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Leafs shut out struggling Sabres

by John Kreiser
Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Andrew Raycroft and teammate Hal Gill celebrate their 3-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.
The highest-scoring team in the NHL last season is in a slump, and the Toronto Maple Leafs weren’t about to help them end it.
Andrew Raycroft made 30 saves as the Leafs blanked the Sabres 3-0 in Buffalo on Friday night, the second time in three games that the Sabres have been shut out.
It was a big change from the Leafs’ previous visit to Buffalo on Oct. 15, when they blew a 2-0 lead and lost 5-4 in overtime when Toronto defenseman Bryan McCabe accidentally put the puck in his own net with four seconds left in OT.
This time, McCabe again got the winner — into the correct goal — when he beat goaltender Ryan Miller with a slap shot at 19:24 of the second period after Mats Sundin won a faceoff.
“At least one was for our team, so that's a bonus this time around, I guess,” said McCabe, who returned after missing five games with a groin strain.
Raycroft was brilliant in the first period, stopping all 15 shots he faced. He got some help in the third period when Jochen Hecht hit the post with 14 minutes left — and more assistance from a defense that blocked 20 shots and limited Buffalo to six shots on goal in the final period.
“To win games you have to have breaks,'' said Raycroft, who hadn’t started since Oct. 20, when he allowed five goals in a loss to Chicago. “We had a busy first, but we didn't give them anything in the third. That was the best third period we've played in a really long time.”
Sundin scored a shorthanded goal early in the third period and Boyd Devereaux connected in the final minute for Toronto.
“Andrew had a great game in net, but we played a great game defensively,'' said Sundin, who’s now within one goal of tying Frank Mahovlich for 27th on the all-time goals list and one point of tying Jean Ratelle for 32nd on the all-time points list. “We've scored enough goals but for some reason we've struggled with our defensive play.”
Not as much as the Sabres have struggled offensively. After scoring 308 goals last season, Buffalo has lost its scoring touch. The Sabres have dropped seven of their last 10 games and have scored just seven times in their last five games.
“I don't know what the team is thinking collectively,'' said Miller, who finished with 20 saves. “It was a frustrating kind of game.”
Nor are there any easy answers.
“We’re hitting posts, we’re hitting legs and we’re missing open nets,'' Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said after his club took 30 shots at Toronto’s goal without scoring. “I’m disappointed the puck isn't going into the net.”
Thrashers 4, Panthers 1
Don’t look now, but the Atlanta Thrashers are almost back to the .500 mark — no mean feat for a team that began the season by losing its first six games.
Rookie goalie Ondrej Pavelec stopped 36 shots to win his third straight start and Ilya Kovalchuk scored his eighth goal in four games as Atlanta won at Florida. The Thrashers improved to 7-9-0; they’re 7-3-0 since GM Don Waddell fired coach Bob Hartley and went behind the bench himself.
The Thrashers owe this victory to Pavelec, a 20-year-old from the Czech Republic who was called up from the AHL when starter Kari Lehtonen was injured last month.
“We know him pretty well,” Waddell said. “'We drafted him only a couple of years ago. He was good in training camp, he played well in exhibitions. We have a lot of confidence in him.”
Pavelec was brilliant in the second period, stopping all 14 shots he faced — including Olli Jokinen’s point-blank wrister in the final seconds.
“I just hoped he shot for the glove side because I had opened the blocker side,” Pavelec said. “It was a good save.”
Atlanta led 1-0 after two periods, but Florida pulled even 18 seconds into the third on Nathan Horton’s goal. But Chris Thorburn broke the tie at 3:22, and goals by Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa put the game away.
“We have to put it all together,” said Florida goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who made 23 saves. “We haven’t been able to do that. Some nights yes and some nights no. That's why we have more losses than wins.”
Blackhawks 4, Blues 2 | Video
Patrick Kane continues to show Chicago’s NHL rivals why he was picked No. 1 overall in last June’s draft. The 18-year-old had a first-period power-play goal and added an assist as Chicago won its second straight game.
The Blackhawks dominated the opening period, getting power-play goals from Kane and Jim Vandermeer while outshooting the Blues 15-7. Kane tied the game at 1-1 when he scored with 4:08 left in the period, and Vandermeer beat Manny Legace through a screen less than three minutes later.

