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Parise's goal caps fantastic trip

by Brian Compton and Brian Hunter /
A few thoughts while we wonder if Peter DeBoer's Florida Panthers could really have played for three days without scoring:

Coming together -- A five-game road trip for the New Jersey Devils produced four victories, three of them in overtime. That included Saturday's 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens, in which Zach Parise's power-play goal earned them the extra point. Patrik Elias, who tied an NHL record with his 15th career OT goal Thursday in Philadelphia, set up the winner this time.

"I told Zach maybe we'll keep switching. One game he'll get one and the other I'll get one," Elias said.

New Jersey coach Brent Sutter doesn't care who does the scoring as long as the team continues to earn points. The Devils remained fourth in the competitive Atlantic Division, two points behind the Flyers, and seventh in the Eastern Conference as they continue to adjust to life without Martin Brodeur.

"I just think everybody's in synch," Sutter said. "The biggest thing that I want to see as a group is no matter what the score is, the amount of time the game is, we've got to play a certain way, we've got to stay with that."

Scott Clemmensen, who played every minute during the trip, stopped 25 shots in improving to 6-3-0 and becoming the first Devils goalie in almost 12 years other than Brodeur to start against the Canadiens.

"I'm not trying to replace Marty, especially not here in his hometown," Clemmensen said. "It's tough to come in here and play because they're a good team and they play well at home and they feed off the energy of the crowd, and that's why it's a tough game to play. I'm not trying to go out there and do what Marty does. I'm just trying to go out there and play my game and give our team a chance."

Nine is enough -- With a chance to win their 10th straight game, the San Jose Sharks had a golden opportunity to achieve something really special on their home ice.

But Dwayne Roloson just wouldn't comply.

The Edmonton Oilers' goaltender was downright sensational, as he made 41 saves and helped put an end to San Jose's nine-game winning streak in the Oilers' 3-2 overtime win at HP Pavilion. Kyle Brodziak scored 2:40 into the extra session to secure the victory.

The 39-year-old Roloson was the difference in this one, as the Oilers were outshot 43-17 — a figure that, if anything, understated the Sharks' dominance. Edmonton has now won 10 of its last 14 meetings with the Sharks, who "fell" to 22-3-2 and have still not lost in regulation at home.

"For me personally, it keeps me on my toes and keeps me in the game," Roloson said of the constant action in his end. "I'm sure if you ask any goalie, if you get lots of shots, it's a lot easier to play than not getting any.

"They got a lot of shots, but I thought we played a smart game. Our guys did a great job in front of the net."

Roloson was so good that Sharks coach Todd McLellan couldn't be disappointed with his team's effort. Truth be told, San Jose was better on Saturday than it was in Thursday's 3-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"I didn't feel we deserved the win against Columbus, they outplayed us," McLellan said. "Tonight maybe we didn't get the fate we deserved."

Strength against strength -- With the Pittsburgh Penguins in town, Ottawa Senators coach Craig Hartsburg elected against putting a checking line out to face the trio of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora. Instead, he threw his best three forwards -- Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson -- out there and allowed them to go mano-a-mano with their Pittsburgh counterparts.

"We were going to play head-to-head against these guys and if they were going to play together, we were going to play (opposite)," Spezza said. "Hartsy challenged us before the game and said that we'd be matched up against them."

Spezza in particular rose to the challenge, as he scored a second-period hat trick to spur the Senators to a 3-2 win at Scotiabank Place. His first two tallies staked Ottawa to a 2-0 lead and his third of the day answered a Jordan Staal score for Pittsburgh and held up as the winner after Malkin had a shorthanded goal in the third.

"It's definitely nice to contribute on a big stage like this and get some confidence back," Spezza said. "It's a big game for us. Now we have to build on it."

Crosby assisted on Malkin's goal to extend his point streak to six games, but the Penguins lost for the second time in three games.

"We didn't start well and Spezza had his big second period and gave them the lead. It's a matter of momentum a lot of times," said Crosby, who has 6 goals and 9 assists over the last half-dozen games.

Out of gas -- Four games in six days, plus a couple of untimely injuries took their toll on the Toronto Maple Leafs -- and the visiting Washington Capitals were all too happy to capitalize.

Defensemen Karl Alzner and Milan Jurcina scored to lead the Capitals to a 2-1 win at Air Canada Centre, their first road victory since Nov. 19.

