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Kessel ends drought as Leafs beat Habs 3-1 @NHL
A quick start translated into the desired finish for the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.

Tomas Kaberle's first goal in 35 games stood up as the winner as the Leafs earned a 3-1 victory against the Montreal Canadiens at the Air Canada Centre.

Phil Kessel and Kris Versteeg also scored for the Maple Leafs (11-14-4), while Mike Cammalleri had the lone goal for Montreal (18-10-2).

Kessel wasted little time in putting an end to his seven-game goal drought, as he charged hard to the net and knocked a loose puck behind Alex Auld at 7:38 of the first period.

"He's putting a lot of pressure on himself," Leafs goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere said of Kessel. "He's our best player. When Phil is playing well -- scoring goals and skating like he was tonight -- it makes our team a lot more dangerous."

Toronto seized some momentum and went ahead 2-0 when Kaberle scored his first goal since March 27 at 10:35. The play began in the neutral zone, where Tim Brent worked the puck loose and Fredrik Sjostrom fed Kaberle on the rush.

"It was kind of a slow start, they jumped on us," Habs coach Jacques Martin said. "We didn't win enough individual battles."

It was just the 11th time in 29 games this season the Leafs opened the scoring and the first time since Nov. 13 that Toronto scored twice in the opening 20 minutes.

"The first period was key for us," said Kaberle.

After being held to four shots in the first, the Canadiens got on the board when Cammalleri made it 2-1 at 14:38 with his 10th of the season, as he ripped a high shot past Giguere.

Thrashers 5, Islanders 4 | HIGHLIGHTS

Rick DiPietro struggled mightily in the third period, as Atlanta scored four times en route to a victory on Long Island.

Bryan Little's shorthanded goal off a faceoff with 8:25 left proved to be the difference and helped the Thrashers move within four points of first place in the Southeast Division.

"We fell behind and we didn't quit," Atlanta coach Craig Ramsay said after his team rallied from a 2-0 deficit. "Our guys kept battling. I thought our goaltender (Chris Mason) was very solid. We just kept pushing. When you keep pushing, something good is going to happen."

Little snapped a quick wrist shot past a clearly stunned DiPietro, who didn't appear to be ready for the faceoff. Little's goal, scored while teammate Tobias Enstrom served an interference penalty, gave Atlanta a 4-3 lead.

"I had my head down, getting set," DiPietro explained. "When I picked my head up, the puck was in the net. Usually you just get set and I get my head up and they drop the puck, but maybe I didn't do it fast enough. I don't know. It's sickening.

"The hard work's there. The effort's there. I feel like I want to throw up right now. That's how the locker room feels. That's how I feel."

Said Little: "I tried to make it seem like I was going to win (the faceoff) back. I was trying to put it on net, to get a shot, and ended up getting a good bounce on it. I've tried it before, but you need to have a bit of luck to get it through. I kind of caught them off-guard, and their goalie really wasn't paying attention."

New York dropped to 5-17-5 and has a League-low 15 points. The Isles have lost 19 of their last 20 games (1-16-3).

"It's tough to explain," interim coach Jack Capuano said. "We've just got to keep battling. We're not quitting."

Defenseman Johnny Oduya had his first two goals of the season, and Alex Burmistrov and Chris Stewart also scored for Atlanta, which got 25 saves from Chris Mason.

Rob Schremp, Matt Martin, Matt Moulson and Blake Comeau had scored for the Islanders, but DiPietro stopped only six of 10 shots in the third period.

"It's frustrating," Schremp said. "They score a goal off a faceoff. What are you going to do? It's just stupid. It's just bad breaks. What are you going to do … break sticks, slam doors, scream, yell? I don't know. Nobody likes losing. We're all competitive guys and we want to win. What can you do? We work so hard. This is stupid."

Atlanta trailed going into the third but Oduya scored twice in a span of 1:18 to put the Thrashers ahead 3-2. The advantage lasted for 2:12, until Schremp tied it again with 9:15 left with his fifth goal. Burmistrov's goal with 5:44 remaining made it 5-3.

Comeau's goal with 1:16 remaining got the Isles within one -- and ended an 0-for-47 power-play drought by the Islanders that covered 12 full games and parts of two others.

Blue Jackets 3, Rangers 1HIGHLIGHTS

Rick Nash scored twice in the final minutes to lead Columbus past the Blueshirts at Nationwide Arena.

The decisive goal came with just over 4 minutes left, snapping a 1-1 tie.

"It was a lucky play," said Nash, who also set the Blue Jackets' record by playing in his 544th game with the team. "Good things happen usually when you fire it on net. I just thought I would."

Nash carried the puck over the blue line before losing it under pressure. From the deep right corner below the goal line, he spun and fired. The puck glanced off the left skate of a surprised Henrik Lundqvist and into the net.

