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Kings blow big lead, beat Bruins 4-3 in shootout

by John Kreiser
Michal Handzus made sure the Los Angeles Kings' losing streak didn't last any longer than three games.

Handzus scored the only goal of the shootout in the sixth round as the Kings beat Boston 4-3 on Saturday night after blowing a three-goal lead. The victory ended L.A.'s three-game losing streak, which included a 4-2 loss at Buffalo on Friday.

"It's a big win for us, two points, and that's really, at the end of the day, all that matters," captain Dustin Brown said. "Considering the situation that we're in, with travel and back-to-backs and losing three in a row, it doesn't matter how we got it done. We got it done, and now we can focus on the next game."

It looked like the Kings would cruise when Jarret Stoll's goal 2:50 into the third period made it 3-0. But the Bruins kept pelting Jonathan Quick with pucks. They got within one by the end of the period on goals by Blake Wheeler and Gregory Campbell, then tied it on Patrice Bergeron's power-play goal, a shot from the left circle over Quick's arm, with 6:16 left in regulation.

Boston outshot the Kings 17-8 in the third, but Quick was flawless the rest of the way -- including the six rounds of the shootout before Handzus won it with a wrist shot past Tim Thomas' stick.

"That's a good team over there. It's a tough building to come into, playing back to back," said Quick, a Connecticut native who played his college hockey at the University of Massachusetts, not far from the TD Garden. "We did give up a three-goal lead, which is, I feel, unlike us, but at the end of the day we got the two points. We found a way to battle back and get the win."

Quick and Thomas were dominant in the shootout before Handzus' game-winner.

"It definitely felt like it could have (gone for a while)," Boston center Brad Marchand said of the shootout. "Timmy's having a great year. Unfortunately, one team had to lose and unfortunately it was us."

The Bruins saw their own three-game winning streak ended. Boston allowed more goals in the first 23 minutes than it had in its three wins this week.

Avalanche 4, Stars 3 (SO)HIGHLIGHTS

Like the Kings, Colorado grabbed a 3-0 lead on the road, couldn't hold it, then got the win in a shootout. Kevin Porter, who had never taken a shootout attempt, ripped a shot past Kari Lehtonen in the fifth round for the victory.

"I was a little nervous going into it, and then Coach tapped me," said Porter, whose wrister beat Lehtonen cleanly. "I like to shoot on penalty shots. I saw the opening and took the shot."

Two power-play goals by Milan Hejduk and one at even strength by David Jones gave the Avs a 3-0 lead just 5:30 into the second period. But the Stars regrouped, got goals by Adam Burish and Brenden Morrow 23 seconds apart later in the period to get within one, then tied it at 10:02 of the third period when James Neal banked the puck off the skate of defenseman Ryan Wilson and into the net.

"I was really pleased with our heart, our determination, our character, our grit," Stars coach Marc Crawford said. "Those things are good and they're continuing to define us. We persevered, got a point. You hopefully don't put yourself in that position. You find a way to win it."

Chris Stewart put Colorado ahead by scoring in the second round of the shootout, but Mike Ribeiro beat Peter Budaj in the third to extend the tiebreaker. In the fifth round, Steve Ott's slap shot hit the crossbar before Porter's wrister beat Lehtonen, ending Dallas' five-game home winning streak.

Coach Joe Sacco had no complaints despite the blown lead, noting that his team beat the Rangers 5-1 in Denver on Friday and was playing for the sixth time in nine days.

"There was a lot of things going against us tonight, but I though the character really stood out," Sacco said. "We got two points out of this game, and we're real happy with that."

Lightning 2, Sabres 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

Buffalo shut down Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis -- but not Teddy Purcell and Adam Hall, who scored against backup goaltender Patrick Lalime as the Lighting completed a sweep of their three-game trip.

Hall got the game-winner midway through the second period, putting in his own rebound after picking off a bad pass by goaltender Patrick Lalime.

"It's a mistake that cost the game," said Lalime, who played because starter Ryan Miller was out with a lower-body injury. "I made the wrong play there. … It was just a bad pass, a mistake."

Unlike Thursday's wild 8-7 win at Philadelphia, NHL scoring leader Stamkos (3 goals, 1 assist) and St. Louis (5 assists) were held off the score sheet. Buffalo even opened the scoring less than five minutes into the game when Thomas Vanek got his eighth of the season by beating Mike Smith with a slap shot from the top of the right circle -- his 17th goal in 21 career games against the Lightning.

