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Mason, Blue Jackets blank Bruins

by Brian Compton
If this keeps up, the Columbus Blue Jackets will still be playing after their regular season concludes on April 11.
Steve Mason stopped all 35 shots he faced for his League-leading ninth shutout of the season and Raffi Torres broke a scoreless tie early in the third period to lead Columbus to an impressive win against Boston at Nationwide Arena.
The Blue Jackets, in their eighth NHL season, are trying to make the playoffs for the first time. The chase is a new experience for the club's veterans, even grizzled 24-year-old star Rick Nash, who has never played on a winner in his five previous seasons in Columbus, which entered Tuesday's action in sixth place in the West.

''It's fun playing this time of the season when hockey means something,'' he said after stretching his goal streak to three games with an empty-net tally. ''We're not used to this. We're used to just playing for our fans right now. Right now there's a bigger picture and we're excited to be playing.''
Tim Thomas made 32 saves for the Bruins, who have dropped four straight on the road. He went save-for-save against the rookie Mason until Torres beat him via the power play at 6:50 of the third. Afterwards, Mason declined to view it as a win over Thomas.
''Tim is a great goalie,'' Mason said. ''When you come out on the winning end, it's definitely a nice feeling. But you really don't look at it that way.''
After stopping 29 shots, many in spectacular fashion, Thomas gave up a goal on one of the weakest drives he faced.

With Bruins captain Zdeno Chara in the penalty box, Torres skated with the puck on the right wing. Just inside the dot, he shifted to a left-handed shot and managed to slip the puck past Thomas high on the stick side for his seventh goal.

''I saw there was a lot of room coming in, so I was just fortunate to get a quick shot off,'' Torres said. ''I think I caught him cheating a little bit (to the near post).''
Columbus defenseman Rostislav Klesla smothered what might have been the Bruins' best scoring chance. After Mason had blocked Chara's shot in the opening minutes of the game, the puck settled between Mason and the goal line. Klesla dived on the puck to prevent the Bruins from poking it into the net.

''It's a matter of timely goals and timely saves, and we're getting neither,'' Bruins coach Claude Julien said. ''That makes for tough losses like tonight.''
The Blue Jackets will look to make it three in a row on Thursday night against Pittsburgh, which has reeled off seven straight victories.
''The thing is, we're winning some big games right now,'' Torres said. ''Every game from now on is going to be a playoff game. Guys are getting excited, guys are putting in the work off the ice, and showing up to practice and going hard. We're putting that into the game and turning in 60 minutes.''
Devils 3, Flames 2 | VIDEO
Martin Brodeur made 35 saves and pulled within two wins of tying Patrick Roy's all-time record as New Jersey edged Calgary at the Prudential Center.
If everything goes according to plan, Brodeur will have a chance to pull even with Roy on Saturday night -- in Montreal. The Devils will host Phoenix on Thursday night.
''I think for people around me, they feel it's a great story,'' Brodeur said of having a chance to tie the mark in his hometown. ''It's still alive. I have a chance. One more game to go.''
The Flames kept Brodeur busy all night long on Tuesday, as they recorded 16 shots in the second period alone. Brodeur denied all of them to preserve his team's 2-1 lead heading into the third.
''The type of game as far as the quantity of shots and the power play time we had to spend killing six or seven penalties, I think the playing and the feeling were a little different than the other ones,'' said Brodeur, who has won four of five starts since returning from a four-month hiatus, giving him 549 career victories.
Jamie Langenbrunner, Brian Rolston and Zach Parise scored for New Jersey, which killed off six of seven power plays. The Devils have won eight straight on home ice, tying a franchise record.
It was a far cry from the Devils' previous game, a 7-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday afternoon. Brodeur was chased in that contest
''I was in certain situations where the puck hit me today, and Saturday it didn't,'' Brodeur said. ''I worked hard yesterday in practice on a couple of little things, my balance. (On) Long Island, my balance was not great and I worked on it.''
Calgary newcomer Olli Jokinen's third goal in four games could not prevent the Flames from losing their third straight game. Curtis Glencross scored with less than a second to play for the final goal. It came on the Flames' final power play.
Langenbrunner erased a 1-0 deficit at 5:10 of the second period, roughly 13 minutes before Rolston beat Miikka Kiprusoff to give the Devils the lead. Parise made it 3-1 1:15 into the third, which prompted Flames coach Mike Keenan to replace Kiprusoff with Curtis McElhinney.
''This time of year you want to feel good, and play better and better, night after night,'' Kiprusoff said. ''We've had a couple of tough games. We have to try to learn from this and get stronger next game.''

