New York Rangers
goaltender Stephen Valiquette
doesn’t get to play all that much. So imagine how Henrik Lundqvist
’s backup must have felt when coach Tom Renney gave him the starting nod on Saturday night – in his hometown of Toronto.
With his parents on hand at the Air Canada Centre, Valiquette — who hadn’t won a game since March 3 — made 32 saves and stopped another two shots in the shootout as the Rangers became the last team in the NHL to win on the road with a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the annual Hall of Fame game.
The Rangers, now 9-7-1 overall, came into the game 0-5-1 in their first six road games, their worst start away from Madison Square Garden since 1952-53.
It was a special night in Toronto right from the get-go, with pregame ceremonies held to honor Mark Messier, Al MacInnis, Scott Stevens, Ron Francis and Jim Gregory, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Monday. Combine that with the opportunity to play in his hometown, and it made for a night that Valiquette surely won’t soon forget.
“I really just focused all day on preparing to play a hockey game,” said Valiquette, who watched while Lundqvist played every minute of New York’s first 16 games this season. “I put everything out of my mind as far as coming home, being in Toronto. I was really focused on the puck from the outset. The guys made it easy on me.”
The Rangers certainly did early, as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead with goals by Brendan Shanahan and Sean Avery just 42 seconds apart early in the second period. Shanahan scored the game’s opening goal 1:43 into period when he took a pass from Avery and fired a quick shot past Toronto’s Vesa Toskala to make it 1-0.
Avery, who jawed with Darcy Tucker during pre-game warmups, put the Rangers up by a pair when got around Leafs defenseman Pavel Kubina and stuffed a rebound past Toskala for his second goal of the season. Renney was asked if Avery is a player you love to have but hate to play against.
“There’s a few of those around this League,” Renney said. “I think they’re important people to their respective teams. They almost force others to play with the same spirit and passion. Certainly, he helps us elevate our passion.”
But the Rangers stumbled before the end of the period and watched their lead slip away before intermission thanks to a pair of goals from Alexei Ponikarovsky, who scored twice in a span of two minutes to tie the game.
His first came at 16:54, when he beat Valiquette with a blast from the right circle for his fifth goal of the season. Two minutes later, he fired home Mats Sundin’s rebound, to give the latter 1,267 points for his career. Sundin is now tied with Jean Ratelle for 32nd place on the all-time points list.
“We had momentum and were pumped up and cheering for each other,” Ponikarovsky said. “I was sure we were going to score another one.”
But after a scoreless third period and overtime — Valiquette stopped all 14 shots he faced over the course of those 25 minutes — the Rangers beat Toskala twice in the shootout on goals from Shanahan and Marcel Hossa. Valiquette was stopped Nik Antropov in the opening round before Sundin missed the completely in Round 2. Once Hossa beat Toskala on a nifty move to the forehand, Valiquette could pump his fist and celebrate with his teammates.
“It’s really rewarding,” Valiquette said. “It’s been a while since I’ve played, obviously. I did a little dance for them when I went inside (the locker room) just to get everybody laughing. It feels really good, because I’ve have had to practice real hard to stay sharp for this game. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the guys always helping me and encouraging me. They’ve been helping me every step of the way.”
So have his parents, who were thrilled to be in the building for the special night. Valiquette’s father was so nervous that he couldn’t bear to watch the beginning of the shootout — but he came back in time to see the conclusion.
“To be honest with you, I don’t know if I’m going to have my son or daughter play goal,” Valiquette said. “This has got to be real difficult on them, coming in here and watching me play.”
It sure wasn’t difficult for Renney to watch his club gain confidence in its backup goaltender, who waited patiently for his chance to start. The Rangers’ coach believes his team can only benefit from what transpired at the ACC before a season-high crowd of 19,530.
“It’s big,” Renney said. “You want all your teammates to do well and have their self-confidence in place, and use that as a platform to build team confidence. You don’t want anybody in that room feeling anything but confident. Regardless of who it is in that room, whether it’s Steve or anyone of our skaters, they’ve got to have self confidence.”