"I thought they were a tired team," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I was really surprised they came on as much in the third. I thought if we could have of got that two-goal lead, they might have folded. But they don't quit. They've got a lot of heart."

A lot of heart, but not enough left in the tank in this instance. The Leafs played at Los Angeles on Monday, flew to San Jose for a Tuesday night game, play at Phoenix on Thursday, then spent most of Friday heading home. As if fatigue weren't bad enough, their lineup was quickly depleted when forward Niklas Hagman and rookie defenseman Luke Schenn left with injuries before Saturday's game reached the halfway point.

"Luke logs a lot of minutes and so does Haggy," coach Ron Wilson said. "We had to go to Plan B and C. ... You're a little tired and you want to play almost four lines and certainly six defensemen. We couldn't do that."

Hagman is listed as day-to-day, but Schenn is expected to miss two weeks or more with what was termed a lower-body injury.


Quality, not quantity -- While the pucks on net weren't coming left and right for the Atlanta Thrashers, they certainly made the shots they took count. Five different players scored goals in a 5-1 win against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum and the Thrashers snapped a five-game losing streak despite managing just 17 shots.

"We didn't get many shots tonight," said Eric Perrin, who had a power-play goal. "But we did get a lot of quality chances, and we capitalized."

In a tightly-packed Eastern Conference, the Thrashers sit only six points out of a playoff spot — but they're also just one point ahead of Southeast Division rival Tampa Bay for last overall.

"We've been struggling," said goalie Johan Hedberg, who made 28 saves. "Tonight, it's two points. We had more determination."

The Islanders started the scoring less than a minute into the first period, but it was all Thrashers from there -- at least on the scoreboard. While they didn't exactly control play, it was hard to argue with the results they were getting.

"I think they had three scoring chances in the third period," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said, "and they scored on two of them."

Following a pattern -- The Philadelphia Flyers stayed true to form. By scoring first and then going on to win 2-1 in overtime over the Carolina Hurricanes, they improved to 12-1-4 this season when they came up with the game's first goal.

And it wasn't a huge surprise when that happened. The Hurricanes fell behind 1-0 for the 12th straight game and the eighth in a row at RBC Center. The big goal, however, came when Jeff Carter scored his 19th of the season -- tied for the League lead -- at 3:34 of the extra period.

"We just keep battling," Carter said. "It's definitely not a position we want to be in -- one-goal games, overtimes and shootouts. We never give up. We had our chances to really end it (before overtime). I don't know. We just keep going."

Something else the Flyers have done extremely well this season, besides scoring first and winning those games, has been turning the opponent's power play to their own advantage. Mike Richards' shorthanded goal in the first that got Philadelphia going was its 11th in just 26 games.

"It seems like every time we get a good kill or score a short-handed goal, it builds momentum for us," Richards said. "Specialty teams are such a big factor. It seems like if you come out of it on the plus side of special teams you're going to win the game."

Making it look easy --
Last Saturday, the Boston Bruins took out the defending Stanley Cup champions when they handled Detroit on home ice. A week later, they did the same to one of the League's hottest goaltenders.

Craig Anderson, a recent sensation in net for the Florida Panthers, couldn't stop the runaway train the Bruins have resembled since the start of November. Anderson was literally run over and knocked from the game in the third period of Boston's 4-0 win at BankAtlantic Center when Patrice Bergeron collided with him and the goalie's head hit the crossbar. Anderson, who has started five straight, was replaced by Tomas Vokoun.

Meanwhile, Phil Kessel extended his point streak to 11 games and scored his team-leading 16th goal of the season to spark the Bruins' 16th win in 19 efforts.

"Things are working, things are going to the net," Kessel said. "When you win hockey games, it's always fun. So anytime you win, it's a good time."

Michael Ryder scored in the first for the only goal Manny Fernandez (27 saves) would need, Kessel made it 2-0 in the second and the Bruins added a pair of insurance goals in the final 20 minutes.

"Right from the start, I thought we were moving the puck well, we had control of the game," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We got that early goal that gave us the lead, and we went from there."

Bouncing back -- Ty Conklin allowed four goals in a span of 13 minutes bridging the first and second periods, but the Detroit Red Wings had faith their goaltender would be there when they needed him most — and Conklin was. He blanked the Chicago Blackhawks over the final 43 minutes of regulation and overtime, then stopped all three shootout attempts he faced as the Wings prevailed 5-4 at Joe Louis Arena.