"Coming in to this game we wanted to make sure we got out to a good start," Purcell said. "It was unfortunate they got ahead on a turnover and capitalized on the first shot, but we did a good job of battling back and believing in ourselves and sticking to the system."

That was the only one of Buffalo's 30 shots to beat Smith, who won in his first start since Nov. 12. He stopped all 12 Buffalo shots in the third period as the Sabres scrambled for the equalizer.

"Hats off to the guys tonight," Smith added. "Everyone played well. It wasn't just one guy, but a complete team effort tonight."

Purcell tied it with 1:50 left in the opening period when he set up in the slot and redirected Randy Jones' pass from the lower left circle. Hall put them ahead to stay at 11:16 of the second after Lalime's gaffe on an attempted clear.

Predators 2, Hurricanes 1 (SO)

Shootout goals by Cal O'Reilly and Martin Erat gave Nashville a victory at Carolina, which lost in a penalty-shot tiebreaker for the second night in a row.

O'Reilly and Carolina's Jeff Skinner both scored in the first round and after neither team scored in the second, Pekka Rinne stopped Patrick O'Sullivan before O'Reilly beat Cam Ward for the winner -- one night after the 'Canes lost 5-4 in a shootout at Pittsburgh.

Nashville improved to 4-1-0 in its last five. Three of the four wins have come in shootouts.

"Whatever it takes," coach Barry Trotz said.

The surge has come after the Predators dropped five in a row.

"It wasn't one thing," Trotz said of the slump. "We got away a little bit from the defensive game we like to play, and the puck was getting in the back of our net. We weren't playing that poorly. Sometimes, teams go through that. They were working hard, but it was not coming easy."

The low-scoring game was unusual for the Hurricanes, who had scored or allowed seven goals in six of their last eight games.

Carolina scored first at 9:22 of the opening period when defenseman Joni Pitkanen's centering pass hit the stick of Nashville defenseman Shane O'Brien and skipped past Rinne. Nashville tied it 3:53 into the second when Jordin Tootoo picked off a clearing pass near the Carolina blue line and found Jerred Smithson alone in front for a wrist shot past Ward.

"We did the best we could with what we had in the tank," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. "There was a lot of ugliness in the game -- plays that couldn't be completed -- there was no ease to it, but I thought we accepted it and fought it."

Rinne finished with 21 saves while Ward stopped 26 shots.

"This was our third game in four nights," Ward said. "So the pace was pretty slow at the beginning of the game. That's kind of the style they wanted to play."

Panthers 4, Islanders 1HIGHLIGHTS

Florida scored four times in less than eight minutes in the second period to hand the Islanders their 12th consecutive loss, matching a team record.

For's complete game story, click here.

Rangers 5, Wild 2HIGHLIGHTS

One night after getting blown out in Colorado, the Rangers bounced back with a solid victory in Minnesota, making Marian Gaborik a winner in his first game back after signing with the Rangers in the summer of 2009.

Gaborik, the leading scorer in Wild history, left Minnesota for New York but missed last season's visit due to an injury. He was booed during warmups and introductions -- then helped trigger some boos for the home team when he assisted on Alexander Frolov's goal, which capped a three-goal second period and gave New York a 3-0 lead.

"For sure it was a sweet win, especially in this building and coming back," Gaborik said. "To get a big win here, I think, it's one of the biggest ones."

Brandon Dubinsky and Ruslan Fedotenko added goals for the Rangers in the third period, negating scores by Minnesota's Matt Cullen and Martin Havlat.

"Obviously we dug ourselves too big a hole and they converted too many mistakes in the second," Cullen said of the decisive second period. "We don't commit turnovers and they don't get the momentum swing. Tonight that was the story."

Rangers coach John Tortorella, who laid into his team after Friday's 5-1 loss at Colorado, won his 300th NHL game. The Wild, who were 6-2-0 in their previous eight games, saw their three-game winning streak end.

The Rangers are now 5-0-0 in the second half of back-to-back games; the Wild fell to 1-3-1.

"We always play well in the second game because I think the will and commitment to stay with the system in how we play remains strong," said enforcer Derek Boogaard, who, like Gaborik, returned to face his former team for the first time since signing with the Rangers as a free agent this past summer -- but got a much warmer reception.

