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Miller, Sabres turn it around before break

by Brian Hunter
Before boarding a plane and heading off to Vancouver for the Winter Olympics, goalie Ryan Miller tuned up by helping the Buffalo Sabres end their six-game losing streak.

The American-born goalie stopped 27 shots Saturday night and the Sabres got three second-period goals to record a 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at HSBC Arena.

Combined with Ottawa's loss to Detroit, the Sabres regained first place in the Northeast Division by a point, although the Senators play the Islanders on Sunday before starting their two-week break.

Miller, who hadn't won since beating the Bruins on Jan. 29, turned in easily his best performance since that game and was supported by goals from Paul Gaustad, Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville.

"For a while, it didn't seem like a lot was going quite my way after pretty much nothing went wrong in the first 40 games," Miller said. "The teams I've been with that have performed at the highest levels have always had something to overcome. I'd rather have it now than later."

Kent Huskins prevented Miller from recording his sixth shutout of the season by scoring 5:28 into the third for the Sharks, who got 25 saves from Evgeni Nabokov.

"I don't know what happened," said Nabokov, who, like Miller, is bound for Vancouver. "We gave up a few odd-man rushes and they took advantage."

San Jose had its chances to break the scoreless tie before Gaustad got Buffalo on the board 5:25 into the second, charging to the net and converting a Henrik Tallinder pass from the left corner.

After the Sabres killed off a couple penalties, Vanek took a lead pass from Jochen Hecht, used a forehand fake on Nabokov and went to his backhand before slipping the puck in with 7:29 left in the period. Pominville made it 3-0 when he jammed at a puck along the right post and it deflected in off Sharks defenseman Niclas Wallin with 2:37 remaining.

"We had a tough couple of weeks," said Hecht, who will represent Germany in the Olympics. "Against one of the best teams in the League, we played in their end a lot. It shows how good a team we have if we're on our game."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan pointed to the failed power plays as the turning point for his team.

"That's the difference in the game. If you put one of (the power-play opportunities) in, you're in good shape. You build it in the game that they're going to score in the game, but to do that two times in a row really took a lot of life out of us," he said.

During the final minute of the game, Miller was serenaded with chants of "USA! USA!" from the crowd. Now he can turn his attention toward chasing a gold medal before coming back to Buffalo and worrying about the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I'm looking forward to the tournament and (will) try to have as much fun as possible," Miller said. "It's going to be a great experience."

"It was great for him," added Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff, who will be an assistant coach for the Canadian team. "That pushes him off in a real good mood and on the right track. He really wanted to get that win before the break, especially in our own building."

Flyers 6, Canadiens 2 | HIGHLIGHTS

Philadelphia is hot, and Danny Briere was the player who embodied that most Saturday, as he recorded the hat trick in the Flyers' fourth straight victory.

Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Blair Betts also scored and Michael Leighton continued his strong run in goal with 26 saves as Philadelphia completed its second home-and-home sweep of the week -- first New Jersey, then Montreal.

"Looking back, I think we probably would have been happy with a split in both games," Briere said. "But coming out with four wins, this is huge for us and it's a good way to set us up for after the break."

Briere capped the scoring in the Flyers' second win over the Canadiens in as many nights by beating Carey Price on a penalty shot with 9:07 left in the third period.

"All I was thinking about was the crowd booing me and in a sense it was a good thing because it kind of cleared my mind, gave me the chance to not even think about it, just let it happen," he said. "Coming down on Price I had a couple of other ideas and at the last second I just changed and it worked."

The fans at Bell Centre have been fond of giving Briere a piece of their minds since he spurned Montreal's free-agent offer to sign with Philadelphia a couple seasons back.

"Let's just say that it's easier to find the motivation to play," Briere said. "Obviously, having friends and family in the stands and everybody booing you, it gives you that little extra juice pumping in your veins, there's no doubt about it."

Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez scored power-play goals for the Canadiens, who need "to take a mental break" according to coach Jacques Martin. Jaroslav Halak was pulled after allowing five goals on 17 shots.

"I told them about the importance of the final stretch of 19 games," Martin said. "Right now we're in a playoff position, but we need to sprint to the finish over those final 19 games."

The Flyers took it to the Canadiens from the start, opening up a 3-0 first-period lead on goals by Briere, Richards and Carter.

"It's the starts, both games after the first period it was a 3-0 game," Gionta said. "It's tough to do that against a pretty good team."

Gionta got Montreal on the board 6:59 into the second, but Philadelphia responded with a pair of special-teams goals. Betts scored on a shorthanded breakaway at 10:38 and Briere netted his second of the night on a power play, deflecting a Chris Pronger shot six seconds before the intermission for a 5-1 lead.

Bruins 3, Panthers 2 (SO) | HIGHLIGHTS

Boston seemed to be fighting its way from behind the entire night, even in the shootout, but the Bruins finally prevailed on Mark Recchi's goal in the eighth round Saturday.

On two occasions, the fans at BankAtlantic Center were one stop away from erupting in celebration of a Panthers' win, as David Booth scored in round three and Kamil Kreps in round seven. But they were promptly answered by David Krejci and Marc Savard, and after Tuukka Rask stopped Jeff Taffe to begin round eight, Recchi faked to his backhand before wristing one high over Tomas Vokoun for the Bruins' fourth straight victory.

"It was a long one, longest one I've ever been in," Rask said of the shootout. "The guys bailed me out a couple of times and I just tried to give us a chance. Then Recchi made a veteran move there."

It was a move Recchi -- who entered 1-for-13 career in shootout attempts -- said he developed after advice from assistant coach Geoff Ward and tested in practice with veteran goalie Tim Thomas as his guinea pig.

"I just about threw Timmy in the corner, so I thought I'd try it again," Recchi said. "Hopefully, I found a little key because I haven't been very successful."

Krejci and Recchi also scored in regulation for the Bruins, erasing leads the Panthers had taken on goals by Nick Tarnasky and Stephen Weiss.

"We have to try to get that third one, and even a fourth, and put them away," Weiss said. "We let them hang around and they were able to get one late on the power play, then the shootout's 50-50."

Tarnasky's first goal of the season opened the scoring at 10:13 of the first, but Krejci's wrist shot trickled through Vokoun's pads at 15:54 as the Bruins tied the score.

The Panthers took a 2-1 lead before the period's end as Weiss took off on an end-to-end rush, slipped the puck between the legs of Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara and went backhand to forehand before beating Rask, who turned in a 26-save effort.

Recchi got the game-tying goal with 8:16 remaining in the third.

"I thought they came at us pretty hard in the first couple of periods, winning the races, winning the battles," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "I thought it was two of our worst periods in a long, long time. We didn't practice this morning because we looked tired even yesterday and obviously we were.

"I didn't think we were very good, but we sucked it up in the third and found a way to win because we knew how important it was."

Red Wings 4, Senators 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

Detroit made sure the lead didn't get away this time and snapped a four-game losing streak in the process.

Pavel Datsyuk had a goal and an assist and Jimmy Howard stopped 29 shots as the Red Wings cooled off the Senators at Joe Louis Arena.

"I thought it was important to get the two points," Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "Where we're at in the standings, we're in desperate need of points."

Kirk Maltby, Dan Cleary and Johan Franzen also scored for Detroit, which finished the night tied for ninth with Dallas, one point behind Nashville and Calgary, which hold down the final two Western Conference playoff berths.

"It was definitely a big win going into the break," Maltby said. "Add to get ready for the stretch run."

Detroit scored first in recent losses to San Jose and St. Louis and blew an early three-goal lead against Los Angeles, but after Maltby and Datsyuk scored seven minutes apart in the first period Saturday, the Wings clamped down.

