The offense-challenged Nashville Predators
found just enough goals to hold off their biggest nemesis.
Nashville got second-period goals by Kevin Klein and Vernon Fiddler to pull away from a 1-1 tie, then hung on to beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 on Friday night in the first meeting of the season between the Central Division rivals.
Nashville had scored just 22 goals in its previous 13 games, but got two goals from defensemen and one from Fiddler, a checking forward for its biggest scoring night since Dec. 13.
"It has been a tough stretch for us ... in terms of goal scoring lately and if we weren't hitting it off the post, we were hitting it off the crest. Tonight we went to the net hard, and we got rewarded for that. That's how you score in this league. That's how Detroit scores," Preds coach Barry Trotz said.
Dan Ellis did the rest by making 38 saves, including breakaway saves on Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg in the second period with the game still tied 1-1.
"We've been struggling on our power play lately, and I think that goal was as big as any goal tonight," Fiddler said. "Another goal from Zanon, plus we played really well and we got the lead, and it helped."
The two points they didn't get might not be the biggest loss for the Wings, who saw All-Star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom leave the game early in the second period with an injured left ankle after being hit by a puck. The Wings said X-rays were negative, but weren't sure if he'd be able to play at Colorado on Saturday.
"The ankle is swollen, we'll see how it feels (today)," Lidstrom told the media after the game. "Coming out for the second period, I couldn't really skate and push off with that foot. It was sore the last few minutes of the first period, but I wanted to go out there and see how I felt. (The X-ray) doesn't show anything. That's a good sign."
Nashville fans had been waiting for the arrival of the Wings, who drew a full house to the Sommet Center for the teams' first meeting since Detroit eliminated Nashville in the first round of the playoffs last spring.
"Any time you play a team you beat out the year before in the playoffs, especially the first one, it is always going to be a real competitive game," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
Nashville opened the scoring 9:29 into the game when Radek Bonk, the NHL's leader in winning faceoffs, won one back to defenseman Greg Zanon, who ripped a slap shot from the top of the left circle inside the post and past Ty Conklin.
Dan Cleary tied it at 14:04 when he raced down right wing, and roofed a shot over Ellis.
Klein put Nashville ahead to stay at 13:24 of the second period after Ellis robbed Marian Hossa. On the return rush, Klein cut into the slot and one-timed Rich Peverley's pass behind Osgood. Fiddler made it 3-1 at 18:52 when he set up just outside the crease and snapped home Martin Erat's passout for his sixth goal.
Mikael Samuelsson beat Ellis 3:00 into the third period, one-timing Andres Lilja's pass into the net from a bad angle. Ellis preserved the lead by stopping 14 shots in the final period, including Brad Stuart's breakaway with just under 14 minutes to play.
"We got our opportunities in the third," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought we were on the outside too much in the first and second, we got on the inside more."
Penguins 1, Devils 0 | Video
This time, the Penguins and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury were able to hang on to a 1-0 lead on a night when they were being badly outshot. Fleury made 37 saves and Ruslan Fedotenko had the game's only goal as Pittsburgh handed the Devils their second consecutive shutout loss at home.
Pittsburgh couldn't hold onto a 1-0 lead late in the game on Oct. 11, finally losing 2-1 in overtime on a night they were outshot 49-15. This time, the margin was "only" 37-18, and Fleury all 37 — including Jay Pandolfo's shorthanded breakaway in the third period and a sensational blocker stop on Jamie Langenbrunner a few minutes later.
It was Fleury's fifth game back after missing six weeks with a groin injury, and he said he's finally regaining his timing.
"I'm feeling better, timing wise," Fleury said. "It's the foot movement. I'm in the right place at the right time now."
Pens coach Michel Therrien, who was displeased with his team's play in a 2-0 home loss to Tampa Bay on Tuesday, said his team got better as the game went on.
"It was a rugged first period without a lot of flow," Therrien said. "I thought we played really well in the second and got the lead, and defended it well in the third. And the star of the game was Marc-Andre Fleury. He made key save after key save."
