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Nash's hat trick lifts Jackets over Wings

by John Kreiser
Rick Nash sure didn't suffer from any All-Star hangover.

Nash, Columbus' lone representative in Montreal this past weekend, did it all offensively for the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night, scoring shorthanded and power-play goals in regulation before getting the winner 3:27 into overtime for a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.

Nash carried the puck into the zone in overtime before passing to Fedor Tyutin, who tried a centering pass through the crease to fellow defenseman Mike Commodore. But Commodore was only able to kick the puck, and it bounced to the right corner of the crease, where Nash was waiting to jam it in for his third career hat trick and the 14th for the Blue Jackets franchise.

"All the moments have felt real," Nash said increasing his goal total to 22. "We've been on 10-game losing streaks. They've felt pretty real too. This is a lot better."

The Jackets, who've never made the playoffs, now have 51 points and are among six teams that two points apart in a scramble for the last four playoff spots in the Western Conference.

"He, more than anyone, recognizes the opportunity in front of us and he sent the other players a clear message," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He wants to finish the job and make a run for this thing. ... Rick's able to start at a high pace and others are able to tag along. And that's what leaders are able to do."

The Wings, already without defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and center Pavel Datsyuk, lost another key player when forward Henrik Zetterberg left in the second period with back spasms.

Before he left, Zetterberg started the play that turned into the game's first goal. He fed Niklas Kronwall for a slap shot that went wide, but came off the end boards right to Marian Hossa, who rammed the puck past Steve Mason at 8:55 for a power-play goal.

Detroit had another power-play chance midway through the second, but Nash stole the puck near his own blue line, raced in alone and beat Chris Osgood between the pads at 11:05.

Brett Lebda beat Mason 29 seconds later with a slap shot from the left point, but Nash tied it again at 14:21 when he banked a bad-angled shot off defenseman Brian Rafalski and past Osgood.

"He's a good hockey player. It's kind of like Pav and Z, your best player has got to be your best player. That's why you pay them all the money. If they're not your best players, you don't win," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "I don't think anybody's surprised. Everyone knows Nash is a real good player."


Rangers 3, Hurricanes 2 | Video

The Rangers made Carolina play catch-up all night long, and the Hurricanes never quite got there. Early goals by Lauri Korpikoski and Scott Gomez put New York up two goals 10:03 into the game, and Brandon Dubinsky got what proved to be the game-winner with 7:50 left in regulation.

Steve Valiquette gave All-Star Henrik Lundqvist a night off and made 33 saves to help the Rangers improve to 5-1-1 in their last seven games. They remained a point behind front-running New Jersey in the Atlantic Division.

"We all went different directions, but we all worked out every day and we got prepared," said Valiquette, who has five wins this season. "We didn't just sit around in a lawn chair or a hammock and drink beer. That would've been counterproductive.

"Everybody is very serious about the way they carry themselves. That showed tonight, because we came back and were ready to play."

New York came out flying after a week off and grabbed the early lead when Korpikoski rammed in a rebound after Cam Ward stopped Gomez on a 2-on-1 break. Gomez then ripped a wrist shot from the right circle past Ward at 10:03.

Ryan Bayda got Carolina on the board at 13:04, snapping a 36-game goal-less drought when his screened shot got past Valiquette after Rod Brind'Amour forced a turnover in the New York zone.

"Obviously, it's not the way we were hoping to begin this last stretch," Ward said. "Both teams looked like they had a five-day break. I thought the ice was difficult. It was a little bit chippy.

"It seemed like the puck was bouncing, and it wasn't bouncing in our favor."

After a Carolina-dominated second period that ended without a goal, Dubinsky finished off a pass by Nikolai Zherdev and beat Ward from the left circle. Tuomo Ruutu cut the deficit back to one goal 25 seconds after Dubinsky's goal, but Valiquette held off the Hurricanes the rest of the way.

