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Leafs get the bounce to beat Sabres

by Brian Hunter / NHL.com
The Buffalo Sabres climbed back over the .500 mark with their recent three-game winning streak. The Toronto Maple Leafs are attempting to follow suit.

Defenseman Ian White scored for the second game in a row, beating Ryan Miller on a bouncing wrist shot from the left point with 7:56 left in regulation, and the Leafs made it two straight victories by beating the Sabres 2-1 on Friday night at HSBC Arena and ending their three-game win streak.

"You're always surprised to see something like that go in," White said after scoring his fifth goal of the season. "I just tried to keep the puck in at the blue line, threw it on net, and sometimes good things happen."

Jeremy Williams also scored and Vesa Toskala stopped 24 shots for Toronto, now 11-12-6 and only three points behind Buffalo for third in the Northeast Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

"We still gave up a few too many chances, but they weren't able to score," said Toskala, who made his eighth straight start. "But I think we're moving in the right direction. We just keep improving as a team and trying to get better every game."

Toronto's defense was bolstered by the return of Mike Van Ryn, who missed 13 games with a broken bone in his hand and a concussion after he was checked from behind by Tom Kostopoulos on Nov. 8. The Leafs also killed 5:44 of power-play time for the Sabres bridging the second and third periods with the score tied. They yielded just one shot on goal after entering the game with the NHL's 27th-ranked penalty-killing unit.

"Obviously if we don't kill penalties we don't win the game," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. "That was huge."

Buffalo, which was missing captain Craig Rivet due to an upper-body injury, got the lone goal of the first period. Toni Lydman scored his first goal of the season 6:02 in when the defenseman beat Toskala with a wrist shot from the lower portion of the left circle.

 
 


Williams, who had scored in his season debut Monday against the Islanders, made it two goals in two games when he evened the score 2:21 before the second intermission. Pavel Kubina set him up with a behind-the-back drop pass at the Buffalo blue line and Williams did the rest, skating to the top of the left circle and wristing a shot past Miller.

"We did a good job of making them look good," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "We had tons of opportunities but you let teams hang around you're going to make a mistake of letting them get a goal."

Miller finished with 31 saves but couldn't come up with White's drive, which appeared harmless but ended up taking a hop off the ice and over Miller's left shoulder.

"We had our looks and they had their chances," Miller said. "Would've liked to have been beat clean by something, but I have to be smarter next time."

Capitals 5, Senators 1
| Video

Mike Green and Sergei Fedorov returned to the Washington lineup with a bang, helping the Capitals to survive yet another key injury that struck earlier Friday and led to the team's Web site producer dressing as a backup goalie for part of the game.

Back from injuries, Green notched a goal and two assists while Fedorov chipped in three assists to back a solid effort by Brent Johnson in net. Johnson made 32 saves and was 2:23 away from a shutout before Jesse Winchester scored for Ottawa.

Johnson started because Jose Theodore had suffered a hip flexor injury during the morning skate. Brett Leonhardt, a 6-foot-7 former Division III goalie who has been a club employee for about a year, served as Johnson's backup until around midway through the first period, when Hershey goalie Simeon Varlamov, whose team was out in San Antonio, finally made it to the Verizon Center.

"Every dream come true," Leonhardt said. "Growing up in Canada, playing since I was 4. It was just very surreal. It was a blur, went by real quick."

Alex Ovechkin scored twice for the Capitals, who also received goals from Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich in improving to 12-1-1 at home, the best mark in the Eastern Conference. Nicklas Backstrom added three assists.

"Sometimes when you see the adversity of the goaltending situation like it was evolving today, the players dig deeper for a teammate, for Johnnie," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said, "and I thought we played a pretty good game."

Semin, who was also bitten by the injury bug after getting off to a scorching start, scored his 14th of the season and first since Nov. 12 when he dragged the puck in front of the crease and beat Alex Auld on a backhander 3:55 into the first period.

Laich got his first goal since Nov. 20 by scoring to Auld's glove side from high in the slot at 4:48 of the second, and Ovechkin made it 3-0 with 35 seconds left in the middle period on a screened power-play slap shot from the top of the slot.

Green and Ovechkin stretched the Capitals' lead to five by scoring power-play goals 21 seconds apart in the third. Green, who missed 11 games with a shoulder injury, scored at 13:44 after Chris Kelly was called for high sticking. Kelly was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after Green's goal and went right back to the box, leading to Ovechkin's second of the game and 17th of the season. Fedorov, who had missed 16 of the past 17 games with a sprained ankle, assisted on both goals.

"I think sometimes when you get up there in hockey age and you're out for a while, you realize how much you miss the game. I know it's certainly true when I got older," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "You just miss the game, so when you get a chance to get back, you're so excited, and I think he was very excited to play, very excited to get back today."

Winchester's goal prevented the Senators from being blanked for a second straight game. Ottawa remained the lowest-scoring team in the League.

"We need to get going," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "The last two games haven't been good at all. It's a bad loss for us."

