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Rangers top Islanders in rematch

by Brian Hunter

The Rangers have earned at least a point in each of their last 11 games. With their 8-0-3 stretch, New York has taken over sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
Watch highlights from the Rangers' win
New York Islanders coach Ted Nolan went with a hunch, keeping backup Wade Dubielewicz in goal against the New York Rangers, even though starter Rick DiPietro was available again.

It didn’t matter.

Nolan stuck with Dubielewicz after the backup netminder played well in a 1-0 loss to Florida and a 4-3 shootout win over the Rangers while DiPietro was away following the death of his grandmother. But defensive errors helped Brendan Shanahan and Sean Avery score first-period goals and the Islanders never recovered, dropping a 4-1 decision at the Nassau Coliseum.

Henrik Lundqvist made 26 saves as the Rangers earned at least a point in their 11th consecutive game. With their 8-0-3 stretch, New York has taken over sixth place in the Eastern Conference and is only four points out of first.

Sean Bergenheim scored the Islanders’ lone goal midway through the second period. Dubielewicz stopped 24 shots as DiPietro watched from the bench, wearing a white Islanders cap.

"He's a hot hand," Nolan said in explaining his decision. "You can second-guess yourself, ifs, ands, buts and everything else. I mean, Dubielewicz has been playing well. Ricky's had three or four days off. It's kind of unfair to put him into a situation like this. Now, he's got two practices, and he'll run with it from here on in."

Dubielewicz held the Islanders in the game through two periods, but Scott Gomez gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead when Marc Staal’s shot deflected off him and into the net 1:12 into the third period. Avery added an empty-net tally with 58 seconds remaining.

"Not that we want to put ourselves in the situation where we're going into the third periods with one-goal leads, but it's certainly good practice," Avery said. "It's good for us to have that in the back of our heads that we can go into the third and hold the lead."

Lundqvist looked sharp after two sub-par efforts — he was pulled after allowing three first-period goals against Philadelphia on Sunday and surrendered three goals on 18 shots to the Isles before losing the shootout.

"I felt good the whole game, and I felt like the guys were on their toes," Lundqvist said. "Every time there was a scramble in front, they cleared their guys and got the pucks."

They also gave him an early lead when Shanahan scored on a breakaway 1:29 into the game during a delayed penalty call on the Islanders. Avery made it 2-0 at 13:25 when he was left wide-open in the slot and redirected a puck off the stick of Marek Malik.

"It would've been nice to be the hero, but what can you do?" Dubielewicz said. "You can't sit around and pout and worry about it now. I've got to regroup and start working hard and get ready if I'm going to get another chance to play."

Islanders captain Bill Guerin absolved his goalie of any blame on the first two goals.

"Two point-blank goals basically,” he said of the Rangers’ first two scoring plays. “You've got one guy that's scored 700 goals in this league just sitting by himself on the blue line, and then another guy wide open on the back door," Guerin said of Shanahan, who has scored 649 goals. "In games this big, that can't happen. It's just mental breakdowns. It killed us."

Maple Leafs 8, Bruins 2 | Video
Boston’s week went from bad to worse. Nik Antropov had two goals and Toronto scored four times on the power play while running off eight unanswered goals and handing the Bruins their second lopsided loss in four days.

The Leafs remain on the fringe of the playoff picture, six points out of eighth place.

"Were going to have to stay in the fight in the games were not playing those guys and then do what we did tonight," Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice said. "We've got to win those games against the teams were trying to catch."

The Bruins were obliterated for the second time this week. They lost 10-2 in Washington on Monday, then dropped a 1-0 overtime decision against Florida on Tuesday. There was little for the TD Banknorth Garden fans to cheer about after Peter Schaefer gave the bruins a 1-0 lead at 11:40 of the first period.

“It’s tough right now, but we have to work our way out of it,” forward P.J. Axelsson said. “We have to go home and try to forget this one and come back to work tomorrow.”

Jason Blake helped the Leafs draw even before the end of the first with a power-play goal, then Toronto erupted for four in the second to break the game open. Alexei Ponikarovsky, Bryan McCabe, Matt Stajan and Antropov all scored within a span of 10:33 against Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who was then pulled in favor of Alex Auld.

"We're just a little fragile right now," Thomas said. "We haven't really been that all year."

