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Northeast: Caputi shares stage in Leafs' win

by James Murphy
Luca Caputi made a strong first impression on Maple Leafs fans with a goal in his first home game since being acquired from the Penguins in exchange for Alexei Ponikarovsky at the trade deadline, but he had to share the stage with Nikolai Kulemin Tuesday, whose overtime goal sank the Boston Bruins, 4-3.

Toronto coach Ron Wilson sent Caputi out at left wing for the game's opening faceoff, giving the 21-year-old who grew up rooting for the Leafs a moment to remember in front of family and friends. Caputi rewarded his coach by scoring the tying goal 7:13 into the third and setting up Kulemin's winner.

"The fans gave me a pretty loud cheer," Caputi said. "I can't really describe it right now. I think in the next couple days, hopefully, it will sink in. I'm still in la-la land right now."

"I thought he played pretty well considering he was a little bit anxious before the game with all his family here," Wilson said. "To be getting the tying goal the way he did, that's something I'm sure we'll see a lot of, around the goal crease, bumping, scuffling with the goaltender and stuff like that."

Wilson figures he curried favor with the Caputi clan by sending the youngster out to start the game.

"I like to do that with young guys and at least I get their parents on my side for a couple weeks," Wilson joked. "Usually I get a nice letter from a mom, 'Thank you for starting my son. It's the thrill of a lifetime."'

Life without Savard -- Tuesday's OT loss in Toronto was the first game without Marc Savard for the Bruins. He is out indefinitely after suffering a Grade 2 concussion after being hit by Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke Sunday. Also missing was defenseman Zdeno Chara, who has a lower-body injury.

Boston had the lead three times against the Leafs, but lost it three times and saw an important point slip.

"We stopped moving our feet and being hard on the forecheck," Patrice Bergeron said. "We were hard on their defensemen early and had success, but then we got away from that."

On Tuesday, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli told TSN's Darren Dreger that Savard could be done for the season. No matter how long he may be gone, his teammates will have to step up in his absence.
"We really need our whole team to step up," coach Claude Julien said before the loss to the Leafs. "If we want to make the playoffs, we've got to win some hockey games. It's not about one or two guys stepping up. I think it's the whole team that has to step up their game. We're going to have to play desperate hockey from here on in."

Against the Leafs, Tim Thomas, last season's Vezina Trophy winner, made his fourth consecutive start, something he hadn't done since mid-December. Rookie Tuukka Rask won four-straight games heading into the Olympic break, but came back and injured his knee in a 4-1 loss to the Canadiens March 2. Thomas has gone 2-1-1 in three games since Rask was injured.

"You're not a Vezina Trophy winner one year and the next year you're not a good goaltender," Julien said of Thomas. "It's just about finding his game, and he's finding it at the right time."
Sabres slump on power play -- The Buffalo Sabres have won two-straight games heading into Wednesday's match with Dallas, but their power play has struggled mightily. Buffalo is 1-for-29 on the man-advantage in the last nine games. Even-strength scoring has been down, as well. The Sabres are averaging just 2.3 goals per game over their last 10 games and are 2-6-2 during that stretch.
"Our habits have to lead to good scoring," coach Lindy Ruff told the Buffalo News. "I still don't think some of our habits in the game, from net-front presence to attacking from different places -- some of our habits aren't good enough yet. Players are bullheaded sometimes. Coach is really bullheaded sometimes. We've got to find some common ground on this one. I think I'm going to win this battle. In the last 14, 15 games, it isn't working. I think I can get them where I need them to go."
Paul Gaustad is day-to-day with a right hand injury and Drew Stafford is out indefinitely with a groin injury.
Success translates for Habs -- The Montreal Canadiens continued their winning ways Tuesday with a 5-3 defeat of Tampa Bay that comes on the heels of a successful road trip in which Montreal took six of eight points in defeating the Bruins, Kings and Ducks and losing only to the Sharks.
Against Tampa Bay, Scott Gomez had a goal and 2 assists, and Mathieu Darche scored twice. In goal, Jaroslav Halak made 28 saves for the Canadiens, who gave coach Jacques Martin his 550th career win in the team's first home game since the Olympic break.
Glen Metropolit notched his career-high 15th goal and added an assist. Benoit Pouliot also scored as Montreal won its third in a row.

"That's what it takes to win -- everyone's chipping in," Gomez said. "We're getting healthy bodies and we're starting to look like the team we should have been all year."

The Habs capped their road trip off with an amazing three-goal comeback against Anaheim, tying the game with 10.7 seconds left on an Andrei Markov goal and then winning it in the shootout.

"We definitely didn't start off very good, but we showed character by sticking with it," Brian Gionta said of the 4-3 win to the Montreal Gazette. "It was 3-1 with two minutes to go and we showed character even though there are things we have to correct."

The one negative on the trip was that Maxim Lapierre was suspended four games for a hit from behind on Sharks forward Scott Nichol. Lapierre is eligible to return to the lineup Saturday against the Bruins.
Senators snap skid -- A visit to Edmonton cured what ailed the slumping Senators, who had lost three-straight prior to Tuesday's 4-1 win. 

Chris Kelly had a goal and an assist, and Matt Cullen, Milan Michalek and Mike Fisher also scored for the Senators, and Daniel Alfredsson had 3 assists. The Senators scored three times in the third period, matching their total during their post-Olympics skid.

"We got some goals in a flood at the end there and it was nice to get the run support," goalie Brian Elliott said. "We've lost a couple, so a win like this lifts the spirits."

"We didn't play well the first two games after the Olympics but we had a gutsy effort to build from in our last one with a bunch of guys sick," said Alfredsson. "That carried into tonight. I thought we played a strong game. The biggest thing was having a strong effort and getting the power play going in the third."

The flu hit the Senators hard this past week as numerous players were sickened by a bug that swept through the dressing room after the Olympic break. Already without defensemen Filip Kuba and Chris Campoli, who were out with upper-body injuries, the Sens had to play the Leafs without Alfredsson and Peter Regin in Saturday's 2-1 shootout loss to the Maple Leafs.
"Things are pretty bad in there," Jason Spezza told the Ottawa Sun after the loss. "It's just a matter of degrees of how bad guys are feeling, but no excuses. We still wanted to win the game, but it's nice to get a point."
"It was a typical flu. Everybody has had it. It kind of came and went pretty quick so it was good," Fisher said.
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