With their playoff hopes on life support, the Toronto Maple Leafs
are thriving by putting in some extra work.
Pavel Kubina got the tying goal with 5:12 left in regulation and the winner 33 seconds into overtime to give the Leafs a 4-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night. It was Toronto's fourth consecutive win -- and the sixth game in a row in which the Leafs have gone past 60 minutes to decide a winner.
After losing two shootouts, the Leafs have sandwiched overtime wins around a pair of shootout victories. With 62 points, they're still seven out of a playoff spot -- but they're not playing like a team that's given up on making the postseason.
"We have nothing to save it for," forward Jamal Mayers said. "We leave it on the line. We're a young team, we're hungry and we never give up."
It would have been easy for the Leafs to roll over after surrendering a two-goal lead to an Ottawa team that, in the end, couldn't overcome a shaky night by rookie goaltender Brian Elliott.
Kubina beat Elliott through the legs on a goal he should have stopped -- and it wasn't the only one.
"He was inconsistent like the rest of us," coach Cory Clouston said of his netminder. "He made a couple of big saves, but if you look back there would be a couple goals he would want back. We're not a good enough team to have one or two bad goals."
In contrast, Curtis Joseph was solid while making 29 saves in his first start since Jan. 1.
"Big thing for us is our goaltenders have made key saves when we need them," coach Ron Wilson said. "That builds confidence up front."
Mayers scored 6:39 into the game on an easy wrist shot that Elliott should have stopped but didn't, and rookie Tim Stapleton made it 2-0 at 15:28 with his first NHL goal. He capitalized when Ottawa center Jason Spezza was trying to clear the puck out and instead ended up pushing it over the goal line.
"The first period was brutal," Ottawa center Mike Fisher said. "We didn't look like a team at all. The second period was really good and we played like we should have from the start."
The Senators, outshot 18-8 in the opening period, looked like a different team after intermission. Ryan Shannon beat Joseph from the slot at 29 seconds, and Jarkko Ruutu tied it at 4:33 by jamming the puck past Joseph. Daniel Alfredsson gave Ottawa its first lead by beating Joseph with a slap shot through his legs 4:26 into the second period.
Devils 7, Panthers 2 | Video
The Devils continue to make Martin Brodeur's comeback easy. They limited Florida to just 17 shots while Zach Parise had two goals and an assist. It was New Jersey's second- straight win with Brodeur back after missing 50 games -- and New Jersey has outscored its opponents 11-2 in that span.
"We played well," Parise said after scoring his 37th and 38th goals of the season. "We're not giving them great scoring chances, not giving them the second and third rebounds. It just feels like everything is coming together at this time of the season."
Brodeur, who shut out Colorado 4-0 in his return on Thursday, said he felt good in winning his 546th career game -- moving him within five of tying Patrick Roy's NHL record. The win was the seventh in nine games for New Jersey, which opened a seven-point lead over second-place Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division. The Devils have 20 games remaining in the regular season, including a Sunday afternoon meeting with the Flyers at the Prudential Center.
"That's how you want to be successful, going into the playoffs with good habits defensively," Brodeur said. "It shows. If you play well defensively you can still score four goals and seven goals. Our coach wants us to play well defensively in our own zone because that will make us better offensively."
The Devils were never in trouble in this one, as they peppered Craig Anderson with 46 shots on goal and scored the game's first five goals. Parise scored just 1:18 into the game and gave New Jersey a 2-0 lead just under 16 minutes later. Brendan Shanahan, Travis Zajac, Brian Rolston, David Clarkson and Dainius Zubrus also scored for the Devils, who got a little payback for a 4-0 loss in Florida on Feb. 17.
"I think we have a great hockey team in here and everybody is finding their role," Rolston said. "Obviously, Marty being back gives us that much more confidence. This was a great win against a good hockey team. Everyone is pulling on the rope and it's just nice now."
Ville Peltonen ended Brodeur's bid at a second straight shutout when he beat the future Hall of Famer with 1:30 left in the second period. Bryan McCabe also scored for Florida, which went 0-for-3 on the power play and was held to just four shots in the third.
"We're a team that has to work for everything we get," Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. "When we're off a little bit, we get beat, especially when we are playing against very good teams."
Islanders 2, Sabres 0 | Video
Who is Yann Danis, and why is he playing like an All-Star goaltender? Danis stopped 31 shots for his second shutout in eight days and Sean Bergenheim scored both goals for the Islanders, who stunned Buffalo after captain Bill Guerin was pulled from the lineup after the warmup, apparently to await a trade.
