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Naslund powers Canucks past Wild

by John Kreiser
Canucks goalie Curtis Sanford stopped 18 of 20 shots in Vancouver's 4-2 win over Minnesota on Wednesday.
It has taken the Vancouver Canucks a few weeks to get themselves together. They’re now clicking on all cylinders, as the Minnesota Wild found out Wednesday night.

Despite not arriving in the Twin Cities until about 4 a.m. following Tuesday night’s shootout loss in Edmonton, the Canucks continued their domination of the Northwest Division with a 4-2 victory over the Wild. ( 700K ) Markus Naslund became only the third visiting player to score three goals at the Xcel Energy Center, helping the Canucks move into a first-place tie with the slumping Wild.

“The first few weeks, we didn’t play very well,” said center Henrik Sedin, who had two assists as the Canucks improved to 11-8-2, matching the Wild, whom they’ve beaten twice in less than a week. “But the last 10 games, we’ve been playing really well. Guys are starting to score now.”

The Canucks are now 6-0-2 in their last eight games and 9-0-2 against their Northwest Division rivals.

“We feel pretty confident playing against teams in our division,” defenseman Willie Mitchell said. “Right now we feel we can beat them, and we want to keep this roll going.”

Added Naslund: "Any divisional game is so important. You've got to be disciplined and try to take advantage when you get the chances. You know Minnesota is usually playing a good defensive game."

Naslund ( 700K ) and Ryan Kesler ( 700K ) scored 22 seconds apart to give the Canucks an early 2-0 lead, but Marian Gaborik beat Curtis Sanford at 7:20 ( 700K ) and 10:30 ( 700K ) to tie the score.

After a scoreless second period, Naslund put the Canucks ahead to stay 6:04 into the third period ( 700K ) when he raced in from the right side to tip Daniel Sedin’s wrist shot past Josh Harding. It was his sixth goal in four games; he had just four in his first 17 contests.

Naslund and Henrik Sedin perfectly executed a 2-on-1 with 3:33 to play ( 700K ) to give Naslund his 11th career three-goal game.

Sanford faced only 20 shots, making 18 saves.

“We felt like we didn't give them much out there tonight,” Mitchell said.

Gaborik was disappointed the Wild didn't put out a better effort.

"The games against Colorado, Calgary, Vancouver, they are always tight and physical," he said. "We just have to be extra ready for those games and try to win as many games as we can. Too bad we didn't win this one."

Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire also wasn’t pleased with his team’s performance.

“There was no reason for this at all,” he said. “We had a great chance to take two points tonight — and for some reason, we didn’t respond enough.”

Sabres 4, Senators 2 | Video
Buffalo, which won the President’s Trophy as last season’s top regular-season team, took another step toward digging out of an early-season hole, scoring three times in the first period to beat Ottawa for its second straight victory.

“We know that teams gun for teams when they are at the top,” said Buffalo center Derek Roy, who capped the first-period outburst by scoring at 19:22 ( 700K ). “It's pretty obvious — we're at the bottom of the standings and they're at the top.”

The Sabres also scored three times in the opening period of their last game, a 4-2 home win over Montreal last Friday. “We've got two in a row now, and we have to keep this rolling,” Roy said.

Daniel Alfredsson ( 700K ) and Dany Heatley ( 700K ) scored for Ottawa in the second period before Drew Stafford’s goal at 17:24 ( 700K ) gave the Sabres some breathing room.

“It was a good start for us,” said goalie Ryan Miller, who made 27 saves in his seventh straight start. "We've had to fight back a lot lately, but tonight we did a good job establishing our game early. We were hungry.”

Ottawa, which has an NHL-high 32 points, lost for just the fourth time overall in its first visit to Buffalo since eliminating the Sabres in last spring’s Eastern Conference final.

“The games that we've played against them all three years, whoever's doing well doesn't matter,” Heatley said. “The games have been intense and tough. They jumped on us early and we couldn't recover from that 3-0 lead.”

The Senators also lost two-way forward Patrick Eaves for what coach John Paddock said was "not short term" after he separated his shoulder colliding awkwardly with Buffalo defenseman Brian Campbell late in the first period.

Rangers 2, Lightning 1 | Video
Who needs Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan when you have Fedor Tyutin and Colton Orr? Not the Rangers, who got goals from two unlikely scorers and 32 saves by Henrik Lundqvist as they ended Vincent Lecavalier’s scoring streak and beat the Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Lecavalier came into the game with an eight-game streak of scoring at least two points in every game, but was held without a point for the first time since Nov. 1.

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, right, gets congratulations from teammate Paul Mara after the Rangers defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1.

“Lundqvist is probably the best goalie in the world right now,” Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said.

