On a roster packed with stars, the New York Rangers
needed a rookie to help them break their scoring slump.
Nigel Dawes ended the Rangers’ two-game drought 57 seconds into the game and added a power-play goal late in the third period to give New York a 2-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils ( 700K ).
The Rangers entered the game having gone 126:00 without scoring a goal, but needed only 57 seconds to end the drought. Former Rangers defenseman Karel Rachunek sent the puck toward his bench while New Jersey changed defensemen. Andy Greene jumped on, then hopped over the boards when the puck arrived as Johnny Oduya came off. To avoid a penalty for too many men, neither player went for the puck. Brendan Shanahan grabbed it and fed Dawes, who beat Martin Brodeur with a quick wrist shot from inside the right circle. Before many of the fans at Madison Square Garden had settled in, the drought was over.
“It was terrible. A terrible mistake to make in any kind of hockey game,” Devils coach Brent Sutter said. “It changed the momentum of the game.”
Scoring quickly made a difference, said Dawes – who entered the game with one goal in 11 NHL games.
“Getting the early lead helped us,” he said. “We’ve been getting lots of shots but not putting them in the net.”
The rest of the night belonged to goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 22 shots and has now allowed just one regulation goal in the Rangers’ last three games – including a 1-0 shootout loss in Boston and a 1-0 regulation loss in Pittsburgh. Lundqvist was superb during a Devils power play midway through the third period, stopping Zach Parise and Sheldon Brookbank.
“I like the way the team is playing right now,'' Lundqvist said after his ninth NHL shutout. “We just have to score a little bit more. I know we might not score that much, so I have to keep focused and play a very good game to get the win.”
Dawes put the game away with just under four minutes to play, picking the top right corner with a wrist shot from the right circle during a power play.
“He’s a good player with a quick release,” Rangers coach Tom Renney said. “He knows where the net it.”
Even with Dawes’ two goals, the Rangers have scored just 15 times while going 3-5-1. They’ve allowed only 17.
The game was the first for Gomez against his old team. Gomez spent his first seven NHL seasons with the Devils, playing on two Stanley Cup winners, before signing with their cross-river rivals as a free agent.
“It felt a little different at the start,” he said. “I was a little nervous, but once the game started, it was OK. These are the games you’ve got to win.”
Gomez, one of two big free agents who signed with the Rangers during the summer, has settled in with his new team. He’s a New Yorker now – but he hasn’t forgotten where he cut his hockey teeth.
“It was time for me to move on,” he said of his decision to sign with the Rangers. “But everything I have in hockey, everything my family enjoys, is from the Devils’ organization. I still love the people there. Jersey will always be a part of me. The memories will last forever.”
Bruins 3, Blackhawks 1 | Video
Boston may have World Series fever, but the Bruins are quietly showing that they’ll be worth watching when baseball is done. Phil Kessel scored twice to lead the Bruins to their fifth victory in six games. The Bruins have allowed just two goals in winning their three home games.
“Once the Red Sox win the World Series, hopefully we will have enough wins behind us that those fans will want to come watch us,” coach Claude Julien said.
Kessel opened the scoring 2:08 into the second period on a wrist shot off an end-to-end rush. After Hawks rookie Jonathan Toews tied it with a power-play goal at 5:13, Kessel scored the game-winner with the Bruins shorthanded. He sidestepped Blackhawks defenseman Magnus Johansson and flipped the puck past Nikolai Khabibulin with 5:51 remaining in the second period. Kessel has five goals this season after scoring 11 in 2006-07.
Tim Thomas made 26 saves in improving to 4-1-0 this season. He entered the game with a league-leading 1.26 goals against average. "It looks like he is under control more," Bruins defenseman Andrew Alberts said. "He is more composed than last year and with our defensive system, he knows where the shots are coming from."
Blackhawks coach Denis Savard felt Thomas was the difference.
“I told the guys after the game that I was proud,” he said. “We completely out-chanced them, but it just didn’t go our way.”
