makes everyone he plays against a threat to score. Having him on the ice -- even in an opposition uniform -- seems to do wonders for Jason Blake
Blake scored his first goal since Oct. 18 on Saturday night as the Toronto Maple Leafs beat Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-2, at Air Canada Centre. It was only the third goal of the season for Blake, but two have come against the Penguins. The speedy forward has 19 goals and 39 points against the Penguins, the most he’s had against any team.
''It hasn't been the start I was looking for coming into Toronto,'' said Blake, who signed with the Leafs during the summer after spending the majority of his career with the New York Islanders. ''It felt great that one finally went in for me.”
Blake ended his drought 2:01 into the second period ( 700K ) when he took a feed from Kyle Wellwood on a 2-on-0 break and beat Dany Sabourin for his first goal in 19 games, giving the Leafs a 2-0 lead.
''It's not that I haven't been getting my chances,” said Blake, who had 115 shots on goal entering the game. “That's the frustrating part, but my goal is to stay positive, work hard, keep my chin up and keep shooting.''
Mark Bell put Toronto in front 3:56 into the game ( 700K ) with his first goal as a Maple Leaf; Mats Sundin's assist on Bell's goal extended his point streak in home games from the start of the season to a club-record 15. Babe Dye's mark of 14 had stood since the 1924-25 season.
The goal was special for Bell, who said he will give the puck to his 5-year-old nephew in Ontario.
''He's a little guy fighting for his life every day,'' Bell said. ''He wears my jersey every game. He's got a home and away jersey. He'll love it.''
Joey, the son of Bell's sister, has always been in a wheelchair.
''They gave him four weeks to live and he's 5 now and will be 6 soon,'' Bell said. ''It puts things in perspective when you go home and see the little guy. I go see him every chance I get.''
Blake’s goal gave the Leafs a two-goal lead and Nik Antropov got credit for a power-play goal at 14:09 ( 700K ), when Bryan McCabe’s point shot hit him and deflected past Sabourin.
Meanwhile, the Leafs were shutting down Crosby, who showed little of the jump he had while scoring two goals in Friday night’s 4-1 home victory over Dallas. Crosby fell on his left knee in the middle of the second period when he was tripped by goalie Vesa Toskala, who was penalized, and grimaced in pain on the bench. But he shook it off and was on the ice for his next shift.
''It's all right,'' he said. ''I twisted my foot a bit, but, other than that, it's fine. It was my ankle. Just a bruise.''
Toskala, who has taken the starting job for the Leafs, stopped 30 shots — and impressed Crosby.
''He played well,'' the Penguins’ captain said. ''I think we could've done a better job of getting some traffic in front, but he made some big saves — a breakaway, some odd-man rushes — so you definitely have to give him some credit.''
The Penguins finally broke through in the third period when Toskala stopped Colby Armstrong’s shot, only to see the puck deflect off Ryan Malone’s knee and into the net at 8:15 ( 700K ). Crosby helped make the sellout crowd nervous when he set up Eric Christensen’s power-play goal with 2:05 to play ( 700K ).
Pittsburgh had a couple of good chances to tie the game before Alex Ponikarovsky hit the empty net with 58 seconds left ( 700K ).
''We had some chances to tie it up in the third, but I don't think we gave ourselves a good chance in the first two periods,'' Crosby said.
Rangers 5, Senators 2 | Video
Ottawa’s sizzling start is becoming an increasingly-distant memory. The Rangers ended a five-game losing streak to the Senators by scoring three times in the first period at Scotiabank Place.
Ottawa, which started the season 15-2-0, has lost six in a row and is 1-5-2 in its last eight games. The Rangers, who struggled for much of October, are just two points behind the Senators for first in the Eastern Conference.
“Ottawa's having a bit of a tough stretch right now, as everybody does, and we respect that as much as anybody because we've been through that," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "The gap's been closed by a combination of the fact that we've played better and they've been having a bit of a tough go."
Daniel Girardi ( 700K ), Brendan Shanahan ( 700K ) and Jaromir Jagr ( 700K ) scored in the first 11:40 against Martin Gerber, who shut out the Rangers 2-0 in their last visit to Ottawa on Oct. 6. This time, he was lifted in favor of Ray Emery before the second period after allowing three goals on 12 shots.