The Lightning lost a potential goal with 3:28 left in regulation when a video replay showed Brendan Shanahan was able to swipe Vaclav Prospal’s shot with his glove before it crossed the goal line. Michel Ouellet scored with 17 seconds left in regulation ( 700K ), but all that did was spoil what would have been Lundqvist’s fifth shutout of the season.

“It's always tough to lose a shutout like that, when it’s close, and it felt like I had a good shutout going here,” Lundqvist said after the Rangers’ fifth straight road win. Rangers coach Tom Renney took the blame for the lost shutout bid.

“If anybody should be disappointed, it should be me,” Renney said. “I need to protect Henrik with maybe a little different personnel out there late in the game. I owe him a better coaching effort than that, quite honestly.”

The Rangers’ big guns remained silent, but they got scoring from a pair of unlikely sources.

Tyutin converted a feed from Blair Betts 8:51 ( 700K ) into the game for his third goal of the season. It was the sixth consecutive Ranger goal scored by a defenseman, a team record. Orr, a fourth-liner who didn’t have a point this season, got what proved to be the game-winner 2:05 into the final period ( 700K ) when his soft wrist shot took a bounce and hopped past Johan Holmqvist. It was Orr’s first point in 28 games.

“The entire bench went nuts when Colton scored,” Rangers coach Tom Renney said. “First of all, he used Shanahan's stick, and everybody was pretty happy about that.”

Tortorella had no complaints with anything about his team’s play — except for the result.

“I have no beef with the hockey club,” he said. “We just couldn't score a goal.”

Canadiens 4, Islanders 1 | Video
Long Island native Chris Higgins got to come home for Thanksgiving Eve. He gave the 66 family and friends using his passes at the Nassau Coliseum something to cheer about, scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal as the Canadiens used a three-goal second period to roll over the Islanders.

Steve Begin scored 56 seconds into the game ( 700K ), blasting a slap shot from the slot behind Rick DiPietro after an Islander turnover.

"We gave them the first goal, and it took a while for us to wake up," Islanders center Mike Sillinger said. "We didn't make them earn their goals, the first goal especially. I think we didn't compete as hard as we had in the past."

Higgins made it 2-0 at 6:14 of the second ( 700K ) when he swept in on DiPietro and went to shoot, only to have Isles defenseman Brendan Witt accidentally put the puck in his own net.

It was Higgins’ seventh goal of the season, but his first on the road.

"Good old Long Island came through for me once again," said Higgins, a Smithtown, N.Y., native. "In all the seasons I've been a pro, I've had more goals on the road than at home, so this is new to me."

Begin, who came to Long Island with just one goal, got his second of the night when he whipped a wrist shot into the net 64 seconds later ( 700K ). Tomas Plekanec scored on the power play at 14:22 ( 700K ) as the Canadiens totally dominated the first two periods.

“Montreal played a strong game,” Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. “They came at us early and took the momentum away. There are going to be days like this when things don’t work, and this was one of them.”

The Islanders spent the third period firing away at Cristobal Huet, outshooting the Canadiens 20-4 and breaking his shutout when Mike Comrie scored with 3:50 remaining ( 700K ).

“A shutout is just a bonus," Huet said. "It's more important to get the win."

The Islanders ended an NHL-record streak of seven consecutive one-goal games — a stretch in which they went 5-2-0.

“We have no excuses,” DiPietro said. “We didn’t have a good couple of periods and they took advantage. We played well in the third, but it was too little, too late.”

Red Wings 3, Blues 0 | Video
You know it’s a bad night when your team takes almost as many penalties as it has shots on goal. Such was the case for St. Louis at Joe Louis Arena — the Blues took 11 penalties and managed only 12 shots as Chris Osgood breezed to his 44th career shutout.

“We didn't play hard enough, and that starts with me,” St. Louis coach Andy Murray said.

Detroit Red Wings' Niklas Kronwall and Dan Cleary congratulate Mikael Samuelsson on his goal against the St. Louis Blues.

Osgood didn’t mind the light workload; in fact, he said he’s actually used to staying sharp despite seeing few shots.

“I've played on this team long enough where I've had nights when I don't get very many shots,” Osgood said. “I just stay focused on the puck.”

The Red Wings spent most of the night firing away at former teammate Manny Legace, who made 35 saves but was beaten by Henrik Zetterberg, Dan Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson as Detroit snapped the Blues’ four-game winning streak.

St. Louis defenseman Eric Brewer took a delay of game penalty 16 seconds into the game when he accidentally shot the puck into the crowd. Six seconds later, Zetterberg scored his 15th goal ( 700K ) after taking a cross-crease pass from Tomas Holmstrom.

“It just went downhill from there,” Legace said.

Samuelsson made it 2-0 with another power-play goal 5:16 ( 700K ) into the second period, beating Legace with a wrist shot from the right faceoff dot for his third goal.

