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Maple Leafs outlast Penguins 5-4

by John Kreiser / NHL.com
Jason Blake and Luke Schenn kept the Pittsburgh Penguins from spoiling Doug Gilmour's big night.

On a night when the Maple Leafs honored their former captain by raising his No. 93 to the rafters, Blake's goal at 10:05 of the third period gave Toronto a 5-4 win on Saturday after it blew a pair of two-goal leads.

Toronto wasted 3-1 and 4-2 advantages in the first half of the third period before Blake beat Mathieu Garon with a wrist shot for his seventh goal in as many games. Blake has 17 goals this season, two more than he managed in all of 2007-08. He has goals in four consecutive games, including back-to-back game-winners.

Though he didn't score a goal, the most impressive Leaf might have been Schenn, a rookie defenseman who made his presence felt at both ends of the ice -- a performance that Gilmour, nicknamed "Killer" for his on-ice intensity, had to appreciate.

"He's definitely got the makings of a leader," veteran defenseman Mike Van Ryn said. "When they say he's a future captain, he definitely is. He asked me the other day if it was OK that he spoke and I think it's good that he does. He speaks at the right times, and his play has been great."

Added Blake: "I'm happy for the progress he's made throughout the year and obviously the only thing that's going to come is (him getting) even better. He's definitely got a great future ahead of him."

The No. 5 pick in last June's Entry Draft got lots of time in the third period and figures to play a bigger role now that Tomas Kaberle will miss four weeks with a broken hand.

"They gave me the opportunity to play against Crosby and Malkin," Schenn said. "You always look forward to challenges like that. You want to step up and at the end of the night you want to say that you did a good job. So I looked forward to this game from the start."

Blake's goal ensured a happy ending on a night in which Gilmour received a number of tributes and negated a comeback led by Sidney Crosby, whose goal 55 seconds into the third period made it 3-2. Matt Stajan restored the Leafs' two-goal lead at 2:33, but Crosby set up Evgeni Malkin's goal at 5:33, and Tyler Kennedy's slapper from the right circle beat Vesa Toskala at 6:47 to get the Penguins even -- briefly.
 

 
 

 

With the Air Canada Centre crowd still buzzing from the pregame salute to Gilmour, Ian White made it 1-0 just 5:23 into the game by beating Garon with a hard backhander. Miroslav Satan tied it at 9:03 with a shot from the left circle that ticked off Anton Strahlman's stick and went past Toskala.

The second period belonged to the Leafs. Nik Antropov put them ahead at 7:53, knocking a rebound behind Garon on a power play, and Alexei Ponikarovsky made it 3-1 at 13:39 -- a lead that quickly evaporated in the third period.

"I don't know what happened in the second period. We lost focus," Penguins forward Jordan Staal said. "We had a solid first period, but they came out with a power play goal and got rolling. Back-to-back (games) is no excuse. You've got to play hard no matter where it is."

The Penguins remained 10th in the Eastern Conference, two spots outside the playoffs with another game gone. They blew a 3-1 lead at New Jersey on Friday in a 4-3 overtime loss.

"We've been guilty of having letdowns and when we've had them we haven't really recovered from them," Crosby said. "Every time we're out there, it becomes that much more important."

Bruins 1, Rangers 0 | Video

Tukka Rask is regarded as Boston's goalie of the future. His present wasn't too bad either, as he stopped all 35 Ranger shots in his first NHL appearance this season to win a goaltending battle at TD Banknorth Garden.

"You don't want to fail because if you fail you don't know when you're going to get another chance," the 21-year-old Finn said after making 15 saves in the third period to become the third Boston goalie to post a shutout this season. "If you do good, you've shown that you're capable of playing at this level."

Rask played in his first NHL game since Dec. 6, 2007. He got the chance to play because Manny Fernandez has been out with an injury and coach Claude Julien wanted to give Tim Thomas, who'd played eight in a row, a break with a game in Montreal coming up Sunday afternoon. Rask raised his NHL record to 3-1-1 in recording his first win since Nov. 26, 2007.

"He's obviously a highly-skilled goaltender and we had a lot of confidence going in knowing that he was going to do a great job," Wideman said. "Did we know he was going to do that great of a job? No, but that's great for him."

Rask made Marc Savard's deflection of Dennis Wideman's shot with 22.2 seconds left in the second period stand up as the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins improved to 7-1-2 in their last 10 games.

"Give the kid credit," Savard said. "He's been waiting for his opportunity and he took advantage of it tonight. He's an NHL goaltender. We all know that. He's going to get his time, but right now he came in and did a good job for us."

