Detroit is all but assured of finishing first in the Western Conference. Nashville is scrambling just to make the playoffs.
Score one for desperation.
The Predators gave their playoff chances a big boost on Tuesday night, jumping out to a quick 3-0 lead and holding off the Red Wings 4-2 at Sommet Center. Alexander Radulov, Martin Erat and J.P. Dumont capitalized on defensive mistakes by the Wings to give the Predators a three-goal lead in the first 8:49, and Chris Mason made it stand up with 40 saves to lift Nashville into sixth place in the Western Conference.
“We made some mistakes and hung our goalie out to dry,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said after his team lost a season-high fourth in a row.
Radulov made it 1-0 at 2:25 when he was left alone in front of the net, took Jason Arnott’s pass and roofed the puck over Chris Osgood.
At 3:42, Erat scored from almost the same spot after being left open on a two-on-one. Dumont made it 3-0 at 8:49 when he was left all alone to Osgood’s right and redirected Arnott’s pass into a half-empty net, giving the Predators three goals on their first four shots and sending Osgood to the bench in favor of rookie Jimmy Howard.
“We just had to make sure we had a good forecheck and that’s what we did,” Dupont said, “and instead of (them) creating turnovers, we put on the pressure and made them have turnovers, and we just capitalized on it and scored some big goals in the first.
Not that the Predators thought their 3-0 lead was safe.
“No lead is safe when you play these guys,” Mason said. “They never panic, and they’ve had a lot of comeback victories.”
The Red Wings got on the board when Johan Franzen scored a power-play goal 4:39 into the second period. But Radulov beat Howard on a breakaway at 14:26 to make it 4-1 before Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk banged a rebound behind Mason at 17:41 with the Wings on a five-on-three power-play.
Detroit had a couple of power plays in the third, but the Predators were able to kill them and hang on.
“We may have sat back a little in the second period,” Mason said, “but we got back in it and played well."
Despite the four straight losses, Detroit still leads the Western Conference by 11 points over Dallas and is 21 ahead of second-place Nashville in the Central Division. But Babcock said the fact that they’re all but assured of a division title makes each game a different kind of challenge.
“We’re playing desperate, desperate teams,” he said. “We have to understand how desperate they are. When you look at the standings, we’re not as desperate as they are. We have to get that desperation back.
|NHL.COM'S THREE STARS:
Thomas Vanek’s first NHL hat trick powered the Buffalo Sabres to a big win in Ottawa. Check out who made NHL.com’s Three Stars of the Night. ...more
GAME OF THE NIGHT:
Following a scoreless first period, Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff preached patience, knowing things would turn positive if his players simply continued to get pucks deep in the Ottawa zone.
The Sabres did just that, and, because they did, they’re back in a playoff spot.
Thomas Vanek had his first NHL hat trick and Ryan Miller made 25 saves as the Sabres climbed into eighth place in the Eastern Conference with an impressive 5-1 win over the Senators at Scotiabank Place on Tuesday night. ...more
“When you win all the time, you talk about how you need some adversity. When you get it, you wish you didn’t have it. We have to find a way to get out of it.”
Hurricanes 3, Bruins 2 | Video
Maybe it’s not such a bad thing for the Bruins that they’re heading out for a five-game road trip — they lost their fourth in a row at TD Banknorth Garden as Andrew Ladd scored twice in the opening 6:33 for the Hurricanes.
Ex-Bruin Sergei Samsonov continued his revival with the Hurricanes, assisting on Ladd’s second goal and scoring with 1:31 left in the second period to make it 3-0. He now has five goals since joining Carolina on waivers from Chicago.
It looked like Cam Ward was going to cruise to his second straight shutout against the Bruins in Boston before they came alive in the final minutes, getting two goals from an unlikely source. Shawn Thornton broke up Ward’s shutout with 5:10 remaining on a wrist shot that hit Ward’s glove and went into the net, then scored again 27 seconds later by tapping in a loose puck after Ward made a save but couldn’t find the rebound. The goals were Thornton’s first two of the season, and it was the first two-goal game of his NHL career.
"Fortunately, we were able to prevail — even though it got a little interesting," Ward said. "That (first) goal gave them life. They were able to come on and put some pressure on."