Peter Regin did draw the Senators to within a goal 8:13 into the second, but Cleary restored the two-goal lead with a power-play goal at 11:09 and Franzen put the puck into an empty net with 49 seconds left in the third.

"I don't know, but it seems like they're tough to come back against," Ottawa defenseman Brian Lee said. "They're strong defensively."

Franzen played in his third game since returning from a knee injury suffered back in October. He could be a candidate to replace Detroit teammate Tomas Holmstrom on Team Sweden for the Olympics if the knee injury he suffered Saturday is serious. Holmstrom left in the first period and did not return.

"I'm hoping he's going to recover and play for Sweden," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock, who is also Team Canada's Olympic coach. "He'd be a huge part of their team. He's a huge part of our team with his emotion and net-front presence."

Hurricanes 5, Devils 2 | HIGHLIGHTS

If Carolina really is out of the Eastern Conference playoff race, then somebody forgot to tell the Hurricanes.

Ray Whitney scored a pair of goals one minute apart in the second period and Jussi Jokinen scored twice in the third to power the 'Canes to their fifth straight victory. Rookie goalie Justin Peters won his second straight start, finishing with 23 saves.

"It's probably the best streak I've been on," said Jokinen, who has a career-high 23 goals this season. "Our power play is going good, so it has been fun."

Zach Boychuk started the scoring with 3:13 left in the first period, beating Martin Brodeur for his first NHL goal. The Hurricanes raced to a 4-0 lead by early in the third and have now won nine of 11 overall. They are nine points out of eighth in the East.

"We've been playing good for awhile, not just the five-game and four-game winning streaks," Whitney said.

The Devils, however, have not. While they still lead the Atlantic Division by two points over the Penguins, they've lost 12 of their last 17 games. Brodeur was pulled in favor of Yann Danis after Jokinen's first goal 3:27 into the third.

"When you look at the whole game, special teams made a difference for them," New Jersey coach Jacques Lemaire said. "They scored on the power play, they get the lead, they play with more confidence."

Both of Whitney's goals, scored at 4:34 and 5:34 of the second, came on power plays, the first during a 5-on-3 advantage.

From there, it was Peters' chance to shine. After allowing just one goal in winning his debut against the Islanders, he carried a shutout into the third before Zach Parise and Brian Rolston tallied for the Devils. Peters has been sharing the goaltending duties with veteran Manny Legace since Cam Ward went down with a back injury.

"Based on (what he has done), you're going to see a fair amount of him," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said.

Stars 3, Coyotes 0 | HIGHLIGHTS

Dallas acquired goalie Kari Lehtonen earlier in the week with an eye toward the future. In the meantime, veteran Marty Turco plans on living in the present.

Turco stopped all 40 shots Phoenix threw his way Saturday for his fourth shutout of the season. Brandon Segal, Jamie Benn and Toby Petersen scored goals for the Stars, who are now just one point out of a Western Conference playoff spot.

"We know what we can do," Turco said. "Guys are stepping up. I said it earlier when we were struggling, and I think it applies now -- it's an attitude. Dealing with struggles, injuries, with our payroll. … We have a better attitude."

Apparently Turco has the right attitude about any possible challenge he might get from Lehtonen for his starting job. Only 26, Lehtonen presents a younger option for the Stars, but the former No. 1 for the Thrashers has yet to play in an NHL game this season after back problems led to surgery.

"You guys know his history better than I do. It seems he responds to being pushed, and that's good for us," Dallas coach Marc Crawford said of Turco. "It's amazing how good you can be when you get quality goaltending. It builds your belief."

Segal is another new addition to the Stars, and he made an immediate impact after being claimed off waivers from the Kings. He opened the scoring 5:54 into the second period by deflecting a Trevor Daley slapper from the point past Ilya Bryzgalov.