Maple Leafs 3, Islanders 2, OT | VIDEO
Mikhail Grabovski's first goal in 18 games came 50 seconds into overtime as Toronto edged New York at the Air Canada Centre.
It was a special moment for Grabovski, who hadn't scored since Jan. 29 and had never scored in overtime before. But that all changed when his shot from close range beat Joey MacDonald.
''The coach had faith in me and gave me a chance to play in overtime,'' Grabovski said. ''It's my first career goal in overtime, so I'm pretty happy.
''Before, I had games with lots of chances but I couldn't score. My hands, maybe. But the coach believed in me and he kept me in there.''
The Islanders blew a chance to clear the puck from their zone and, after two teammates had whacks at the puck, Grabovski fired the puck in from the middle of the zone for his 14th goal. The shot beat MacDonald, who was out of position after making an initial save.

''The way things have been going for him, I could see that puck bouncing and a swing and a miss,'' Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. ''Fortunately, he got his stick on it.

''Even during the game, there were a few times where I didn't know where he was (on the bench). He was so worried about scoring, but he got a bounce tonight. He was in the right spot and got the job done.''

The Islanders had won four of five entering Tuesday's action and were playing the first of a six-game road trip. Kyle Okposo and Blake Comeau scored for New York, which is three points behind Tampa Bay at the bottom of the NHL standings.

''I look at it as two seasons,'' Isles coach Scott Gordon said. ''The first half was obviously very frustrating in that we lost our No. 1 goaltender (Rick DiPietro) and all the other injuries. The second half has been a breath of fresh air. Our guys have responded and what we hoped would happen in the first half is now happening in the second half.

''The compete level from all the individuals has been tremendous. As a result, we've become a hard team to play against. Any coach will tell you that, when you can walk away from a game saying his team is a hard team to play against, it's a satisfying feeling.''
Lee Stempniak opened the scoring for the Leafs with his 12th of the season at 17:27 of the first. But Okposo tallied his 15th of the campaign just 15 seconds later, and Comeau put the Islanders in front 45 seconds after that.
But after a scoreless second period, Alexei Ponikarovsky tied the game for Toronto 8:46 into the third, when he knocked down a clearing attempt and launched a shot past MacDonald for his 19th goal of the season. The Isles dropped to 6-23-3 on the road.
''We had some great possession and time in the offensive zone, but we just didn't convert the chances we had,'' Gordon said.

Flyers 5, Sabres 2 | VIDEO
Jeff Carter got out of his offensive funk with a pair of third-period goals, leading Philadelphia past Buffalo at the Wachovia Center. The victory allowed the Flyers -- winners in 8 of their last 12 -- to strengthen their hold on the No. 4 seed in the East.
Carter is third in the NHL with 38 goals, but he found the net just twice in the previous 12 games. Flyers coach John Stevens said part of the problem was Carter wasn't shooting enough.
''Sometimes when you aren't scoring, you don't shoot and you wait for the perfect opportunity,'' Stevens said. ''He shoots the puck so well that if he keeps shooting it, good things happen.''
Martin Biron made 27 saves and Mike Richards added a power-play goal for the Flyers, who have won two in a row. Carter agreed with Stevens' assessment that he and linemates Joffrey Lupul and Scott Hartnell -- who also scored twice -- were trying to be too creative with their passes.
''We cut back on being too fancy,'' Carter said. ''If you go for cross-ice passes a lot, sometimes they get picked off.''
Carter's first goal of the night broke a 1-1 tie and came just 27 seconds into the third period. Richards then made it 3-1 before Carter scored again less than 90 seconds later.
''If I have a chance to shoot, I'm going to shoot it,'' Carter said.
Maxim Afinogenov scored the lone goal for Buffalo, which failed to keep pace with other teams in the Eastern playoff race that played on Tuesday night. Patrick Lalime stopped 25 of 29 shots before being replaced by Mikael Tellqvist after Carter's second tally.
''We gave ourselves a chance to win in the third period, but we came out not very good,'' Sabres forward Thomas Vanek said. ''It's disappointing because there are so few games remaining.''
Hartnell -- who erased a 1-0 deficit in the first -- gave the Flyers a 5-1 lead when he beat Tellqvist with exactly five minutes to go. Jochen Hecht scored for the Sabres at 18:38.
''It was a tight game and then in the third period we made some mistakes that we shouldn't have made,'' Afinogenov said. ''A couple of mistakes cost us.''