The win moved Carolina back into first place in the Southeast Division; they loss dropped Boston behind Buffalo and into ninth place in the Eastern Conference.
"We're battling for a playoff spot," Samsonov said. "For us, it's almost a playoff game."
Ladd gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead when he converted a feed from Rod Brind'Amour 3:01 into the game after the Carolina captain split two defenders. Ladd made it 2-0 when he the puck went off his skate and past Alex Auld at 6:33 — a goal confirmed by video review.
“I just turned my foot. It was more of a reaction more than anything else," Ladd said. "I just turned my foot, and it went in."
Islanders 4, Flyers 3 | Video
The Isles finally gave their home fans — the ones that braved a snow and ice storm — something to be happy about. Trent Hunter had a goal and two assists as the Islanders won at home for the first time in 2008 and for the first time anywhere since Jan. 22.
|The New York Islanders won at home for the first time in 2008 and for the first time anywhere since Jan. 22.
New York hadn't won at home in seven games since beating New Jersey on Dec. 29, going 0-5-2 in the New Year. The Islanders didn't have a victory anywhere since a 6-3 win at Carolina on Jan. 22, going 0-6-1 since then.
''It was a nice to get that win and it gives us something to build on,'' said Hunter, who hadn't scored since Jan. 11. ''We can't relax. We have to focus, and we've got a big job ahead of us.''
The Flyers lost their fourth in a row and missed a chance to gain ground in the Atlantic Division race.
''Before Christmas, it seemed like we were carrying most of the games,'' said center Mike Richards, who failed on a second-period breakaway. ''Now, we're falling behind and then showing urgency at the end. We need to play a full 60 minutes.''
Hunter gave the Islanders an early lead when he swatted in a loose puck off a scramble at 17:42 for his first goal in 14 games.
Danny Briere tied it with a power-play goal 1:05 into the second period, but the Islanders went ahead to stay at 5:27 when Jeff Tambellini picked off a pass by Jason Smith and put a wrist shot from the right circle under Antero Niittymaki’s arm.
Sean Bergenheim made it 3-1 at 13:41 when he outraced Kimmo Timonen for Hunter’s pass and whacked a bobbling puck behind Niittymaki. Scott Hartnell made it 3-2 with 2:30 left in the period.
Hunter assisted on Ruslan Fedotenko’s goal with 5:50 remaining — which proved to be the winner when Joffrey Lupul scored with one minute to play.
''We have been struggling a little bit at home and that was a big win for us, especially against a division team,'' Fedotenko said. ''It's really important, especially at this time of the year.''
Niittymaki faced 47 shots, a season-high for the Islanders. Rick DiPietro made 26 saves for the Isles, who beat Philadelphia for the first time in four tries this season.
''We were better the last two games, but we still need to win,'' Briere said. ''We had a long meeting to talk about it. We're close, but close is not good enough.''
Lightning 3, Canadiens 2 | Video
Vaclav Prospal likes being on Tampa Bay’s top line. He made his pitch to stay there by scoring twice, including the game-winner with 8:09 remaining.
“I get such satisfaction playing on the best line in hockey,” he said of being reunited with Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis. “Playing with these two guys is incredible.”
Prospal broke a 2-2 tie when he took a pass from Lecavalier, who stole the puck behind the Montreal net, and beat Cristobal Huet for his 25th of the season, matching his career high. Prospal had been unhappy about being moved off the top line and met with coach John Tortorella for more than 20 minutes after the game.
Neither wanted to talk about their discussion.
''I'm not here to be the happy man, make everybody happy,'' Tortorella said. ''I make calls as far as the game is concerned. Athletes that are mad can be good athletes. He played well, very well.''
Christopher Higgins gave Montreal the lead 50 seconds into the game when he scored on a breakaway. Tampa Bay tied it at 5:15 on a goal by Michel Ouellet. Tomas Plekanec put Montreal ahead again at 9:48, but Prospal pulled the Lightning even again at 19:19, finishing off a pass from Lecavalier.
The Lightning improved to 4-1-1 in their last six games and outshot Montreal 36-21. The Canadiens have lost three in a row.