Danis, who struggled badly in limited action during the first half of the season, has been tremendous over the last six weeks. He's allowed just one goal in his last three starts, and his goals-against average has dropped from 4.54 on Jan. 13 to 2.39 as the season enters March.
He's been especially good at the Nassau Coliseum, with shutouts in his last two home starts and a 5-0-2 record in his last seven starts there.
"It feels really good here," Danis said.
The Isles have been waiting for a long time for Bergenheim, their top pick in the 2002 Draft, to produce the way he has recently. He zipped a wrist shot off a scramble past Patrick Lalime 6:13 into the game, then iced the win by banging in Frans Nielsen's quick pass with 2:02 left in regulation.
"I feel really good out there right now," Bergenheim said. "We backchecked well tonight, and we also skated well, too."
That's more than the Sabres could say. Despite playing a team that was a man short, Buffalo showed little urgency for much of the night and missed a chance to pull ahead of Carolina in the race for the last playoff spot in the East. The teams are tied with 69 points.
"Very frustrating. Very frustrating," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said after his team's third consecutive loss. "Every loss will be frustrating, in whatever fashion.
"They played better than we did. That's the bottom line. They made more plays. I thought their puck movement was better. They deserve a lot of credit."
The Sabres had 32 shots and missed a chance to tie the game late in the second period when Ales Kotalik's shot hit the crossbar. Buffalo also pressed for much of the third period before Bergenheim's second goal.
"We had plenty of chances to score, and we didn't put any in," forward Derek Roy said. "It's definitely frustrating."
Ducks 4, Stars 3 | Video
Anaheim picked a good time to get hot on the road. Dallas picked a bad one to go flat at home. Teemu Selanne's goal with 9:39 left in regulation broke a 3-3 tie and lifted the Ducks two points ahead of Dallas, which lost its fourth in a row at American Airlines Center.
The Ducks and Stars entered the day tied with Edmonton and Minnesota for the last two playoff berths in the West. Anaheim improved to 3-2-0 on a six-game trip that ends Tuesday at Chicago. The Stars are 1-4-0 on a six-game homestand that concludes Sunday against Pittsburgh.
"We might need to go on the road a bit," said center Mike Ribeiro, who had two goals and an assist for the Stars. "You can't control what's happened the last few games. But we should have closed that game and got some points out of it."
The Stars overcame a 2-0 deficit and grabbed a 3-2 lead when Ribeiro scored his second of the game 4:22 into the third period. But Corey Perry tied it a backhander past Marty Turco at 8:50, and Andrew Ebbett then stole the puck from James Neal to set up Selanne for his 572nd career goal, giving the Stars their longest-losing streak of the season.
"It was a big game for our team," said goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who stopped 30 shots to win his 200th game as a Duck. "We'll finish the road trip with at least a .500 record."
The Ducks bounced back after losing 6-0 to Boston on Thursday -- a game in which Giguere was pulled early in the second period after allowing three goals on eight shots.
"It's been an up-and-down season for me and for the team," Giguere said. "When these things happen, you want to try to bounce back."
Scott Niedermayer and Ebbett scored in the first period to put the Ducks up 2-0. But Ribeiro poked in a rebound for a power-play goal 1:23 into the second and set up Matt Niskanen for a one-timer at 8:09 to tie the score.
The Stars, who lost No. 2 scorer Richards with a broken wrist before the homestand, have scored only five goals in their losing streak.
"We're in a playoff battle," coach Dave Tippett said. "I don't care who's playing. They need to get the job done. We've got some weak links."
Thrashers 5, Hurricanes 3 | Video
Someone forgot to tell Ilya Kovalchuk that the Thrashers are the NHL's worst home team. Kovalchuk scored two goals and set up the other three as Atlanta rallied from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to stun the 'Canes and keep them from passing Buffalo in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Atlanta coach John Anderson knows the franchise was right to name Kovalchuk, the NHL's most prolific scorer since he was drafted No. 1 in 2001, as team captain on Jan. 11. He's been on a tear ever since.
"I think he's just playing harder," Anderson said. "He wants it. You can see it in his eyes. That's when you know he's going to play a good game. In the last period, he took over, and every time he touches the puck you see that spark in his eyes, and you know the other team better watch out."
Carolina looked to be on the way to a routine victory when it took a 3-1 lead when Anton Babchuk scored 1:41 into the third period. But instead of rolling over, the Thrashers went into attack mode.
"They kept coming," goaltender Cam Ward said. "They didn't have as much to lose as we did. They looked more like a team playing for a playoff spot than we did. There are teams to be caught."