Neither Rask nor Henrik Lundqvist was seriously tested more than occasionally through almost all of the first two periods, when what looked like a harmless play turned into the game's only goal. Nigel Dawes, taking a hit from Milan Lucic, failed to get the puck out of the zone as it came around the right boards. Wideman let a slap shot go from the point and Savard deflected it down and into the net to extend his points streak to seven games.

"I just shot it and Savvy made a great tip," Wideman said.

The Rangers came out of their shell and outshot Boston 15-9 in the third period but couldn't get a puck past Rask.

"It was a fairly tight game for two periods," New York captain Chris Drury said. "When they scored, we opened things up and that's the way we have to play."

Added Lundqvist: "We played a pretty good game. You can see why they have a really good record, though, and are really good in close games. I think we did what we could here, and we did a lot of good things. We just have to accept that we played a really good team today."

Canadiens 4, Kings 3 | Video

Los Angeles was less than two minutes away from a rare victory at Montreal before Christopher Higgins tied the game with 1:53 remaining in regulation and Saku Koivu won it by scoring a power-play goal with 22.3 seconds left, ending the Canadiens' four-game losing streak.

Koivu got credit for his eighth goal when Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick knocked the puck over the goal line as he tried to cover up on a goalmouth scramble, keeping the Kings winless in Montreal since Dec. 11, 1999.

"It was a scramble in front and the puck bounced behind me and it just wound up going in the net," Quick said. "It's just one of those goals you want to have back, especially with the timing of it, but it went in and was the difference in the game. I mean, you're up 3-2 with two minutes left and it ended up 4-3, right?"

Higgins tied it when he slung defenseman Drew Doughty out of the way, picked up the puck and beat Quick -- a play that Doughty thought should have drawn a penalty.

"I thought it was pretty obvious that he kind of stuck out his arm and just threw me back there, but they didn't give us the call, obviously, so we've just got to forget about it and come back hard next game," Doughty said.

Higgins, not surprisingly, saw things differently.

"You've just got to try to get ahead of (Doughty) there, you know, you've got to throw the elbow out and try to get your shoulder ahead of his shoulder so you can cut to the net," Higgins said. "I just knocked him off balance there a little bit. I saw the pokecheck coming, so I put it over his shoulder."

Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn also scored for Montreal, which snapped a season-high four-game losing streak. Carey Price stopped 23 shots for his first win in four starts since returning from an ankle injury.

"It's a start, but that's all it is," Price said. "It's a start, you know, we've got to keep moving from here."

Dustin Brown and Jarret Stoll each had a goal and an assist and Michal Handzus added a goal for the Kings, who ended a three-game winning streak. Stoll's wrist shot past Price at 18:16 of the second period looked like it would be the game-winner until Montreal's late outburst.

"It was a good 59-minute game, but at this point in the year -- you can say what you want, but we need to start winning these games." Brown said. "We've blown too many of these games, which are valuable points."

Ducks 4, Avalanche 3 | Video

Teemu Selanne celebrated his franchise-record 617th game as a Duck by scoring the winning goal 5:04 into the third period as Anaheim beat Colorado in a battle of struggling teams.

It was Selanne's first goal in his second game back after missing 17 with a badly lacerated leg, and the Ducks are counting on him to help them pull out of a slump that's dropped them into a pile of teams competing for the last four playoff berths in the West.

"I think we got a pretty good breakout and a couple of good bounces and I wound up with a puck in front of the goalie," said Selanne, who passed Steve Rucchin for most games played in franchise history. "I got off a pretty good shot. It was nothing special."

It was the 90th game-winning goal of Selanne's career.

"I think it's very important," Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller said of Selanne's goal. "First, he's a great player and second, in the dressing room, he's a great guy and the young kids can learn from him. He knows how to score. He showed it again there in the third and it was the game-winner."

The Avs haven't seen a game-winner in a while. They've dropped four in a row and fell to 1-5-0 on their eight-game homestand. They are tied for 12th in the Western Conference playoff race, and the points they’re leaving on the table at home could prove costly.

"It's tough when you lose that many games in a row," forward Ian Laperriere said. "We did a lot of good things tonight, but again we didn’t find a way to get points. It’s getting old right now.

"We need to get on a roll and get back in the playoff race, I guess, because we’re falling behind right now. Teams are winning behind us and teams are winning in front us. It’s going to be tougher and tougher the rest of the year we have to realize that now."

