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MacDonald powers Isles to third straight win

by Brian Hunter /
Joey MacDonald is settling in as the starting goaltender for the New York Islanders. Going head-to-head with Roberto Luongo and emerging with a shootout victory should be a nice confidence boost.

MacDonald stopped 31 shots through regulation and overtime Monday night, then denied all three Vancouver Canucks attempts in the penalty-shot tiebreaker, and Frans Nielsen scored on the Islanders' first try for a 2-1 win at Nassau Coliseum.

It was the third straight victory for the team and MacDonald, who started on opening night when Rick DiPietro was slow recovering from offseason surgery. DiPietro then had to undergo another surgical procedure on his knee, leaving MacDonald as the No. 1 goalie.

"It's huge," MacDonald said. "We've been playing well over the last week, week-and-a-half, so we've just got to keep on building on it and go from there."

Pavol Demitra scored just 49 seconds into the first period to provide Luongo and the Canucks with a 1-0 lead, but MacDonald was flawless from there and the Islanders got the goal back when Doug Weight's blast on the power play found its way through a screen and into the net with 4:25 left in the second.

"Sometimes it's a lot of great saves but sometimes it's just a timely save," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said in describing MacDonald's value to the team. "The first period we were flat, he made some big saves early and as a result we probably had an easier second period, and when the game is on the line in the third period that's what you want your goalie to do -- make those big saves, just like the other guy in the other net had some pretty big saves on us, and that's an NHL goaltender."

Nielsen beat Luongo on a backhander to begin the shootout and MacDonald allowed nothing against Kyle Wellwood, Demitra and Alex Burrows, using a poke-check to deny Burrows and secure the victory.

"It's good to get that first goal -- Fransie made a heck of a move there to give me the lead and I just tried to hold the lead," MacDonald said. "They have a couple different shooters. Demitra likes to come down real slow, you've got to be kind of patient with him. He's a good shooter, so you've got to watch him. But it's good to get my first shootout win of the year and it's even better to get the win."

Demitra, who recently returned from a rib injury, scored his third of the season from right circle off a return pass from Daniel Sedin. Vancouver outshot New York 10-5 in the opening period, but couldn't crack MacDonald again.

The Islanders responded with an 18-9 shots advantage in the second and drew a power play when Mason Raymond was called for slashing Tim Jackman at the 13:26 mark. On the ensuing man advantage, Weight drilled home his fourth of the season from the left point, a drive that appeared to be redirected past Luongo off the stick of defenseman Shane O'Brien.

Suddenly, the Islanders are just two points behind New Jersey and Philadelphia for third in the Atlantic Division.

"We're starting to feel pretty good in the locker room," Jackman said. "It's starting to come around. You can see that we're starting to play as a team and everybody's kind of buying in and we're having a lot of fun again."

Luongo made 34 saves in making his 13th straight start, but couldn't come up with two points against the team that drafted him in the first round 11 years ago.

''All losses are tough,'' Luongo said. ''Shootouts are great when you win, and (not) when you lose. I don't like losing any game.''

Rangers 2, Senators 1 (SO) | Video

Fredrik Sjostrom has enjoyed a lot of his success with New York in the shootout. On Monday night, he helped make sure the Rangers were able to reach that point.

Sjostrom scored his second goal of the season 7:17 into the third period to tie the score and Nikolai Zherdev had the only successful attempt in the shootout as the Rangers edged Ottawa at Madison Square Garden, winning their third straight and handing the struggling Senators their fifth consecutive loss.
Zherdev beat Alex Auld between the pads on the Rangers' first try, then Henrik Lundqvist made stops on Jason Spezza, Jarkko Ruutu and Antoine Vermette to follow up the 27 saves he had made to that point. But the Blueshirts wouldn't have made it there without Sjostrom's key contribution.

"Shootout goals are obviously nice because they get you two points sometimes, but it's always nice to score in regulation," Sjostrom said.

Daniel Alfredsson had given Ottawa the lead with 3:47 left in the second period, picking up the puck in the left corner and wheeling into the slot to beat Lundqvist with a wrist shot. But the Senators' offense, which has scored only five goals during their skid, sputtered after that.

''We had a chance to win 1-0, until they got a good rebound goal,'' Alfredsson said. ''We're creating chances and we can't look at the negatives now. There are positives. The efforts we've had the last two games have been good enough to win.''

Zherdev, who was the ice on for Alfredsson's goal, said afterward that he took responsibility on the play and he earned a measure of redemption when he knocked in the rebound of a Marc Staal shot to draw the Rangers even.

"It was a scramble at the front of the net, just trying to be in the area where the puck's going to bounce, and I was just trying to roof it," Sjostrom said.

Lundqvist, who has gone 12 straight starts without allowing more than two goals, had kept the Rangers' deficit at 1-0 earlier in the period with a stop on Vermette during a shorthanded breakaway. He also continued his run of excellence in the shootout.