Blue Jackets 3, Blues 0 | Video
Pascal Leclaire continues to be almost unbeatable in Columbus – maybe because he doesn’t have to face teammate Rick Nash. Leclaire stopped 36 shots for his third shutout in four home games, but it was Nash who made the highlight reels with a spectacular between-the-legs goal that extended his scoring streak to five games.
After Jared Boll put Columbus ahead at 13:30 of the first period, Ron Hainsey took a shot from the blue line during a power play that was just wide of the net. Nash played the ricochet off the boards, stretching to reach the puck to pull it in and then lifting the shot between his legs and high into the top of the net.
“You do it a lot during practice but not during the game,” Nash said of the move. “I practice it for a while but you never think you’ll actually use it in a game.”
He wasn't even sure how he did it.
“It was just a perfect situation,” said Nash, who has six goals during his five-game streak and eight for the season. “I had to find a way to get the puck up into the net as fast as I could. That was the easiest way to do it.”
Jiri Novotny added an empty-net goal as Columbus improved to 5-3-1, the best start in franchise history.
“They stuck with their game tonight longer than we did,” Blues coach Andy Murray said after his team lost for only the second time in its last seven games. “They've got a good team. They were better than us.”
Lightning 5, Flyers 2 | Video
Tampa Bay has made the St. Pete Times Forum an unfriendly place for visiting teams – even ones that are playing as well as the Philadelphia Flyers.
One year after going 22-18-1, the Bolts are off to a 5-0-0 start after Brad Richards scored twice to help the Lightning remain perfect on home ice.
"It should be that way," Richards said of the Lightning’s dominance at home this season. “Last year we struggled at home for some reason, but it should be this way. Our team is built to play that up-tempo style, and we’ve done that this year. We’re taking care of business here. We want to establish ourselves in this building.”
Tampa Bay has already established it can beat the Flyers, who lost their second game in two nights after a 6-1-0 start: The Bolts are 12-1-0 against Philadelphia since the start of the 2003-04 season. Jason Ward, Vaclav Prospal and Michel Ouellet also scored for the Lightning.
Philadelphia got goals from Jeff Carter and Mike Knuble, but played without left wing Simon Gagne, who was kept out of the lineup due to dizziness after being hit in the head by a shot in Wednesday's 4-3 loss at Florida. He might return this weekend.
“We’ve got to regroup,” Flyers coach John Stevens said after an 0-2 start to an eight-game trip. “There’s no time to feel sorry for ourselves. We knew it was going to be tough going on the road, playing teams that are fighting and scratching to get off to a good start.”
Predators 3, Thrashers 0 | Video
Getting back to the Sommet Center turned out to be the perfect tonic for the struggling Predators – as did playing a team with a worse record.
Backup goaltender Dan Ellis stopped 20 shots as Nashville ended a six-game losing streak – one short of the team record – by beating the Thrashers, who’ve lost eight of their first 10 games. Nashville is 3-6-0.
Ellis was making only his second NHL start and his first for the Predators after Chris Mason started Nashville’s first eight games. Jerrod Smithson’s goal 12:51 into the first period put Nashville ahead to stay – and made Ellis’ night a lot easier.
“The first goal always helps – it’s always better to play with a lead than come from behind,” Ellis said. “That first period was great, probably the best period of hockey we have played all season. We hemmed them in and were able to get the momentum and get one by (goalie Johan) Hedberg and that was great.”
Jordin Tootoo beat Johan Hedberg with a one-timer 5:40 into the second and Scott Nichol hit the empty net.
“We got goals from unexpected guys, but that is what we needed,” Nashville captain Jason Arnott said. “Ellis came up huge, and it was an all-around team effort – which is great after the last road trip.”
The Thrashers are now 2-2-0 under GM-interim coach Don Waddell, who took over last week when he fired Bob Hartley.