Bruins 7, Thrashers 3 | Video

In a span of eight months, Phil Kessel has gone from a healthy scratch during the Stanley Cup Playoffs to one of the hottest players in the League and playing for the Eastern Conference's top team.

Kessel extended his NHL-best points streak to 14 straight games with a goal and two assists and Boston wasted little time in taking it to Atlanta, scoring four times on its first five shots and silencing the crowd at Philips Arena.

"We got the jump on them early," Kessel said. "It was nice to get a lot of guys on the scoreboard."

Defenseman Mark Stuart started and ended the scoring for the Bruins with a pair of goals. Zdeno Chara, Michael Ryder, Stephane Yelle and Milan Lucic also had goals, and Tim Thomas made 30 saves as the team bounced back from a loss to Washington on Wednesday and improved to 15-2-1 since the end of October.

"There are a lot of good things going on," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "It's nice to be where we are. The month of November really propelled us."

Todd White, Ilya Kovalchuk and Vyacheslav Kozlov tallied for the Thrashers, who travel to Boston for the completion of the home-and-home on Saturday. Ondrej Pavelec started in goal, was pulled in favor of Johan Hedberg after allowing three goals on four shots, then returned to make one save in the third after Hedberg stopped 16 of 20 shots.

"It was one of those games where I wouldn't have stopped a beach ball," Pavelec said. "If I want to play in the NHL, I have to be better than that."

Boston grabbed the early lead on goals 37 seconds apart, as David Krejci set up Stuart at 3:31 and Yelle followed by putting a shot between Pavelec's pads at 4:08. Kessel assisted on Chara's wraparound goal at 8:41, leading to the goalie switch, and Ryder welcomed Hedberg to the game at 11:56 with a power-play score.
   
White deflected a Kovalchuk shot past Thomas for a power-play goal with 3:44 left in the first, and neither team scored in the second. But Joseph Crabb was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct late in the period for boarding Kessel, who responded with his 18th of the season 1:15 into the third.

"Obviously you don't want to get hit from behind," Kessel said. "It's dangerous. I don't think he tried to hurt me, but you can't run someone through the boards like that."

Each team added a pair of goals later in the third, with Kovalchuk making it 5-2 at 3:14 before Lucic and Stuart scored 2:38 apart to put Boston ahead by five. Kozlov had the final goal of the night with seven minutes remaining.
   
"It was just one of those nights," Atlanta coach John Anderson said. "I'm not sure we can afford to have one of those nights, but they happen."

Stars 3, Red Wings 1 | Video

A pair of rookies and a veteran goalie gave Dallas the type of effort it's going to need to climb out of an early hole in the standings and get back to the playoffs.

Tom Wandell scored his first NHL goal, Fabian Brunnstrom also scored and Marty Turco was stellar in making 37 saves as the Stars beat Detroit at American Airlines Center in the first meeting between the teams since the Red Wings won last season's Western Conference Finals.

"We've been playing really well against top teams this year," said Turco, a former University of Michigan star who had been just 2-10-5 in his career against Detroit. "We should probably remember we're in the basement, everyone's a top team compared to us. These games, we knew what to expect from those guys. They like to put the puck around the net, get guys to the net. We did an incredible job blocking some (shots), picking up some rebounds."

Mike Ribeiro added an empty-netter with a minute remaining, one of only three shots for Dallas in the third period as the Wings pushed furiously for the tying goal. Turco, who entered the game with a 3.41 goals-against average, wouldn't let them have it, turning aside 29 shots over the final 40 minutes.
"We should probably remember we're in the basement, everyone's a top team compared to us." -- Stars' goalie Marty Turco


"That's going to have to be the formula for our team right now, it's just as simple as that. Our goaltending has to be good, we have to be as efficient as we can as a group, find some ways to score some goals and defend like crazy, and that's what we did tonight," Dallas coach Dave Tippett said.

Defenseman Brett Lebda opened the scoring in the first for the Wings, who got 21 saves from goalie Ty Conklin in his third consecutive start.

Lebda's second of the season came 6:05 into the game as he took a Jiri Hudler pass and beat Turco from the right circle. The Wings held the lead through the end of the period by killing off 1:31 of a 5-on-3 advantage for the Stars and an additional 16 seconds to begin the second.

"You're not going to win every night," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "Tonight I just didn't think for whatever reason we got started, and yet we weren't terrible. It's not like they carried the play or anything like that. They had the big 5-on-3 power play in the first where they got some rubber on our net, but other than that we controlled most of the game tonight."

Wandell, who made his NHL debut Wednesday against Phoenix, tied the game 5:47 into the middle period by capitalizing on a Detroit turnover and beating Conklin from the slot.

"I really can't describe the feeling right now," Wandell said. "I have to wake up first."

Brunnstrom scored the go-ahead goal, his ninth, from the high slot just 1:40 after that.

Blackhawks 4, Avalanche 3 | Video

Joel Quenneville enjoyed a happy homecoming and has Dustin Byfuglien largely to thank for it.