The Devils, who were shut out 2-0 by Boston on Tuesday, haven't scored in regulation since late in the second period of Sunday's 3-2 shootout win over Philadelphia.
"He played well," Devils coach Brent Sutter said of Fleury. "He made some big saves for them. That being said, we made him look good at certain times too — where we had opportunities and we hit him in the crest."
Fedotenko got the game's lone goal at 12:51 of the second, taking a return pass from Evgeni Malkin and firing a shot from the slot that Clemmensen partially blocked but couldn't stop.
The Devils thought they had the equalizer about three minutes later when David Clarkson jammed at the puck in a goalmouth scramble. But Pittsburgh defenseman Mark Eaton, having been knocked to the ice, kicked the puck clear as it hovered on the goal line. Video review showed the puck did not completely cross the goal line.
"I just saw (the puck) out of the corner of my eye. It was a reflex reaction," Eaton said.
Capitals 3, Sabres 2 | Video
Washington continues to be nearly unbeatable at home, largely because Alex Ovechkin is nearly unstoppable. Ovechkin scored another highlight reel goal that proved to be just enough to enable the Caps to outlast Buffalo.
Ovechkin gave the Caps a 3-1 lead at 8:27 of the third period when he pushed the puck through Henrik Tallinder's legs just inside the blue line and fired a shot past goalie Patrick Lalime while falling. That was enough for Washington to survive Maxim Afinogenov's goal with 1:49 left in regulation and improve to 14-1-1 at the Verizon Center.
"I was tired and I just fell, and I shoot. It was in, so that’s pretty cool….You always want to do some crazy things," Ovechkin said. "It was a great goal and I’m happy it happened to me."
Added Caps coach Bruce Boudreau: "This was a determination goal. He got it and made a move. They were checking him and he was losing the puck, but he was just determined. It was like, 'They took one away from me, and they’re not going to take another one away.'"
Sabres center Derek Roy said his team missed a couple of chances to slow down Ovechkin before he got the shot off.
"It was tough; we missed maybe three stick checks on him, but he’s a good player and he’s going to finish those opportunities," he said. "He is strong, big, fast; he works hard and he’s got a great shot. You know he keeps his feet moving all the time and we just got to be better in those situations."
Washington opened the scoring when Viktor Kozlov's hard shot from near the boards above the top of the right circle beat Lalime with 2:14 left in the second period. Boyd Gordon made it 2-0 at 1:58 of the third period when he deflected Milan Jurcina's shot past Lalime.
Buffalo cut the margin to 2-1 on Thomas Vanek's power-play goal at 6:13. It was Vanek's 25th goal, one behind Philadelphia's Jeff Carter for the League lead.
"They capitalized on our mistakes; the Ovechkin goal especially," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "Other than that, the chances were pretty well even. We won the battle of special teams, but we didn’t win the battle at even strength."
Islanders 4, Maple Leafs 1 | Video
The Islanders got their Christmas presents a day late, but they were worth the wait. Buoyed by the unexpected return of starting goaltender Rick DiPietro, the Isles ended a 10-game losing streak and even got to enjoy a milestone when Bill Guerin scored twice to reach the 400-goal mark for his career. He's the eighth American-born player to reach that mark.
DiPietro, who missed 27 games due to a knee injury that required surgery, made 28 saves and looked sharp in only his fourth appearance of the season. He also earned an assist on Kyle Okposo's game-opening goal at 3:47 of the opening period when he made a save and banked a pass up the right boards to Okposo, who raced up ice and took a bad-angled shot that Vesa Toskala misplayed.
Though he hasn't had a lot of practice, DiPietro said he decided it was worth a shot to play.
"We talked about it coming into the week," DiPietro said. "I practiced on Monday and Tuesday, and went out and took some shots during the break. We came in today and decided to give it a whirl."
Lee Stempniak backhanded a rebound past DiPietro to tie it at 15:44, but Guerin put the Islanders ahead to stay 6:27 into the second when Josh Bailey's wrist shot from the slot hit his stick and deflected into the net.
