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Recent last-minute heroics have saved teams points

by Adam Kimelman /
When NHL coaches talk about having to play the full 60 minutes to earn a victory, they can cite a number of examples in the last two weeks about the importance of playing to the final whistle.

Certainly Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson was telling his players that Tuesday night, after he watched Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis score the game-tying goal in the final seconds of the third period of what ended as a 4-3 Lightning overtime victory.

Dominic Moore won a faceoff in the Toronto end with the puck ending up on St. Louis' stick at the blue line. St. Louis' rocket from the point went through traffic and behind Maple Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson with 8.7 seconds left. Simon Gagne's goal 1:15 into overtime gave the Lightning the win.

It was the third time in the last 11 days that a team tied a game in the last minute of regulation and then went on to win the game in overtime or a shootout.

The same fate befell two other teams last week.

On Nov. 19, the Edmonton Oilers looked to have a home win against the Coyotes sewn up after they took a 3-0 lead midway through the second period. However, the Coyotes battled back, and with 34.4 seconds left, Wojtek Wolski found himself open in front of the net and pounded in a Ray Whitney pass to tie the game. After a scoreless overtime, Eric Belanger's goal in the fifth round of the shootout gave the Coyotes the come-from-behind win.

Two nights later the same thing happened in Calgary. The Flames led the Red Wings 4-2 in the third period, but after the Wings got within one on a Henrik Zetterberg goal, Zetterberg finished a short 2-on-1 break with Pavel Datsyuk with 3.2 seconds left to force overtime. Just 1:38 into the extra session, Nicklas Lidstrom scored and the Wings escaped with a 5-4 victory.

While the Lightning, Coyotes and Red Wings stole two points with late goals, three other teams picked up valuable points by playing hard right to the final whistle.

On Nov. 19, the Hurricanes trailed the Penguins 4-3 in the waning seconds of the final period, but Jussi Jokinen picked up a loose puck in the slot and rifled a shot past Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with 51.4 seconds remaining. Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby scored for the Penguins in the shootout, but the 'Canes picked up a valuable point for their tenacity.

One night later in Philadelphia, the Capitals were in a similar predicament after Andreas Nodl's goal gave the Flyers a 4-3 lead with 6:07 left in the third. However, the Caps, who already had rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third, had one more comeback left in them. Brooks Laich corralled the puck behind the Philadelphia net and served it to Eric Fehr in the right circle. His rocket beat Flyers goalie Brian Boucher to tie the game with 38.8 seconds left in regulation. The Flyers' Danny Briere scored the only goal of the shootout to give the Flyers a 5-4 win, but thanks to getting the extra point for playing past regulation, the Caps didn't go home empty-handed.

The role was reversed for the Caps on Nov. 28, when they led the Hurricanes 2-1 heading into the final seconds of the third period. Eric Staal kept hammering away at a rebound in front of the Washington net, and finally pushed it past goalie Semyon Varlamov with 2.2 seconds left to tie the game. Caps captain Alex Ovechkin scored the only goal in the shootout to give Washington a 3-2 victory, but the extra point earned by the Hurricanes left them feeling at least a little better.

And also taught them a lesson -- there's rarely anything bad that comes from putting in a full, 60-minute effort.

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