Byfuglien's second goal of the night with 6:09 remaining snapped a tie and led Chicago to a win over Colorado at Pepsi Center, where Quenneville coached many a game behind the home team's bench over the years.
   
"It's always good to be back here. I love it here," said Quenneville, who enjoyed a .579 winning percentage in Colorado over the past three seasons and was also an assistant on the 1996 Stanley Cup championship team. "It was unfortunate the way it ended. ... We like Chicago now and we're getting settled. But certainly, it's always good to be back here."

Craig Adams and Andrew Ladd also scored for the Blackhawks, who have lost only four times in regulation in 23 games since Quenneville replaced Denis Savard as coach. They are 13-4-6 in that stretch.

"We know how much it meant to him. Any time you're playing an old team, there's a little more motivation to get a win," Ladd said. "We definitely wanted to get the win for him."

Chris Stewart, Ian Laperriere and Wojtek Wolski had goals for the Avalanche, who lost for the first time in their last five home games. By the same token, the 'Hawks had dropped four straight on the road entering the night.

Ladd's goal midway through the third beat Peter Budaj between the legs and erased a 3-2 deficit. Less than four minutes later, Byfuglien redirected a pass from Martin Havlat past Budaj just after Colorado had successfully killed a hooking penalty to Jordan Leopold.

"It was nice to finally get on the sheet like that," said Byfuglien, who had scored just three times coming in. "They weren't pretty goals, but they were hardworking goals."

Adams' first goal of the season 2:31 into the first gave the Blackhawks a brief lead, but the Avalanche went ahead 2-1 by period's end. Stewart scored off a slap shot at 10:50, just after a power play expired, and Laperriere deflected a John-Michael Liles pass from the boards over the shoulder of Nikolai Khabibulin.

Byfuglien tied the score with the lone goal of the second period, scoring on a breakaway at 7:30, but Wolski put the Avalanche back in front 3:43 into the third with a shootout-like goal, as he took a pass coming out of his own end, split a pair of Chicago defensemen with a burst of speed and slapped one past Khabibulin.
   
Quenneville and the Blackhawks had the last laugh, though the Avalanche didn't exactly look at it that way.

"Joel really liked it here, he has friends here, but I don't see Joel out there. I see the young Chicago Blackhawks," Laperriere said. "I have enough to worry about with them. I think Joel's a nice man and I'm happy he's doing well in Chicago."

Panthers 3, Flames 2 (SO) | Video

After Craig Anderson seized the reins and got a lot of the glory during Florida's recent hot streak, former starter Tomas Vokoun made the most of his chance to play and kept the Panthers' hot streak going.

Vokoun made 35 saves through regulation and overtime, then stopped all three Calgary attempts in the shootout, and Florida got a goal from Stephen Weiss during the penalty-shot tiebreaker to prevail at Pengrowth Saddledome and improve to 7-1-2 in its last 10 games.

"It's a true team effort over the last few weeks to keep this thing going and get ourselves out of the hole we dug a little earlier in the season," Weiss said.

Kamil Kreps had a goal and an assist to double his point total for the season and Jay Bouwmeester also scored in regulation for the Panthers, who last won in Calgary on Nov. 6, 1999, and hadn't beaten the Flames overall since Nov. 9, 2002.
   
"It started with Tomas Vokoun tonight," Florida coach Peter DeBoer said. "He was outstanding for us. I think the guys kind of fed off his energy."

Rene Bourque scored twice for Calgary, which has lost three straight. Miikka Kiprusoff turned aside 27 shots.
"I don't care if I'm getting the winners.  It doesn't matter who, as long as we're winning games. That's the most important thing. It's certainly not a one-man show by any means." -- Panthers' forward Stephen Weiss


"We had our chances in overtime and in the third and we just didn't capitalize in the shootout and that was the difference," Bourque said.

Weiss beat Kiprusoff in the third round of the shootout after Vokoun had made a stop on Jarome Iginla. Weiss made a deke to the backhand before slipping the puck through the goaltender's pads.

"I don't care if I'm getting the winners," said Weiss, who also had the deciding goals in a 2-0 win in Edmonton on Thursday night and a 4-3 victory in Ottawa last Monday night. "It doesn't matter who, as long as we're winning games. That's the most important thing. It's certainly not a one-man show by any means."

It was a measure of redemption for Weiss, who inadvertently tipped a pass by Vokoun and into the net to give the Flames a 1-0 lead with 3:53 left in the first. The goal was credited to Bourque, the last Calgary player to touch the puck. Kreps drew the Panthers even 1:56 later with a shorthanded goal, stealing the puck from Mark Giordano at the Calgary blue line and raced in to beat Kiprusoff for his first of the season.

Bouwmeester put the Panthers ahead 2-1 at 1:45 of the second with a drive from the point that appeared to hit something in front before getting past Kiprusoff. But it took only 1:27 for Bourque to score again, showing a bit more skill this time in tapping a no-look, behind-the-back pass from Curtis Glencross into the net.

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








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