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Kids help Leafs top Lightning 4-3 in OT

by John Kreiser
General Manager Brian Burke's housecleaning appears to have injected some life into the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Leafs made it three wins in four games when Phil Kessel scored 3:33 into overtime on Tuesday night to give Toronto a 4-3 victory over Tampa Bay. Rookies Viktor Stalberg, and Tyler Bozak had the other goals for the Leafs, who have looked like a different club since Burke's personnel moves prior to the trade deadline.

"It's putting together a string of games, which we've done now since the trade deadline shed everything and brought a lot of young people in," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "We've competed hard in every game … we just want a fresher attitude and different sense of culture, a different sense of it's special to be a Toronto Maple Leaf, and these young guys are taking advantage of it right now."

Bozak started the winning by intercepting a pass in the Toronto end. He broke in on 2-on-1 with Kessel, deked around exhausted Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier, and slipped Kessel a pass that he tucked around a sprawling Mike Smith for the Leafs' second OT victory in three nights -- after Toronto had lost its first nine overtime decisions this season.

"You're always pretty nervous having your first year and we haven't played the full season," Bozak said. "But playing with the guys we are, every shift you get a lot better and you get more experience and more comfortable with the puck."

Bozak scored in regulation, fellow rookie Stahlberg had two goals, and Luca Caputi, another rookie who came from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline, added two assists.

Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos extended his points streak to 18 games with his 42nd goal of the season. Kurtis Foster and Steve Downie also scored for the Lightning (27-27-12), who lost for the seventh time in eight games and are seeing their playoff hopes melt away.

"We play hard, but hard's not good enough right now," forward Martin St. Louis said. "For us it's about results right now and we just can't seem to find that."

Bozak put the Leafs ahead 3-2 just 3:37 into the third when he picked up a loose puck to Smith's right and fired it over the prone goalie. But Downie fired home a rebound past Jean-Sebastien Giguere just 1:13 later, setting up the exciting finish.

Flames 2, Senators 0 | HIGHLIGHTS

Calgary made it four wins in a row and stayed ahead of Detroit for eighth in the West as Miikka Kiprusoff stopped all 33 shots by the suddenly slumping Senators.

The Flames improved to 77 points, keeping them one in front of the Red Wings -- who come to the Pengrowth Saddledome on Monday night. The Flames pulled even with seventh-place Nashville, though the Predators own the higher spot in the standings because they’ve played one fewer game.

"We’re going to take the win. It’s a big two points," coach Brent Sutter said. "You are going to need to win games at this time that aren’t the prettiest. We found a way tonight and that’s a positive."

Mayers, acquired in the Dion Phaneuf trade in late January, opened the scoring 5:29 into the game, snapping Curtis Glencross' pass behind Brian Elliott for his third goal of the season and first in 12 games.

Higgins, acquired from the New York Rangers the day after Mayers came from Toronto, one-timed Ian White's pass behind Elliott at 9:05 of the third. It was his first non-empty netter since coming to Calgary on Feb. 1.

"They carried the play most of the night and had, I think, the better of the chances," Higgins said. "It just gave us a little bit of cushion with a couple minutes left to settle down and not be so jittery."

Kiprusoff did the rest -- with some help from his teammates, who blocked 30 shots, and the crossbar, which stopped Peter Regin's wide-open shot early in the third period.

After winning 14 of 16 games, the Senators are 1-3-1 in their last five. They wrap up their three-game Western Canada road trip Saturday night in Vancouver against the Northwest Division-leading Canucks, who are returning after their 14-game Olympic trip.

"We had a lot of good opportunities to score more than one or two goals," Senators coach Cory Clouston said.

Red Wings 5, Wild 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

Detroit coach Mike Babcock finally got what he'd been looking for from his team -- a complete effort. Johan Franzen scored twice, and Henrik Zetterberg had a goal and a pair of assists as the Wings dominated Minnesota at Joe Louis Arena to stay a point behind eighth-place Calgary in the Western Conference playoff race.