As for the Leafs, now 7-7-4, they’re feeling better about themselves after getting off to an inconsistent start. Toronto won 3-0 in Buffalo on Friday and did erase a 2-0 deficit on Saturday get a point against the Blueshirts.
“That was a good comeback," Toskala said. "Overall, it was a pretty good weekend with three points out of four. I guess we have to be happy with that."
Kings 6, Stars 5, OT
All was quiet at the Staples Center, with the Dallas Stars leading 4-0 and less than eight minutes to play. But in a game that drew remembrances of the “Miracle on Manchester” 25 years ago, Los Angeles scored five times in a 5:07 span, then won the game 2:34 into overtime on Anze Kopitar’s second goal of the game.
Dallas had won 34 consecutive games when it led by two or more goals, and Dustin Brown’s goal with 7:14 left in regulation looked like it would do little more than ruin Marty Turco’s shutout. But the Kings, who had been off for a week, got a jolt of energy from it.
“Everyone got excited when we scored that first goal, and then the second,” said forward Ladislav Nagy, who put the Kings ahead 5-4 when he scored on a tip-in with 2:07 remaining in regulation. “We didn’t play well in the first two periods, but we really picked it up in the third.”
Scott Thornton scored at 14:01, Alexander Frolov at 15:35 and Kopitar tied it at 15:59 before Nagy put Los Angeles ahead.
“After we got a break and the puck went off of Frolov we knew it was only a matter of time before we tied it,” Kings coach Marc Crawford said.
But the Stars rebounded and forced overtime on Mike Modano’s power-play goal with 1:05 remaining. However, OT belonged to the Kings, and Kopitar won it with a 15-foot backhander through Turco’s legs.
“The whole third period was brutal and embarrassing,” Turco said. “You can’t sit back and hope things go your way, you have to make them happen.”
It was a night the Stars will never forget — not that they won’t try.
“This is right there, next to rock bottom,” captain Brenden Morrow said. “It’s tough to explain. We panicked when they scored their first goal. It's really ugly to spend 40 minutes building a lead, and then panic after one lucky bounce.”
The Stars had won nine of their last 10 against the Kings and seemed on their way to an easy victory. Morrow and Mike Ribeiro scored in the first period, and goals by Chris Conner and Jeff Halpern in the second gave Dallas a 4-0 lead after 40 minutes.
“I think the biggest difference in the third period was that we got lots of traffic in front of Marty,” Crawford said. “In the first two periods, he could see everything.”
Stars coach Dave Tippett hopes his team learns a lesson.
"We lost the momentum and couldn't get it back," Tippett said. “This is a hard lesson to learn, but we have to recognize what wins games and what loses them. Maybe we need a lesson like this, from the goalie on out, to make it sink in. It doesn't help when everything they throw at the net goes in.”
Islanders 2, Devils 1
Rick DiPietro admits that he gets a little more revved up when he plays against Martin Brodeur. He and his New York Islanders teammates kept Brodeur from becoming the second goaltender in NHL history to win 500 regular-season games by edging New Jersey at the Nassau Coliseum.
“I enjoy playing against him. Any time you play a goaltender of his caliber, you step up your game,” DiPietro said after earning his 98th career victory — 401 short of Brodeur, who had won his last six decisions against the Islanders. It was only the 18th regulation loss for Brodeur in 62 career games against the Islanders.
Miroslav Satan got the game-winning goal for the third straight game as the Isles wrapped up a six-game homestand that lasted more than three weeks with a 5-1-0 record, winning the last four games.
The Islanders dominated play through the first two periods, but led only 1-0 on Josef Vasicek’s goal at 17:13 of the first period. Brodeur stopped Chris Campoli’s shot, but the puck sat at his feet and Vasicek poked it into the net. It was a 5-on-5 goal, but the Devils were shorthanded because Patrik Elias had broken his stick and couldn’t play defenseman Karel Rachunek’s backpass, allowing Richard Park to take the puck.
“I was yelling for Karel to go, and I guess he didn’t hear me,” Elias said. “'It was a miscommunication.”