“Our power play was awesome for us again,'” Chicago coach Denis Savard said. “'The first 30 minutes we were very good — not that we weren't good in the last 30 — but in the first 30 it was just good puck management.''
Kane had an assist on Vandermeer’s goal and leads all rookies with 19 points in 16 games.
Rene Bourque scored a shorthanded goal 16 seconds into the second period. It was Chicago’s fifth shorthanded goal of the season and third in two games against the Blues. The goal proved to be the game-winner when Blues rookie David Perron beat Patrick Lalime during a power play at 11:17, but St. Louis couldn’t get the equalizer past Lalime, a former Blue playing against his former team for the first time.”
“We were coming back and were challenging them hard in the third period,” St. Louis coach Andy Murray said. “Legace made some good saves early, then their guy made some good saves in the third period. Both goalies had their moments.”
Yanic Perreault hit the empty net for the Hawks with 1:03 left in the game.
“We can’t play from behind every night,” Blues forward Jay McClement said. “We put ourselves in a bad spot right from the start. Manny played great, but we can’t rely that much on him every night.”
Ducks 3, Sharks 2, SO
Andy McDonald (L) and Ryan Getzlaf scored in regulation and again in the shootout in the Anaheim Ducks' 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks.
Both Anaheim and San Jose probably wish the shootout had never been invented, but maybe the Ducks are starting to get the hang of it. Ryan Getzlaf and Andy McDonald scored in regulation and again in the shootout as Anaheim rallied to beat San Jose at Honda Center.
The 2-0 margin gave Anaheim only its ninth victory in 28 shootouts since they were adopted in 2005 — but the Ducks have won their last two tries. San Jose is now 3-11 in shootouts.
“It was a big game for us and it’s a building point for us right now,” Getzlaf said after the Ducks improved to 7-8-3. “That’s obviously a good team over there. We battled tonight and found a way to get it done.”
Joe Thornton’s wrist shot past Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere with 45 seconds left in the second period gave San Jose a 2-1 lead. But McDonald tied the game with 14:04 remaining in regulation, speeding past Jonathan Cheechoo in the Sharks’ zone and beating Evgeni Nabokov with a short wrist shot.
In the shootout, Getzlaf opened with a low wrist shot past Nabokov’s glove and McDonald faked Nabokov to his left before putting the puck between his skates for the game-winner.
“It feels good to win,” McDonald said. “We’ve got a frustrated group in here. We’re fighting for wins. To be able to come from behind like that tonight to win feels good. To be able to contribute like that feels good.”
Torrey Mitchell scored his first NHL goal midway through the first period to give San Jose the lead, but Getzlaf batted in Corey Perry’s rebound at 12:30 of the second period to tie the score.
Mitchell was one of only two rookie forwards who had played in all of his team’s games and not scored a goal.
“I saw he had a step on his defenseman, so I tried to get on the offensive side of my man,” Mitchell said. “I just tipped it. It was a smart play on his part and an easy play for me.”

Canucks 2, Avalanche 1, OT
Henrik Sedin is a playmaker who usually leaves the scoring to his twin brother, Daniel. This time, he got both of Vancouver’s goals as the Canucks won in overtime for just their second victory in eight games at GM Place.
Henrik got the game-winner 1:22 into OT when his pass deflected off Colorado defenseman Kurt Sauer and past a helpless Jose Theodore.

''Most of them are ugly, I don't think I've scored from further out that 10 feet,'' said Henrik, who came into the game with only two goals. ''The second one was supposed to be a pass.''
His first goal was more controversial: Sedin knocked a rebound out of the air and past

Theodore at 4:41 of the second period. The Avalanche claimed that Sedin hit the puck while it was above the crossbar, but after a video review, the goal was allowed.

''It started above the crossbar but I think when I touched the puck it might have been level with the crossbar,'' Henrik said sheepishly. ''I’ll take it.”

The Avalanche weren’t happy with the call.
“They explained it right, but we absolutely, totally disagree,” Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said of the call and the explanation he received from referees Dan O’Halloran and Kelly Sutherland. “It was clearly a mistake in our mind.”
Colorado tied the game 1:01 into the third period on a power-play goal by defenseman John-Michael Liles and outshot the Canucks 9-7 in the final 20 minutes.
“The third period was our best. We’ll take the point,” Quenneville said.
Vancouver, now 8-8-0, got back to the .500 mark with its third consecutive victory. The Canucks also improved to 6-0-0 against the Northwest Division.
“We’ve really eliminated a lot of scoring chances,” said goaltender Roberto Luongo, who made 24 saves. “'It definitely brought the guys together more and we changed a few things in our system as far as our forecheck and guys collapsing down low in the slot area.”

Material from wire services was used in this report.
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