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Kings rally to win fourth straight

by Brian Compton
Thanks to Jack Johnson, the cross-country flight the Los Angeles Kings took on Tuesday night from New York to Los Angeles was certain to be a lot more enjoyable.
After a scoreless overtime, Johnson scored the lone goal of the shootout to lead the surging Kings to a 4-3 win against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. With the victory, L.A. -- which rallied from 2-1 and 3-2 deficits -- completed its five-game road trip with a record of 4-1.
''It's good that we came back a couple of times during the game and in the shootout,'' Kings captain Dustin Brown said. ''These games are huge for us. We can't, and didn't take the Islanders lightly, because a few years ago, we were the Islanders in L.A.''
Yann Danis made 36 saves for the Isles but couldn't prevent the club's third straight loss. New York is five points behind the Atlanta Thrashers for the worst record in the NHL.
''I thought we played well,'' Islanders captain Bill Guerin said. ''Los Angeles is known as being a good forechecking team, and they were, but I think we forechecked them just as well.''
After tying for the worst record in the League last season, the Kings are right in the thick of things in the Western Conference playoff race. Tuesday's victory put them just four points behind the Minnesota Wild for the eighth and final spot.
''This is the best time I've ever had in coaching, and I started as an assistant in 1982,'' L.A. coach Terry Murray said. ''There are a lot of good young guys on our team. It's a great dressing room, and has great chemistry.''
The Islanders got regulation goals from Doug Weight, Tim Jackman and Andy Hilbert and took a 3-2 lead into the third period. But the Kings tied it up when Alexander Frolov scored on the power play 6:41 into the third. It was his 22nd goal of the season.
Wayne Simmonds and Anze Kopitar also scored for Los Angeles, which returns home to host Calgary on Thursday night in the first of a three-game homestand.
After both teams came up empty in the first two rounds of the shootout, Jonathan Quick (22 saves) forced Josh Bailey wide and put the game on Johnson's stick. The Kings' defenseman faked a forehand shot and got Danis to move before he slipped in a backhander to give the Kings their fourth straight win.
''He made a pretty good move,'' Danis said. ''I tried to stack my pads, and somehow, it squeezed through.''
Blue Jackets 3, Avalanche 0 | VIDEO
One week after playing in the American Hockey League, Dan LaCosta is now showing everyone in Columbus what he is capable of.
LaCosta earned his first NHL shutout in just his second career start as he stopped all 31 shots he faced as the Blue Jackets blanked Colorado at Nationwide Arena. LaCosta got the nod again because Calder Trophy candidate Steve Mason was out due to mononucleosis, and regular backup Wade Dubielewicz is battling the flu.
''Everybody is so excited for him,'' Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said of LaCosta. ''He played solid again. He's a big guy that moves around the net really well. I thought he looked better than he did the last game.''
Both teams suffered from good period/bad period syndrome on Tuesday. Columbus came out flying and outshot the Avs 16-4 in the first period, but Colorado goalie Peter Budaj managed to keep the Blue Jackets off the scoreboard. The Avalanche responded by outshooting Columbus 13-3 in the second, but LaCosta was up to the challenge in his net.
''There was absolutely no way I would have thought I'd even be up here, let alone playing a couple games and doing well,'' said LaCosta, who won his first start Saturday, a 3-2 overtime decision over Western-Conference leading San Jose. ''It's just a pretty surreal feeling right now.''
Columbus solved Budaj with authority in the third period. Andrew Murray gave the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead at 2:27, as he took a pass from Raffi Torres and beat Budaj to the near side for his seventh goal of the season.
Jason Williams put Columbus by a pair when he tallied his 11th goal of the season at 9:43. The Blue Jackets' forward finished off a 3-on-1 with a shot from the right circle that found its way through Budaj's pads. Fredrik Modin put the game away just 2:33 later as he redirected Jan Hejda's shot past Budaj for his ninth goal of the season.

'It was a close game all the way through, chances going both ways,'' Modin said.
The Avs, though, failed to capitalize on any of their chances and ultimately lost for the sixth time in their last eight games.
''We're going to have to work to get out of it,'' Colorado coach Tony Granato said. ''We're going to have to play more consistent ... we're going to have to play 60 minutes. We're going to have to battle like crazy.''

Thrashers 3, Lightning 1 | VIDEO
Kari Lehtonen made a controversial save on a penalty shot against Steven Stamkos with 8:09 remaining in the third period, leading Atlanta past Tampa Bay at Philips Arena.
Lehtonen, who finished with 40 stops, denied Stamkos on a lunging glove save along the goal line on Stamkos, the No. 1 selection in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. The play was reviewed and the ruling on the ice was upheld.

''I felt like the puck was in the pocket of the glove right near my wrist,'' Lehtonen said. ''He made a nice move. I thought he was going the other way. Then it was just desperation. It was tough. It could have gone either way.''

Meanwhile, Stamkos felt he was denied of what would have been his seventh goal of the season. He assisted on Tampa Bay's lone goal of the game, which was scored by Gary Roberts 1:24 into the opening period.

