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Luongo, Canucks bounce back with win over Sharks

by John Kreiser
Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks bounced back after a clunker. The San Jose Sharks are still in their slump.

Luongo made 32 saves and the Canucks built an early lead, then held off the Sharks 3-2 at GM Place on Thursday night in a battle between division leaders in the Western Conference. Two nights after stopping just eight of 12 shots before being lifted in a 5-2 loss to the New York Islanders, Luongo was at his gold medal-wining best -- especially in the final 20 minutes, when the Sharks dominated play and outshot Vancouver 12-4.

Luongo turned away Devin Setoguchi and Joe Pavelski on great chances before Pavelski knocked a high shot out of the air and banged in the bouncing puck to make it 3-2 with 3:08 left. The Sharks pressed the rest of the way, but Luongo was equal to the challenge.

"In the third period, Roberto came up with the saves we needed at the right times," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said.

Luongo said playing with a lead made things a lot easier.

"We came out tonight and had a good first period. We scored big goals on the power play and we came into the locker room with the lead," he said. "That was important."

It was just the second win for Vancouver in its last 10 meetings with the Sharks and moved them five points ahead of second-place Colorado in the Northwest Division.

Ryan Clowe and Joe Pavelski scored for the Sharks, who are 0-3-1 in their last four games and saw their lead over Phoenix in the Pacific Division reduced to just three points.

Vancouver scored on its first two power plays. Alex Edler's point shot appeared to change direction through Kyle Wellwood's leaping screen before beating Evgeni Nabokov 8:31 into the game. Ryan Kesler doubled the lead at 12:14, taking a pass from Edler and firing a low shot from the top of the circle through another screen by Wellwood and past Nabokov.

"Our penalty-killing let us down," Sharks coach Todd McLellan. "Give them credit, they have a good power play. But if you're beating yourselves, that makes it tougher. 0-for-6 in the faceoff circle on the penalty kill is unacceptable."

Clowe got the Sharks on the board 4 minutes into the second period, breaking past defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, swept across the slot and beat Luongo.

San Jose controlled the play for long stretches after that, but the Canucks got a goal from an unlikely source at 16:48 to regain their two-goal lead. Ryan Johnson, who hadn't scored in 82 games since his last goal Jan. 28, 2009, cut in from the left circle and fed Rick Rypien for a weak shot from the slot, then went hard to the net and banged the rebound under Nabokov.

"We had our top players out against their fourth line," McLellan said. "They worked real hard and bounced one in. That set us back."

McLellan, whose team was coming off an 8-2 loss at Dallas on Tuesday, said he saw positives despite the loss.

"I thought for two periods we worked real hard and made them battle for every inch of ice they got," he said. "I feel a lot better about tonight's game when we get on the flight (to Calgary) than I did leaving Dallas. The effort was a lot stronger tonight, and sometimes that's the turning point."

Hurricanes 4, Capitals 3 (OT) | HIGHLIGHTS

At the age of 37, Ray Whitney is one of the old guys on a very young team. He showed the kids how it's done against the NHL's best team, scoring with 58 seconds left in overtime to give the Hurricanes a victory after Washington forced OT in the final minute of regulation.

Whitney controlled the puck in the slot, spun and suddenly found himself with plenty of room to shoot. He blasted a slapper that got under the left arm of rookie goalie Semyon Varlamov for the victory.

"Coach (Paul) Maurice actually had a pretty good comment before the game," Whitney said. "He said, 'Young guys, you have the opportunity to show what you have, playing the top team.' It's tough now in the situation that we're in, but you're kind of demanded to lead by example and do the best you can in a bad situation."

Eric Staal had a goal and set up Whitney's winner. Brett Carson and Chad LaRose also scored for Carolina, which is in 14th place in the Eastern Conference and eight points behind the eighth-place Boston Bruins with 12 games left in its season.