Antropov scored his 26th of the season and second of the game in the third, sandwiched between goals by Darcy Tucker and Mats Sundin, before Boston’s Phil Kessel scored in the final minute.

"We've certainly kept the faith and believed we can make the playoffs,” Toronto left wing Alex Steen said. “The last five weeks or so we've played pretty solid hockey."

Flyers 3, Lightning 2
Jeff Carter helped Philadelphia end a long streak of futility at the Wachovia Center against Tampa Bay. Carter’s second goal of the night with 1:54 left in the third period not only gave the Flyers the victory and strengthened their hold on the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot, it snapped an eight-game home losing streak against the Lightning.

“Carts was really a determined individual tonight,” Flyers coach John Stevens said. “It’s not surprising that he’d come through and get us going with a great goal early and put it away late. He just seems to be the guy you want on the ice all the time.”

The third-year center eluded the Bolts’ defense coming over the blue line and lofted a shot through a screen that beat goalie Mike Smith for his 25th of the season.

The Flyers’ previous home win against the Lightning, back on Jan. 18, 2003, also came by a 3-2 score.

Daniel Briere and Carter scored 1:49 apart in the first period for Philadelphia, which snapped a two-game losing streak and moved three points ahead of ninth-place Buffalo in the East. Martin Biron stopped 18 shots.

Jussi Jokinen and Michel Ouellet had goals for the Lightning, losers of three straight and eight of their past nine. "It's very frustrating not bearing down in the third period," Tampa Bay defenseman Dan Boyle said. "We had a lot of chances and we just couldn't capitalize. Instead, we gave up a late goal again."

Jokinen, acquired along with Smith from Dallas at the trade deadline, scored his first goal for Tampa and his first in 10 games only 31 seconds after the opening faceoff. Martin St. Louis found Jokinen at the right post with a cross-crease pass.

Briere, back after a one-game absence due to a strained right shoulder, tied it at 14:51 with a wrist shot from the high slot. Carter then put the Flyers up 2-1 by putting a forehand-backhand move on Smith and beating him for an unassisted goal.

“All I wanted to do was that if I could come in and provide a little spark, no matter how, get us [two points],” said Briere. “That’s all I was looking for, for us to pick up some points in the standings.”

Ouellet finished off a give-and-go with Jokinen at 8:18 of the second and the score remained tied until Carter’s late heroics. Since Mike Richards was hurt on Feb. 23, Carter has picked up his play with six goals and eight points in five games.

“Obviously we didn’t want Richie out of the lineup but it was a great opportunity for myself to step up and really show that I can do this kind of stuff,” said Carter. “I just take it and run with it.”

Hurricanes 3, Wild 2 | Video
Carolina continues to surge, and the power play has been a major reason. Matt Cullen and Erik Cole scored with the man advantage, with Cole snapping a tie midway through the second period and leading the Hurricanes to their sixth win in seven games.

Southeast Division-leading Carolina is 9-2-1 since Feb. 12, and the ’Canes have now scored at least one power-play goal in four consecutive games.

"It was nice that our power play was able to generate some shots, and that's made our power play successful, having that traffic in front and getting pucks back to the point and shooting it," Cole said.

Cullen and Scott Walker staked the Hurricanes to a 2-0 lead with goals 1:39 apart in the first period. The Wild rallied, as Pavol Demitra scored late in the first and Mikko Koivu early in the second, but Cole’s 19th of the season put Carolina ahead to stay.

Cole’s goal "was really big, especially due to the fact that we had to respond from the last one where we gave up the lead," Cullen said. "In general, that third goal of the game is so big, and to come on the power play and get it like that, that was really big for us."

Cullen was originally credited with the goal, which originated from his slap shot that Cole, positioned in front, tipped past Wild goalie Josh Harding at 9:41. The Hurricanes left it up to Cam Ward after that, and Ward turned aside 26 shots.

"Obviously, Cam played tremendous the whole night, and down the stretch, you need goaltending, and he was great tonight in the third period,” center Eric Staal said.

Harding made 25 saves for Minnesota, which has never won in four trips to the RBC Center in franchise history.

"The urgency has to be there right now," forward Brian Rolston said. "We're right in the thick of things. We have to realize that. I thought we have. I thought we battled hard. We made a couple of mistakes but we have to come out harder at the start of the game."

