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Penguins continue string of comebacks

by Brian Compton and Brian Hunter /
A few thoughts before the Lightning interview Steve Levy:

Pens are mightier than the Sword(s) — With so much talent, one has to at least wonder why the Pittsburgh Penguins wait until the third period before the engines are revving.

Nonetheless, the Penguins are now winners of six straight games.

Jordan Staal had two more goals, and the Pens scored four times in the third period Saturday night en route to a 5-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres at Mellon Arena. It marked the sixth time that Pittsburgh has won when trailing after two periods, including the past four games.

''We don't panic,'' Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. ''That's the main thing. We play our game. We didn't want to change anything. ... If we keep playing like this, I'm not going to say we'll win every game, but we'll put ourselves in a good position to win the game.''

The Penguins will certainly win their fair share of games if Staal continues to contribute like this offensively. The 20-year-old has scored 7 goals during Pittsburgh's winning streak — including a hat trick in a win at Detroit — after going scoreless in the first 11 games of the season.

''I knew I had been playing good hockey,'' Staal said. ''I knew it was only a matter of time for me.''

Just like it was only a matter of time before the Pens rallied for another win on Saturday night.

''This team seems to never give up,'' he said, ''and when we get the momentum, it's kind of scary.''

Home, sweet home
— There's something about the Xcel Energy Center that brings out the best in Niklas Backstrom.

The Minnesota Wild netminder stopped 24 saves through overtime before making 2 big stops in the shootout in a 3-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. With the win, Backstrom improved to 5-0-1 on home ice.

Since last March, he's 11-0-3 in Minnesota with a 1.54 goals-against average. He denied a breakaway by Kristian Huselius in overtime before the two pad saves in the shootout.

''I didn't have that much to do before that. I think we played very good, solid defense the whole night,'' Backstrom said. ''So I'm happy that I could be there when the team needed it, because they played so awesome the whole night.''

Quote of the night goes to Wild coach Jacques Lemaire, who was frustrated by his team's inconsistency throughout the contest.

''The legs were there. No brain,'' he said. ''I tried to get different brains together. Didn't work.''

Seizing an opportunity — There's only one Martin Brodeur, so when the franchise goalie was lost to the New Jersey Devils for 3-4 months following an elbow injury, it left a competition for the No. 1 job between Brodeur's backup, Kevin Weekes, and Scott Clemmensen, who began this season playing in the minors.

Clemmensen allowed just four goals in his first two starts, but was saddled with a pair of losses when the Devils scored only twice for him. Coach Brent Sutter went back to Clemmensen on Saturday for a second straight night, and although he wasn't quite as stingy he held strong in a shootout for a 6-5 win over the Washington Capitals.

"I want to play well," Clemmensen said. "This is my eighth year as a pro and I have to take advantage of these opportunities. It's something you prepare for, and you wait your whole career for something like this. I'm not trying to replace Marty, but the situation is what it is, and I'm trying to showcase what I can do out there."

Clemmensen stopped 25 shots through regulation and overtime, but he was at his best in denying Viktor Kozlov, Alexander Ovechkin and Boyd Gordon in the penalty-shot competition to land the Prudential Center crowd solidly in his corner.

"He showed a lot of poise," Sutter said. "He doesn't get rattled by those things. He has a very calm personality to begin with, and he brings that onto the ice."

Streak busters — Last season's Stanley Cup Playoffs notwithstanding, the Montreal Canadiens hadn't lost consecutive games in regulation since Feb. 21-23, and they had defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in seven straight. All of that ended Saturday night.

Scottie Upshall and Jeff Carter scored in the second period for the Flyers in a 2-1 win at Bell Centre, a building in which Philadelphia felt right at home last spring during a five-game elimination of Montreal in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

"A lot was made of it last year going into the playoffs, but we knew that we could win in here," Philadelphia coach John Stevens said. "We came in last year in Game 5 and ended up winning the series here. It was just a great atmosphere to be part of a hockey game —  this building's electric and I thought it was tonight."

Carter, whose goal held up as the game-winner after Alex Tanguay got the Canadiens on the board midway through the third, chalked up the Flyers' regular-season struggles against the Habs meaningless — especially since Philly has been playing solid hockey of late.

"That's just the media blowing it up — no offense, but we go game by game and obviously we want to win every game," Carter said. "They're a tough opponent and we've had some success here lately and hopefully we can keep it going."

Oh-so-closeShawn Horcoff was <i>thisclose</i> to securing a victory for his Edmonton Oilers.

If only Brett Clark hadn’t gotten in the way of his bid for an empty-net goal.

Moments after Clark blocked Horcoff's shot, Darcy Tucker erased a 2-1 deficit, and the Colorado Avalanche would go on to win a shootout by a 3-2 score at a sold-out Rexall Place.

Afterwards, Horcoff picked up all of the blame and placed it directly on himself.

"Put the loss on my shoulders," he said. "We played hard. If I put the puck into the empty net, we win."

Avs coach Tony Granato was happy to see that his defenseman was in the right place at the right time.

"Clarkie was standing there on an island, and you're just hoping that he makes the right play and guesses right, and he did," Granato said.
60 Minutes — The reeling Dallas Stars knew the work ethic needed to be kicked up several notches if they hoped to get out of their season-long funk. They took a step in the right direction at one of their favorite stops: Arena.