Rich Peverley pulled the Thrashers within one at 10:25 of the third period, Todd White tied it with 6:03 left, and Peverley put Atlanta in front by scoring a power-play goal with 1:28 remaining. Kovalchuk, who assisted on all three goals after scoring in the second period, added an empty-netter with 3 seconds left for his 34th goal.
"Tonight is a good confidence boost," Peverley said. "In our last  games, we want to play well and consistent."
Tuomo Ruutu and Sergei Samsonov gave Carolina the early lead by scoring 1:41 apart in the first period. Kovalchuk had the only goal of the second period, but Babchuk's goal restored Carolina's two-goal lead -- until the Thrashers rallied
"We had some defensive breakdowns," coach Paul Maurice said. "We were running thin at the end. We're leaving this one here."
Rangers 6, Avalanche 1 | Video
It took three games, but the Rangers finally got new coach John Tortorella his first win. The goal-challenged Blueshirts had their best offensive night in 14 months, scoring four times in the first period on the way to burying the fading Avalanche.
Tortorella, who took over Monday for the fired Tom Renney, dropped a pair of 2-1 decisions before seeing his aggressive style produce in bunches. Ryan Callahan and Nikolai Zherdev scored in the first 68 seconds, and the Rangers never looked back as they scored six goals for the first time since Dec. 29, 2007.
"This isn't about me," Tortorella said in deflecting praise for the win. "It's about a hockey team trying to find its way, that's gone through a little bit of an ordeal here the past few weeks. We're just trying to clear our heads. It's about a team trying to get into the playoffs."
This win helped that effort. The Rangers are now sixth in the East with 72 points, two in front of Florida and three ahead of Buffalo and Carolina.
"We are starting to get the system down," said center Scott Gomez, who scored to cap the four-goal first period and added two assists. "We are starting to get a feel for how he wants us to play. It was important for us to get the two points."
Chris Drury scored his first goal in 18 games 4:56 into the second period and Markus Naslund reached the 20-goal mark for the 10th consecutive season with the lone goal in the third. Ryan Smyth's second-period goal spoiled Henrik Lundqvist's shutout bid, but that was about the only satisfaction for the Avs, who've dropped four in a row after opening a six-game trip with a win at Washington.
"Obviously we're not happy with our positioning," said forward Darcy Tucker, who was involved in one of the numerous third-period altercations that slowed the game. "We've just got to continue to work hard and move forward and try to be as tight as we can and stick together."
The Rangers will have a little time to savor their win. They have four days of off-ice preparation before visiting the Islanders on Thursday.
"After the week there is definitely no more excuses," Gomez said. "If you're not on his page, he said you'll find yourself on the bench pretty quick."
Predators 8, Red Wings 0 | Video
It was party time early on in Nashville, where the goal-starved Predators scored five times in a six-minute span of the first period and embarrassed the defending Stanley Cup champs. Jason Arnott scored three times as the Preds won their fourth in a row, delighting a sellout crowd at the Sommet Center with their biggest offensive night ever against their most heated rival.
"It's always nice when you get a hat trick in a game, especially against Detroit," Arnott said after getting the Predators' first three-goal night of the season. "You don't get too many goals against them. It's always a special moment when you get three."
The schedule may have helped. Detroit beat Los Angeles 2-1 at home on Friday and was playing its third game in four nights.
"We knew they had played Friday night," Preds coach Barry Trotz said. "We caught Detroit on a bad night for them. It is a gratifying win, but we have to keep it real. We can pat ourselves on the back for a night."
Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom refused to use fatigue as an excuse.
"I think that is part of playing in the League," Lidstrom said. "I don't think we lost our focus, but I don't think we responded as a team."
Rookie Pekka Rinne stopped all 30 shots he faced for his sixth shutout of the season. It was the first time the Red Wings have been shut out this season. Rinne completed the month of February with a 9-2-0 record.
"It's not going to happen every day that you have a game like that," he said. "We just executed really well. We were well prepared for this game. But after leading 5-0 in the first period we were wondering what was going on."
Ville Koistinen, David Legwand, Joel Ward, Antti Pihlstrom and Shea Weber also scored for the Predators, who chased Ty Conklin with four goals in the first 9:51.Arnott capped the first five-goal first period in franchise history by beating Chris Osgood at 10:48.
"We wanted to get out real quickly," Trotz said. "But we wanted to stay disciplined. We got goals from guys who are our scorers and from secondary scorers like Pihlstrom.
"Anytime you score some goals you have to realize how you are scoring them. We are moving the puck with speed, we are getting the puck in deep and going to the net hard. I was real happy for a lot of guys who have been frustrated offensively who got the opportunities to capitalize."