Cleary's breakaway goal with 5:47 ( 700K ) left in the middle period gave the Red Wings a 3-0 lead. After a fake, Cleary beat Legace with a forehand shot that the Blues goalie got a piece of but it went in for Cleary's seventh of the season.

“We played 60 minutes,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought we had a lot of jump, and got good contributions from every player who dressed.”

Flyers 6, Hurricanes 3 | Video
Philadelphia made a major commitment when it signed center Danny Briere this summer. Briere paid a big dividend for Philadelphia at the RBC Center when he scored three times in the third period as the Flyers survived three power-play goals to beat the Hurricanes.

"That, to me, is the best he's looked all year," Philadelphia coach John Stevens said after Briere’s third career hat trick and first with the Flyers helped them snap a two-game losing streak, bounce back from a 6-2 home loss to New Jersey and remain two points behind the New York Rangers in the Atlantic Division.

Mike Knuble had a goal ( 700K ) and two assists, Kimmo Timonen also scored ( 700K ) and Scott Hartnell added an empty-netter ( 700K ) for Philadelphia, which won for just the second time this season when trailing after one period. Martin Biron rebounded from a bad outing against New Jersey on Saturday with a 32-save performance despite allowing a first-period power-play goal to Rod Brind’Amour ( 700K ) and third-period man-advantage goals to Eric Staal ( 700K ) and Matt Cullen ( 700K ).

Briere scored three times in a 14:18 span of the third, with each goal putting Philadelphia up by two.

His first came 21 seconds into the period ( 700K ) when Knuble intercepted a clearing attempt in the right circle and backhanded the puck to Briere, who scored on a forehand.

After Staal pulled Carolina to 3-2, Briere grabbed the rebound of Braydon Coburn's slap shot and tucked it between Cam Ward's pads and the post ( 700K ). He capped the hat trick by scoring on the power play, weaving through the slot and firing a quick wrist shot that beat Ward high to his glove side with 5:21 left ( 700K ).

"He's a gifted player, and we gave him chances where he was in a prime scoring area," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "A player like that, he isn't going to miss."

Thrashers 5, Capitals 1 | Video
The last thing the struggling Washington Capitals needed to see was the NHL’s hottest player and a division rival that’s on a roll. They couldn’t cope with either as Ilya Kovalchuk had two goals and two assists to help Atlanta move over the .500 mark after an 0-6 start.

Atlanta Thrashers' Ilya Kovalchuk skates with the puck during the first period against the Capitals.

Atlanta is 11-4 since GM Don Waddell fired coach Bob Hartley and went behind the bench himself.

"We know what it feels like to be on the other end when things aren't going well," Atlanta's Todd White said. "The puck ends up in your net when things aren't going right. We worked ourselves out of it, and I'm sure they're going to be able to do the same.”

The biggest reason is for the turnaround is Kovalchuk, who now leads the NHL with 19 goals, The Russian forward “has a great passion right now for winning hockey games,” Waddell said, “and the other players are feeding off that.”

The Caps got off to a good start when Alexander Ovechkin opened the scoring 2:27 ( 700K ) into the second period. But Kovalchuk tied it at 6:55 ( 700K ), and goals by Bobby Holik ( 700K ) and Niclas Havelid ( 700K ) put the Thrashers ahead 3-1 after two.

Kovalchuk scored again at 7:08 of the third period ( 700K ) and set up Eric Perrin’s goal ( 700K ) as Atlanta won for the seventh time in eight games and dropped Washington a little deeper into the Eastern Conference basement.

“It snowballed," Capitals defenseman Brian Pothier said. “We were careless. We made some plays that burned us.”

Coach Glen Hanlon is trying to figure out what has happened to a team that began the season 3-0. Since then, the Capitals have lost nine of 10 games, and 15 of 18, leaving them at 6-14-1 for 13 points — their lowest 21-game point total since having 12 in the 1981-82 season.

"When something goes wrong you, revert back or think back on negative things instead of things that have gone well, and that's the whole trick to turn this around," said Hanlon, who became Washington's coach in December 2003. "Does it make life difficult? Yeah, it does. ... It's harder for the players than it is on the coaching staff, that's for sure.”

Panthers 5, Blue Jackets 2 | Video
Coaches always preach that good things happen when players go to the net. The Florida Panthers were living proof that crashing the net pays off.

Rostislav Olesz had two goals and an assist as the Panthers beat Columbus for their third win in four following a four-game skid.

“We talked about it before the game and during the break, to try and get more traffic,” said Olesz, who played his second straight game after missing 14 with a wrist injury.

Ruslan Salei ( 700K ), Bryan Allen ( 700K ) and Jay Bouwmeester ( 700K ) also scored for Florida, which scored three times on the power play and broke the game open in the final period. Curtis Glencross ( 700K ) and Rick Nash scored for Columbus.