Eric Fehr forced the overtime for Washington, scoring with 10 seconds left in regulation and Varlamov off for an extra attacker. That came after LaRose put Carolina ahead by scoring on a breakaway with 1:35 to go.

"It was an unusual game," Maurice said. "There was some banging and some strange plays. But I think we got to shoot the puck the way we wanted to in the third period, put some shots up and had some chances."

Washington played without captain and scoring leader Alex Ovechkin, serving the second of a two-game suspension for his hit on Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell on Sunday. Defenseman Joe Corvo, obtained from the Hurricanes in a March 3 trade and playing his first game back in Raleigh, had Washington's first two goals including one on a power play.

"We held them to 15 shots after two periods," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "That was our goal. But I don't know what happened in the third period they started feeling it a little. If you leave a team around long enough, they take advantage of the opportunity."

Thrashers 6, Senators 3 | HIGHLIGHTS

Don't count the Thrashers out of the playoff race just yet. Atlanta pulled within three points of eighth-place Boston in the East by scoring three third-period goals after blowing a pair of two-goal leads.

Nik Antropov scored on a pair of deflections in front of the net, including a tiebreaking power-play goal 3:56 into the third period. Colby Armstrong added two goals less than five minutes apart to put it away for the Thrashers, who had lost six in a row before beating Buffalo and Ottawa this week.

"We feel a lot better about ourselves than we did three of four days ago," Atlanta coach John Anderson said.

The Senators are in a free fall. They've dropped four in a row and seven of eight since the Olympic break, though they're still sixth in the East and eight points ahead of the ninth-place Thrashers.

"We're making mistakes," said Chris Phillips, who scored for the Senators but also had a crucial turnover. "We're making it easy for the other teams to score goals."

Atlanta scored on its first three shots on goal in the third period.

"We're chipping away at it," Armstrong said. "Hopefully it will all work out for the best."

Maple Leafs 2, Devils 1 (SO) | HIGHLIGHTS

Phil Kessel scored in regulation and was one of three Toronto players to connect in the shootout as the improving Leafs cost the Devils a vital point.

"We're playing for each other," Kessel said after the Leafs' fifth win in six games. "We want to win games. This year isn't over. We're going to play it out to the end, try to win as many games as we can."

The Leafs, last in the East, beat the Devils in both of New Jersey's trips to the Air Canada Centre and left an impression on forward Zach Parise.

"They play hard, they play well," Parise said. "Sometimes those are the toughest teams to play against when they've got nothing, really, to play for at this time of the year."

One night after Martin Brodeur helped the Devils beat Pittsburgh and move into a first-place tie in the Atlantic Division, coach Jacques Lemaire opted to use backup Yann Danis against the Leafs. Danis made 25 saves and allowed only a first-period rebound goal to Kessel during regulation -- one that was matched by David Clarkson's goal at 15:46 of the second.

But Brodeur has more shootout wins than anyone in NHL history, while Danis came in with an 0-2 mark that became 0-3 when he was beaten by Kessel, Nikolai Kulemin and John Mitchell. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, not great on the shootout himself, allowed a first-round goal to Parise, stopped Patrik Elias and never had to face a third shooter after Mitchell toasted Danis.

“He played fine, made some good saves,” Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said of Danis. “We didn’t play as well in front of him as we could. It was probably we had a very emotional game last night and three games in four nights. You could see that some of the guys were a little tired and we didn’t have that jump there, that quickness that we usually do.”

The Leafs hope a strong finish will help them back to the playoffs next season.

"We don't want to be last in our conference at all," Mitchell said. "We want to pass as many teams as we can. We're just going to keep winning. This is a big step, moving forward, for our team this year -- and next year as well."

Sabres 6, Lightning 2 | HIGHLIGHTS

The offensively challenged Sabres enjoyed a rare blowout win as Jason Pominville scored three times in an easy victory over the listless Lightning.

Pominville scored twice in a three-goal first period, the first a power-play goal on a near-perfect pass from Derek Roy, who took a pass from Toni Lydman and executed a one-touch feed to Pominville in the center for the easy goal.