''When you look at the replay, you have to be able to see the whole puck,'' Stamkos said. ''You can't see the puck although you know it's in his glove and you know it's over the line. I saw the puck in his glove go over the line.''
Atlanta erased a 1-0 deficit at 9:52, when Colin Stuart beat rookie goalie Mike McKenna on a shorthanded tally. Slava Kozlov gave the Thrashers the lead 2:02 into the second period before Ilya Kovalchuk iced the victory with an empty-net goal with 10 seconds to play.
''We kind of limited their options,'' Stuart said after Atlanta's second win in eight games. ''We tried to keep the shots outside and let Kari see them. I thought it was a good effort.''
Lightning interim coach Rick Tocchet was less than pleased with the effort -- or lack thereof -- his team put forth in the early stages of the game. Tampa Bay outshot Atlanta 17-7 in the third.
''Just not interested,'' Tocchet said. ''Maybe it's the coaching staff's fault. I don't know. We're pretty disappointed in some guys.''

Red Wings 5, Predators 3 | VIDEO
Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk each had two goals and an assist on Tuesday night, as Detroit won its fifth straight with a victory at Nashville.

The Wings have bounced back from their worst stretch of the season, as they were held winless between Jan. 17-31, but managed to get back on the winning track on Feb. 2 against St. Louis.
They haven't lost since.

''I think our energy level is better,'' Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. ''We talked about that quite a bit. We had no energy there for a period of time. We have more energy now, and we're attacking better and I think that's real important.''

The Red Wings cruised out to a 3-0 lead as Zetterberg and Datsyuk each scored in the first period before Marian Hossa tallied his 31st goal of the season -- and his seventh in five games -- at 4:18 of the second. But the Predators crawled back into the game as Radek Bonk and Joel Ward scored less than six minutes apart to make it a one-goal game despite the fact that the Wings outshot Nashville 41-14 through the first two periods.

"We showed them way too much respect and gave them way too much space,'' said Preds coach Barry Trotz, whose team had won five of seven since the All-Star break.

"I think our energy level is better.  We talked about that quite a bit. We had no energy there for a period of time. We have more energy now, and we're attacking better and I think that's real important." -- Red Wings coach Mike Babcock

Zetterberg scored his second of the game with a backhander over Pekka Rinne's 's shoulder at 3:10 of the third for his 20th goal. Ward pulled Nashville within 4-3 when he scored under Ty Conklin's (18 saves) outstretched glove at 10:36.

''Every night nowadays is like a playoff game,'' Conklin said. ''The big thing for us sometimes is to match the other team's intensity, especially when teams are in that mind-set.''
Datsyuk secured the victory for the Wings when he scored into an empty net at 19:48. The Russian star has 12 points in his last seven contests.

Canucks 6, Blues 4 | VIDEO

Mats Sundin is finding his groove.
After a slow start with his new club, Sundin scored two more goals on Tuesday night to help Vancouver rally to its third straight victory at St. Louis.
''It's a process for myself, but I think the last four or five games the legs are there,'' Sundin said after his team scored four times in the third period. ''I don't feel better or worse than what I thought it would be after 10 or 11 games.''
The Canucks have outscored their opponents 17-10 the last three games after losing eight straight. Vancouver capitalized on three power plays in the four-goal third period, scoring on one and getting the go-ahead goal six seconds after a tripping call on Barret Jackman expired.
Skating on a line with Ryan Kesler and Pavol Demitra, Sundin has four goals in three games and has totaled six goals and 10 points in 12 contests since signing a free agent deal with Vancouver in December.
''Ryan, in my book, is having a breakthrough season and Pavol is a veteran guy who knows where to go on the ice,'' Sundin said. ''It's been fun playing with those two guys.''
It wasn't fun early on, as the Blues jumped out to a 2-0 lead late in the first period. Steve Wagner beat Roberto Luongo at 18:27 before Brad Boyes tallied his 24th goal of the season with four seconds left.
''It's the kind of game that rips your heart out,'' Blues coach Andy Murray said after his team failed to escape the Western Conference cellar for the first time since Dec. 13. ''It's a real tough one to lose.''
Sundin had the deficit down to one goal after the second period, as both of his goals were scored in the middle frame and were sandwiched by Keith Tkachuk's 17th goal of the season at 6:01. Kesler tied the game 7:58 into the third, but Andy McDonald restored the Blues' lead less than two minutes later.
'Probably my timing is a little bit off and I'm a little bit slow making decisions,'' said McDonald, who signed a four-year extension with the club after missing 36 games with a broken ankle. ''But I was excited to be out there.''
Alex Burrows tied the game again for Vancouver at 11:50 before Jannik Hansen stuffed a rebound past Chris Mason to finally give the Canucks the lead with 4:42 remaining. Demitra iced the victory with an empty-net tally at 19:51.
''You look at the standings and St. Louis has been playing so well,'' Sundin said. ''We showed a lot of character, and hopefully we can build on this.''

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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