The Avs took a 1-0 lead 8:01 into the game on a power-play goal by John-Michael Liles. After George Parros and Ryan Getzlaf scored to put the Ducks ahead 2-1 after one period, Milan Hedjuk and Laperriere scored less than two minutes apart midway through the second period to put Colorado in front.

But Scott Niedermayer tied it at 3-3 with a power-play goal at 13:35 before Selanne got the only goal of the third period.

"We've been in position in a lot of these games where you think the big play to go your way will make the difference," Avs coach Tony Granato said.

"Obviously they've made the plays with the game on the line for the opposite to happen. We'll keep working. We're not going to go away and hide."

Stars 7, Blue Jackets 3 | Video

One night after shutting out Ottawa, Columbus rookie Steve Mason didn't make it through the first 11 minutes against Dallas, allowing three goals as the Stars continued their domination of the Blue Jackets.


JAMES NEAL
LEFT WING - DAL

GOALS: 2 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 3
SOG: 4 | +/-: +3

"We are playing good hockey and are getting down to business here," said rookie James Neal, who scored twice and added an assist. "It feels good. Every night is a huge game, and these are two big points."

The Stars now have 53 points, making them one of five teams tied for the last three playoff berths in the West. The Blue Jackets also have 53.

Dallas improved to 25-4-4 all-time against Columbus. More important, the Stars are 3-0-0 since the All-Star break and have outscored the opposition 13-5.

"We like the way we are playing and it's a result-oriented business," said goalie Marty Turco, who made 35 saves. "We are banding together and playing well lately, and we are going to have to continue this. They are a tough team to play against, but we were in control for the most part, and that's the way we like it."

Mason, starting his 18th consecutive game, was pulled after allowing goals to Neal, Loui Eriksson and Brian Sutherby on just eight shots in the first 10:43.

"A complete defensive breakdown -- there's no surprise or secret out there," Columbus defenseman Mark Methot said. "It was embarrassing."

The Blue Jackets rallied after Wade Dubielewicz replaced Mason. Kristian Huselius beat Marty Turco with a backhander at 17:32, and Fedor Tyutin fired a screened slap shot into the top corner for a power-play goal 1:38 into the second period.

But the Stars regained control when Neal banged home the rebound of Mike Modano's wrist shot at 13:29, and Steve Ott made it 5-2 at 18:58.

"That goal to get us to four was huge," coach Dave Tippett said. "It gave us some cushion and we were able to keep pushing it the other way. That dictated the game."

Jared Boll's goal 4:34 into the final period gave the Nationwide Arena crowd some hope, but goals by Dallas defensemen Trevor Daley and Andrew Hutchinson turned the game into a rout.

"I thought our goaltending wasn't very good tonight, but they aren't the total blame," Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We got beat to way too many pucks in our own zone. We were really soft."

Islanders 3, Panthers 1 | Video

The Nassau Coliseum on the 31st day of the month is not the Panthers' favorite stop. Exactly one month after a 4-2 loss to the Islanders on New Year's Eve, the Panthers found a way to lose to the NHL's 30th-ranked team for a second time.

Yann Danis made Mike Comrie's first-period goal off a giveaway behind the Florida goal stand up until the third period, when the Isles added goals by Bill Guerin and Kyle Okposo. Gregory Campbell's tip-in with 1:27 left was the only Florida shot to beat Danis, who finished with 37 saves as the Isles won their third in a row, all with the third-string goaltender in net.

"All that matters to me is the win," Danis said when asked about losing his shutout bid. "I don't care if it's 3-1, 3-2, or 3-0, as long as we win."

Florida had won two in a row and was 7-1-3 since the Dec. 31 loss on Long Island. The Panthers had the better of the play in the opening period, but Comrie scored with 1:26 left when goaltender Tomas Vokoun made a save and wrapped the puck around the net to defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who wasn't expecting it. Comrie quickly took the puck from Bouwmeester and stuffed it into the open short side.

Guerin scored on a spin-o-rama backhander 4:19 into the third period and Okposo extended his goals streak to four games by connecting on a power-play one-timer at 11:02.

"He's playing with the puck with confidence now," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said of Okposo, the Isles' top pick in the 2006 Entry Draft. "We're seeing him do more with the puck. Not just tonight, but he's doing things that have opened my eyes that I didn't know was in his repertoire."

The Panthers came up empty on a pair of four-minute power plays that resulted when Okposo and Guerin drew double minors for high-sticking.

"You'd like to say their goalie won the game, but he didn't," Florida coach Peter DeBoer said. "He played well, but they capitalized on their opportunities and we didn't."