"We came in here definitely catching a team down," Shanahan said, "and when a team is down, you want to jump on them and you don't want to give them a chance to build confidence and build good things."
Shanahan scored again midway through the second period ( 700K ) to give New York a 4-0 lead.
'You get down 4-0 you're not going to beat anybody in this league,'' said Ottawa forward Jason Spezza. ''It doesn't matter how well you play after that. We battled back but it doesn't mean a heck of lot when you get down 4-0.''
Ottawa defenseman Joe Corvo beat Henrik Lundqvist at 14:28 ( 700K ) and Dany Heatley made it a two-goal game when he scored with 5:58 left in regulation ( 700K ). The Senators had a power play just over a minute later, but the Rangers killed it off and Blair Betts hit the empty net with 42 seconds remaining ( 700K ).
"I thought towards the end of the second and into the third, we showed a little more energy in their zone," Senators coach John Paddock said. "We're a good hockey team that's a lot better than we're playing right now. But we're not winning lots of battles in the corners, either offensively or defensively."
Thrashers 4, Islanders 0 | Video
Talk about a goaltender’s nightmare: Islanders goaltender Wade Dubielewicz, who hadn’t played since Nov. 3, faced Ilya Kovalchuk on a breakaway in the first half-minute of the game. Kovalchuk scored to start a four-goal first period ( 700K ) that let the Thrashers coast to a victory at the Nassau Coliseum.
“I thought we’d be ready to play,” Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. “We underestimated their speed. They took it to us in the first five or 10 minutes.”
Eric Boulton, Marian Hossa and Vyacheslav Kozlov also scored in the opening period for Atlanta, which snapped a three-game losing streak. They made things easy for goalie Kari Lehtonen, who stopped 33 shots but was rarely tested in his first game back after missing 16 with a groin injury.
''I don't think you can ask for anything better than what happened to Kari,'' Atlanta coach Don Waddell said. ''He was on top of his game.''
Lehtonen was grateful for all the early support.
''It's nice to be back,'' Lehtonen said, ''and it's nice to see everybody play well.''
Bolton banged in a rebound at 6:12 ( 700K ) after Dubielewicz couldn’t control Jim Slater’s shot. Marian Hossa made it 3-0 just 50 seconds later ( 700K ) on a breakaway and Kozlov scored on a bad-angled wrist shot with 13 seconds left in the period ( 700K ) following a bad clearing attempt by the Islanders.
''We were better prepared, and we played better as a team,'' Atlanta forward Bobby Holik said.
That was more than enough support for Lehtonen, who breezed to his first shutout of the season and eighth of his career. He didn’t see a shot until the Thrashers had a 3-0 lead.
The Islanders have scored two or fewer goals in 12 straight games, going 5-6-1 in that span.
Dubielewicz started for the first time since Oct. 11; Rick DiPietro had started the Isles’ previous 18 games, and Kovalchuk said the early blitz was part of the Thrashers’ plan. ''We knew they played a goalie that doesn't play a lot,'' Kovalchuk said, ''so we wanted to jump on them early.''
Red Wings 3, Coyotes 2 | Video
Detroit didn’t bring its “A” game against Phoenix, but they still played well enough to beat the visiting Coyotes, thanks to a third-period rally.
Henrik Zetterberg and Dan Cleary scored in the first 5:04 of the final period as Detroit overcame a 2-1 deficit.
“We started fine, but we got casual," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.
Phoenix came to Detroit after a 6-1 pasting in Chicago on Friday, and Babcock said the Coyotes’ blowout loss wasn’t the best thing for his team.
“Everyone saw last night,” he said. “It wasn’t a surprise to me,” he added of Phoenix’s spirited performance.
Pavel Datsyuk’s power-play tip-in at 7:46 of the first period ( 700K ) put Detroit ahead. But the Coyotes dominated the second period and scored twice to take the lead.
Daniel Winnik made it 1-1 at 5:17 ( 700K ) when he capitalized on Detroit defenseman Andreas Lilja's giveaway deep in the Wings zone. Winnik took the puck, skated in on Chris Osgood, made a fake and put a high forehand shot into the net for his third goal.