"It's so important to stay in the moment and not get too caught up in the fact that we just gave a goal up," Valiquette said. "Everyone stayed focused from that point on, and it seems like that's the style of play we're going to have to play the rest of the season -- just be able to bury a team in the third period."

Lundqvist is expected to play Wednesday when the Rangers visit Pittsburgh.

Devils 4, Senators 1 | Video

New Jersey picked up where it left off before the break, extending its winning streak to six games behind two goals by Jamie Langenbrunner and the second in three games by Brendan Shanahan.

"The big thing was to get a win," said Shanahan, who wrapped up the scoring by beating Brian Elliott with 8:43 left in regulation. "We ran into a bit of penalty trouble, but overall, five-on-five, I thought we deserved a win and coming out of the break, it was a good win for us."

Langenbrunner broke a tie when he took a rebound off the end boards and beat Elliott at 14:19 of the second period, then beat him again from the bottom of the left circle 19 seconds into the third period for a 3-1 lead.

Shanahan's goal completed the Devils' third win in as many meetings with Ottawa this season and fifth in a row over the Senators over two seasons.

"That was a pretty complete game for us," Langenbrunner said. "We limited their chances and didn't make mistakes and Scott (Clemmensen) made some big saves for us, too."

Clemmensen stopped 21 shots for his 20th win in 30 decisions as he continues to excel in the absence of injured All-Star Martin Brodeur.

"I didn't even think about (winning 20 games) because I was playing one game at a time. I know it sounds cliche, but it's true," Clemmensen said.

Ottawa had a chance midway through the third period but did nothing with a four-minute power play.

"It's not the way we wanted (to return)," center Mike Fisher said. "We were in the game until the second. In the third, they didn't give us a whole lot.

"That was a critical point in the game and we didn't respond," he said of the long power play. "There's no excuse."

Patrik Elias scored the lone goal of the first period to put the Devils in front. Alexandre Picard's power-play goal midway through the second period got Ottawa even, but the Senators showed little the rest of the way.

"Never won a battle," Senators coach Craig Hartsburg said of his team's performance. "Never won a battle for a loose puck. You can do all the Xs and Os you want, it doesn't matter if you don't compete hard for the puck."

Lightning 5, Canadiens 3 | Video

Tampa Bay came out flat against Montreal, but goaltender Mike Smith kept the Bolts in the game until they got their legs. Vincent Lecavalier, Vaclav Prospal and Steve Downie scored in the second period as the improving Lightning won for the sixth time in eight games.

Montreal outshot Tampa Bay 20-7 in the opening period and left the ice leading 2-1 on goals by Maxim Lapierre and Alex Kovalev, overcoming an early tally by Ryan Malone. But Prospal said that without Smith's heroics, the Lightning would have been a lot further behind.

"We were just brutal," he said of his team's play in the opening period. "The biggest thing was Smitty -- the way he played in the first period gave us a chance to stay in the game. We played totally different in the second and third periods."

Lecavalier, off a pass from Martin St. Louis, tied it 2-2 during a power play at 2:49 of the second period. The All-Star forwards from Quebec have combined for 16 goals and 24 assists over the past 14 games.

The Lightning went up 3-2 on Prospal's rebound goal with 5:03 remaining. Downie made it a two-goal game at 17:08 when his pass was redirected into the net by Montreal defenseman Roman Hamrlik.

"You can't blame [Price] for everything.  But on the other side, our goalies are going to have to be stronger. We can't win games giving up four of five goals every game, and the last two or three weeks it's been kind of that way." -- Guy Carbonneau on his goaltenders

"We were a little sleepy. The first period was not a good period for us," interim coach Rick Tocchet said. "The good thing about it, we responded. To me, that's a sign of a team that's coming together."

Lecavalier assisted on St. Louis' power-play goal at 11:04 of the third. Lapierre got his second goal of the game 22 seconds later, but it was not nearly enough.