''We're never going to worry,'' Higgins said. ''When we play the right way, we're going to win. We just haven't been skating the last three games, and it shows.''
Tampa Bay's Karri Ramo preserved the win by making a close-in save on Sergei Kostitsyn with 13.2 seconds left in regulation time.
''They made a pretty play on the back door,'' said Ramo, who finished with 19 saves. ''It was so good a play I think the guy kind of missed the puck. It came under me and I was able to get it done there.''
Blues 4, Kings 2 | Video
The goal-starved Blues got offense from an unexpected source when low-scoring defenseman Jay McKee scored with 11:31 remaining in regulation to break a 2-2 tie.
“I saw an opening to jump down,” said McKee, who has two goals and six assists in 45 games. “I took kind of a one-touch shot, and the rebound came right back to me.”
It was the first goal in 12 games from the Blues' defense, mostly a collection of stay-at-home types whose top scorer is rookie Erik Johnson with only three goals.
''Look around at teams that are in the playoff hunt and they have defensemen that are jumping in and helping out,'' McKee said. ''That's something we need to do a little bit more of, and it's nice to chip in.''
David Backes added an insurance goal with 6:25 remaining as the Blues ended a four-game losing streak and won for just the third time in 14 games.
''It's obviously a desperate time for us,'' said forward Martin Rucinsky, who had a goal and an assist. ''We've got no time left and we've got to play hard, we know that.''
Manny Legace shook off a painful shot in the shoulder during warmups and made 25 saves.
''You have to, you've got to warm up,'' Legace said. ''I just couldn't raise my arm. If anybody shot high blocker, it would have gone in.''
Alexander Frolov and Dustin Brown scored for the Kings, who wound up 4-3-1 on a trip made necessary by the Grammy Awards, which forced them to leave the Staples Center for nearly a month.
''We showed some immaturity tonight, I think,'' coach Marc Crawford said. ''It looked as though we seemed to be a little bit satisfied.''
The Kings last played at home on Jan. 24. They return Friday to play the Calgary Flames after the best eight-game trip, which produced nine points, in franchise history. The nine points is tied for second-best in franchise history for any trip for the Kings, who are 9-5-1 in their last 15 games despite the loss.
The players were ready to go home.
''We have tomorrow off,'' goalie Jason LaBarbera said. ''So it'll be nice just to hang out at home and spend time with our families.''
Ducks 2, Avalanche 1 | Video
Like their Southern California neighbors, the Ducks are heading home after a marathon road trip. But the defending Stanley Cup champs go back to Anaheim with a five-game winning streak after slogging past the Avalanche in Denver.
“There weren’t a lot of nice passes or nice plays,” said Anaheim center Samuel Pahlsson, who knocked in a rebound with 4:21 remaining to break a 1-1 tie. “We grinded out a win.”
Teemu Selanne scored his first goal since returning to the Ducks, who also broke a string of six straight regular-season losses at the Pepsi Center, spanning more than five years. The Ducks are 5-0-0 since Selanne returned to the lineup last Tuesday.
''I'm not 100 percent,'' said Selanne, who signed a one-year deal with the team Jan. 28. ''I have to be patient. There's still a price to pay, but it's getting better. It's like training camp.''
Selanne tied Paul Kariya’s franchise record with his 669th point as a Duck.
Anaheim concluded its franchise-record nine straight road games with a 5-3-1 record, which included a game in Los Angeles before the All-Star Game and eight in a row after the break.
“It’s a sign of the work ethic on our part,” Pahlsson said of the win. “We had a long road trip. We’re going home tonight, and it would have been easy to think about that. We battled hard to get the win.”
Marek Svatos scored 1:37 into the game for Colorado, but the Avs were unable to get another puck past Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who made 32 saves.
''That was the game we needed to play against the Stanley Cup Champions — a smart game,'' forward Ian Laperriere said. ''But we couldn't do it for 60 minutes.''
Selanne tied it 1:09 into the second period, beating Jose Theodore with a short wrist shot during a two-man advantage.
Pahlsson scored in his second game back from an abdominal injury that sidelined him for 21 games. It was his first goal since Dec. 10.
The banged-up Avalanche had their two-game winning streak halted. They also lost defenseman Brett Clark to a shoulder injury early in the third period, and coach Joel Quenneville didn't know how serious it was.
