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Sabres complete sweep of Flyers with 6-5 shootout win

by John Kreiser
The Buffalo Sabres completed a home-and-home sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers with a 6-5 shootout win on Saturday night.
Ales Kotalik and Martin Biron played together in Buffalo until Biron’s trade to Philadelphia in February, and Kotalik knew that his former teammate was familiar with his shootout moves, so figured he had to try something different.

That “something different” was a quick wrist shot over Biron’s glove — and it turned out to be the only goal of the shootout, giving the Sabres a 6-5 victory over the Flyers at the Wachovia Center on Saturday night.

''I know Marty is probably going to know what I'm going to try to do,'' Kotalik said after the Sabres’ sixth straight win. ''So I was trying to do something different.''

The whole game was something different — more like a game from a generation ago than today’s tight-checking NHL. There was lots of open ice, plenty of scoring chances and 11 goals — including Thomas Vanek’s game-tying tip-in with 7.2 seconds remaining in regulation.

I like distracting the goalie,'' said Vanek, who redirected Jochen Hecht’s shot from the center of the right circle past Biron to send the game into overtime. ''Jochen had a great shot. I had a good tip on it and it went in. That's my job. I like doing it.”

The Flyers, who overcame a 3-1 deficit to take a 5-4 lead on Kimmo Timonen’s goal early in the third period, have lost a season-high six consecutive games.

''I thought we did everything we needed to do in the third period to win it,” said Biron, who was in goal for the Flyers’ 3-2 loss at Buffalo on Friday. “It was just a matter of maybe six inches at one end of the ice to keep the puck down at the other end of the ice. That would have been the difference.''

The tying goal followed an icing call on a puck that barely made it over the goal line, and some Flyers felt Pominville took a circuitous route to the touch-up.

“From the bench it looked like he went the long way to try to get there,” ex-Sabre Danny Briere said of the icing call.

Jeff Carter and Mike Richards each had two goals in regulation for the Flyers, who have lost nine of their last 10 at home since opening the season 6-0 in Philadelphia.

''We're going to have to deal with it,'' Flyers coach John Stevens said. ''We have to come and play hard for 60 minutes every night coming back from Christmas because we put ourselves in a hole that we have to climb out of.''

Maxim Afinogenov ( 700K ), Jason Pominville ( 700K ) and Jaroslav Spacek ( 700K ) also scored for the Sabres, who have won 13 of their last 17 games. ''I thought we battled for every inch we got,'' Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. ''There was a lot of emotion.''

Afinogenov and Carter exchanged first-period goals before the Sabres jumped to a two-goal lead early in the second. Kotalik scored off a scramble three minutes into the period ( 700K ) and Pominville beat Biron from the right circle at 7:54.

The Flyers pulled even with a pair of shorthanded goals midway through the period. Carter scored on a deflection at 12:08 ( 700K ) , and 55 seconds later, Richards scored after intercepting a clearing attempt ( 700K ).

Spacek ( 700K ) and Richards ( 700K ) each scored during 5-on-3 advantages to make it 4-4 after two periods.

The Flyers had two power plays in overtime but couldn’t score, then lost for the third time in as many shootouts this season.

“We’re disappointed, that’s the bottom line,” said defenseman Derian Hatcher. “We know what we are in right now and we want to get out of it and I think we played that way. I think that we are inches away from getting over the hump here.”

Maple Leafs 2, Panthers 1, OT | Video
After two painful losses in the Southeast, Toronto headed home for the holidays with a victory when Pavel Kubina scored a power-play goal 24 seconds into overtime to win at Florida.

Richard Zednik took a slashing penalty with 1:15 left in regulation. Toronto couldn’t capitalize before time ran out, but with the Leafs playing 4-on-3, Kubina beat Tomas Vokoun with a slap shot from the right point ( 700K ).

''I got a new stick five minutes beforehand,'' Kubina said. ''A great play by Mats (Sundin) and Kaby (Tomas Kaberle). It gave me so much time. They took the left side away and I just shot it on net.''

The Leafs finished the pre-Christmas portion of their seven-game road trip with a 2-2-1 record. But they could have been 4-1 — they lost in overtime at Carolina after blowing a 2-0 lead in the last 1:25 of regulation, then lost 2-1 at Tampa Bay on a goal in the final minute.