Nash’s goal with one second left in the second period ( 700K )  tied the game at 2-2, but Panthers broke the game open by scoring three times in a 3:16 span midway through the final period.

Olesz broke the tie when he crashed the net and flipped a backhander from near the crease past goalie Pascal Leclaire at 10:53 ( 700K ) on the power play for his third of the season.

“We scored lots of goals from there, a screen and a rebound,” said Olesz, who followed Bouwmeester’s goal by scoring again to cap the surge.

“It’s no secret, there's not many pretty goals in this league,” said Florida goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who won his seventh straight start against Columbus. “We went in front of the net and paid a price.”

Columbus, one of the NHL’s early-season surprises, has just one win in its last eight games, and coach Ken Hitchcock isn’t happy with his team’s defensive play.

“I thought we were really loose in our own end,” Hitchcock said.

Stars 2, Ducks 1 | Video
Dallas honored Mike Modano prior to Wednesday’s game against Anaheim for breaking the NHL points mark for U.S.-born players. The 37-year-old center then showed he’s got plenty left by triggering the Stars’ third-period rally with a game-tying power-play goal as Dallas came

Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro celebrate a goal by Mike Modano against Anaheim Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere in the third period.

back to beat the Ducks.

“It was a big thrill,” Modano said of the 18-minute ceremony, in which he received several gifts from the club while surrounded by his family and friends. “A lot of people who influenced me and were big parts of my life were here.”

Dallas trailed 1-0 in the tight-checking game before getting a two-man advantage for 45 seconds of the third period with Anaheim's Mathieu Schneider and Travis Moen both in the penalty box for delay of game.

Modano tied it with a one-timer from the right circle at 7:35 ( 700K ) for his sixth goal of the season and the 513th of his career. It was also the 1,239th point and came two weeks after he broke Phil Housley’s mark of 1,233. Housley was among those on hand for the ceremony.

“The guys talked this morning about the great gifts he would get, but the one gift he could give us back was to play a heck of a game, and I thought he played really well,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said.

Anaheim netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere had little chance on Modano's goal.

“This was (Modano’s) big night,'' Schneider said. “That (shot) was a rocket. (Giguere) didn't have a chance. I thought we played 60 great minutes. So did they. I thought we deserved better.”

With the Stars skating 5-on-4, Nicklas Hagman banged a rebound past Giguere ( 700K ) for the game-winner at 8:16.

Mike Smith made 17 saves for Dallas, allowing only Corey Perry’s first-period goal ( 700K ), as the Stars improved to 3-0-1 since last week’s front-office shakeup.

Smith had to make some tough stops in the final 40 seconds after Dallas' Stephane Robidas was penalized for hooking.

Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle pulled Giguere to give his team a 6-on-4 skating edge, but Smith hung on to preserve the victory. “It got loud there the last minute or so, and at the end there was a sigh of relief,” said Smith, who has all three wins in the streak. “We found a way to get a win.”

Coyotes 4, Kings 1 | Video
Ilya Bryzgalov has made himself right at home with the Phoenix Coyotes.

The 27-year-old Russian goaltender acquired off waivers by the Coyotes from Anaheim last Friday, made 28 saves to beat Los Angeles for the second time since coming to Phoenix.

“I feel very comfortable with this team,” he said. “These guys work hard in practice and hard in a game. Anaheim is in the past, and I'm glad the Coyotes picked me up. This is a great team and with a great future.”

Bryzgalov, who shut out the Kings 1-0 on Saturday, was beaten only Matt Moulson fired a shot from the left circle past him at 15:07 ( 700K ) of the opening period. That broke Bryzgalov's shutout streak with the Coyotes at 75:07.

It’s the kind of goaltending the Coyotes have been looking for. “He has been phenomenal,” captain Shane Doan said. “One goal in two games and that's huge. When we needed him to make a big save, he has come up big for us.”

Mike York, who opened the scoring 9:50 ( 700K ) into the game, put Phoenix ahead to stay at 2:37 ( 700K ) of the second period, converting a shot off the back dasher by Shane Doan. Niko Kapanen made it 3-1 just over four minutes later ( 700K ), firing Daniel Carcillo’s pass behind Jason LaBarbera. Doan added a goal midway through the third ( 700K ) as the Coyotes handed the Kings their fifth straight loss.

“We can't seem to get a decent shot,” Kings forward Anze Kopitar said. “Right now, things are really frustrating, and for some reason, we just can't score against (Bryzgalov).”

That feeling spread throughout the Kings dressing room.

“We're having a tough time scoring and it's very frustrating,” LaBarbera said. “We're not playing that bad, but not playing that well, either.”

Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media were used it this report.

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