"We stuffed him the whole night -- until he scores a goal behind the goal line," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "It's frustrating. I have to admit that. We played probably one of our better games -- even in games that we won. Everybody contributed and it's a tough way to lose."

The Rangers pulled Lundqvist for an extra attacker with just over a minute left. He was halfway to the bench when Nash poked the puck free from a defenseman at center ice. Lundqvist scrambled back to the crease just before Nash avoided a sliding defender as he swooped in. Nash faked the forehand, with Lundqvist's momentum taking him to the edge of the crease. The big forward then pulled the puck back and pushed it in with his outstretched stick.

"Rick made two great plays that goal-scorers make," Columbus coach Scott Arniel said. "I knew he was a great player, but his work ethic and his compete (are great). I've noticed that he gets real upset when we don't win and don't play the way we can."

Steve Mason stopped 32 shots for Columbus, which had lost six of seven.

"I was pretty happy," Mason said. "They have some pretty big guys up front. For the most part I thought we did a good job of pushing them to the side and making sure the shot lanes were pretty clear."

Marc Staal had the lone goal for the Rangers, who entered with an 11-4-0 road record, the NHL's best .

Predators 3, Panthers 0 | HIGHLIGHTS

Rookie Anders Lindback made 22 saves in his first NHL shutout, and Ryan Suter had a goal and an assist as Nashville blanked Florida at Bridgestone Arena.

The Predators have won five of six and have earned at least one point in seven straight games. The Panthers had their three-game winning streak snapped.

Preds captain Shea Weber and Joel Ward had the other goals for the Predators, while Lindback improved to 6-1-2. Lindback has started four straight since Rinne injured a leg on Dec. 1 at Columbus. He is 3-0-1 since taking over as the starter.

"It's a great feeling," Lindback said of the shutout. "The guys are doing a really great job in front of me. I only take the first shot, and if there are any rebounds that get through, they get them out for me."

Suter gave Nashville a 1-0 lead 1:14 in when he connected on a one-timer from the left circle off a pass from Martin Erat. Sergei Kostitsyn also assisted on Suter's goal, extending his point streak to a season-high five games.

Weber doubled the Predators lead at 16:49 of the first period. Suter carried the puck behind the Florida net and found his defense partner at the top of the right circle. Weber scored with a one-timer over the glove of goalie Tomas Vokoun.

"Obviously, the first period was the game." Florida coach Peter DeBoer said. "They came out with a couple of big hits and a couple of big goals. They won the first period, and from then on, that's a hard team to come from behind against."

Ward made it 3-0 with an empty-net, power-play goal in the final minute.

"We got a good start and played very disciplined," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "He made a couple of really key saves for a goaltender who didn't have a lot of shots in the first half of the game."

Hurricanes 2, Blues 1 (SO) | HIGHLIGHTS

Jussi Jokinen scored the lone goal in the shootout and Cam Ward stopped 38 shots to lead Carolina past St. Louis at the Scottrade Center.

Carolina, playing the third game of a five-game road trip, won for only the second time in its last nine road games.

Ward (12-9-3) stopped all three shots he faced in the shootout. Carolina improved to 2-4 in the tiebreaker this season. St. Louis -- which had a 5-on-3 power play for 80 seconds late in the second period, but couldn't score -- fell to 3-3.

Jokinen, who has scored on 27 of 56 shootout shots in his six-year career, missed his first five this season. He made good on his sixth try, beating Jaroslav Halak with a backhander.

"I'd been struggling bad this year," Jokinen said. "I know I can score in shootouts. I'm just glad the coach kept his confidence in me."

Brandon Sutter gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead in the third period, but defenseman Alex Pietrangelo's power-play goal tied it.

Sutter broke the game's scoreless tie 3:18 into the third period when he broke in alone on the right wing and lifted the puck between Halak's pads for his sixth goal. Pietrangelo tied it with 13:29 left in regulation.

"Everybody just rose to the occasion," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "(Ward) was the difference in the game. People will look at it and say, 'A 2-1 game in a shootout, it must have been a boring game. But this thing could have been 5-5 or 6-6 with the chances both teams had."

Halak, who stopped 28 shots, halted Eric Staal on a breakaway with 11 seconds left in overtime.

"Jaro was excellent, he gave us a chance," St. Louis coach Davis Payne said. "I thought we were pretty solid. We did some things that we wanted to."

Coyotes 5, Stars 2 | HIGHLIGHTS

Shane Doan scored twice and Ilya Bryzgalov made 33 saves as Phoenix beat Dallas at Arena.

For's full recap, click here.