''It was tough those two games, but we still were playing good hockey,'' Kubina said. ''Especially before Christmas, it s going to be great, a couple of days without hockey, but then we have to start thinking about the next one.''

Toronto took a 1-0 lead 5:18 into the game when Kyle Wellwood scored on the power play — his first goal in 12 games ( 700K ). Florida captain Olli Jokinen tied it with 20 seconds left in the second ( 700K ), picking off a pass at the Toronto blue line and firing a screened slap shot past Vesa Toskala for a power-play goal.

''We knew it was going to be a tight game,'' Panthers coach Jacques Martin said. ''It's the kind of game they've been in lately and the kind of game we've been in. It's unfortunate we lost it in overtime.''

The loss ended Florida’s three-game winning streak.

"We can't take penalties in a crucial time of the game," said Vokoun, who stopped 29 shots. "I don't know if it was a good call or bad call. It doesn't matter. You just can't do it because it's going to cost you huge points and it cost us today a chance to win the game."

Thrashers 3, Canadiens 2, SO | Video
The up-and-down Thrashers are on the way up again. Atlanta won its third straight game — following four consecutive losses — when Slava Kozlov and Marian Hossa scored in the Thrashers’ specialty: the shootout.

The hot-and-cold Atlanta Thrashers are hot again, after beating the Montreal Canadiens for their third-straight win.

Atlanta improved to 4-1 in the penalty-shot competition, but goalie Kari Lehtonen has no idea why his team is so successful.

''I really don't know,'' said Lehtonen, who made 32 saves and stopped all three of Montreal’s shootout attempts. ''We have some really good guys. That helps my job.''

Montreal fell to 2-5 in shootouts and had its four-game winning streak ended.

''The shootout is something we try to work on,'' coach Guy Carbonneau said, ''but it's not something we can spend too much time on.''

Alexei Kovalev’s goal midway through the third period sent the game into overtime ( 700K ) after Eric Perrin’s power-play goal at 18:53 of the second period had given the Thrashers a 2-1 lead ( 700K ). Kozlov ( 700K ) and Montreal rookie Sergei Kostitsyn ( 700K ) had goals in the first period.

''I thought tonight we started out a little slower than in the other two, but as the game wore on, it got better,'' Atlanta coach Don Waddell said. ''We knew it would be tougher because they play a very patient game.''

Montreal's Cristobal Huet, 3-1 in his last four starts against Atlanta, stopped 26 shots. He had missed seven straight games due to a pulled groin before winning 5-2 at Washington on Thursday.

Huet praised Hossa after the Thrashers forward sent the puck between the goalie's legs in the shootout ( 700K ). ''I was surprised he shot so quick,'' Huet said. ''I'm not very confident in our shootouts, but it was nice to get one more point (in the standings).''

Islanders 3, Capitals 2, OT | Video
Richard Park wasn’t going to let the Washington Capitals spoil the Islanders’ Christmas. Park won an overtime faceoff, worked the puck into Washington’s zone and took it away from defenseman Mike Green, then played catch with defenseman Radek Martinek before beating Olaf Kolzig through the five-hole at 3:43 to give the Isles a win ( 700K ).

''I saw Marty open, and he made a great play to get it right back to me,'' Park said of his exchange of passes with Martinek. ''I looked and saw no one near me, so I took a shot, and luckily, I found a hole.''

Park had a lot of room because Green was lying on the ice after being clipped by a stick.

''It was (teammate Jeff) Schultz's stick'' Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. ''Green was clipped in the ear, and he went down in the spot he'd normally be in. That's why Park was wide open.''

The Islanders looked like they would win when Bill Guerin backhanded a rebound past Kolzig with 2:06 left in regulation. But with Kolzig on the bench, Alex Ovechkin picked up a loose puck and zipped it through a pile of bodies and past a screened Rick DiPietro, forcing the overtime ( 700K ).

''Guys like that are going to get big goals,'' Guerin said. ''For us to bounce back and win in overtime is a big testament for our hockey club right now.''

Park, who started the season on the fourth line but has worked his way up to first-line status, “has been one of our best forwards the last two years,” coach Ted Nolan said. “He wins faceoffs, plays on the power play and penalty kill. He adds great value to this team."