Fredrik Sjostrom gave the Coyotes the lead with 5:40 left in the period ( 700K ) when he put the rebound of a carom off the backboards past Osgood.
But Zetterberg tied it 39 seconds into the third period ( 700K ) when he chipped a rebound over Ilya Bryzgalov. Cleary put Detroit ahead to stay with another power-play goal ( 700K ), beating Bryzgalov with a one-timer from the right circle on a pass from Jiri Hudler.
"We played OK 5-on-5," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. "We got beat on specialty teams."
Cleary also said Detroit got back to the way it normally plays in the third period after the second-period slump.
"We all know what we're capable of if we stick to the game plan and do what we're told and work our system," he said. "We did that in the third period."
Sabres 8, Hurricanes 1 | Video
The old adage says you can’t score if you don’t shoot. Buffalo efforts to put the puck on the net worked better than anyone could have expected, as the Sabres scored eight times on 25 shots to rout Carolina at HSBC Arena.
The Sabres scored early and often. Ales Kotalik ( 700K ) and Tim Connolly ( 700K ) gave Buffalo a 2-0 lead just 4:18 into the game. Adam Mair ( 700K ) and Maxim Afinogenov ( 700K ) scored less than a minute apart late in the second period.
“We didn't have a strong second period when they were trying to come back, but we were able to extend the lead by two goals at the same time," Kotalik said. "In the third, the game just slipped away from them."
Kotalik had his second of the night in Buffalo’s four-goal third period ( 700K ). Ray Whitney’s power-play goal with 1:55 remaining ( 700K ) spoiled Ryan Miller’s shutout.
"You don't expect games like that to happen," said Buffalo defenseman Brian Campbell, who had two assists after being named captain for the month of December prior to the game. "It was a bonus, obviously, and guys deserved it. It's something we can build off of."
Hurricanes defenseman Glen Wesley said the team let goalie John Grahame down.
''We hung him out to dry,'' Wesley said. ''He deserves better.''
Grahame finished with just 17 saves, including a stop on Drew Stafford’s second-period penalty shot.
"They came out with jump," Grahame said. "They just kept coming at us and coming at us. Anytime you let eight goals in, you're not doing something right."
Stars 4, Flyers 1 | Video
Dallas had every reason to be tired — the Stars were playing their fifth game in seven days on a swing through the Atlantic Division. But after allowing a goal to Randy Jones 41 seconds into the game ( 700K ), Dallas bounced back and stifled the Flyers.
''We maximized our energy,'' coach Dave Tippett said after his team’s sixth game in nine days.
After Jones banked the puck into the net off goaltender Marty Turco, the Stars regrouped and tied the game at 15:25 when Jeff Halpern redirected Steve Ott’s shot behind Martin Biron ( 700K ). Jussi Jokinen broke the tie 1:42 into the second period ( 700K ) when he deflected Philippe Boucher's shot with the shaft of his stick over Biron's right shoulder.
Dallas then scored a pair of power-play goals within a span of 1:54. After Miettinen snapped a shot from the left circle past Biron at 13:22 ( 700K ), Brendan Morrow’s steal and pass set up Mike Ribeiro’s goal ( 700K ).
''We were able to use the energy we had in a real positive way and get a lead,'' Tippett said. ''When you're playing with the lead, you don't use nearly as much energy. It's a matter of winning the little battles, the special teams and making good solid plays.''
The Stars limited Philadelphia to just 18 shots, and Flyers coach John Stevens said his team ''got overwhelmed'' by Dallas' hard work.
''They didn't play a very good game last night,'' Stevens said of the Stars, who were beaten 4-1 in Pittsburgh on Friday and did not play well.
''They come in here to make amends and we didn't welcome the work, bottom line.''
Biron, who stopped 26 shots, said the Stars took the play to the Flyers in the second period.
''We had our hands full with whatever they were throwing at us,'' he said. ''They work extremely hard.''