Red Wings 4, Devils 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

Pavel Datsyuk had a goal and a pair of assists and Chris Osgood made 33 saves as Detroit cruised past New Jersey at the Prudential Center.

For's full recap, click here.

Sharks 2, Blackhawks 1 (OT)

Ryane Clowe scored his second goal of the night 3:52 into overtime as San Jose edged Chicago at HP Pavilion.

Clowe one-timed a pass from Marc-Edouard Vlasic to the inside corner past goalie Corey Crawford, whose seven-game winning streak ended.

"There were opportunities where we had shots from the point or a 3-on-2 rush and he'd get it stopped," Clowe said. "It seems like the last few games they've tightened the D-zone. It was hard to generate any opportunities."

Antti Niemi stopped 28 shots to beat his former team, the defending Stanley Cup champions, for the second time this season.

"Yeah, it's even better," Niemi said.

Jordan Hendry scored for the Blackhawks, who lost for the second time in seven games since their last meeting in San Jose on Nov. 24. Corey Crawford made 28 saves, but failed to tie a rookie franchise record for consecutive wins.

"You can argue that might have been his best game," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "He's the reason we got a point. You can say two, three saves looked like empty-netters and he came out of nowhere. He was sharp, quick and big."

Clowe's gave the Sharks an early lead midway through the first period when he one-timed a pass from Jason Demers into the upper left corner. Clowe has points in six of seven games.

"Clowe did a lot of the grunt work," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "The good sign for us is we found our legs a little bit later in the game and found a way to win."

Hendry, who played for the first time in 14 games, took advantage by scoring his first goal off an assist from Jake Dowell. Hendry flared the puck, but it found a hole between Niemi's left skate and the post.

"It would have been a lot better with a victory, but of course you'll take a goal whenever you can get it," Hendry said. "It's been a while since I played, and I just wanted to get out there and create some speed and energy for the fourth line there."

Wild 3, Kings 2 (OT)HIGHLIGHTS

Brent Burns scored via the power play with 2:10 remaining in overtime as Minnesota won at Los Angeles.

Jose Theodore made 24 saves, helping end the Kings' three-game winning streak. Minnesota, which also got goals from Mikko Koivu and Cal Clutterbuck, has won consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 19 after a five-game skid.

"It's nice to get a power-play goal against this team since they've only allowed one at home," Burns said. "We knew it would be a tough job. We killed a lot of penalties. It was a gutsy effort by everybody."

Dustin Brown had a goal and an assist, Anze Kopitar had two assists, and Jonathan Quick made 18 saves for Los Angeles.
"Some real strange plays and goals out there," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "The power play opportunities were there though at the end of the day to win the game for us and the penalty killing was there to get us to overtime. Neither one of them did the job for us."

Drew Doughty was sent off for interference at 1:11 of overtime, and the Wild capitalized with their third power-play goal in 37 chances over 12 games. Former Kings center Patrick O'Sullivan had the puck at the right of the net and fed it to Burns, who beat Quick with a one-timer from the slot for his eighth goal.

Minnesota's Martin Havlat was sent off for high-sticking Michal Handzus with 6 seconds left in the second period, and the Kings tied it on the ensuing power play at 1:09 of the third when Kopitar set up Ryan Smyth at the left of the crease with a perfect pass from the right circle.

The Kings had a great chance to take the lead after Minnesota's Antti Miettinen got a double-minor for cutting Brown above the lip with a high stick with 8:04 left in regulation, but failed to record a shot during the long power play. They had only one the rest of the third period.

On his shorthanded goal, Koivu knocked the puck away from Doughty near the red line and they chased it into the Kings' zone. Quick skated about 15 feet from his crease to intercept the puck and cleared it to his right, but Koivu anticipated perfectly and scored his sixth goal into a wide-open net.

"It's extremely unfortunate," Quick said. "We outplayed them for majority of that game. You just got to be better, you can't make those mistakes. Those can't happen."

Brown tied it at 9:25 of the second period on a rebound after Theodore stopped Kopitar's wrist shot from the slot. Minnesota regained the lead nine seconds later with another gift-wrapped goal.
Cam Barker sent the puck behind the net, and Quick went to retrieve it, but fumbled it. Clutterbuck grabbed it away from him and tucked his eighth goal inside the right post before Quick could scramble back to the crease.

"It wasn't an easy game … it was tough with a lot of battles," Burns said. "When you play on the road, you talk about those ugly wins and those make you feel a little better."

Kopitar, who scored the winning goal in each of the Kings' previous three games, nearly tied it during a power play with about 5 1/2 minutes left in the second -- but hit the post.

"We had ample opportunities tonight and we didn't capitalize," Smyth said. "We got a point here tonight, which is big. We want to keep getting points. We can build off of something here tonight."

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

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