"I think we could have had a couple more goals in the first, but that's the only period we played pretty much," Montreal left wing Christopher Higgins said. "I think we got outworked in the second half of that game. I don't know what guys expected, if they thought they were going to quit or anything. They were only down one goal after the first and that's a team trying to make it into the playoffs. They're not going to roll over."

The Canadiens, who lost their last two games before the break, got 19 saves from All-Star netminder Carey Price.

"You can't blame him for everything," Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said. "But on the other side, our goalies are going to have to be stronger. We can't win games giving up four of five goals every game, and the last two or three weeks it's been kind of that way."

Panthers 3, Flyers 2 | Video

Florida climbed back into eighth place thanks to rookie Michael Frolik, who scored once and set up the Panthers' other two goals.

Frolik, who played in the YoungStars game during All-Star Weekend, continues to play with more confidence -- and is being rewarded by his coach.

"At the start of the season I didn't get much ice time," Frolik said. "Now I'm playing more and more and the coach is believing in me more and more. I'm getting more comfortable and confident."

Frolik's wraparound goal at 7:43 of the second period broke a 1-1 tie, and he assisted on what proved to be the winning tally -- David Booth's power-play deflection at 11:50.

"After (goaltender Tomas) Vokoun, he was our best player tonight," Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. "I thought he did an outstanding job for someone who just got back from the All-Star break. It's a credit to him and his commitment to help us win the game."

Flyers rookie Claude Giroux got his first NHL goal 1:51 into the third period when he fired a high shot past the glove of Vokoun, who made 33 saves.

"I think it's every kid's goal to score in the NHL," Giroux said. "Now that I've got that out of the way I can keep playing better."

The Flyers thought they had tied the game at 6:33 of the third, but the goal was disallowed when defenseman Kimmo Timonen was called for goaltender interference -- a call that the Flyers weren't happy with.

"It's a little suspect when, and no offense to Kimmo, he's pushing people around in front and they're falling like that," captain Mike Richards said. "Maybe the guys should hit the gym more."
Flyers coach John Stevens wasn't happy with his team's effort.

"This was a hard game to play," he said. "I think you get on the road and you travel right away ... I didn't expect the execution to be perfect. I thought we got our legs as the game went along."

Wild 6, Maple Leafs 1 | Video

Toronto gave rookie goaltender Justin Pogge no help at all, allowing Minnesota forwards to skate wherever they pleased as the Wild embarrassed the visiting Leafs. Pogge was scheduled to go back to the AHL Toronto Marlies no matter how he played, but after getting little support from his teammates, returning to the minors may not sting as much.


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

"We've got a lot of guys who have to show a lot more pride in their performance defensively than they are showing," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. "You should dig in a little harder when you've got a young kid playing goal."

The 22-year-old managed only 15 saves in his second career start. But he had virtually no chance on all four goals in the second period thanks to sloppy play in front of him, a problem that has plagued Toronto all season long.

"Yeah, it's over," Pogge said. "I can't change the fact that I let in six. Oh well, [forget] it. It's time to go on to the next one."

The Leafs overcame Cal Clutterbuck's first-period goal when Jason Blake scored 4:29 into the second period. That was about the last thing Toronto did right: Marc-Andre Bergeron put the Wild ahead 60 seconds later, Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored twice and Andrew Brunette once for a 5-1 lead after two periods, and Owen Nolan added another in the third period.

Bouchard capped the second-period burst with a breakaway goal, dizzying Pogge with a double deke before tucking the puck between his legs.

"You can't blame him," said Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom, an All-Star who made 27 saves and enjoyed the rare burst of offensive support. "He made the saves he could. We scored three, four, five goals on empty-netters."

Minnesota, last in the NHL in scoring 5-on-5, got all six goals at even strength.

"That's huge," said Brunette, whose team visits Northwest Division rivals Edmonton and Vancouver this weekend. "For us, to feel good that we can score some goals and make some plays and gain some confidence before we go to a couple of tough places to play, getting even strength goals is huge."