Avalanche 1, Ducks 0 | Video
Jose Theodore hasn’t had a stretch like this in four years, but it’s coming at the right time as far as Colorado is concerned.

Wojtek Wolski scored midway through the second period and Theodore made the lone goal hold up with 27 saves and his second shutout of the season, lifting the Avalanche to their fifth straight victory. They closed to within a point of Calgary and Minnesota for the Northwest Division lead.

Theodore has been in goal for all five games. It’s his longest winning streak March 2004, when he was still playing for Montreal.

Milan Hejduk said Theodore’s play has given Colorado “great confidence … if you score a couple goals, most likely you’re going to win the hockey game because Theo is playing so great right now.”

Theodore, who made 12 saves in the third period to thwart any Anaheim hopes of a comeback, deflected the praise right back to his teammates.

“The guys played really well in front of me defensively and I was able to see the puck, I didn’t have too many second shots,” Theodore said. “I think obviously now the goals are being scored in tight so you got to be really focused on the low shots.”

Wolski scored his first goal in 15 games with 8:01 left in the second period. Andrew Brunette came down the wing and threaded a perfect pass that Wolski redirected through the pads of Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller, who was otherwise stellar in making 29 saves.

The Ducks were blanked for the second time in two nights; they lost 3-0 at Chicago on Wednesday.

“We tried to mix up some lines but we didn’t have very much going in the first half of the hockey game,” Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. “What we tried to do is just create something, where we can get more people involved and try and see if something sparks. We’ve played five periods and now six periods and haven’t scored a goal. We can’t continually accept that. That’s for sure.”

Peter Forsberg played in his second game since returning to the Avalanche. He is still looking for his first point, after making his season debut Tuesday against Vancouver, but Colorado hopes having him back will help offset the recent losses of Ryan Smyth and Marek Svatos. Smyth may return soon from a concussion and slight shoulder separation, but Svatos was lost for the season with an ACL tear.

“I think the mentality of the team is go out and play 100 percent every single night (and) you’re going to have a chance to win,” Forsberg said. “Hopefully we can keep doing that.”

Canadiens 4, Coyotes 2
Phoenix neutralized Montreal’s attack for most of the night and held the Canadiens to 20 shots. But the Coyotes didn’t have an answer for a Montreal surge in the third period and let a one-goal lead and an important two points slip away at Arena.

Saku Koivu, Andrei Markov and Sergei Kostitsyn all scored in the final 20 minutes as the Canadiens moved into a tie with Pittsburgh for the Eastern Conference lead. Tomas Plekanec also tallied and rookie goalie Carey Price was brilliant at times, making 37 saves and stopping his cousin, Phoenix captain Shane Doan, on a breakaway.

"We needed a big performance from Carey, and we got that,” Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said. “After the performance he had the other day in San Jose, he wanted to come back and play well. If it wasn't for him, I don't think the game would have gone this way."

Doan and Zbynek Michalek had goals for the Coyotes, who failed to build on a 2-1 win at Dallas on Wednesday and remained three points out of eighth in the West.

"To give up the lead in the third period, when we had just worked to get it, that's pretty disappointing and frustrating," Doan said.

Michalek gave the Coyotes a 2-1 lead 3:54 into the third period. The defenseman capitalized on a turnover along the boards and his shot from the faceoff circle went in under the crossbar.

"To the point where we were up 2-1, I thought we were playing maybe our best game all season," Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. "We got a little bit undisciplined."

The Coyotes got to enjoy their lead for less than three minutes before a parade to the penalty box opened the door for Montreal. On the power play, Koivu beat Mikael Tellqvist to draw the Canadiens even at 6:38. They were working with another man advantage at 10:07 when Markov took Alex Kovalev’s feed and scored the game-winner from the slot.

With the Coyotes’ minds on offense as they pressed late for the tying goal, Kostitsyn scored off a 2-on-0 break with Christopher Higgins with 1:41 remaining.

"We want to play better, but tonight was a huge two points," Carbonneau said.

Plekanec and Doan traded goals exactly four minutes apart in the second period. Plekanec made it 1-0 at 6:03 when he took Kovalev’s pass near the goal line, wheeled and fired a shot through Tellqvist’s pads. Kovalev earned his 500th NHL assist on the play. Doan tipped home Ed Jovanovski’s shot on a Phoenix power play to even the score, but Price got even later in the game when the cousins went one-on-one.