Red Wings 3, Coyotes 2, OT | VIDEO
Johan Franzen beat Ilya Bryzgalov 3:35 into overtime as Detroit edged Phoenix at Joe Louis Arena.
It was a huge bounce-back win for the Wings, who suffered an 8-2 loss to Columbus on Saturday night. Franzen brought the puck off the left boards, skated across the high slot and beat Bryzgalov for his 27th goal.
''Fil (Valtteri Filppula) won the draw back to (Brad Stuart). I kind of followed him up there on the blue line and created some space for myself,'' Franzen said. ''The D usually don't want to follow you that far up, so I got some room there in the middle.''
Filppula had a goal and an assist, and Brian Rafalski also scored for the Red Wings, while Franzen added an assist on Filppula's goal. Ty Conklin made 23 saves.

''We had to bounce back and play a lot better, obviously, than the last game,'' Franzen said. ''It was a tight game and huge for us to come up with the victory.''
Mike Babcock agreed. The Wings' coach was pleased to see his team put Saturday's disastrous performance behind it.

''I thought we did a lot of real good things. I thought we had a lot of quality chances,'' he said.

''Bryzgalov was good, but we had a lot of traffic. They're loose now and they're thinking of themselves as not being in (the playoffs), and they have a lot of young kids who skate well.''
Indeed they do, but that hasn't prevented the Coyotes from dropping six of their last seven games. Not even a 40-save performance by Bryzgalov could save them on Tuesday.
Still, Phoenix did manage to erase a 2-1 deficit in the third period, when Shane Doan scored just 1:14 after Rafalski had given Detroit the lead on a power-play tally. Doan's goal also came with the man advantage. The Coyotes' captain now has 25 goals this season. Martin Hanzal also scored for Phoenix.
''It was good to come back and get the tie at the end,'' Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. ''A little disappointed that we didn't get the win, but all in all, I thought our guys played pretty hard.''
The Coyotes played a disciplined game and gave the Red Wings only one power play all night. Unfortunately for them, Rafalski scored on that lone man advantage.
''We know how good their power play is, and you can't give them that many chances,'' Doan said.

Sharks 5, Wild 4, OT | VIDEO
Christian Ehrhoff may have provided San Jose with one of its biggest wins of the year.
Ehrhoff's unassisted goal at 3:34 of overtime ended the Sharks' season-long four-game losing streak as they picked up a much-needed win against Minnesota at the Xcel Energy Center.
It wasn't the prettiest win, considering the Sharks blew a three-goal lead on Tuesday night. San Jose coach Todd McLellan was pleased to see his team end its skid, but still hopes to see more from it down the stretch.
''We'll take the win,'' McLellan said, ''but I'm disappointed. We've won a lot of hockey games, and we need to carry ourselves like we have won a lot of hockey games. We need to play with more confidence. We've earned the opportunity to play confident and be confident.''
The Wild were happy with a point after falling behind so big early on a rough night by All-Star goalie Niklas Backstrom. He stopped only 18 shots and let two ''weak'' goals, in the view of coach Jacques Lemaire, past him in the first period.
Backstrom has given up 17 goals in 4 1/2 games -- he was pulled in one -- since signing a $24 million, four-year contract extension.
''We were fortunate the bounces starting ending up on our side,'' Backstrom said.
"We'll take the win, but I'm disappointed. We've won a lot of hockey games, and we need to carry ourselves like we have won a lot of hockey games. We need to play with more confidence. We've earned the opportunity to play confident and be confident." -- Sharks coach Todd McLellan
San Jose jumped out to a 3-0 lead on a pair of goals by Joe Thornton and one from Travis Moen. Peter Olvecky got Minnesota on the comeback trail when he beat Brian Boucher (25 saves) at 8:38 of the second, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard made it 3-2 just 62 seconds into the third.
Milan Michalek restored San Jose's two-goal lead at 10:25, but Owen Nolan forced overtime with a pair of goals less than four minutes apart late in the third.
''We're not making it easy on ourselves, that's for sure,'' Boucher said.

Blues 5, Stars 2 | VIDEO
David Perron scored twice and St. Louis scored three times on its first eight shots in a rout of Dallas at the Scottrade Center.
St. Louis improved to 3-0 against the Stars this season and jumped to 11th place in the Western Conference with 68 points. Dallas stayed in 10th, tied with Minnesota with 70 points. Perron scored only two goals in his previous 11 games.
''I liked the way that we stay hard on the puck,'' Blues coach Andy Murray said. ''We had some other great chances. I liked how we stayed into the game and stayed on them.''
St. Louis took a 1-0 lead just 59 seconds into the game. David Backes skated in alone just inside the blue line and beat Marty Turco for his 22nd goal. Perron made it 2-0 at 6:32 on the Blues' third shot of the game, sliding the puck under Turco's left side.
''When you see a guy like that get a big goal for us early,'' Perron said. ''We just had to keep it going and that's what we did. We scored three in the first.''
Brad Winchester chased Turco with a power-play goal at 11:56, his 11th of the season. Turco (30-25-8), who has allowed 11 goals against St. Louis this campaign, was replaced by Tobias Stephan.
''You always expect the best even when you're not feeling your best,'' Turco said. ''You work hard on the fundamentals and you rely on them, but it wasn't my night.''
James Neal got the Stars on the board with a power-play goal at 5:20 of the second, but the Blues quickly regained the three-goal lead when Perron scored again at 9:59. Mike Ribeiro beat Chris Mason (20 saves) less than two minutes later, but St. Louis once again found the back of the net when Keith Tkachuk scored on the power play with 4:20 left in the second. It was Tkachuk's 20th goal of the season.
Dallas went 0-for-3 on the power play in the third period.
''We came out, battled had a good second period there,'' Mason said. ''And in the third period, we came out and shut them down.''

