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Neal's overtime goal lifts Stars past Maple Leafs

by Brian Compton
James Neal showed his teammates why crashing the net is so important on Wednesday night.

Neal's willingness to go to high-risk areas paid huge dividends as he put home a rebound with 2:03 left in overtime to lift the Dallas Stars to a 4-3 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the American Airlines Center.

The Stars ended a four-game stretch of post-regulation losses this season. Dallas lost three shootouts and once in overtime before finding a way to finish the job against rookie goaltender Jonas Gustavsson (32 saves) on Wednesday.

''It's a huge goal for him,'' Stars coach Marc Crawford said. ''We had talked all game long about playing a young goaltender that ... there are rebounds that will spray out. It took us all that time to get one and James was the benefactor by having a good habit and being in the right spot. When you do that, good things happen.''

Brad Richards scored twice for Dallas, which trailed 3-2 before Mike Ribeiro scored with 2:45 remaining in regulation. Marty Turco made 33 saves.

Nikolai Kulemin had a pair of goals for Toronto, which won its first game of the season in Anaheim on Monday night. Lee Stempniak also scored on the power play.

''With 5 minutes left in (regulation) and up a goal, you have to find ways to close those games out,'' said Leafs forward Jason Blake, who had three assists. ''It's a tough one to take, giving up a late goal, but you learn from that and move forward.''

Blues 5, Hurricanes 2 | HIGHLIGHTS

It may be experiencing trouble on home ice, but St. Louis is doing just fine on the road.

David Perron scored twice and Chris Mason made 34 saves as the Blues improved to 3-1-1 away from home with a victory at Carolina.

''The bottom line is we just haven't been very good at home,'' St. Louis coach Andy Murray said. ''All the arenas are all new and all generic. You don't have a lot of differences. So, to me, there isn't a real home advantage for a lot of the teams.''

Perron broke a scoreless tie 7:32 into the game before Yan Stastny and Jay McClement scored just 16 seconds apart as the Blues jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

Joe Corvo scored on the power play for the Hurricanes in the final minute of the first, but Andy McDonald restored the Blues' three-goal lead with his fourth goal of the season at 9:42 of the second. It was one of only three shots on goal for St. Louis in the period.

''Even though we got outshot, the two points is what we needed to get," said Perron, as his Blues were outshot 36-17. "We just have to keep playing like that.''

Scott Walker also scored a power-play goal for the Hurricanes, which came at the 8:12 mark of the third period. Perron added an empty-net tally in the game's final minute to seal the victory. Carolina is now winless in seven straight games.

''You can't break down defensively the way we did,'' Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. ''We haven't respected the defensive part of the game.''

Coyotes 4, Blue Jackets 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

Share the wealth.

That's the philosophy Phoenix is going with this season, as Martin Hanzal, Zbynek Michalek and Robert Lang scored power-play goals and Jason LaBarbera made 31 saves as Phoenix cruised past Columbus at Nationwide Arena.

''That's where we're going to be all year,'' Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. ''It was a good, solid group effort. We have to continue to build on that. We want consistency of that -- not up and down -- and that's what we're looking for.''

Derick Brassard scored the lone goal for the Blue Jackets, as LaBarbera was sharp despite not having played in nearly three weeks.

''I've been feeling good in practice," said LaBarbera, who helped put an end to the Coyotes' two-game skid. "It makes it easier when you can carry that over into the game. We kind of had a frame of mind today that we just had to get after it, we had to be more aggressive. We had to be a lot more competitive than our last couple of games.''

Brassard's tally -- which came via the power play -- gave Columbus a 1-0 lead late in the first period, but Hanzal and Jim Vandermeer scored less than three minutes apart midway through the second period to give Phoenix a lead it wouldn't relinquish. Michalek and Lang added power-play goals in the third to put the game away. Steve Mason allowed four goals on 23 shots.

''Too many plays with the puck that are too light that come back to haunt us,'' Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. ''We're paying for the errors we make. We're not doing the things in the competitive areas that we need to do. We had a decent first period and then the turnover machine in the second. We're going to have to roll up our sleeves and dig in.''

Senators 4, Panthers 3 | HIGHLIGHTS

Nothing is going right for Florida these days.

Nick Foligno's pass hit a Florida player's skate and ricocheted into the net in the second period and Jarkko Ruutu scored 38 seconds later as the Panthers dropped their fourth straight with a loss to Ottawa at the BankAtlantic Center.

''When things are going bad, you never get the bounces,'' said Florida defenseman Bryan McCabe, whose skate was hit by Foligno's pass. ''It's frustrating, for sure, but that was by far our best effort for 60 minutes in a game this year. There's a ton of positives to build on. I know the end result wasn't what we wanted, but it's certainly a step in the right direction.''

"I think when you're on losing streaks, those bounces go against you and when you're winning, you tend to get those things.  You like to hope that those bounces even out as the season goes on." -- Panthers coach Peter DeBoer

Mike Fisher and Daniel Alfredsson also scored, and Filip Kuba added two assists after missing the previous eight games due to a lower-body injury. Pascal Leclaire started the game but was forced to leave after the first period. Brian Elliott finished the job and made 26 saves.

''Part way through the period during one of the TV timeouts (Leclaire) came over and said he was starting to feel dizzy,'' Ottawa coach Cory Clouston said. ''He felt he would be good until the end of the period. He's a gamer, he tried to stay in but by the end of the period it kept getting progressively worse.''

Steve Reinprecht, Stephen Weiss and McCabe scored for Florida, which is now 2-7-1. Jordan Leopold and Nathan Horton had two assists.

''I think when you're on losing streaks, those bounces go against you and when you're winning, you tend to get those things,'' Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said. ''You like to hope that those bounces even out as the season goes on.''

Predators 4, Wild 3 | HIGHLIGHTS

After rallying from a 2-0 deficit, Minnesota surrendered a 3-2 lead early in the second period before Jerred Smithson scored shorthanded at 10:44 of the third as Nashville edged the Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

''It's one of those things where as it goes on, it gets worse and worse,'' said Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck after his team fell to 3-9-0. ''Your confidence dips and dips to a point where you start believing it's going to happen. We've got to get to a point where that mentality can't creep in.''

The Predators had a 2-0 lead just 5:33 into the game as J.P. Dumont and Shea Weber scored only 2:57 apart.

But Minnesota stormed back with three goals in the first 2:18 of the second. Brent Burns made it a 2-1 game at 31 seconds before Clutterbuck tied it at the 2-minute mark. Eighteen seconds later, Owen Nolan chased Dan Ellis as he beat the Preds' goalie on his second goal of the season. The lead was short-lived, however, as Mike Santorelli tied the game at 6:44 with his first NHL goal.

''My feeling is when we got up 3-2 ... we weren't playing the game to win, we were playing not to lose,'' Wild coach Todd Richards said after what he called the toughest loss of the season. ''To me that's a huge difference in mentality. What I saw us doing from the bench -- I have to watch the tape to see if I'm right or if I'm wrong -- was just retreating.''

Nashville entered the game as the League's worst scoring team at 1.7 goals per game and with the NHL's worst power play conversion rate at 8.3 percent. Afterwards, though, coach Barry Trotz was more concerned with his team's defensive play.

''Those are hard lessons sometimes, but those are lessons you take,'' Trotz said. ''In Chicago we gave up back-to-back goals and lost 2-0. Today we gave up three. Hopefully we're not giving up four tomorrow. But we've gotta learn from that.''

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