Toronto lost for the eighth time in nine games and 12th in its last 15.

"Right now it's a garden full of weeds and I need to pick some weeds," Wilson said. "It's as simple as that."

Stars 2, Thrashers 0 | Video

This is the Marty Turco the Stars need to make the playoffs. Turco continued his career-long domination of Atlanta by stopping all 25 shots he faced for his 35th career shutout.

The Stars entered the night 27th in the NHL with a 3.22 goals-against average, largely because of Turco's inconsistency. But he was sharp from start to finish as he improved to 7-0-0 lifetime against Atlanta.

"You're always striving for shutouts," Turco said. "If we can play like this, good things will happen. I didn't miss a beat. I felt fresher."

Turco's best stop came seven minutes into the game when he robbed All-Star left wing Ilya Kovalchuk's blast from alone in front of the net.

"I was pretty lucky," Turco said. "I wasn't 100 percent sure I had it in my glove. But that was one I needed."

Dallas improved to 8-2-1 in its last 11 home games. The Stars have rallied from a poor start to the season and are 10-4-3 in their last 17 games overall to climb into playoff contention. They'll need more nights like this one from Turco to get into the top eight in the West.

"Marty's a proven guy," said forward Steve Ott, whose goal 26 seconds into the second period completed the scoring. "We knew all along that he'd find his game. We've got to keep building our record and keep pushing for the playoffs."

Jere Lehtinen gave Turco all the support he would need 3:48 into the game when Mike Ribeiro's pass caromed off his chest and into the net. Ott made it 2-0 when he dunked Trevor Daley's goalmouth pass during a delayed penalty.

The Thrashers were shut out for the fourth time this season, wasting a fine 31-save effort by Kari Lehtonen.

"You can't just have one guy going," Thrashers coach John Anderson said. "We're not so blessed with talent that we can have five or six guys take nights off."

Sabres 10, Oilers 2 | Video

Several home teams got off to slow starts in their first game back after the break. None had a worse night than the Oilers, who surrendered Drew Stafford's first of three goals 10 seconds into the game and left Rexall Place with the worst home loss in franchise history.

"A debacle of monumental proportion," was coach Craig MacTavish's appraisal of a night that saw his team trail 3-0 after one period, 7-1 after two, and allow a shorthanded goal by Tim Connolly with 1:15 left in the game. "It started early and kept coming through three periods."

Edmonton actually outshot Buffalo 18-11 in the opening period, but Nathan Paetsch scored 61 seconds after Stafford and Derek Roy connected at 10:17 to make it 3-0 after 20 minutes. Roy's shot through Dwayne Roloson's legs prompted MacTavish to change goaltenders, but rookie Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers fared no better.

Jochen Hecht swept in Jason Pominville's pass 2:02 into the second period for a 4-0 lead. After Erik Cole's power-play goal at 13:23 got the Oilers on the board, Connolly, Thomas Vanek and Jaroslav Spacek scored in a 4:40 span to blow the game open.

"A debacle of monumental proportion.  It started early and kept coming through three periods." -- Craig MacTavish on his team's performance Tuesday night

"It was one of those nights where we caught them flat," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "I've been behind the bench on a team where you have a night like that and it's tough. The harder they tried it seemed like the worse it was getting."

Stafford, whose uncle is the Oilers' equipment manager, completed his hat trick with two goals in an 88-second span midway through the third period. Robert Nilsson scored a meaningless goal for the Oilers before Connolly capped the scoring as the Sabres won for the fourth time in five games.

"It was pretty ironic. I was pretty nervous before the game," Stafford said. "You don't get too hyped up and look into things too much, but this one was special for me -- it was my first time here playing in front of my uncle seeing me live. Growing up and hanging out with him and that team, it was pretty special, pretty unique."

MacTavish said the most important thing was not to let the loss turn into a slump.

"We were just chasing our tails all night," he said. "It was a case where we have to execute our game plan a whole lot better in all areas. I want to see how we respond Friday (against Minnesota) and what we're made of."