Dainius Zubrus was credited with the tying goal 1:10 into the game when he kept swatting at a rebound and Isles defenseman Brendan Witt accidentally put the puck into the net.
But with the Islanders on a 5-on-3 power play, Satan got the winning goal for the third consecutive game when he rammed Trent Hunter’s cross-crease pass into an open net.
“It was one of those tic-tac-toe type of plays,” Isles coach Ted Nolan said. “The goaltender didn’t have a chance to react. That was a pinpoint pass. Not too many guys can pass the puck like this. Before he got the puck, he probably knew he was going across. It worked out there.”
Brodeur said defending a two-man disadvantage against the Islanders was not easy.
“I don't think they beat us,” he said. ''Look at the two goals they got.”
DiPietro made the lead stand up when New Jersey pressed in the final minute. The best of his 19 saves came when he got his stick on a blast by Brian Gionta with 25 seconds remaining.
“He’s one of the main reasons why we are where we are right now,” Isles coach Ted Nolan said of DiPietro, who has won eight of his 11 decisions. “When the score’s tied or it’s 2-1 for us, it’s pretty tough to get one by him. He’s playing great for us.”
Brodeur will get his next chance to earn win No. 500 on Monday when the Devils visit Pittsburgh before hosting the Rangers on Wednesday.
Flyers 5, Penguins 2
While the Islanders were ending a long homestand and getting ready to go on the road, the Flyers were happy to be home after an eight-game road trip. They celebrated by beating the Penguins for the second time in four nights after losing all eight games to Pittsburgh last season.
“Last year definitely was not a good year against Pittsburgh for us,'' center Mike Richards said. “'We did not have a win. Those were heated games, too. Even though we lost them, they were heated. This year, I think our division is probably one of the most heated in the league right now with New York (Rangers) and now Pittsburgh becoming one of our biggest rivals.”
The Flyers did their damage on the power play, scoring four times in seven chances as Kimmo Timonen had a goal and set up the other three. Goals by Timonen, Mike Knuble and Joffrey Lupul gave the Flyers a 3-0 lead.
“It looked like we got all the breaks we haven't gotten in previous games,” said Timonen, who scored his first goal with the Flyers. “If you can do a good job on special teams every night, you're pretty close to winning the game.”
Sidney Crosby earned an assist on Evgeni Malkin’s goal at 8:39 of the second period, extending his points streak to a career-best 16 games. Sergei Gonchar scored a power-play goal with one second left in the second period to make it 3-2, but Danny Briere’s power-play goal at 7:54 of the third period and Scott Hartnell’s empty-netter iced the win.
The Penguins have lost three straight games, their worst slide since losing three straight last December, and Crosby says they have to pick up their play.
“We’ve got to step up in some way,” he said. “We couldn’t kill our penalties and it hurt us. We can't get down two and three goals. It makes it easier for a team to play against you.”
Senators 3, Canadiens 1
It took Ottawa nearly 55 minutes, but the Senators finally solved Cristobal Huet.
The Montreal goaltender was 5:10 away from shutting out the Senators at Scotiabank Place before Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Neil scored in a 1:40 span to help Ottawa improve to 14-2-0.
“You've just got to play smart and you can't force things," said Alfredsson, who beat Huet from the slot after taking a pass from Dany Heatley. “If you start thinking, ‘Oh my God, what's going to happen if we don’t win?,’ that's when you get in trouble. You go on instinct, you go from what the coaches have told you to do out there and do the little things right. We knew we were going to create chances.”
Neil beat Huet from the right circle with 3:30 remaining for his second goal of the season. Alfredsson added an empty-netter with 26 seconds remaining, his 13th of the season and fourth in three games.
“You could feel the momentum changing in the third period and we just had our foot on the gas pedal and kept going,” Neil said.
Before Ottawa’s late burst, the afternoon had belonged to Huet, who stopped Alfredsson on a second-period penalty shot and nearly made Andrei Markov’s first-period power-play goal stand up.