Guerin reached the 400-goal mark when he knocked the rebound of Chris Campoli's shot behind Toskala 2:34 into the third period. He's only the third player — Hall of Famers Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy are the others — to get No. 400 in an Islander uniform.
"It means a lot," the Isles' captain said. "It means I've been able to stick around this league for quite some time, and had some success at doing it. (Tonight's) goals came at a good time. Everyone kept a good attitude and a good work ethic (during the losing streak)."
Freddy Meyer's screened slap shot at 8:39 gave the Isles some insurance as they won for the first time since beating Ottawa on Nov. 29.
"It's been a while," Campoli said. "We'll take it."
Toronto, which came to Long Island after an 8-2 home loss to Dallas on Tuesday, dominated play for the first half of the game but appeared to run out of energy. Forward Matt Stajan wasn't happy afterward.
"I don't think we played good in tonight's game," Stajan said. "We were sloppy and turned the puck over. We didn't come out the way we wanted. It hurts us as a team that we know we let this one get away."
Lightning 4, Panthers 3 (SO) | Video
After everything they've gone through this season, the Lightning will take wins any way they can get them — even after blowing a two-goal lead late in regulation.
Ryan Malone got the game-winner for Tampa Bay on the road in the opener of the home-and-home series after Bryan McCabe forced overtime by scoring with 13.9 seconds remaining in regulation.
"You don't want to be in that situation in the first place," Malone said after the Lightning won for only the second time in eight shootouts this season. "You've got to give them credit for keeping fighting back, but it's our job to have that desperation to get that other goal."
The Lightning, next-to-last in the NHL with a 9-16-9 record and 29 points, won consecutive games for the first time since capturing three in a row from Oct. 28-Nov. 1.
"That's huge! That's huge! If it's going to be a shootout, then it's going to be a shootout. Don't be kind of content with this; just keep on going and pushing it." -- Tampa Bay's Steve Eminger
"That's huge! That's huge!" said defenseman Steve Eminger, who scored one of Tampa Bay's three goals in regulation. "If it's going to be a shootout, then it's going to be a shootout. Don't be kind of content with this; just keep on going and pushing it."
It looked like the Lightning were building on Tuesday's 2-0 win at Pittsburgh when second-period goals by Mark Recchi and Evgeny Artyukhin gave the Bolts a 3-1 lead. But Cory Stillman scored a power-play goal with 7:23 remaining before McCabe's blast from the high slot forced overtime.
The Panthers led twice in the shootout, but Jussi Jokinen beat Craig Anderson in the third round and Malone snapped a wrist shot into the far corner in the next round for the win.
"It's big just to get a point," McCabe said. "We certainly were not at out best tonight, but we found a way to salvage a point. At least we battled really hard on a night we probably weren't that great, but that's what you have to do get points."
Hurricanes 5, Thrashers 4 | Video
Eric Staal's sixth career hat trick trumped Bryan Little's first one as the Hurricanes rallied to beat the Thrashers for the first time in three tries this season.
Staal scored three goals in 4:31 span of the third period to rally the Hurricanes. His power-play goal at 7:27 tied the game at 3-3, and he snapped a bad-angled shot past Johan Hedberg at 10:42 to make it 4-4 — just 50 seconds after Little had put the Thrashers ahead by completing his hat trick.
He finished off his hat trick — and the Thrashers — by skating around defenseman Nathan Oystrick and beating Hedberg again at 11:58.
"I took it to the net hard," Staal said. "I created some opportunities."
Staal now has 8 goals and 12 points in his last 10 games.
"The big fellow is one of the great players in the game," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said.
Slava Kozlov had four assists for the Thrashers, who fell to 1-7-2 at Philips Arena since beating Carolina on Nov. 14. Ray Whitney had three assists for the Hurricanes, who outshot Atlanta 15-5 in the third to send the Thrashers to their second loss in three games.