Sharks 3, Avalanche 0 | Video

Claude Lemieux got a warm welcome from the Pepsi Center crowd as he returned to Denver for the first time since 2003. But that was about all the fans had to cheer about -- San Jose stifled Colorado all night long, with Evgeni Nabokov making 31 saves for his 43rd career shutout.

Lemieux, now 43, helped the Avs win a Stanley Cup in 1996. He received a warm ovation in his second game of his NHL comeback.

"There's plenty of places I can get booed," he said with a grin. "This is a special place to me and I always love and still spend a lot of time in Colorado."

Lemieux had two shots and three hits in his 9:30 of ice time. His best thump came when he checked Darcy Tucker into the boards. But his reputation for big hits caused the Avalanche to skate with their heads up, cognizant of where he was at all times.

"He will finish checks, that's for sure," Milan Hedjuk said. "It's an incredible story, his coming back. What a story."

Although he's playing on the fourth line, Lemieux couldn't be more pleased with his position.

"I take pride in whatever role's going to be assigned to me," he said. "I have the best seat in the house. You can't buy that seat; you have to earn it."

Milan Michalek scored twice for the Sharks before Patrick Marleau hit the empty net. The rest of the night belonged to Nabokov, who made a number of superb saves, including one by the seat of his pants in the first period when he stopped Ryan Smyth landing on top of the puck as he slowly drifted inside the net.

However, the puck never crossed the line, and the no-goal call was upheld after a video review.

"The one thing you have to realize about him, if you've watched him play over the years, he never gives up on a play," Avs coach Tony Granato said. "He pulls a save like that out quite a bit. You think you're on the scoreboard and he finds a way to stay with it and make an incredible play."

Ducks 7, Coyotes 3 | Video

Anaheim found the goal-scoring touch it didn't have in its last two games before the break. Chris Kunitz and Corey Perry scored twice as the Ducks had their best offensive night of the season in a blowout win at Phoenix.


GOALS: 0 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 2
SOG: 4 | +/-: +3

The Ducks scored just three goals in road losses to the Rangers and Islanders on the last two nights before the break -- including a galling 2-1 loss to the Isles in which Anaheim had a 40-14 advantage in shots. But the Ducks blitzed Ilya Bryzgalov for four second-period goals and added two more in the third period to pull even with Phoenix at 53 points.

"They just basically wanted to win the game more then we did," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "They outplayed us from start to finish. They got to loose pucks and were physical. They were committed as a team, and that's why they won."

Kunitz was credited with the go-ahead goal when he and Phoenix defenseman David Hale chipped at the puck as it rolled past Bryzgalov's left skate toward the goal line at 6:35 of the second period. Rob Niedermayer made it 4-2 at 7:20 when he redirected Chris Pronger's slap shot off the faceoff past Bryzgalov.

"First game after the All-Star break, there's lots of sloppy play and there's lots of plays where pucks bounce away from you instead of for you and tonight we found ways to get those things over the goal line," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said.

Shane Doan's second of the game, a wrist shot past Jonas Hiller at 17:24, cut the deficit to one, but Travis Moen one-timed Scott Niedermayer's pass into the net with 2.3 seconds to go to restore Anaheim's two-goal margin. Bobby Ryan and Perry added third-period goals for the Ducks.

"We were lucky enough to establish our forecheck, and that got our game going for us," Carlyle said. "That's the most important thing -- you need a good start, and we were able to get that start on the road."

Phoenix looked nothing like the team that won three of its last four before the break, including an impressive 6-3 win over Detroit last Tuesday.

"We, as a group, have to accept the fact that we have to work hard and battle as there are a lot of teams coming after us because the playoffs are going to be from now on for us," said Doan, who reached the 20-goal mark for the ninth consecutive season, tying a team mark held by Dale Hawerchuk and Keith Tkachuk.

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

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