“It's a hard one, not getting any points,” said Huet, who finished with 34 saves. “Everybody played very well — but you know, we can definitely play with them. The season is long and I'm sure it's going to be a lot of good hockey against that team for the rest of the season.”
Martin Gerber stopped 28 shots for Ottawa to earn his League-high 11th victory.
“Everyone’s talking about the way Huet played — he played unbelievable but our goalie played unbelievable, too,” Neil said. “He stepped up and played another solid game for us — and he's done it all year.”
Hurricanes 5, Thrashers 3
Carolina regarded Saturday’s visit from Atlanta as a statement game after a 5-1 home loss on Thursday. Consider the statement made after the Hurricanes overcame two goals by Marian Hossa to beat the Thrashers.
“We all wanted to redeem ourselves after our last loss,” said captain Rod Brind'Amour, who scored twice.
Hossa’s shorthanded goal 4:47 into the second period gave Atlanta a 2-1 lead — but charged up the Hurricanes. Justin Williams tied the game 31 seconds later, and Brind’Amour’s second goal of the game at 7:44 put Carolina ahead to stay.
“It’s a huge lift,” said Carolina goalie Cam Ward, who stopped 32 shots. “You can either crumble after a play like that or come back and meet the challenge. We worked hard and were rewarded.”
Cory Stillman’s goal early in the third period made it 4-2. Hossa cut the margin to one just over two minutes later, but Eric Staal scored with 1:36 remaining gave Carolina some insurance.
“We had a good start,'' Thrashers forward Eric Perrin said after Atlanta’s three-game winning streak came to an end. “We played them well. ... We did a good job of putting the pressure back on them. We did a good job of fighting back.”
Bruins 2, Sabres 1
Boston isn’t scoring much, but with Tim Thomas in goal, the Bruins didn’t need a lot of offense to beat the struggling Sabres. Thomas made 45 saves and Chuck Kobasew batted a puck out of the air and into the net midway through the third period to break a 1-1 tie.
“It seems like we're saying the same thing every night,” Kobasew said of Thomas. “'He's kept
us in every game. We came into the third period with a 1-0 lead and that was because of him.”
Daniel Paille’s shorthanded goal, a one-timer from the right circle 8:13 into the final period, was the only one of Buffalo’s 46 shots to beat Thomas. Kobasew got his game-winner 32 seconds later, getting his stick on a puck that was about 18 inches off the ice and swatting it into the net.
“We gave up 46 shots and our goaltender was very good,” Boston coach Claude Julien said after his team’s seventh straight one-goal game. “'We’re just not giving up many goals. We’ve got to find that balance between defensive hockey and offensive hockey.”
Luckily for the Bruins, Buffalo is having offensive troubles of its own. The Sabres came into Boston having been shut out in two of their previous three games, and they’re trying to keep a positive outlook after dominating the Bruins.
“If we play like that, someday it will go in,” forward Maxim Afinogenov said. “We pressured a lot and got a lot of shots and we got good chances to put the puck in.”
Buffalo outshot Boston 15-6 in the opening period, prompting a few boos from the crowd when the players left the ice. It got worse in the second when the Sabres owned a 17-7 shot advantage but left the ice trailing 1-0 on Marco Sturm’s goal at 18:16. Jason Pominville had nine of the shots in the first two periods.
“We’ve got to bite the bullet and we've got to be disappointed with not winning,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.
Lightning 5, Capitals 2
After losing its first seven road games, Tampa Bay has finally figured out how to win away from the St. Pete Times Forum. The Lightning, who won Thursday in Carolina, scored four times in the third period to put away the Capitals in Washington.
Vaclav Prospal broke a 1-1 tie by scoring 1:29 into the third period, and Martin St. Louis made it 3-1 just 58 seconds later. The Caps never recovered.
“We’re not going to go anywhere if we continue to play like that,” Washington goaltender Olaf Kolzig said. “'We made a point of it before the game to start putting some points together at home. We're awful at home right now. We can't get it done, and the third period was a prime example of that.
“We've talked about it enough the last couple of weeks,” Kolzig added. “It all comes down to individuals knowing what they have to do — and that's it. If you need somebody else to tell you to get motivated, you're probably in the wrong league.”
