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Penguins roll another 7

by Brian Compton

The Pittsburgh Penguins inched closer to first place in the East yesterday by defeating the Flyers 7-1. Watch Flyers-Pens highlights
Some random thoughts while Joe Corvo laughs like Dr. Evil:

Rolling Sevens – After losing Sidney Crosby again to a nagging ankle injury, the Pittsburgh Penguins certainly will take their time in bringing back their captain.

Judging by what the Pens have accomplished the last two games, there's no rush.

Pittsburgh scored seven times for the second straight game as it cruised past the Philadelphia Flyers, 7-1, Sunday at Mellon Arena.

As usual, Evgeni Malkin played a major role, as the Hart Trophy candidate notched two goals and two assists. He now has eight points in his last two games against Philadelphia, and is 9-13-22 in 13 career games against the Flyers.

"I had a good game," Malkin said. "Hopefully, I'm going to keep getting points."

Malkin's performance Sunday helped the Pens pull within a point of the New Jersey Devils for the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference leads. Pittsburgh visits the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.

"He (Malkin) may be the best player in the League right now, and you have to respect that fact," Flyers coach John Stevens said.

A.O.'s Not AloneCristobal Huet showed hockey fans there's more to the Washington Capitals than Alex Ovechkin.

Sure, No. 8 is the team's (if not the League's) MVP. But Huet's 39-save performance in Sunday's 2-1 shootout win over the Boston Bruins is the biggest reason why the Caps woke this morning only two points behind the Flyers for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

"I didn't start the year very good in shootouts, but the last two or three have been working for me," Huet said after Alexander Semin and Viktor Kozlov scored in the breakaway competition. "It's good that we have some good players who can put the puck in the net."

It's also good the Capitals have not one, but two goalies (see Olaf Kolzig) that can prevent the puck from going into the net. Washington will continue its chase for a playoff spot Tuesday night, when it begins a six-game road trip in Nashville. The Caps also will make stops in Chicago, Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida.

"We'll stay with the attitude of one game at a time," center Sergei Fedorov said. "I'm sure our focus is on the next game. Obviously, it would be nice to start the road trip with a win. Nashville will be a quick start and we have to be ready for that. Chicago will be the same. We have to be ready."

Three's A Crowd – The Northwest Division race seems primed to go down to the last day of the season.

A three-goal second period in Chicago sparked the Calgary Flames to a 4-2 win against the Blackhawks at the United Center on Sunday – a victory that pushed Calgary into a three-way tie for first in the Northwest with Minnesota and Colorado.

Jarome Iginla scored his 45th goal of the season in Sunday's win, but Miikka Kiprusoff stole the show. The Flames' netminder stopped 16 of 17 shots in the third period and made 34 saves overall to help make the Northwest more crowded than Macy's on Black Friday.

''I think we played smarter today and kept playing our game plan,'' Kiprusoff said. ''It's crazy in our division. It's so close. We can't look at the other games and just worry about our games.''

Payback TimeJoe Corvo couldn't have picked a better game to record his first NHL hat trick.

Facing his former team for the first time since he was traded Feb. 11, Corvo scored three times Sunday to lead the Carolina Hurricanes to a 5-1 win over the Ottawa Senators. Corvo had been dealt by Ottawa, along with Patrick Eaves, to Carolina for Mike Commodore and Cory Stillman. Eaves also scored in Sunday's victory.

''He had lots of opportunities,'' Murray said of Corvo. ''We gave them 11 power plays. That's his role. He didn't do that for us, but we probably didn't get that many power plays in a game ever when he was here.''
As far as Corvo is concerned, Hollywood's best couldn't have written a better script.

"What can you say?" Corvo said. "If I got to write a storybook ending, this would be it."

Flu Gotta Believe!Fredrik Norrena had less than 10 minutes to prepare for the team that boasts the League's best record.

No problem.

With Pascal Leclaire sidelined due to flu-like symptoms, Norrena made 43 saves to lead the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 4-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. It was Norrena's first win since Feb. 7.

"I would prefer to know the day before, but those are the things you have to get used to as a backup goalie," Norrena said.

Blue Jackets goalie Fredrik Norrena makes a save as Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen tries to score during the third period of yesterday's game.
Rick Nash had two assists in the victory, which was the Blue Jackets' third straight against Detroit. Manny Malhotra scored twice and added an assist, but it was Norrena's hot start that sparked Columbus. Norrena stopped all 12 shots he faced in the first period.

"He was the reason we won the game," Nash said.

Meanwhile, the Red Wings have followed a five-game winning streak with back-to-back losses.

"It's a game of mistakes, but they capitalized on every opportunity," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We had every opportunity to score a bunch but they found a way to get some saves."

Seventh Heaven – The Florida Panthers are not going down without a fight.

Olli Jokinen and Rostislav Olesz scored on the power play, and Tomas Vokoun made 29 saves as Florida won its seventh straight game Sunday, 3-1, against the Atlanta Thrashers.

The seven consecutive wins ties a franchise record, which was accomplished during the 1995-96 and 2005-06 campaigns. The Panthers haven't lost since Feb. 29, when they dropped a 3-2 decision to Minnesota. They now are just two points behind the Flyers for the No. 8 seed in the East.

"This is the time of year when you want to play this type of hockey and you want to be finding ways to win, and that's what we're doing," said Florida center Brett McLean, who assisted on both power-play goals. "I think it's real important for us not to get overconfident and to make sure we're at our best for 60 minutes each night."

Florida has three days to recuperate before resuming its playoff push Thursday night against the Carolina Hurricanes at BankAtlantic Center. With eight games to go in the regular season, coach Jacques Martin is hoping his team can run the table.

"We're still not there," Martin said. "We still have some catching up to do. That's why we can't afford to lose."

Super In Shootouts – Chalk up another shootout victory for the Edmonton Oilers, who received a phenomenal 48-save effort from Dwayne Roloson on Sunday night in a 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion.

Roloson's performance ended San Jose's 11-game win streak. He stopped three of four shots in the shootout as the Oilers improved to 15-3 in such situations. The victory pulled Edmonton within five points of No. 8 Vancouver in the West.

''I think I've seen him at that level before, but I've never seen him better than he was tonight,'' Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. ''I'm really happy for him.''

It was Roloson's second straight start – and win – in as many nights. He backstopped the Oilers to a 5-2 win at Phoenix on Saturday, which was his first start since Feb. 1.

''It was no different than any other day,'' Roloson said. ''I basically try to help my guys win. I can't control what the coaching staff says about who's playing. ... I was able to see most of their shots. Some I didn't see and I got lucky. I was in position, and that was key.''
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