"Obviously it's fun coming to a new team and seeing what it is all about," said Segal, who also assisted on Petersen's goal. "You can't ask for much better than that, but one game doesn't make a season."

Benn made it 2-0 at 12:38 by finishing off a 3-on-1 break, converting Mike Ribeiro's feed into a wide-open net. Petersen capped the scoring with seven minutes left in the third.

Not much went right for the Coyotes, who lost not only the game but forward Petr Prucha after a James Neal hit in the first period. Prucha struck his head against the boards near the penalty box area and was taken off on a stretcher and to a local hospital for evaluation.

"It's obviously frustrating when your teammate gets hurt like that," Phoenix captain Doan said.

No penalty was called on the play and Crawford didn't see the need for one.

"To me, really, it was nothing," Crawford said. "Nobody likes to see anybody get hurt. It's scary. (Neal) took him out. He didn't even finish the check. It was all the head on the glass. Hopefully, Petr is OK. I thought that was a nothing, nothing play."

Kings 3, Avalanche 0 | HIGHLIGHTS

Jonathan Quick figures to do a lot of watching for the U.S. at the Olympics, with Ryan Miller slated as the go-to guy and veteran Tim Thomas also on the roster, but he's more than established himself as a No. 1 goaltender in Los Angeles this season.

Quick stopped all 22 shots he faced for his sixth career shutout and matched the Kings' franchise record with his 35th victory of the season. Brad Richardson, Anze Kopitar and Oscar Moller all scored as the Kings moved to within a point of the Coyotes for fourth in the Western Conference.

"The biggest thing is that we got two points here tonight against the Avalanche," Quick said. "The team played great all night, we battled hard and it's a huge two points."

With 21 games remaining for the Kings after the Olympic break, Quick should obliterate the single-season victory mark established by Mario Lessard during the 1980-81 season. He leads the League in wins and is second in both games and minutes played.

"He's so calm back there and that just spreads out right throughout our whole locker room," Kopitar said. "Everybody's confident having him back there. He gives us a chance every night and that's all we can ask for. He's making saves that sometimes he's not supposed to make and it gives us a boost. We get maybe an ugly goal and away we go."

The Avalanche missed an opportunity to move two points ahead of the idle Canucks and claim first in the Northwest Division all to themselves for at least a night. Anderson made 20 saves in his 16th consecutive start, which tied the Colorado record held by Patrick Roy.

Rob Scuderi was assessed a five-minute major for boarding early in the second, but the Avalanche came up empty on the ensuing power play.

"We tried to weather the storm in the first period, and we did," Colorado coach Joe Sacco said. "Then we have a 5-minute power play and it seemed to be a big turning point in the game. But we weren't able to capitalize on it, and they came back on us and scored. It was a big moment shift in the game."

Richardson opened the scoring midway through the second period. After digging the puck out of a scrum along the left boards to start the play, he got to the front of the net and tipped in a drive by Scuderi with 8:41 left in the period.

Kopitar made it 2-0 with a power-play goal 3:48 into the third, putting a wrist shot past Craig Anderson from the right circle. Rich Clune, playing in his second game, picked up assists on both goals for his first NHL points. Moller finished off the scoring at the 7:02 mark.

"We're in a good position right now," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "We have 15 games in March and six in April in front of us, so it's going to be a sprint to the finish and it's going to be a lot of fun. Every game has got great meaning and I'm looking forward it. The players, I know, are looking forward to it. Get a good break, refresh and come back at it."

Islanders 5, Lightning 4 | HIGHLIGHTS

Richard Park scored late in the second and third periods, with his second goal of the game the decisive tally with 2:22 remaining.

Blake Comeau, Doug Weight and Kyle Okposo also scored for the Islanders, who won for just the second time in their last 10 games.

Steven Stamkos, Mike Lundin, Nate Thompson and Steve Downie had the Lightning goals. Tampa slipped from the top eight in the Eastern Conference with the loss.

For's complete game story, click here.

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

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