Blues 3, Blackhawks 1 | Video
Lee Stempniak ended his 19-game goal-scoring drought on Friday. He now has a two-game scoring streak after getting his second in two nights as St. Louis beat Chicago for its sixth straight victory at Scottrade Center.
''For me, I had a sense that it had been coming for a while,'' Stempniak said. ''I felt like I had been playing good for three or four games leading up to (Friday).”
Stempniak gave the Blues a 1-0 lead 3:07 into the game ( 700K ), racing around Chicago defenseman Jim Vandermeer before tucking a backhand shot between Patrick Lalime's blocker and right side.
''I had a lot of speed just coming around the side and it was a race to the far post,'' said Stempniak, who wound up leaping onto the net. ''I was lucky I got the shot where I wanted it, slid it under (Lalime's) arm. He was leaning. It was good to get a goal in back-to-back games.''
D.J. King ( 700K ) and Mike Johnson ( 700K ) also scored for St. Louis, which improved to 8-1-1 in its last 10 games.
''We knew we had to have a high work standard tonight,'' coach Andy Murray said. ''That was the message tonight was that we needed to outwork a hardworking team.''
Robert Lang scored in the third period ( 700K ) for the Blackhawks, whose two-game winning streak was snapped. It was his first goal in 11 games.
“We didn’t handle their physical play,” Chicago coach Denis Savard said. “Give them credit: They came out and played hard. We didn’t match their effort.. We didn’t create much in the first two periods.”
Blues center Keith Tkachuk played in his 1,000th career NHL game, becoming the 224th player and the 28th U.S.-born player to reach that milestone.
Lightning 4, Bruins 1 | Video
Neither the Boston Bruins -- nor a puck in the face -- could stop Vincent Lecavalier from scoring two goals and helping Tampa Bay end a six-game skid.
Lecavalier connected twice in the first period, then added an assist.
''It's definitely a confidence-booster,'' Lecavalier said of the victory. ''You could feel right from the beginning we played very well.''
Last season’s Rocket Richard Trophy winner had a large welt on his right cheek, courtesy of a tipped puck in the second period.
''It feels all right,'' Lecavalier said. ''First time I ever got a puck that hard in the face. It doesn't feel too good.''
Lecavalier's first goal was his 250th in the NHL, coming in his 655th game. He has 16 goals and 39 points in 34 games against Boston.
''There's no question he's the best player in the game right now up to this point,'' Boston center Marc Savard said. ''He's a tough guy to contain when he's skating.''
Mathieu Darche ( 700K ) and Martin St. Louis ( 700K ) had the other goals for Tampa Bay. Glen Murray scored for Boston ( 700K ), which lost for the second time in six games.
Lecavalier stole the puck from Zdeno Chara and put his own rebound past Tim Thomas 5:45 into the game ( 700K ). His power-play goal at 15:53 made it 2-0 ( 700K ), and the Bruins never recovered. Johan Holmqvist stopped 28 of 29 shots.
''They made things happen,'' Bruins coach Claude Julien said. ''Our best players weren't our best players tonight. It's pretty simple. When you lose games like that, that's normally what happens.”
Capitals 2, Panthers 1 | Video
One of the least-picturesque goals of Alexander Ovechkin’s young career was still a thing of beauty for Washington, which won in Florida on what Ovechkin conceded was “a lucky goal.”
Less than two minutes after Florida defenseman Branislav Mezei had tied the score at 1-1 ( 700K ), Ovechkin was standing parallel to the Florida net, to the right of goaltender Tomas Vokoun, and saw it deflect off the goalie and into the net ( 700K ).
"I was trying to shoot the puck to create a rebound for (Viktor) Kozlov, but it was a lucky rebound and went into the net," he said.
Brad Johnson made 24 saves for the Caps, which had lost its first three games against Florida and dropped its last three overall.
"It's about time something good happened," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "How many chances did we have where Vokoun stoned us? We needed a break."
Vokoun finished with 41 saves, but blamed himself for the game-winner.
"I still can't believe it," Vokoun said. "It's how we lose that's bothering me. We got outplayed and outhustled. We're professionals and we have to be held accountable."
Brian Pothier scored 3:53 into the game ( 700K ) for the Capitals when his point shot hit Vokoun’s pads and went into the net.