Martin Biron, who replaced starter Henrik Lundqvist during Friday's loss, got the start Saturday and made 25 saves.

"It was great to get that kind of win for all the guys we have that had ties to this area," Biron said of Gaborik, Boogaard, Derek Stepan and Michael Sauer. "And it was good to stop the bleeding after the way we played (Friday) night."

Blues 3, Devils 2 | HIGHLIGHTS

New Jersey got 37 shots against the Blues, the most a St. Louis goaltender has faced all season, but Jaroslav Halak stopped 35 of them and Brad Winchester scored the tiebreaking goal 5:15 into the third period kept them unbeaten against Eastern Conference opponents this season.

Alex Pietrangelo and Eric Brewer scored as the Blues improved to 7-0-0 against Eastern Conference opponents this season and 12-0-0 dating back to last season. St. Louis also stayed unbeaten in regulation at the Scottrade Center, improving to 8-0-1 -- 14-0-1 going back to 2009-10.

"I thought tonight was just a matter of finding a way," said Blues coach Davis Payne, whose team beat Ottawa 5-2 at home on Friday night while the Devils watched and waited. "We really didn't have the jump that was necessary, and we made some mental errors and some positional errors.

"There was lots of try. There was lots of intent, which is something we talk about at great length. We just found a way."

Winchester deflected Tyson Strachan's shot from the right point past rookie goaltender Mike McKenna, who made his Devils debut one day after being recalled from AHL Albany.

"It was a great shot by (Strachan)," Winchester said. "Certainly that's something I work on a lot in practice. It doesn't even have to be on net, just in an area where you can get a stick on it. I was able to get the tip there, so it's good."

McKenna, a native of St. Louis who went 4-8-1 for Tampa Bay in 2008-09, got the start because Martin Brodeur is sidelined for at least another week with the bruised left elbow that forced him to leave Thursday's game.

"It's nice to be back in the NHL more than anything," McKenna said. "It means a lot to my family and myself to do it here. The chance to play here meant a lot -- almost more for my friends and family than even for me."

New Jersey's David Clarkson beat Halak 26 seconds into the game with a wrister on the game's first shot. Pietrangelo tied it with a power-play goal at 9:22. Mattias Tedenby put the Devils back in front by beating Halak on a breakaway 9:53 into the second. But Brewer got his second goal in two nights at 18:58 thanks to a fortunate bounce -- his slap shot missed the net, hit the end boards, caromed into the crease and went into the net off McKenna's backside.

"Pretty unlucky," McKenna said.

The Devils finished 0-3-0 on their three-game trip and fell to 5-13-2 for the season. They go home for a Monday night meeting with Washington.

"He played well all night," defenseman Colin White said of McKenna. "We felt we played a pretty good game tonight. We battled. The result's the same thing. We have to change that."

Blue Jackets 3, Sharks 0 | HIGHLIGHTS

Columbus completed the first three-game California sweep in franchise history as Rick Nash scored one in each period and Mathieu Garon stopped all 35 shots he faced for his third shutout of the season as the Jackets (12-6-0) continued the best start in franchise history.

Nash scored a power-play goal 3:31 into the game, firing a shot that deflected off Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle and past Antero Niittymaki for the only goal Garon would need. He zipped in a bad-angled wrist shot at 15:55 of the second period, then hit the empty net with 55 seconds left for his fifth career hat trick.

Nash's goal-scoring streak reached five games, during which he has eight goals. Six came during the three games on the trip.

"I've always said I'm a streaky player," Nash said. "At the start of the season I couldn't get anything to go. Lately it seems like (the puck) is following me around."

Garon frustrated the Sharks all night to improve to 5-1-0 after watching Steve Mason win games at Los Angeles and Anaheim.

"It was a great team effort," he said. "Even at the end there were guys diving, blocking shots. We're sending a message that we're going to be a tough team to beat."

The weary Sharks may have showed the effects of playing for the third time in four nights in three time zones.

"We couldn't get anything past Garon," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "We're not finishing right now. I think our execution was a little off, and they're definitely a good defensive club that doesn't give you many chances."

Coach Todd McLellan wasn't so forgiving

"We were prepared to play an easy game, a fancy game at the blue line," he said. "By the time the third period came around and we figured it out, it was a little bit too late."

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

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