Hurricanes 2, Thrashers 0 | Video

Cam Ward won't get too many shutouts that are easier than this one. Ward faced only 19 shots, few that were challenging, as the Hurricanes dominated Atlanta while winning for the second time in as many nights.


CAM WARD
GOALTENDER - CAR

SHOTS: 19 | SAVES: 19
SAVE PCT: 1.000 | GAA: 0.00

"Typically, for a goaltender, these can be tough games, when you're only facing 19, 20 shots," Ward said. "But I felt sharp all night despite not getting much work."

Carolina gave Ward all the support he would need when Matt Cullen scored on a shorthanded breakaway at 7:41 and Ray Whitney beat Kari Lehtinen through the legs at 18:29, capping a first period in which the 'Canes outshot Atlanta 21-4.

"It seemed pretty easy for them. They had all the energy," Atlanta defenseman Ron Hainsey said. "We had a couple of shots, but they weren't really dangerous. That's pretty much the story."

The Hurricanes kept firing away over the last two periods but were unable to get another puck past Lehtonen, who made 38 saves.

"It helps that we didn't give up any Grade-A scoring opportunities," Ward said after his 16th consecutive start. "It looked like they were getting a little bit frustrated. We were taking away their time and space and all that, and didn't let them get too creative."

It was the second game in a row in which the Thrashers were overwhelmed in the first period. On Thursday, they left the ice after 20 minutes trailing the New York Islanders 4-0 -- and wound up losing 5-4.

I'm getting tired of talking about the starts we've been having," Atlanta center Bryan Little said. "Each game we say we have to have a good start and each game we don't. ... I don't know what it's going to take to get back to playing a full 60 minutes."

Blues 4, Flyers 0
| Video

Chris Mason capped a brilliant month of goaltending by making 35 saves for his second shutout in three games and the Blues shut down one of the NHL's top power plays on all 11 chances.

Mason finished January with a 1.71 goals-against average, a .942 save percentage and two shutouts -- but just a 3-3 record, largely due to a lack of offensive support. This time, he had plenty of help at both ends of the ice.

"I'm feeling pretty good and the guys are doing a great job in front of me," Mason said. "They're blocking shots, letting me see pucks, clearing rebounds, letting me know where pucks are. I think it's a combination of everyone kind of getting better as we go here."

The game turned early in the first period, when the Flyers were unable to convert on a 5-on-3 advantage for a full two minutes, then saw the Blues score nine seconds after the power play expired when Jay McClement banged in a rebound at 4:05.

"What an emotional change," Blues coach Andy Murray said. "We killed off the 3-on-5 and scored at the end of it."

Flyers coach John Stevens agreed that the failure to capitalize on the early 5-on-3 chance was vital.

"It was a real key point in the game," he said. "You get those opportunities early and you want to capitalize and we didn't put the puck in the net and the worst-case scenario is they come out and score right after that, so not only do we not score, but they score after that. Surely special teams played a factor in the game tonight. It was the difference in the hockey game in the end."

Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo made it 2-0 at 2:45 of the second period, snapping a shot from the slot past Antero Niittymaki. Mason's long outlet pass set up a 2-on-0 that turned into a tap-in goal by David Backes at 8:37, and Patrik Berglund added a power-play goal with 4:33 left in the third period.

"We needed to simplify our game," Murray said. "We played the type of game our lineup can play at this time."

Sabres 2, Coyotes 0 | Video

Buffalo finished a grueling month on a high note by shutting down the Coyotes in Phoenix, giving the Sabres a 9-4 record in January despite playing all but three games on the road.

"It's something we identified on the schedule as being very important to our season," said goaltender Ryan Miller, who stopped 28 shots for his fourth shutout. "It was going to be make or break and we had to survive it."


RYAN MILLER
GOALTENDER - BUF

SHOTS: 28 | SAVES: 28
SAVE PCT: 1.000 | GAA: 0.00

Miller didn't face many difficult chances. He made his best stop on a shorthanded drive by Shane Doan in the second period.

"I got my feet under me and thought Doan might take a quick shot," Miller said. "He showed his hand as a pass, not a shot, but I stayed on my feet, was able to get back and ended up getting there in time."

Buffalo got both of its goals in a 4:23 span of the second period. Tim Connolly jammed in the rebound of Thomas Vanek's shot at 4:21 after Ilya Bryzgalov couldn't hang onto it, and Daniel Paille one-timed Derek Roy's pass high into the net at 8:44.

The suddenly struggling Coyotes lost their third in a row since the All-Star break -- all at home -- and were shut out for the second time in three nights.