''Probably not good,'' he said. ''We'll know more tomorrow.''
Oilers 4, Wild 2 | Video
Edmonton survived Minnesota’s barrage during the first two periods and used two third-period goals by Kyle Brodziak to beat the visiting Wild.
Minnesota outshot Edmonton 31-11 during the first two periods, including 21-4 in the second, but trailed 2-1 after 40 minutes. After Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire changed goalies, inserting Josh Harding for Nicklas Backstrom, Brodziak scored on consecutive shifts, stuffing in his own rebound at 2:09 and beating Harding with a shot from the left hash marks at 4:30.
|Edmonton's Kyle Brodziak scored two goals in the third period to lead the Oilers to a 4-2 win over the Wild.
'It feels really good to have a game like this,'' said the second-year Oiler. ''For a while, I've been struggling personally and haven't been able to put my chances in the back of the net. Tonight when I got the chances, I made sure I was bearing down on them and I put them in the right spots, I guess. It feels good to be able to contribute like that.''
Coach Craig MacTavish felt good after his team capitalized on the play of goaltender Mathieu Garon, who finished with 38 saves.
“It was fitting to win a game like that when we have lost so many where we have out-shot the opposition over the years, particularly against Minnesota,'' MacTavish said. ''There have been lots of nights in here where we have nailed them with a lot of shots and lost the game. It's the old adage: What comes around, goes around.''
Edmonton took the lead when Fernando Pisani snapped a shot past Backstrom at 18:12 of the opening period. Pavol Demitra tied it at 7:57 of the second, tucking Kurtis Foster’s rebound past Garon. But Jarret Stoll put the Oilers ahead to stay with a power-play goal at 10:33, blasting a shot from the point through a screen and past Backstrom.
Minnesota, which outshot Edmonton 40-23, cut the margin to two on Brian Rolston’s power-play goal with 4:06 remaining.
Forward Marian Gaborik said the Wild couldn't get the kind of shots on Garon that they wanted.
''We talked about shooting high, he was covering low very good,'' he said. ''A lot of shots we had on him were very low shots. In that second period we could have scored four goals easily. It could have been a totally different game.''
Flames 4, Sharks 3, OT | Video
Jarome Iginla did it again to the Sharks in San Jose. For the second time this season, Calgary’s captain scored an overtime goal to give the Flames a win at the Shark Tank.
This time, Iginla took a pass from Dion Phaneuf and ripped a shot from the left circle past Evgeni Nabokov with 24.9 seconds left in overtime. He also scored the overtime winner on Jan. 3.
“I knew he was over there. He gave me a little bit of a call,” Phaneuf said.
The goal came after Phaneuf forced the overtime by scoring a power-play goal with 49.8 seconds remaining in regulation on a blast through a screen that Nabokov didn’t see.
“I tried to get a lane,” Phaneuf said. “Our forwards did a great job getting traffic in front. I was lucky it snuck through.”
San Jose outshot Calgary 43-18, but Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff made 40 saves to steal what would have been former teammate Evgeni Nabokov's NHL-best 32nd victory.
Patrick Rissmiller tipped home Mike Grier's shot with 11:27 left in regulation to give the Sharks their first lead of the night. But his unsuccessful led to the tying goal with the Flames enjoying a two-man advantage after pulling Kiprusoff.
“It erased a great effort — we became passive in the last three or four minutes," said Sharks coach Ron Wilson.
Rissmiller’s backhanded clearing attempt was kept in by Phaneuf, who scored from the left point.
"(Rissmiller) got the puck and he should've chipped it to the corner," said Wilson. "He thought he was making a good play, but he cleared it (directly) to their defenseman and then we didn't block the shot."
After Daymond Langkow scored his 22nd goal 4:20 into the game, the Sharks evened it when Kiprusoff whiffed on a stoppable shot by Marcel Goc at 11:40.
Mark Smith got credit for his first goal in 44 games at 2:01 of the second period when he crashed the net and the puck got nudged past Nabokov an instant before the net came off its moorings. Milan Michalek tied it again with 33 seconds remaining in the period.
Material from wire services and team broadcast media was used in this report.