"Ty saved the game at the end. He made some key saves," said Marian Hossa, who started Detroit's comeback from a 4-2 deficit in the third period. "That's what you need from your goalie. He was strong at the end."

Conklin, who let an early 2-0 lead escape, was able to redeem himself by stopping Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane in the penalty-shot tiebreaker while Pavel Datsyuk got the only goal the Wings would need.

"It was nice, especially after that third goal, to be able to battle through," Conklin said.

Of course, these same two teams will meet again Dec. 30 in Detroit and then again at Wrigley Field on New Year's Day in the Winter Classic. The Blackhawks hope to come out of that game with a better taste in their mouths.

"It's frustrating," Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook said of letting the lead slip away. "We need to shore that up. We need to be better with the puck."

Misery loves company -- It's been a rough stretch of late for the Buffalo Sabres, but for one night, they were able to take out their frustrations against a team in the throes of an even bigger slump.

After their first three one-goal leads failed to hold up, Derek Roy scored midway through the third period to give the Sabres a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at St. Pete Times Forum. It was the seventh straight defeat for the Lightning, while the Sabres won for only the third time in 11 games.

"We got a couple of redirections that haven't been going in," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "You need a little bit of puck luck along the way, and I thought we got some."

Luck probably isn't in the vocabulary of Rick Tocchet right now. Tampa Bay has lost 14 of its last 16, firing Barry Melrose along the way and promoting Tocchet to interim coach. The Lightning certainly haven't been getting blown out, playing 17 one-goal games already, but they've come out on the losing end in 13 of those.

"Groundhog Day," a dejected Martin St. Louis said. "You feel sometimes you deserve better, but you know what, maybe we don't. The way it's going, it's draining. Draining physically. Draining mentally."

Goalie controversy? -- Entering the season, there wasn't any doubt that Dan Ellis was the No. 1 goaltender for the Nashville Predators.

But considering the way rookie Pekka Rinne has performed so far this month, one has to wonder if he'll continue to cut into Ellis' playing time when the latter returns from a leg injury.

Rinne recorded his second shutout this month on Saturday night, as he stopped all 32 shots he faced in Nashville's 1-0 victory against the Minnesota Wild. Rinne, who blanked the Buffalo Sabres in a 2-0 win last Monday, is off to a 6-0 start this season. He is now tied the Ellis for the best start in franchise history.

"It's awesome to have two shutouts, but it also says something about the whole team and our team defense," Rinne said. "I feel totally comfortable, but it is never just the goalie. The guys are doing a great job in front of me. That’s makes it a lot easier for me."

Predators coach Barry Trotz said Ellis is day-to-day, and he expects him to be ready to serve as the backup on Monday at St. Louis. There is a chance that Ellis could be back between the pipes on Tuesday night against the Vancouver Canucks.

But with the way Rinne is playing, what's the rush?

"It was a charley-horse type of effect," Trotz said of Ellis' injury. "That is something a goaltender can't play with. It has been a good start for Pekka. Now we have both goaltenders doing really well."

Bump in the road -- With four wins in their last five games, perhaps the Phoenix Coyotes thought their game against the struggling St. Louis Blues was going to be  walk in the park.

Not so.

Patrick Berglund had a goal and an assist, and Manny Legace made 23 saves as the Blues snapped a 2-game skid with a 4-3 victory at the Scottrade Center. St. Louis had lost four of its past five games.

''We're battling for our lives,'' Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. ''This was a tough game for us. We just came up short.''

Coyotes captain Shane Doan was particularly displeased with his team's effort in the second period, which saw St. Louis score three times in an 8:33 span. The Blues outshot Phoenix 16-6 in the second.

''For about 10 minutes at the end of the second, they outplayed us badly,'' Doan said. ''We can't, as a young team, afford to have that happen.''

Nothing special -- The only thing worse than the Columbus Blue Jackets' power play is the upcoming return of "The Bachelor."

Ken Hitchcock's club went 0-for-4 with the man advantage in Saturday's 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, and is now 6-for-100 over its last 20 games.

Six for One Hundred. Overall, Columbus is 12-for-125. Wow.

Apparently, Hitchcock has had enough. After the loss, the Blue Jackets' coach promised a different look before Sunday's game at Anaheim.

"We'll make a couple of changes," Hitchcock said. "We were a step slow. For whatever reason, we were a step slow everywhere."

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

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