Soft goals aside, the Panthers stayed in the game thanks to their goalie.
"Vokoun gave us a chance," Panthers coach Jacques Martin said. "You score early in the third, you're tied, and then you give them a goal. That's not good enough."
Blue Jackets 4, Flames 3, OT | Video
Curtis Glencross gave his family and friends at the Pengrowth Saddledome something to cheer about by scoring two goals, including the game-winner in overtime, to give Columbus a victory in the windup of a Western Canada trip.
“It’s a dream come true to play a Saturday night in Calgary in front of your friends and family,” the 24-year-old native of Kindersley, Saskatchewan, said. “I wound up getting the game-winner and two goals.”
Columbus blew a 2-0 lead, but got the victory when Glencross drove to the net and rammed Kris Beech’s blind pass behind Miikka Kiprusoff.
“We didn’t want to go home without a win,” Glencross said. “It’s nice to pull one off here in the last game.”
Beech and Nikolai Zherdev also scored for Columbus, which went 1-2 on its trip through Western Canada. Jarome Iginla, Daymond Langkow and Adrian Aucoin scored for the Flames, who have lost four in a row and are 2-5-1 in their last eight home games.
Beech gave the Jackets a 3-2 lead 4:07 into the third period when his pass was deflected into the net by Calgary’s Alex Tanguay. But Calgary got even 15 seconds later when Iginla won a faceoff in the Columbus zone to Aucoin, whose shot ticked Columbus defenseman Adam Foote’s skate and went past Fredrik Norrena.
Zherdev and Glencross scored in the first period to give Columbus a 2-0 lead. But Langkow got Calgary on the board at 9:05, and Iginla, the Flames’ best player all night, tied it at 15:17.
“Jarome looks like he’s trying to win the game on each and every shift,” assistant coach Jim Playfair said.
But after the Flames had the better chances in overtime, Glencross won it by going to the net.
“He’s a young guy — a really gifted player,” Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said. “He has a nose for the net and he knows where to go. I like him as a kid and I like him as a player.”
Avalanche 5, Kings 2 | Video
With Joe Sakic sidelined due to a groin injury, Ryan Smyth stepped up with a pair of third-period goals as Colorado spotted Los Angeles a two-goal lead before rallying for a rare road win.
“Not one or two guys can fill Joe’s role,” Smyth said. “He’s a huge impact on this hockey club. We collectively talked about all of us stepping up. Minus a guy like him, it’s tough battling through.”
It got even tougher early in the game. Patrick O’Sullivan set up goals by Raitis Ivanans at 5:20 and Anze Kopitar at 17:12. But Smyth helped begin the Avalanche’s rally when he set up Paul Stastny’s goal at 18:55, cutting the margin to 2-1.
''We had a great first period and it looked like we were going to have a great game, and then the wheels completely fell off. I wish I had an explanation as to why,'' said Kings coach Marc Crawford, who guided the Avalanche to a Stanley Cup title in 1996.
Rookie T.J. Hensick tied it with his first NHL goal, breaking in alone and beating Jason LaBarbera with a wrist shot at 11:12 of the second period. Smyth put the Avs ahead for the first time 19 seconds into the third period when his centering pass banked into the net off a Kings’ player.
LaBarbera left with a rib injury when he was hit by Smyth during a goalmouth scramble and was replaced by Jean-Sebastien Aubin with 14:40 remaining after stopping 26 of 29 shots. Smyth beat Aubin with a short wrist shot with 8:35 remaining and Jaroslav Hlinka knocked in a rebound with 5:37 left as Colorado ended a three-game losing streak and won for just the fourth time in 14 road games.
“Tonight, we got behind the eight-ball, but with a few key guys that are out, you’ve got to step up,” Smyth said. “Everybody’s got to contribute, and I thought everybody did that. It was a big impact tonight.”
Avs coach Joel Quenneville was pleased at the way his team stepped up without Sakic and Marek Svatos, who missed his second straight game with a groin injury.
"That was satisfying across the board," Quenneville said. "It was nice to see Smitty's line do well. Our energy on the ice and bench was there."
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media were used in this report.