“A team in our position, with the things that have been happening, doesn't get the breaks," Hedberg said. "We tried to do too much and things didn't go our way. Sometimes you just try too hard."
Oilers 5, Wild 4, SO | Video
Ales Hemsky, mired in a scoring slump, scored his first two goals of the season on purpose during regulation play, then got the deciding goal in the shootout by accident to give Edmonton a victory at Rexall Place.
On his shootout attempt, Hemsky came down ice and lost control near the net – only to see the puck trickle through the pads of goaltender Josh Harding, handing the Wild their
second loss in two nights after a 7-0-1 start.
“I kind of lost it there but it went in anyway,'' said Hemsky, who didn’t celebrate right away when the puck trickled into the net. “It's nice to get the break and have some luck. I'll take the goal, no question.
He'll also take the two he scored in regulation – his first since scoring against Calgary in last season’s final game “I knew it would come but I didn’t know when,” he said. “I was hoping and hoping it wouldn't take something like 20 games. I just wasn’t getting any breaks. That changed tonight.”
Shawn Horcoff had two goals and two assists for the Oilers, who had lost six of their last seven games and had scored just twice while losing their last six meetings with the Wild. Edmonton matched that total in the first period on goals by Horcoff and Hemsky.
After rookie James Sheppard’s first NHL goal made it 2-1, Horcoff’s power-play goal – only Edmonton’s third in 38 chances this season – restored the two-goal lead. Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored late in the second period and Brian Rolston tied the score at 3-3 just 2:16 into in the third. Hemsky’s second goal, a highlight-reel move and deke that beat Harding, put Edmonton back in front, but Mark Parrish’s goal midway through the period sent the game into OT.
“We were talking about getting some breaks and they came tonight,” Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. “We’d already had a couple and then we got the final one in the shootout.”
Kings 2, Stars 1 | Video
Don’t look now, but Jason LaBarbera is filling the hole in goal in Los Angeles.
LaBarbera backstopped the Kings to their third straight victory by making 29 saves and Alexander Frolov broke a 1-1 tie 1:20 into the third period at the Staples Center as L.A. snapped a nine-game losing streak against Dallas.
“We were ready for those guys,” said Frolov, who has overcome an early groin injury and scored in three straight games after an eight-game goal drought to start the season.
“We’ve had trouble with that team,” added LaBarbera, who has stopped 89 of the 92 shots he’s faced in the three victories. “We have to build off what we’re doing. We’re coming together as a team. We didn’t have that confidence and swagger earlier in the season that we do now.”
Brenden Morrow set up Jere Lehtonen’s goal 16:05 into the first period to put Dallas ahead. Brian Willsie tied it halfway through the second period when he banged Michael Cammalleri’s rebound past Marty Turco.
The Kings have won four of five after a 1-5-0 start. They hadn’t beaten Dallas since a 1-0 home victory on April 5, 2006.
Coyotes 1, Ducks 0 | Video
A few miles away down the highway from Los Angeles, another long streak ended as Phoenix won at Anaheim for the first time in 11 visits, dating to Nov. 12, 2003.
Rookie Craig Weller, a 26-year-old free agent signed in July, got the game’s only goal
3:03 into the second period when he snapped a wrist shot past Ilya Bryzgalov for his first NHL goal. Alex Auld made the lead stand up by making 30 saves. The Ducks dominated play for most of the gamer but couldn’t get the puck past Auld.
“We got one lucky break, one lucky goal, and we won the hockey game,” Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. “I can tell you a couple of games we thought we should have won that we didn't. But it kind of evens out by the end of the year.”
The Ducks are going through a bout of injuries and hardly resemble the team that won the Stanley Cup last spring.
“We got lots of chances. We just have to make our own luck,” said center Andy McDonald, who had one of the best chances on a wraparound six minutes into the game, only to be denied by Auld. “They played hard. They stuck to their system in the neutral zone. But it’s tough to win when you’re not playing a complete game.”
Material from wire services and team Web sites was used in this report.