''I like the challenge of facing the best players on the other team,'' Lundqvist said. ''I get nervous because you play such a big part and you want to win so badly. You need to have a lot of patience and confidence. Right now, I have both.''

It was the second game in a row the Rangers came back to win after trailing at the start of the third period; they erased a 2-0 Boston lead in a shootout victory on Saturday.

"I think it's a fear of losing, which is an important thing," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "That's an important trait for a team, that you want to absolutely hate it so badly that you want to do what you can to get it back."

Red Wings 4, Oilers 0 | Video

He's playing for another new team, but Ty Conklin is still the same goalie, taking advantage of his opportunities to start whenever they might arrive.

Conklin made 21 saves Monday night for his fifth career shutout, and four different players scored for the Wings as the defending Stanley Cup champions left Joe Louis Arena with their fifth win in six games.

It was Conklin's second straight -- after the previous one Friday at Florida, the goalie went to be with his wife for the birth of their third child, then made it back to Detroit to blank Edmonton.

"Got a win Friday (3-2 in Florida). Got to see my wife and the baby (son Nash) and now the shutout. Been a good three days," Conklin said.

Niklas Kronwall and Jiri Hudler registered a goal and an assist each, while Mikael Samuelsson and Johan Franzen also scored for the Wings. Henrik Zetterberg collected a pair of assists.

Conklin began his NHL career playing 60 regular-season games for the Oilers and saw brief action in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final against Carolina. He spent the past two seasons playing for Columbus, Buffalo and Pittsburgh, making 33 appearances for the Penguins last season and serving as the backup to Marc-Andre Fleury as the team made it to the Final before bowing out against Detroit.

"It's nice to get that first (shutout) here to get rid of the butterflies early," Conklin said.

Kronwall's power-play goal 6:11 into the first opened the scoring, then the Wings provided Conklin with a couple insurance goals in the second. Samuelsson tipped a Brett Lebda pass out of the corner three minutes in, then Hudler put a pass off the leg of Oilers defenseman Sheldon Souray and past goalie Dwayne Roloson with 5:42 left.

"The difference was the second period. We have five or six red zone chances where it's just us and the goalie and we don't hit the net," said Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish. "And then Samuelsson scores for them to make it 2-0 and then they get another goal and the game was over."

Franzen's ninth of the season and fourth in as many games capped the offense midway through the third. Franzen has scored in every game since he returned from missing five games with a knee injury.

"I got a good start coming back from injury," he said. "I've been scoring every game. That helps the legs feel lighter because I'm not 100 percent yet skating wise."

Sharks 4, Predators 1 | Video

Another game, another victory for San Jose.

And now, even Jody Shelley is contributing to the offense.

''I like the challenge of facing the best players on the other team. 'I get nervous because you play such a big part and you want to win so badly. You need to have a lot of patience and confidence. Right now, I have both.''  -- Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist
Shelley scored his 14th goal in 431 career NHL games to help back a 32-save performance by Brian Boucher as the Sharks made it 16 wins in the first 20 games of the season. Devin Setoguchi, Tomas Pilhal and Patrick Marleau also tallied.

''We have to keep going," Setoguchi said. ''We could have executed better and stayed out of the penalty box more, but we still played a great road game. We got the first couple of goals and never looked back from there.''

David Legwand had the lone goal for the Predators, who along with the Sommet Center crowd received a major scare when Jason Arnott collided head first with Boucher in the final seconds of the opening period. Arnott was motionless on the ice and had to be taken off on a stretcher, but Nashville coach Barry Trotz was able to assure everyone after the game that the veteran was doing quite well.

"He's going to be fine. He was released from the hospital, came back and changed, and he’s at home right now," Trotz said. "I don't see any problem in him not being ready for Tampa Bay (on Friday). He may be questionable (Tuesday) for practice with soreness, but I expect him to be ready for Tampa Bay."

Nobody of late has embodied the Sharks' domination more than the red-hot Setoguchi, who has six goals and eight assists in his last 10 games. His wrist shot on a San Jose power play beat Dan Ellis with 5:22 left in the opening period for a 1-0 lead.

''I was fortunate to get the first goal,'' Setoguchi said. ''You've got to contribute when you are playing with guys like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. They are two of the best players in the League. You have to make sure you go out and play hard every game."

Shelley then struck 1:27 later, tapping in a loose puck after Rob Blake's drive through traffic sat in front of the net. The Sharks added two more less than four minutes apart in the second, as Pilhal scored from the left circle at 7:43 and Marleau converted a rebound at 11:12 for a 4-0 lead.

Boucher, who recorded shutouts in his first two starts this season, was bidding for his third until Legwand scored shorthanded at 9:27 of the third, capitalizing off the rebound of his own breakaway attempt.

''The emotions swung all over the place,'' Sharks coach Todd McClellan said. ''I think both teams had an element of fatigue early. We were kind of feeling our way through each other. As time wore on it got more physical, and a little more emotional.''

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

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