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Penguins pull even with Flyers

by Brian Compton
Just like that, the Philadelphia Flyers have lost their grip on the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.

With Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, combined with the Pens' 6-2 thrashing of Atlanta, the Flyers now find themselves tied for fourth with Pittsburgh. Each has 84 points, and the teams meet Sunday at Pittsburgh (12:30 p.m., NBC).

The Red Wings erased a 2-1 deficit with a pair of goals just 92 seconds apart in the third period. Johan Franzen beat Martin Biron before Henrik Zetterberg gave the defending champs the lead with his 29th goal of the season.

"We've got some work to do to catch up with them," Flyers coach John Stevens said after Biron faced a 48-shot onslaught.

Meanwhile, the Penguins emphatically put an end to Atlanta's six-game winning streak. Evgeni Malkin had a five-point night (2 goals, 3 assists), while Marc-Andre Fleury made 18 saves. Pittsburgh killed all seven of the Thrashers' power plays.

''He played great tonight, and it's fun to see that,'' Pens captain Sidney Crosby said. ''When he's playing well, everything he touches, he makes something happen. That's a good feeling, and that's a good sign for us when he's going like that.''

Here are the first-round matchups in the Stanley Cup Playoffs if the season ended on Tuesday night:

Eastern Conference
No. 1 Boston Bruins (45-17-9, 99 points) vs. No. 8 Carolina Hurricanes (36-28-7, 79 points)

The Bruins were idle on Tuesday, but their overall lead in the East was trimmed thanks to New Jersey's 3-2 win over Chicago. The Hurricanes were also off; they host the Devils at the RBC Center on Wednesday.

Given Martin Brodeur's historic win on Tuesday, the Hurricanes might catch somewhat of a break -- they could see Kevin Weekes between the pipes. Wednesday marks New Jersey's third game in four days.

Boston is off until Thursday, when it will host Los Angeles.

No. 2 New Jersey Devils (46-20-3, 95 points) vs. No. 7 Montreal Canadiens (36-25-9, 81 points)

Both teams earned points in the standings on Tuesday. The Devils moved within four points of the No. 1 seed behind Martin Brodeur's 552nd victory, the most in League history. Patrik Elias also became the franchise's all-time leading scorer with 702 points.

New Jersey will visit Carolina on Wednesday night.

''Guys were commenting that is was like a Stanley Cup atmosphere there, you know the intensity, the excitement, the buzz in the arena,'' Devils forward Brendan Shanahan said of the crowd at the Prudential Center. ''You felt it from the drop of the puck. You felt it in warmup.''

Montreal erased a 3-2 deficit on a goal from Andrei Markov with 4:53 left in regulation, but Carey Price was beaten on all three shootout attempts in a 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers. The victory allowed the Blueshirts to move one point ahead of the Habs in the standings.

"It was a huge point gained, but a tough point lost," Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek said. "We have to look at the battles we won, not the negative."

Montreal visits Ottawa on Thursday night.
No. 3 Washington Capitals (44-22-6, 94 points) vs. No. 6 New York Rangers (37-26-8, 82 points)

Washington's defense was so stifling that it didn't allow a shot in the third period.

It was an easy way for Jose Theodore to earn a shutout, as the Caps' goalie made 19 saves in a 3-0 win against the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center. The victory allowed the third-seeded Caps to remain a point behind No. 2 New Jersey and move within five of Boston. Washington continues its five-game road trip on Thursday at Tampa Bay.

"I thought the defense as a whole played as good as I've seen them play all year," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "To hold them to zero shots in the third period and 19 in their building in a game that they had to win was quite a testament."

It was a game the Panthers certainly needed, as a victory would have allowed them to leapfrog over No. 8 Carolina. Instead, Florida -- which hosts Toronto on Thursday -- remains on the outside looking in.

"Tonight was the first night I've been really disappointed with how we've played," Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said. "There's been very few nights this year where I've questioned our effort level. They haven't always been pretty and we haven't always won but usually we've brought a good desperation level, and the effort's always been there. Tonight, it was questionable."

Meanwhile, the shootout victory gave the Rangers a much-needed second point. Henrik Lundqvist, who made his 60th start of the season, stopped Andrei Kostitsyn on the Canadiens' first attempt after making 26 traditional saves. He was beaten by Alex Kovalev and Andrei Markov as the Canadiens drew even twice in the shootout by converting each of their next two attempts. Chris Drury beat Carey Price for the winner.

New York is now just two points away from the No. 4 seed in the East, which would give it home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Blueshirts will host Buffalo on Saturday.

"We found a way," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "Both teams I thought played hard and it could have gone either way, but we found a way to win it."

No. 4 Philadelphia Flyers (37-22-10, 84 points) vs. No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins (38-26-8, 84 points)

The Flyers entered Tuesday's action having not won in Detroit since Nov. 4, 1988. They finished the same way.

Philadelphia held a 2-1 lead after two periods but couldn't hold on and suffered its second-straight loss in a 3-2 decision. They also lost their grip on the No. 4 seed thanks to Pittsburgh's 6-2 win against Atlanta.

If there's a positive to take away, it's the fact that Philadelphia has three games in hand on the Pens. The Flyers visit Buffalo on Friday night.

