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Lundqvist is the devil himself to Devils

by John Kreiser

Henrik Lundqvist is 6-0-0 this season and has not allowed more than two non-shootout goals in his last 15 games against New Jersey. VIDEO
The New Jersey Devils scored three goals in their first meeting with Henrik Lundqvist, a 3-2 overtime victory on Oct. 8, 2005. He's spent the next three years getting even.

Since losing his first meeting with New Jersey, Lundqvist is 11-1-3 against the Devils, including 6-0-0 this season, and has not allowed more than two non-shootout goals in any of those 15 games. He has two shutouts (both this season), six one-goal games (including Wednesday's 2-1 shootout victory) and seven games in which he's allowed two goals.

Lundqvist has been at his best against the Devils this season, beating Rangers nemesis Martin Brodeur in all six meetings (three in regulation, one in overtime, two in shootouts), while allowing just five goals. He joins Pittsburgh's Tom Barrasso (6-2-1 in 1992-93) and the Islanders' Rick DiPietro (6-1-1 in 2005-06) as the only goaltenders to beat the Devils six times in a season -- and he's the first to beat Brodeur six times in the same season.

Second is best this season -- Maybe it's because the second period is the one in which teams have the long change back to their benches. Maybe it's just luck. But whatever the reason, the middle period is where the action is when it comes to scoring goals.

Through 1,109 games this season, 2,113 goals had been scored in the second period, compared with 1,743 in the first and 1,899 in the third (excluding 194 empty-net goals). In percentage terms, roughly 36.7 percent of regulation, non-empty net goals took place in the second period, as opposed to 30.3 percent in the first period and 33.0 percent in the third.

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Though goal-scoring is down slightly from last season and more from 2005-06, the percentage trends have stayed roughly the same since the NHL resumed play after the lockout. In all, 36.4 percent of non-empty net regulation goals were scored in the second period in 2006-07, up from 36.1 percent in 2005-06. First-period percentages also were nearly identical in both seasons -- 31.2 percent in 2006-07 and 31.1 percent in 2005-06. Third-period percentages were close: 32.3 percent in 2006-07 and 32.8 percent in 2005-06.

Why does the second period produce more goals? No one knows, but there's no denying there's more scoring in the middle 20 minutes than in either of the other two periods.

Happy Birthday, Bobby -- For those of us who watched Bobby Orr revolutionize the game in the 1960s and '70s, it's hard to believe he turned 60 Thursday.

Younger fans who know Orr only through video clips, like his famous Stanley Cup-winning goal in 1970, missed the most revolutionary player in NHL history. He not only changed the way defensemen play by rushing the puck, he changed the game itself.

Orr's career scoring numbers -- 270 goals, 915 points -- don't look as impressive now as they did when he retired as the highest-scoring defenseman in NHL history. That's why the most important number in his career is 657 -- the number of games he was able to play in 12 seasons. Orr was unable to dress for nearly 300, and had to retire by age 30 due to knee problems. Orr played as many as 70 games just five times; he's the only player in NHL history with more 100-point seasons (six) than 70-game seasons.

His most incredible number is 124 -- that's his plus-minus total in 1970-71, and it's a figure no one else has approached. But Orr is one of those players for whom numbers never will tell the whole story.

West is best -- again -- For the third consecutive season, the West easily outdistanced the East in interconference play. Western Conference teams were 83-53-14 (180 points) in the 150 games against the Eastern Conference that concluded with Ottawa-St. Louis on Thursday night, while Eastern teams were only 67-67-16 (150 points). The 83 wins are the most by the West in the three seasons under the current format.

Pittsburgh had the best record of any team against the opposite conference, going 8-1-1 in games against the Pacific and Northwest divisions. Anaheim and Colorado led the West with 8-2-0 records, while Detroit was 7-2-1.

The New York Rangers were by far the worst team in interconference play; they went 1-7-2, and only a victory against San Jose in their last game against a Western team enabled them to avoid becoming the first team to go winless against the other conference since the current scheduling format was adopted in 2005. Chicago's 4-5-1 record against the East was the worst of any Western team. The Blackhawks were the only team from the West to lose more games in regulation against the East than they won.

One change from last season was a sharp decline in the number of games that were tied at the end of regulation. Just 30 of this season's 150 interconference games went to overtime or a shootout, down from 39 last season and 26 in 2005-06.

The Flyers are 13-0-1 against Atlanta since their last regulation loss to the Thrashers, on Dec. 21, 2003.
Thrashing Atlanta -- There's something about playing the Atlanta Thrashers that brings out the best in the Philadelphia Flyers. Philadelphia's 3-2 victory Tuesday was their 10th in a row against Atlanta, one short of the longest current team-vs.-team winning streak -- San Jose has won its last 11 games against Chicago. (San Jose also has won its last 10 games against Washington, St. Louis has won 10 in a row against Buffalo, and Montreal's 4-2 win at Boston on Thursday was its 10th in a row against the Bruins -- the Canadiens go for 11 in a row Saturday).

Overall, the Flyers are 13-0-1 against Atlanta since their last regulation loss to the Thrashers, on Dec. 21, 2003.

Flyers goaltender Antero Niittymaki might make the Hall of Fame if he played against the Thrashers every night. He's won all nine of his career decisions against Atlanta, allowing just 16 goals.
Goals in bunches -- The Buffalo Sabres may not make the playoffs -- they enter the weekend on the outside looking in -- but they do lead the League in big offensive performances. The Sabres' 7-4 victory over Tampa Bay Wednesday marked the seventh time this season Buffalo has scored seven or more goals in a game. No other team has more than half that many: Calgary, Carolina, Montreal and Washington are next with three.

Buffalo's six-goal third period also matched the biggest 20-minute offensive outburst this season; Washington had six goals in the first period of its 10-2 victory over Boston on March 3.

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