Ryan Craig and Paul Ranger added goals for the Lightning.
“Chances were hard to come by and we needed to keep our patience,” Lightning coach John Tortorella said. “Getting a couple in the third period with a few good face-offs was key.”
The Lighting also showed good composure after Kolzig allowed just one goal in Tampa Bay’s 18-shot barrage in the second period.
“We played really well defensively and it feels great to get some wins back,” Prospal said. “We had a lot of chances in the second period but didn't get any behind their goaltender.”
Predators 4, Blue Jackets 3, SO
Nashville goaltender Chris Mason couldn’t preserve a two-goal lead in the third period, but a lead in the shootout was another matter. Mason stopped all three Columbus attempts and Martin Erat scored the only goal for the win after the Blue Jackets had earned a point with two third-period goals.
“I pride myself on shootouts,” Mason said. “I don't want to make a move before the shooter does. I think patience is the most important thing for a goaltender. You want to stay up and stay with the shooter until they make a move or make the shot.”
Manny Malholtra made it 3-2 at 14:27 of the third period and Nikolai Zherdev tied the game 1:20 later to send the game into overtime. But the Jackets lost their third straight game and fell to 0-3 in shootouts after Mason stopped Gilbert Brule and Jiri Novotny and Adam Foote hit the inside of the left post. The Jackets’ top goal-scorer, Rick Nash, didn’t take a shot.
“I would have almost bet my life that they would have put Nash out there,” Mason said. “They must do shootouts in practice. I'm sure they have their reasons for the players they chose.”
Malholtra wasn’t unhappy to go home with a point.
“This was a big building block for us with the big come-from-behind performance in the third period,” Malholtra said. “As far as the whole game plan went, we felt that 5-on-5 we really were in control. We pressed their defense and forced them to make a lot of turnovers.”
Radek Bonk put Nashville ahead with a power-play goal 9:05 into the game, but rookie Curtin Glencross tied it when he ripped a feed from Dan Fritsche past Mason from 15 feet.
Marek Zidlicky put Nashville back in front with a power-play goal midway through the second period, and Jordin Tootoo made it 3-1 early in the third by banging in Martin Gelinas’ rebound.
“Other than the first two minutes when we took some penalties we played great hockey,” Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We deserved two points. We talk about learning lessons. We have to get points from teams like Nashville.”
Oilers 4, Flames 2
Mathieu Garon has spent most of the season riding the bench watching Dwayne Roloson play goal. He’s making a pitch for more playing time. Garon was spectacular in making 37 saves
as the Oilers won the latest installment of the Battle of Alberta with a win in Calgary against the slumping Flames.
“I haven’t played that much this season, but the games I have played in I thought I played well,” said Garon, who signed with the Oilers during the summer as a free agent despite having other offers. “I signed with Edmonton because I like the team; it’s a young team and I missed playing in Canada.”
Shawn Horcoff scored twice for Edmonton, which ended a four-game losing streak. The Flames lost their fifth straight loss and third in a row at home.
“We have to get it turned around," said Calgary forward Craig Conroy, who broke of a nine-game scoreless drought with an assist on Tanguay's goal. "Everybody talks about rock bottom — if we're not at it, we're close. It's not going to get any easier.”
Edmonton rookies Sam Gagner and Robert Nilsson sandwiched first-period goals around one by Calgary’s Alex Tanguay to give the Oilers a 2-1 lead.
Garon preserved the lead early in the second period with a pair of brilliant stops on Calgary’s Adrian Aucoin.
Horcoff swatted in a rebound at 7:48 of the third period, and after Robyn Regehr scored 3:20 later to make it 3-2, Horcoff beat Miikka Kiprusoff again, tipping in Dick Tarnstrom’s point shot at 13:37.
“The fact that we scored four goals was big for us,” Garon said. “I don’t like to let in two goals, but I’m satisfied with my performance. If we want to turn things around, we all have to cooperate and it has to be a team effort.”
Material from wire services was used in this report.