"I thought we got started on time and played 60 minutes," said Babcock, whose team has been plagued by slow starts and blown third-period leads -- including a 2-1 advantage that turned into a 4-2 loss against Calgary on Tuesday.

"We thought about that and made sure we didn't make any mistakes," Franzen said. "We always had three guys back."

The Wild, whose playoff chances continue to fade, got a goal from Andrew Ebbett and 25 saves by Josh Harding.

"They were digging for the puck, going in there with speed," Wild captain Mikko Koivu said. "And we were going the other way."

Franzen opened the scoring 2:25 into the game when his slap shot from the top of the right circle bounced in off of Harding's arm. Tomas Holmstrom banked a shot off defenseman Nick Schultz's skate and into the net at 9:19 for a power-play goal, and Zetterberg made it 3-0 just 56 seconds later.

"They came out and smacked us early," Minnesota center Kyle Brodziak said. "Jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Such a good team to try and come back on."

Ebbett scored with 11 seconds left in the opening period, but Drew Miller's shorthanded goal 12:58 into the second period restored Detroit's three-goal margin. Franzen's goal with 5:17 to play was icing on the cake.

Avalanche 3, Panthers 0 | HIGHLIGHTS

Craig Anderson stopped 27 shots to beat his former team and Paul Stastny scored twice as Colorado bounced back from a bad loss to Vancouver with a shutout win over Florida.

For's complete story, click here.

Blues 2, Islanders 1 (SO) | HIGHLIGHTS

St. Louis got two points it desperately needed when T.J. Oshie and Brad Boyes scored in the shootout to win a goaltending duel.

St. Louis' Chris Mason stopped 29 shots, allowing only a first-period power-play goal by Matt Moulson. Martin Biron made 35 saves for the Isles, surrendering Patrik Berglund's tying power-play goal 6:24 into the second.

Mason stopped Frans Nielsen and Moulson in the shootout.

"We needed that point. It was big," Mason said. "With the teams winning around us, we have to keep pace."

The victory, St. Louis' sixth in seven games, moved the Blues into 10th in the West, six points behind eighth-place Calgary.

The Blues came off a 7-3 loss on Saturday at Colorado that snapped their season-best, five-game winning streak and at least temporarily slowed a desperate playoff push. St. Louis is 19-10-4 on the road this season, its most away wins since earning 27 in the 1999-2000 season.

"We're confident on the road," Oshie said. "We've had some success over the season and we're confident. That's what you need going into games."

The Islanders, 14th in the East, fell 11 points behind eighth-place Boston.

"They're in a playoff battle that's really tight over there," Biron said of the Blues, "and we were right there."

Blue Jackets 2, Thrashers 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

In a game that saw three fluky goals scored, Atlanta came up a bounce short and lost its fourth in a row as Columbus got a goal and an assist from Kristian Huselius.

Not even the arrival of 48-year-old defenseman Chris Chelios helped. Chelios had R.J. Umberger's pass deflect off his shin pad and past goaltender Johan Hedberg for a first-period power-play goal that put Columbus ahead to stay.

Huselius' shot from the high slot went off the outside of Hedberg's right skate and slowly skittered toward the goal. Atlanta center Nik Antropov couldn't pull the puck back before it crossed the line at 15:25 of the second period.

Johnny Oduya cut the deficit in half with 2:21 left when his blind pass deflected off defenseman Mike Commodore's skate and past Mathieu Garon. But the Thrashers couldn't score again despite outshooting Columbus 17-1 in the final period.

"When it's not going for you, it's not going for you," coach John Anderson said after his team dropped six points behind eighth-place Boston in the East. "We got a little bit of a bounce on one of the goals -- for us -- but we're not getting any breaks right now. It's a difficult loss."

The Jackets, mired in 14th place in the West, have won back-to-back games.

"We managed the game OK -- not ideal -- but I was happy that we controlled the game and did what we needed to do," interim coach Claude Noel said. "The biggest thing was I thought that we checked and if we did that, we would win."

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

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