Wings coach Mike Babcock said his team's worst loss of the season might benefit the defending champs in the long run.
"It was very humbling," he said. "Sometimes, getting a good humble pill at this time of the season isn't a bad thing."
Blues 3, Coyotes 1 | Video
St. Louis' amazing renaissance continued. The Blues got a 26-save performance by Chris Mason and goals by Jay McClement, David Perron and Andy McDonald to win their third in a row and stay three points out of a playoff spot.
Perron zipped a power-play wrist shot from the left circle over Ilya Bryzgalov's shoulder 3:11 into the third period to give St. Louis a 2-0 lead.
"I saw the corner open and fired the puck that way," he said. "The coaches pointed out that the top shelf could be open, but this game is so fast that you really don't remember what coaches said in scouting meetings. You just shoot."
Olli Jokinen's power-play tip-in with 5:52 remaining gave the fading Coyotes some life, but McDonald scored with 60 seconds left to ice the win -- the Blues' second over Phoenix this week.
The three goals were more than enough for Mason, who improved to 4-0-1 in his last five -- allowing one goal in each game. He's given up one goal or fewer in seven of his last eight starts.
"We have played hard all season, but (Mason) is playing better now, and that's the difference," said Blues coach Andy Murray, whose team has risen from last place to within sight of a playoff berth. "It all starts with goaltending and defense and right now, we're not chasing the game."
Mason, who struggled for the first half of the season, has taken over the No. 1 job. He started for the 18th consecutive game and seems to be getting better with more work.
"I'm calm, relaxed and having fun," Mason said after his 14th win of the season. "I'm letting the game come to me, and that did not happen earlier. We have great chemistry and that's a major factor in our success right now."
McClement opened the scoring 15:57 into the second period, beating Bryzgalov with a wrist shot after sidestepping defenseman Ed Jovanovski. He's scored in each of the three wins.
While the Blues are surging, the Coyotes are in a free fall. They've dropped to 14th in the Western Conference and are almost out of the playoff race.
"We have too many guys not working hard," coach Wayne Gretzky said. "Plus, the same guys are making the same mistakes over and over. Consequently, you're not going to be successful."
Oilers 3, Wild 2 | Video
Dwayne Roloson seems to save some of his best efforts for Saturday night. This time, he stopped 43 shots and held off Minnesota almost single-handedly in the third period to move the Oilers into a tie with Anaheim for seventh place in the West.
Roloson did everything but literally stand on his head in the third period, when the Wild outshot Edmonton 18-3 and completely dominated play -- but were unable to get the tying goal past him.
"The quality chances aren't as great as the shots," Roloson said. "Our guys did a great job defensively keeping it to the outside and giving me the opportunity to see pucks and being able to stay out and control rebounds."
The Oilers may have suffered a major loss when Wild forward Antti Miettinen's stick accidentally hit captain Ethan Moreau in the eye in the final seconds. Coach Craig MacTavish said the injury "looks pretty serious," and that Moreau had been taken to a hospital.
Tom Gilbert put the Oilers ahead for the first time at 15:22 of the second period when he jumped into the play and snapped a shot past Josh Harding.
Roloson did the rest. He was at his best in the final minutes, when the Wild swarmed the Oilers' zone -- even making a couple of saves after losing his stick.
"It's just another of a number of performances he's strung together," MacTavish said of the 39-year-old goaltender, who's won four times on Saturday when facing 39 or more shots. "They came hard in the third period and we retreated a bit. He played spectacular."
The loss left Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire happy with his team's performance but frustrated with the outcome -- the Wild fell to 10th in the West, two points behind the Oilers and Ducks.
"We're all disappointed that we didn't win, but we're happy with how we played," Lemaire said.
It was a vastly improved effort by the Wild, who were lethargic in a 4-1 loss at Calgary on Friday.
"You have to let them know that they played well, because you want them to keep playing the same way," Lemaire added when asked what he told his team afterwards. "If you criticize them when they don’t play well, when they do, you have to tell them."
Minnesota came out firing on all cylinders and scored a pair of power-play goals to grab a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes. Andrew Brunette banged in a rebound at 6:14, and after Ales Hemsky tied it at 12:47, Miettinen beat Roloson with a wrist shot at 19:25 to put the Wild back in front.
The Oilers tied it at 5:03 of the second period when Zach Stortini snapped a shot past Harding.
It was still something for the Wild to build on.
"We didn't have a great effort in Calgary," defenseman Nick Schultz said. "I think tonight we played extremely well. I think with the effort tonight -- if we can have that every night, we’ll get some wins."
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report