After dropping three straight and five of their previous six games, the Stars received a three-point night from Mike Ribeiro and 25 saves from Marty Turco in a 3-2 win over the Coyotes in Phoenix.

"This is the kind of effort from which we can build.  We're noted for playing good defense and, if you're playing that game at its peak, we're a tough team to beat." -- Mike Modano
'It's good for the confidence to get this win,'' said Ribeiro, who had three assists. ''We played much better defense and when you focus on defense, you have a better chance to win.''

It certainly helps when you receive contributions from everybody. Mark Parrish scored on the power play for his fourth goal since joining the club on Nov. 5. Loui Eriksson scored twice, and Turco's efforts helped him win the 212th game of his tremendous career.

''This is the kind of effort from which we can build,'' Mike Modano said after Dallas won for the 10th time in its last 14 games in Phoenix. ''We're noted for playing good defense and, if you're playing that game at its peak, we're a tough team to beat.''

An unlikely tandem — Considering that Kyle Wellwood was likely to be sent down by the Vancouver Canucks earlier this season before Pavol Demitra suffered broken rib cartilage, it made for quite the storyline when the two skated on the same line and teamed up to score the opening goal of the game.

Demitra celebrated his return to the lineup after missing 10 games with the injury by setting up three goals, including Wellwood's, in a 4-2 win at G.M. Place over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Wellwood, who has seven goals in his last 11 games, played the first 189 games of his NHL career for the Leafs before getting cut over the summer.

He got on the board 7:13 into the first period by taking a perfect pass from Demitra and fighting off ex-teammate Matt Stajan to score the goal.

"This was a game I was trying to get guys hyped up for in the dressing room," Wellwood said. "That was definitely a nice goal to get. I went out to eat last night with Stajan and to get one off him was pretty comical."

Demitra, a key offseason signing by the Canucks, shifted from center over to left wing because Wellwood had been playing so well filling in as the second-line center. Demitra also assisted on goals by Ryan Kesler and Daniel Sedin as Vancouver ended up 4-1-1 on a six-game homestand.

"(Wellwood) showed he can play and obviously he's an unbelievably patient guy and has great touch," Demitra said. "Playing with a guy like that you don't even need to practice. He's very skilled, very smart on the ice and reads the play."

A fun ride home — J.P. Dumont made sure that the Nashville Predators would return home from California with smiles on their faces.

Dumont broke a 1-1 tie with 2:28 remaining in regulation, lifting the Preds to a 3-1 victory over the Kings in Los Angeles. Not only did Nashville end the Kings' four-game winning streak, but they completed a three-game sweep of California. The Predators won in San Jose on Tuesday and Anaheim on Friday.

''To be honest, I think that's the first time we won all three games in California,'' said Barry Trotz, the only coach the 11-year-old team has ever had.

The California sweep came after losses in Vancouver, Calgary and Colorado. Obviously, it was just the turnaround the Preds were hoping for. They'll host the Sharks on Monday night.

"We're glad to come out of here with three wins," Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter said. "We would have liked to come out with more, but to split on the road — that's pretty good. We're happy with that going home."

Practice makes perfect
— The New York Islanders continue to take leads into the third period, and now they're starting to seal the deal. It wasn't necessarily easy, as the Ottawa Senators struck for a pair of goals in the final seven minutes to make the Nassau Coliseum faithful nervous, but the Islanders held strong for a 3-2 win, completing a home-and-home sweep.

"We're not the only team in the League that has blown a third-period lead," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. "It looks like the mind-set is starting to change. Now, it's skate, skate, skate."

New York certainly hasn't had a problem dictating play early in games, and they struck for a pair of goals six minutes apart in the second period for a 2-0 lead. Chris Campoli added what turned out to be the game-winner 3:59 into the third.

"We didn't score on our chances, and they did on theirs," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "We have to find a way to score goals."

"We're not the only team in the League that has blown a third-period lead.  It looks like the mind-set is starting to change. Now, it's skate, skate, skate." -- Islanders coach Scott Gordon
Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza got Ottawa back in the game, but time ran out before the Senators could find the tying goal and the Islanders improved to 4-2-1 over their last seven games.

"When you win a couple of games in a row, it's good for your confidence," said goalie Joey MacDonald, who finished with 38 saves.

A rousing victory — It's not always how you start, but how you finish. The New York Rangers proved that once again.

For the second time in three weeks, the Rangers battled back from a 2-0 deficit after the second period and prevailed 3-2 in a shootout. After storming back against Pittsburgh on Oct. 25, they accomplished the feat again at the expense of the Boston Bruins, who were attempting to close to within a single point of New York for the lead in the Eastern Conference.

"We haven't gotten the starts we wanted in a few games, but we have been able to at least get one point in many of them and sometimes even two," said Markus Naslund, who netted the tying goal with 53 seconds left in regulation.

Chris Drury would then provide the shootout winner, putting a shot between the pads of Boston goalie Tim Thomas in the fourth round. Henrik Lundqvist was flawless in the tiebreaker for the Rangers.

"It shows a lot of character," Drury said. "We talked about it after the second period. One shot cuts it in half."

Zdeno Chara, who along with fellow defenseman Dennis Wideman scored the Bruins' goals, viewed the loss as sort of a learning situation.

"It wasn't like we blew up a five-goal lead," Chara said. "A two-goal lead is probably the worst lead in hockey. We played pretty well most of the game, and then at the end they we were putting a lot of pressure on us. We could've probably handled it a little bit better."

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

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