captain Rick Nash said. "This is a team that we have to beat if we want to make the playoffs. This was huge. We're on a road trip, we lost our last two and it was a great effort tonight by all 20 guys."

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


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