"I can't even describe how frustrating it is," Atlanta coach John Anderson said after watching his club allow its NHL-worst 130th goal in 35 games. "I thought we played a decent game. It's like we make a mistake and it ends up in our net. It's just the way it's gone for us this year."
After Carolina took a 2-1 second-period lead on a goal by Patrick Eaves, Little scored a pair of power-play goals, the second with 2.6 seconds left to put Atlanta ahead.
"Hopefully the team can get back on track, and I can continue to be effective in front of the net," Little said. "It seemed like whenever we had a lead we would let up and they would take advantage of it.
Oilers 3, Canucks 2 | Video
Edmonton capitalized on Vancouver's inability to stay out of the penalty box in the second period, then held on in the third.
The Oilers followed Mark Pouliot's goal at 4:27 of the second period with a pair of 5-on-3 goals to take a 3-0 lead. Shawn Horcoff converted Ales Hemsky's cross-ice pass at 8:31 and Sheldon Souray's blast from the right point at 16:46 made it a three-goal game.
But the Canucks got one back with 31 seconds left in the period when Mason Raymond kept going on a 2-on-1 break and swatted a loose puck past Dwayne Roloson. The Canucks made it a one-goal game at 1:46 of the third period with a 5-on-3 goal of their own when Kyle Wellwood redirected Alex Edler's shot into the net.
But the Canucks couldn't get the equalizer despite outshooting Edmonton 14-3 in the final period.
"We have to learn to play a little bit calmer in those situations," said Roloson, 8-5-3 this season. "We tend to get a little bit frantic.
"When you see him play at that level, you know it will be very hard to beat him. He's back to the level he was at in 2006." -- Craig MacTavish on Dwayne Roloson
"But at the same time we did a great job, our guys controlled them for the most part and kept them to the outside for most of the third period. We also got a couple of great blocks in the third to keep the game in our favor."
Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said Roloson is playing as well as he did when he led Edmonton to the 2006 Final.
"When you see him play at that level, you know it will be very hard to beat him," MacTavish said. "He's back to the level he was at in 2006."
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault wasn't happy with the parade to the penalty box in the second period.
"We want our guys to play with an edge, so we know sometimes we're going to take a few penalties," he said. "But the ones that made you 5-on-3, or the ones 200 feet from your own net are very challenging, and they were again tonight."
Coyotes 2, Kings 1 | Video
It took the Kings two periods to get their legs under them after the holiday break — and by then, it was too late. Phoenix got a first-period goal from Peter Mueller, a power-play goal in the second by Shane Doan and 24 saves by King-killer Ilya Bryzgalov to win the opener of a home-and-home series.
"I don't think we were ready to play," said forward Patrick O'Sullivan, who set up the Kings' lone goal in the third period.
Mueller ended a 21-game goal drought at 10:44 of the first period when he finished off a 2-on-1 break by firing Doan's pass behind Jonathan Quick for his first goal since Nov. 9. Doan redirected Olli Jokinen's slap shot past Quick at 17:43 of the second after Kyle Turris won the draw following a roughing penalty to L.A.'s Kyle Quincey.
"We practiced that play," Jokinen said. "Doan was in the right place, where he was supposed to be, and got a nice tip on the shot."
Doan, the Coyotes' captain, leads the team in goals and points and has been their best player on most nights this season.
"Shane has played very well — one of the best years I've seen him have," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "He's a tremendous captain and has been a good leader for our group. It's probably been the best hockey I've seen him play. It's great to see him score some big goals. It's definitely what a great leader does and he's done a great job of it."
The Kings halved the deficit at 8:49 of the third period on a power-play goal by Peter Harrold, who beat Bryzgalov through a screen from the top of the slot. But they couldn't get the tying goal despite pressuring Bryzgalov for the rest of the period.
"You can't play a game in the NHL and play only 20 minutes and expect to win. Those days are done," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "You have to come and play right from the beginning, you have to play 60 minutes hard, intense, and very heavy hockey, and in the first two periods we were not going — we didn't have it. The third period was what we needed for the 60 minutes."
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report