"It was a great play," said Pominville, who got his second of the night by putting in his own rebound after Antero Niittymaki stopped him on a breakaway. "I was surprised he one-touched it right away and I had a lot of net to shoot at."

Roy, Thomas Vanek and Tyler Myers also scored as the Sabres extended their Northeast Division lead over Ottawa to five points. Ryan Miller made 23 saves for the Sabres, who led 3-0 after one period and 4-0 after two.

"You've got to set the tone for the night," Miller said. "It's not going to be about the other team running around. It's going to be about we want to do."

Tampa Bay (28-30-12) has watched its playoff hopes evaporate during its current homestand, losing three in a row and scoring just four goals in the process.

"With every game there's pressure to win," coach Rick Tocchet said. "Some people just get wound up, sometimes you get too wound up and to me, it looked like anytime Buffalo wanted the puck they got it. We were just really nervous."

Predators 5, Wild 0 | HIGHLIGHTS

The Preds delighted a near-sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena by demolishing the Wild as five players scored and Pekka Rinne stopped 17 shots for his second shutout in three games.

Colin Wilson, J.P. Dumont and Jason Arnott all scored in the first period for the Predators, who are a solid seventh in the West with 85 points, six ahead of ninth-place Calgary, after their fourth win in a row.

Marcel Goc scored early in the second and Patric Hornqvist added his team-high 27th during a third-period power play.

"We played well with the lead, and we played with confidence at the end of the game," Arnott said. "Everybody contributed tonight and we came out with a big two points."

Rinne was tested early, facing nine shots in the first period, but saw just four in the second and four more in the third to record his 12th career shutout.

"We stayed really disciplined in a lot of areas," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "I thought we were really good in the faceoff circle tonight. They are a team that can really create off of the draws."

The loss ended Minnesota's three-game winning streak and kept the Wild six points behind eighth-place Detroit in the West.

"We weren't that good today," said goalie Josh Harding, who surrendered the first four goals before being lifted after two periods. "The great thing about hockey is that we can forget about this one and get ready for tomorrow. I think we all know we need to be better."

Flyers 3, Stars 2 | HIGHLIGHTS

Philadelphia earned its first victory in Dallas since December 1996 when Jeff Carter's shot hit teammate Scott Hartnell and deflected into the net for the tie-breaking goal 7:56 into the third period.

Brian Boucher, making his first start since Dec. 21 because Michael Leighton is out with a high ankle sprain, allowed two first-period goals to Steve Ott but was flawless over the last 40 minutes, finishing with 27 saves.

"It's nice to get an opportunity," Boucher said. "It's exciting for me and I hope to make the most of it."

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette couldn't have asked for much more after his team edged past Ottawa into fifth place in the East.

"I'm sure it is a confidence boost for (Boucher)," Laviolette said. "He's been waiting a long time. We're going to keep playing hard here. We've got a good goaltender, we've got a good team, and we'll keep playing hard and playing for the points."

Steve Ott sandwiched two goals around one by Philadelphia's Simon Gagne to give the Stars a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes. Mike Richards got the Flyers even at 2-2 when he jammed in Gagne's pass 5:27 into the second after a turnover led to a 2-on-1. Another defensive breakdown led to Hartnell's pinball-style game-winner.

"It's almost like playoff hockey, the type of game it was tonight," defenseman Mark Fistric said. "Little errors like turnovers and not getting pucks deep are what cost us."

The loss kept the 12th-place Stars seven points behind eighth-place Detroit in the Western Conference playoff race. They are 2-6-1 since the Olympic break.

"I hate losing as much as anybody, but when there's pride in losing and character in losing, that's what tonight was," said Ott, who scored four of Dallas' five goals in the Stars' two games against the Flyers this season. "Every single line played very well. Kari (Lehtonen) played great, the D played good. It's pretty hard to be super upset when the guys put so much pride and character into it."

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

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