Capitals 2, Predators 1, OT | VIDEO
All it took for Washington to end a four-game losing streak was to get away from the Verizon Center.
Sergei Fedorov scored 2:20 into overtime, as the Caps put an end to their skid with a victory at Nashville. The four-game skid was a season-worst. All of those losses came on home ice.
''I thought we played as good of a game we have played in a long time,'' said Washington coach Bruce Boudreau, whose team is 11-3-2 in its last 16 road games. ''We should have won in regulation, but didn't. We got the two points anyway.''
The Predators dropped their second straight after winning six in a row. Nashville has earned at least one point in eight of nine games.
"We've had a bit of a struggling streak, so it was a good game for us to play, and it was a great team effort.  I think it was one step forward. It's something we have to continue to start winning games again." -- Nicklas Backstrom
From the right corner, Alexander Semin passed the puck to Viktor Kozlov on the right boards. Kozlov moved it into the low slot to Fedorov, who slid in a backhander for his eighth goal of the season.
''We kept plugging away, and we were finally able to score,'' Fedorov said. ''It was a good character win for us, and something we need to shake things up.''
Ryan Suter gave the Predators the lead just 50 seconds into the game, when he beat Jose Theodore (27 saves) with a wrist shot from above the left circle. It was his sixth goal of the season.
Nicklas Backstrom tied the game for the Caps with his 18th goal of the season at 18:39 of the second period. With the teams at even strength, Backstrom took a pass from Alex Ovechkin and wristed it past Dan Ellis to make it 1-1. Ellis made 44 saves in the loss. Ovechkin has five goals and five assists in his last eight games.
''We've had a bit of a struggling streak, so it was a good game for us to play, and it was a great team effort,'' Backstrom said. ''I think it was one step forward. It's something we have to continue to start winning games again.''
Ellis got the starting nod for Nashville after Pekka Rinne was suffering from flu-like symptoms at the morning skate. Despite playing in just three games since the All-Star break, Ellis didn't show any signs of rust.

''In a fun way, it was a real challenge,'' Ellis said. ''When you don't play for seven or eight games, to jump back in there against the best player in the world is something that I look forward to and try to make the most of it, enjoy the moment, and show them I can still play.''

Thrashers 3, Avalanche 0 | VIDEO
Kari Lehtonen stopped all 35 shots he faced for his third shutout of the season as Atlanta blanked Colorado at the Pepsi Center.
Lehtonen is 3-0 with a 0.67 goals-against average in his last three starts, including a 2-0 win over Montreal last Friday at home.
''I can't explain it,'' he said of his strong recent play. ''It isn't anything technical. I just feel comfortable, and the team in front of me has been comfortable with me.''
Lehtonen's 14th NHL shutout helped the Thrashers improve to 8-4-1 in their last 13 games. The surge includes a two-game season sweep of the Avalanche, who lost for the seventh time in eight games. It was the eighth time this season Colorado was shut out.
''I thought Kari was solid all throughout the game,'' Atlanta coach John Anderson said. ''He had a great game the game before. So, when you're getting great goaltending, it makes the rest of the game a little easier.''
After a scoreless first period, the Thrashers struck twice in the second. Zach Bogosian tallied his fourth career goal at 17:32 before Todd White beat Peter Budaj (33 saves) in the final second.
Rich Peverley put the game away with an empty-net tally at 18:57 of the third period. It was his 12th goal of the season.
Colorado was the victim of some bad luck as it saw a pair of shots by Milan Hejduk and Darcy Tucker hit the crossbar. Rookie Matt Hendricks also hit the post with a slap shot.
''It was close but not close enough,'' Hendricks said of his first-period near miss. ''You can use those as excuses, but at the same time, you've got to make your own bounces. You've got to find the back of the net somehow.
''He's a great goaltender with a great size, but at the same time, he saw a lot of shots. We were not as aggressive as we had to be around the net battling for the rebounds.''

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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