"He got one, but I couldn't let him score two," Price said. "We kind of smiled at each other after the breakaway. It's a lot of fun. At least we got the best of each other."

Kings 2, Senators 0 | Video
Erik Ersberg made sure his first NHL win was something special. The 25-year-old Swedish rookie, playing in his fourth game, stopped all 40 Ottawa shots — including 16 in the third period — to make Alexander Frolov’s second-period power-play goal hold up.

Patrick O’Sullivan added add an empty-netter with 4.3 seconds remaining, but Ersberg was the story at Staples Center. Given a chance after a season-ending injury to Jason LaBarbera, the first Swedish-born goaltender in Kings history shut down the defending Eastern Conference champions.

“I feel great. Really happy right now. It was a great game by all our guys,” Ersberg said. “They blocked a lot of shots, made it easier for me.” Kings captain Rob Blake said the team was very comfortable playing in front of the rookie.

“You kind of relate it to like a sponge – everything that hits him stays within him and he covers it,” Blake said. “He’s very good that way, he’s very sound, so you know if the shots get through he’s in position.”

Ottawa, which played without its captain, Daniel Alfredsson, dropped to 0-2-1 on its four-game road trip. The Senators are 1-8 this season without Alfredsson in the lineup.

“It’s disappointing, to say the least,” Ottawa coach Bryan Murray said after his team was blanked for the third time in seven games. “At stages we looked good. As hard as we play, we’ve got to find a way to score goals.”

Martin Gerber made 30 saves for Ottawa, but Frolov found just enough space to beat him 8:10 into the second period. With Los Angeles up a man, Frolov’s 15-foot wrist shot along the ice slipped between Gerber’s skate and the right post.

"I thought he was spectacular,” Murray said of Gerber. “He did make saves. He has been outstanding. We're just not doing anything to help him."

Despite the low score, it was a spirited and often physical game between two teams that rarely meet. Ottawa was playing in Los Angeles for the first time since Oct. 15, 2003.

“They’re a team that’s hungry for a few wins and then obviously we’re trying to gain a little respect, so those things will happen, especially when you don’t see each other for a while,” Blake said.

Canucks 6, Predators 2 | Video
Fans at GM Place might have had a sense of dread when Henrik Sedin took a holding penalty 15 seconds into Vancouver’s game against Nashville. Instead, Alex Burrows turned the worries to cheers by scoring a shorthanded goal 22 seconds later to spark a four-goal first period for the Canucks. Vancouver moved into an eighth-place tie with the Predators with 76 points — the Preds technically are eighth because they have one more victory, but the Canucks have a game in hand.

“We had everyone on board,” said defenseman Sami Salo, who had three assists. “We got off to a strong start. We moved the puck quickly and didn’t give them too much chance to forecheck. We didn’t have many turnovers.”

Those were all key ingredients in snapping a four-game losing streak that had dropped the Canucks out of the top eight in the West. Alex Edler, Matt Pettinger and Kevin Bieksa followed Burrows with goals that helped Vancouver to a 4-2 lead after 20 minutes. The Canucks added goals by Mason Raymond and Ryan Shannon in the final 40 minutes and ended up putting 44 shots on two Nashville goaltenders. Roberto Luongo stopped 21 shots for the Canucks.

"You come to a point after playing bad for a few games, you have to realize you have to have fun out there," said Daniel Sedin who also helped set up three goals, including Edler's power-play goal during a two-man advantage. "You can't play so uptight and squeeze the stick too much. Tonight we went out and relaxed and got our legs going."

Vernon Fiddler scored shorthanded for the Predators and defenseman Greg de Vries had their other goal. Both cut two-goal Vancouver leads in half, but Bieksa beat Chris Mason through the legs with 1:57 left in the first and Nashville never answered.

Mason came on after starter Dan Ellis allowed three goals on 11 shots and finished with 30 saves.

“We got what we deserved tonight,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “We didn’t play with the urgency and with the detail that you need to play. (The Canucks) played hard. They were very committed in a lot of areas of the game. They’ve had a lot of emotion.”

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

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