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Ruutu rocks Habs with OT goal

by Brian Hunter
Tuomo Ruutu scored 23 goals in his rookie season for Chicago. Injuries and inconsistency have seen his offensive totals drop off in the three seasons since, but the winger acquired by the Carolina Hurricanes at last season's trade deadline is off to an excellent start.

Ruutu scored 1:43 into overtime Sunday night, pushing a loose puck over the goal line after teammate Eric Staal took a shot that trickled between the pads of Carey Price, and the Hurricanes edged the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 at Bell Centre.

Staal finished with a goal and two assists and Cam Ward stopped 26 shots to improve to 9-2-2 in his career against the Habs. Sergei Samsonov also scored for Carolina, which concluded the season series with Montreal by taking three of four games.

"It's definitely easy to get up for a game and get excited when you're playing in Montreal," Ward said. "The atmosphere is always tremendous here and that's a credit to the fans in the building. They're some of the loudest fans that I've ever played in front of, so for whatever reason we just enjoy playing here."

Matt D'Agostini and Robert Lang scored for Montreal and Price made 24 saves in his first action in over two weeks. Jaroslav Halak had started the last six games.

Lang forced overtime by beating Ward from the left circle with 6:52 left in regulation, less than two minutes after Montreal had a goal by Guillaume Latendresse disallowed because the whistle had blown seconds before the puck entered the net. A slashing penalty had been called on Carolina's Matt Cullen and Lang picked up his 11th of the season on the ensuing power play.

"I was so mad," Latendresse said. "The same thing happened in overtime and they said it was a goal, but it's a tough call for them and we just have to accept it and play."
Staal had given the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead during a 5-on-3 advantage with 5:06 to play in the second. Staal and Ruutu both drew assists when Samsonov opened the scoring at 13:48 of the first, putting in his own rebound.

"We played well and it was nice to take two points home," Samsonov said. "It was a big road game. We're in a battle for a playoff spot and we're just trying to pick up some points."

D'Agostini drew the Canadiens even 6:10 into the middle period, taking a feed from Alex Tanguay and hitting a wide-open net for his sixth goal in 11 games since being called up from Hamilton of the AHL.

"We knew this game would be tough. We knew we'd be challenged," Montreal defenseman Mike Komisarek said. "It took us a while to find our stride but we feel good about our team heading into the Christmas break. We haven't played our best hockey yet."

Bruins 6, Blues 3 | Video

Boston didn't jump to the Eastern Conference's best record on the strength of just a couple key players. So even though the injury bug has crept up and bit the Bruins lately, it should come as no surprise that the team is still rolling.

Blake Wheeler scored a pair of goals and Phil Kessel extended his point streak to 18 straight games by collecting two assists in a win over St. Louis at Scottrade Center. Boston won its fifth straight, extending its lead in the East to six points over the Rangers and closing to within three points of San Jose for most points in the League.

Michael Ryder's power-play goal midway through the second period snapped a 3-3 tie. Shane Hnidy, Marc Savard and Vladimir Sobotka also tallied and David Krejci had three assists for the Bruins, who were without Marco Sturm (knee) and Patrice Bergeron, who was released from the hospital Sunday after suffering another concussion in Saturday's win over Carolina.

"It definitely shows when we've got guys out of the lineup, we've got guys who can step in and play their role, and that's definitely good when you've got that on your team," Ryder said. "I think tonight, the guys who did play stepped up."

Brad Winchester had a power-play goal and Jay McClement scored shorthanded to rally the Blues from a 2-0 deficit. Yan Stastny tied the game early in the second, but it was a tough game for Manny Legace, who yielded five goals on 23 shots in two periods. Chris Mason stopped four of five shots in the third.

"Our team needs good goaltending," St. Louis coach Andy Murray said. "As we talked about on (Saturday) night where Manny was a big part of the win, we have to have goaltending. Twenty-nine shots and six goals ... we made some mistakes and we'll make some mistakes (but) we need saves."

Wheeler, a rookie and former teammate of Kessel at the University of Minnesota, scored his 10th and 11th goals of the season in the opening five minutes of the game. He beat Legace at 2:27 and added a shorthanded goal off a spin-o-rama move at 4:59 to stake the Bruins to the early lead.

"I initially was looking to make a pass back to Krejci," Wheeler said. "He kind of abandoned me. He went off for a change and the only thing I could do was react. There was a guy coming at me and I just kind of reacted. I got lucky."

Hnidy put Boston in front again, 3-2, on a power-play goal with 2:16 left in the first. Stastny knocked in Keith Tkachuk's centering feed 2:46 into the second, but Ryder got his 12th of the season at 9:34 and Savard added his 11th with 3:03 left in the period. Sobotka sealed the victory with 4:11 remaining in the third, notching his second career goal.

"I think the reason we're having success offensively is because we've played pretty good sound defense in our own end," Ryder said. "When we do that, we get the puck more and then we play in the offensive zone more. So that's the key for us, make sure we keep it strong defensively and then when we get the puck out we can take control, because we have four lines that can definitely play and score goals."

Panthers 3, Avalanche 0
| Video

Florida had never defeated Colorado on home ice entering play Sunday, but Tomas Vokoun helped change that.

Vokoun made 23 saves for his second shutout of the season and the 27th of his career, and the Panthers got goals from Brett McLean, Richard Zednik and Bryan McCabe in winning their first game against the Avalanche at BankAtlantic Center.

Colorado had won eight in a row on Florida ice, with the last Panthers win coming at Miami Arena on April 22, 1995, when the franchise was still in Quebec. The following season it relocated to Colorado and the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup by sweeping the Panthers.

''Today was an effort of 20 guys,'' Vokoun said. ''We played our system and when we do that, we can beat anybody.''

McLean put Florida up 1-0 by tipping a Nick Tarnasky shot past Peter Budaj at 5:26 of the second. It was his first of the season and 50th of his career, and it turned out to be all the offense Vokoun would require.

''It felt really good to get that first goal,'' McLean said. ''Hopefully, I won't have to wait that long to get number two.''

Zednik gave the Panthers a little breathing room with 7:01 left in the middle period, as his backhander from the right side of the crease found the net just underneath the crossbar.

McCabe hit the empty net during a Florida power play with 1:42 remaining.

''I think they came out really hard and frankly they outplayed us in the first half,'' said Budaj, who made 22 saves. ''We tried to pick it up in the third period but hockey is a game of 60 minutes.''

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

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