"We're not helping ourselves when we're up 2-0 halfway through the game," Flyers forward Scott Hartnell said. "We can't hang our heads, though. We've just got to refocus and get back to work. We can't scoreboard watch. We've got to get out there and get the wins ourselves."

Pittsburgh has found a second life under interim coach Dan Bylsma. With Tuesday's win against Atlanta, the Penguins improved to 11-1-3 since Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien behind the bench. Pittsburgh hosts Los Angeles on Friday.

Of course, it helps to have the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The latter missed Monday's skate but returned in time to enjoy a five-point night. The remarkable feat allowed Malkin to surpass 100 points for a second straight season.

"You get nights like tonight from Malkin, and you get the previous game from Crosby," Bylsma said. "It's a luxury I have from our standpoint."

Western Conference
No. 1 Detroit Red Wings (47-15-9, 103 points) vs. No. 8 Nashville Predators (35-30-5, 75 points)

The Red Wings continued their dominance of Philadelphia on home ice as they rallied from a 2-0 deficit en route to a 3-2 win at Joe Louis Arena. Combined with San Jose's 4-3 loss at Phoenix, Detroit increased its conference lead to three points.

"This game's fair. If you do things right and do them right longer, you tend to win more often.  We made a mistake a couple times and they scored on their chances, but I thought it was fair. The team that stuck with it the longest got a win tonight." -- Red Wings coach Mike Babcock

The defending champions begin an odd-three game road that begins in Atlanta on Friday and ends on Tuesday in Edmonton.

''This game's fair. If you do things right and do them right longer, you tend to win more often,'' Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. ''We made a mistake a couple times and they scored on their chances, but I thought it was fair. The team that stuck with it the longest got a win tonight.''

Nashville was idle on Tuesday night but fell from seventh to eighth in the West due to Edmonton's shootout win against St. Louis. While the teams have the same amount of points and the Predators have more wins, the Oilers get the nod due to the fact that they have a game in hand. Nashville visits Anaheim on Wednesday night.

No. 2 San Jose Sharks (45-14-10, 100 points) vs. No. 7 Edmonton Oilers (33-27-9, 75 points)
The Sharks seemed destined to earn at least a point until Shane Doan broke a 3-3 tie with 26.9 seconds remaining in regulation in a 4-3 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena. By failing to garner any points, San Jose -- which played catch-up after going down 3-0 in the first period -- fell three points behind top-seeded Detroit. The Sharks host Nashville on Thursday.

''There isn't a guy in there who should be proud of their first 20 minutes,'' San Jose coach Todd McLellan said.

Edmonton jumped back into the playoff picture with a dramatic 2-1 shootout victory against the St. Louis Blues at Rexall Place. The win allowed the Oilers to leap into seventh place, as they moved ahead of No. 8 Nashville due to their game in hand.

"It shows what we're capable of," Oilers forward Patrick O'Sullivan said. "If we put in a 60-minute effort like that and we're playing good in all three zones, we're going to have a good chance to win every night. That's what we need right now. If nothing else, it shows what we're capable of and it should give us confidence."

No. 3 Calgary Flames (40-23-6, 86 points) vs. No. 6 Columbus Blue Jackets (36-28-6, 78 points)

Calgary was off on Tuesday, but its lead in the Northwest Division shrunk to just three points thanks to Vancouver's 4-2 win against Dallas. The Stars come to the Pengrowth Saddledome on Wednesday night.

The Blue Jackets were also idle on Tuesday, but are still in prime position to compete in the postseason for the first time in franchise history. Columbus hosts Chicago on Wednesday.

No. 4 Chicago Blackhawks (37-22-9, 83 points) vs. No. 5 Vancouver Canucks (37-23-9, 83 points)

Chicago fell behind early and lost 3-2 at New Jersey, loosening its grip on the No. 4 seed. Combined with Vancouver's victory against the Stars at General Motors Place, the Blackhawks and Canucks now have 83 points apiece. However, Chicago still is the No. 4 seed because it has a game in hand.

The Blackhawks were on the losing end of Martin Brodeur's NHL-leading 552nd career victory on Tuesday. They nearly tied the game in the final seconds, but came up just short. Chicago will visit Columbus on Wednesday.

"I didn't even know what to expect, it was a big night for (Brodeur) but, at the same time, we were coming in here wanting to win because it was two crucial points for us in the standings," Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg said.

"The game of hockey is funny.  When you are on a roll, you find ways to win. You get the penalty kills when you need them and you get the goals when you need them. Catching Chicago is something we wanted to do. Now we want to get above them and chase third place." -- Ryan Kesler
But Brodeur wasn't the only one who made history on Tuesday. The Canucks made some of their own, as their won their 10th straight at home to set a franchise record. Without question, their success at GM Place -- they haven't lost at home since Jan. 31 -- has allowed them to creep up the standings.

They'll look to make it 11 in a row on Thursday, when St. Louis comes to town.

"The game of hockey is funny," said Canucks forward Ryan Kesler, who had a goal and an assist. "When you are on a roll, you find ways to win. You get the penalty kills when you need them and you get the goals when you need them. Catching Chicago is something we wanted to do. Now we want to get above them and chase third place.

"We've won 10 in a row on home ice and that's not easy to do. It's something no other team has done in a Canuck sweater."
Contact Brian Compton at:

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

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