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Jackets snap skid behind Umberger hat trick

by Brian Hunter /
R.J. Umberger made sure the Columbus Blue Jackets didn't let this game slip away.

Umberger scored a pair of goals in the third period to record his second career hat trick and the Blue Jackets beat the St. Louis Blues 5-2 at Nationwide Arena to snap a five-game losing streak.

Umberger's second of the game was the go-ahead goal 5:20 into the third period. The Jackets then added a pair of empty-netters, Antoine Vermette scoring with 35 seconds left before Umberger finished off the hat trick 16 seconds later.

''It's pretty neat. I don't have them very often,'' Umberger said. ''Someone like (teammate Rick) Nash, it happens more. You have that night every once in a while -- it just seems like the puck goes in. Sometimes it just pays off, for your hard work.''

Steve Mason finished with 27 saves, including a key stop on Paul Kariya just prior to the two empty-net goals.

Perhaps the only negative for the Jackets was losing defenseman Rostislav Klesla in the first period after he fell into the boards awkwardly on a hit by Blues defenseman Barret Jackman.

''This was a very gritty win,'' Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. ''You lose a player, and the whole bottom fell out when Rusty went down. We just had to find a way to play a little bit better and we did, we played a lot better in the third. We needed this game badly.''

Columbus opened up a 2-0 lead in the first 4:13 of the first period on goals by Kris Russell and Umberger. The Jackets led in all five games of their recent road trip, but came away with losses each time (0-3-2).

''There wasn't a third-period meltdown, there wasn't a shootout,'' defenseman Mike Commodore said of the variety of lost leads in the skid. ''It was nice to not give up any goals in the third period for the first time in a long time. That's a big win for us, a step in the right direction.''

Their first lead against St. Louis did get away. Erik Johnson's power-play goal with 10 seconds left in the opening period made it a 2-1 game and Kariya evened the score at 9:38 of the second. Ultimately, though, the Blues made too many costly mistakes to pick up the two points.

''We made three individual checking mistakes that resulted in plays in the back of our net,'' St. Louis coach Andy Murray said. ''We must have shot the puck over the top of their net six times when we had tremendous scoring opportunities. Those things can't happen.''

Sabres 3, Maple Leafs 0 | HIGHLIGHTS

Ryan Miller continues to emerge as a leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy through the first third of the season, as the Buffalo goalie stopped all 38 Toronto shots for his third shutout of the season.

Miller won his 15th game of the season, tying him with New Jersey's Martin Brodeur for second, one behind San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov and Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury. Miller leads the League in goals-against average (1.84) and save percentage (.937) and is tied with three others for most shutouts.

''Their goalie over there has stolen two games against us,'' said Leafs forward Matt Stajan, referring to an earlier overtime win by the Sabres on Oct. 30. ''I don't know what it is. Maybe his Team U.S. coach (Ron Wilson) and GM (Brian Burke) are on our side, he wants to prove something? I don't know what it is, but he's one of the best and you've got to give him credit.''

''They know what he's capable of doing,'' said Miller's teammate, Jason Pominville. ''He proved it again tonight. He's probably going to be their guy. He's an elite goalie and he's been playing unbelievable for us.''

Tim Kennedy got him all the offense he would need by scoring with 6:53 left in the second period and the Sabres added a pair of insurance goals in the third. Defenseman Henrik Tallinder lit the lamp just 20 seconds in for his first goal in 76 games, and Jochen Hecht capped the scoring with 9:01 remaining.

Miller kept the Leafs from gaining the early lead when they started off with an 8-1 shots advantage. He denied a couple of chances by Phil Kessel and another from in close off the stick of Niklas Hagman.

The game remained scoreless more than halfway through the second as Miller stopped Matt Stajan on a dangerous rush before stoning Mikhail Grabovski by extending his right pad to stop the puck.

''I'm just trying to stay in my little groove and not sway from it,'' Miller said.

''I hope he plays like this in February,'' Wilson said. ''That's about the extent of it. He made all the difference in the first two periods. We should have had the lead at some point, but you've got to give him credit, he made the saves.''

Buffalo finally broke through against Jonas Gustavsson when banked a soft shot off the skate of the Toronto goaltender and into the net for his second NHL goal.

Tallinder, whose last goal came Nov. 12, 2008, against St. Louis, beat Gustavsson with a point shot before Hecht added his fourth of the season.

Avalanche 3, Lightning 0 | HIGHLIGHTS

Rookie Matt Duchene recorded his first career two-goal game and Craig Anderson stopped 33 shots for his third shutout of the season as Colorado began a five-game road trip with a big victory.

Wojtek Wolski sealed it by scoring into an empty net with 14 seconds remaining as the Avalanche won for just the second time in their past seven games.

''I thought our defense did a great job,'' Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. ''When Andy was tested, he made the big save for us.''

Duchene, the third pick in this year's Entry Draft, had just three goals in his first 26 NHL games, but has doubled that total in his last two games. Chris Stewart drew the primary assist on both of his tallies Monday.

''Some luck may be coming back my way,'' he said. ''I've been playing better, too.''

Duchene picked up the only goal Anderson would need 8:16 into the first period and doubled Colorado's lead on a power-play goal from in close with 6:22 left in the second.

''At the beginning of the season I had a ton of opportunities and I don't think I was used to shooting on NHL goalies,'' he said.

Antero Niittymaki finished with 26 saves for the Lightning.

''Tonight was definitely not good enough,'' right wing Martin St. Louis said. ''They were more hungry for these two points than we were, especially early on.''

Anderson's night started strong, as he made a big stop on Tampa's leading goal scorer, Steven Stamkos, just 24 seconds into the game.

''I just saw the puck really well and just found ways to stay in control,'' Anderson said. ''Playing my game, not trying to do too much.''

Red Wings 4, Stars 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

The fans at Joe Louis Arena finally got to witness some offense from the home team, as Todd Bertuzzi had a goal and an assist to spark Detroit's win over Dallas.

After getting shut out in back-to-back home games last week, the Red Wings have now scored four goals in consecutive contests. They won 4-3 in a shootout at St. Louis on Saturday and followed that up with a solid 60-minute effort against the Stars.

Jimmy Howard made 29 saves and got support from Drew Miller, Darren Helm and Dan Cleary, who also scored.

"I was just staying out of the crease, staying big and just letting the pucks come to me and not trying to overdo anything," said Howard, who has won six of his last eight starts.

Brenden Morrow had the lone goal for the Stars, who received 28 saves from Marty Turco.

"We found a way to lose the game and not even compete in it," Dallas forward Steve Ott said.

Helm snapped a 1-1 tie by beating a prone Turco from the left circle 5:35 into the second, and Cleary extended the lead when he put a bouncing puck in from the side of the net with 7:54 left in the period.

Bertuzzi, who assisted on Helm's goal, closed the scoring 3:35 into the third, wristing a shot past Turco from along the boards at the hashmarks.

"I love to score and when you're not scoring, it's not that fun," Bertuzzi said.

Detroit, which was shut out at home by Atlanta and Calgary, hadn't scored in front of its home fans in one hour, 56 minutes and 30 seconds until Miller's attempted pass with 6:12 left in the first deflected off a pair of Dallas players and into the net.

"It's a reminder to everybody: Just shoot the puck," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "Just shoot the puck, and good things happen to you."

Morrow tied the score with 15 seconds left in the first, tipping a Stephane Robidas shot just after a Stars power play had expired.

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

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