"The reality is there's still 30 games to go," Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. "There's a lot of hockey left. We need to turn it around very quickly."

One big culprit for the goal drought is the power play. Phoenix was 0-for-7 against the Sabres and is 0-for-13 in the past last two games.

"The power play let us down," Doan said. "That falls on the guys who are the offensive leaders and get the opportunity on the power play. We're the ones who should take the heat on this one. We had some better traffic in front and had some opportunities to score and we didn't."

Wild 4, Canucks 3 (OT) | Video

Minnesota rebounded from a loss at Edmonton on Friday by continuing Vancouver's free fall. The Canucks got a point when Ryan Kesler tied the game with 15.3 seconds left in regulation -- but the Wild got two when Marc-Andre Bergeron's power-play blast beat Roberto Luongo 2:02 into overtime.

Vancouver lost for the eighth consecutive game and dropped its ninth in a row at G.M. Place -- two short of the team record set in 1970-71, the franchise's inaugural season.

Minnesota moved into a five-way tie with Edmonton, Phoenix, Columbus and Dallas for the last three playoff spots in the Western Conference. All have 53 points, one more than the Canucks.

The Wild got a big night from goaltender Nicklas Backstrom, who rebounded after being pulled 23 minutes into Friday's loss and made 37 saves.

"We need our goaltender to make big saves to win, and he did," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said.

Bergeron got the game-winner after Daniel Sedin was penalized for tripping Mikko Koivu. The Wild worked the puck patiently until Bergeron was able to tee up a slap shot from the top of the left circle that went past a screened Luongo.

"It was unfortunate that they got a point," Koivu said. "But it was great that we could bounce back and score a goal in overtime."

The Canucks spent the night playing catch-up after Koivu and Bergeron scored four minutes apart to give the Wild a 2-0 lead 11:38 into the game. Kesler got one back 3:37 into the second period when Backstrom stopped his shot but the puck his Kesler's skate and carried into the net.

The Canucks were unable to get the equalizer during a five-minute power play after Cal Clutterbuck was given a major penalty and ejected for boarding Alex Burrows -- Backstrom made nine saves during the five-minute power play. But Alex Edler did tie it 3:03 into the third.

The tie didn't last long, as Eric Belanger finished off a pass from Pierre-Marc Bouchard at 7:46. But with Brent Burns in the penalty box, the Canucks pulled Luongo and were rewarded when Kesler chipped in a rebound to force OT.

"I think our battle level was better tonight. It needs to stay at that level and get better," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "I think we deserved more than one point tonight. I think we outplayed that team, especially in the last two periods. But their goaltender was the difference tonight.

"We'll try and work our way out of this, starting tomorrow."

Blackhawks 4, Sharks 2 | Video

Chicago beat San Jose for the first time in 14 tries as Jonathan Toews scored twice in the Hawks' first victory at the Shark Tank in nearly six years.

The Blackhawks had lost 13 in a row against the Sharks and hadn't won at HP Pavilion since St. Patrick's Day in 2003. But they were quicker and sharper all night in handing the Sharks only their second regulation home loss in 27 games this season and ending their four-game winning streak.


JONATHAN TOEWS
CENTER - CHI

GOALS: 2 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 2
SOG: 3 | +/-: +1

"That's the best team in the league and it was a great start for us," defenseman Brent Seabrook said. "We got one right off the bat and carried it through."

Toews denied Evgeni Nabokov's hopes for a third consecutive shutout just 48 seconds into the game, ending the goaltender's shutout streak at 170:58. After Christian Ehrhoff tied it with a power-play goal at 12:06, the Hawks took command in the second period when Kris Versteeg deflected Dave Bolland's shot past Nabokov for a shorthanded goal at 7:56 of the second period and Toews scored on the power play at 16:15.

"It was a huge game for us," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We played with a lot of enthusiasm, we were on the puck and had good speed. All aspects of our game were  rock solid."

Duncan Keith added a goal with 5:26 remaining to make it 4-1. Milan Michalek's breakaway goal 10 seconds later gave the sellout crowd some hope, but despite pressuring Nikolai Khabibulin for the rest of the game, the Sharks couldn't score again.

"The tempo of the game was in their favor and special teams were in their favor," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We're going to put our work boots back on and do a lot of skating."

Chicago wound up winning two of three on the California portion of an eight-game road trip. The Hawks will spend next week in Western Canada, playing Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver -- but not before getting to spend a day off relaxing in Las Vegas.

"We can be happy about this win and celebrate it the next few days," Toews said. "We played a solid game from start to finish and now it's time to take our game to another level."

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








 

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