Miroslav Satan gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead midway through the second period when he took Josef Vasicek’s breakout pass, split the defense and roofed a wrist shot over Kolzig ( 700K ). Alexander Semin tied it at 17:52 with a turnaround 10-foot wrist shot that DiPietro never saw ( 700K ).

The Capitals were outshot 31-16, and Matt Pettinger was at a loss to explain the lack of offense.

''For some reason, we just didn't generate a whole lot of offense, judging by the shot total,'' Pettinger said. ''If you look at the positive, we got a point out of it. We could have gotten nothing. We had the same problem the last time we were here, but we won. We were just trying to hang on until the shootout and take our chances there.''

The Islanders, now 6-2-0 in the second half of back-to-back games this season, beat Ovechkin and the Caps one night after beating Sidney Crosby and the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

"I like the way we've been playing the last two games," said Guerin. "We've been getting back to the way we were playing earlier. It's a good feeling going into the break."

Blues 4, Bruins 1 | Video
Brad Boyes got over his nervousness at returning to Boston long enough to help his current team beat his former club.

Brad Boyes, dealt by the Bruins to the Blues last February, had a second-period goal in his first appearance in Boston since the deal.

Boyes, dealt by the Bruins to the Blues last February, had a second-period goal in his first appearance in Boston since the deal.

With the Blues leading 1-0 on Lee Stempniak’s first-period goal ( 700K ), Boyes took Jay McClement’s pass and snapped a wrist shot past Tim Thomas at 17:40 of the middle period for his 21st goal of the season to put the Blues ahead by two ( 700K ).

"Early on, through warmups, but other than that I felt pretty good," he said of his nervousness. "I had a great chance (early in the first period), but put it over the net. I knew Timmy (Thomas) knew what I was trying to do, so I tried to mix it up a little bit."

Added Blues goalie Manny Legace, who made 24, saves: "It was great to see him get that goal. It's just been a great trade for us." Zdeno Chara’s power-play goal 7:18 into the third period gave the Bruins some hope ( 700K ). But Jamal Mayers scored with 2:58 remaining to give the Blues some insurance ( 700K ), and Keith Tkachuk hit the empty net with 42 seconds left ( 700K ).

The Bruins, who sent Boyes to St. Louis for defenseman Dennis Wideman, can only wonder what might have been. Boston was held to two goals or fewer for the fourth time in five games and the 20th time this season.

"It's a slump," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "But let's keep in mind the age of our upfront guys."

Having a sniper like Boyes could have helped; instead, the Bruins finished their five-game pre-Christmas homestand 1-4-0.

"It's not where we wanted to be on this homestand," defenseman Mark Stuart said. "It is disappointing."

Red Wings 4, Wild 1 | Video
Henrik Zetterberg got a chance to watch and see how good the Detroit Red Wings are. He was impressed.

"They controlled the game really good," the Wings’ No. 1 center said after the Wings pelted Minnesota goalie with 51 shots and cruised to victory at the Xcel Energy Center. "It was an easy game to sit and watch."

Zetterberg sat out with back spasms and first-line left wing Tomas Holmstrom was out with a knee injury. The Wings didn’t miss them, as Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Daniel Cleary and Tomas Kopecky scored and Detroit limited the Wild to 19 shots on goal.

“Everybody had a pretty good night for us," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said.

Datsyuk scored a power-play goal 6:57 into the game ( 700K ), Franzen ( 700K ) and Cleary ( 700K ) beat Nicklas Backstrom 45 seconds apart late in the second and Kopecky iced the win by scoring midway through the third. Kim Johnsson got the only goal for the Wild when his shot bounced off defenseman Chris Chelios and past Dominik Hasek with nine seconds left in the second period ( 700K ).

Two nights after Minnesota’s Marian Gaborik riddled the New York Rangers for five goals, he managed just two shots against the tight-checking Wings.

"We were trying to take his time and space away," Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. "Sometimes he goes real deep and it's tough to close that gap. But I think we were trying to keep him on the outside, not have him pass it and go to the open space — just to be aware of where he is on the ice."

It was also a statement game for the Wings, who’ve outscored Minnesota 9-1 in two games since Sports Illustrated declared in a magazine article that St. Paul, not Detroit, was the new "Hockeytown."

The Wings respectfully disagree.

"I'm going back to Hockeytown," center Kris Draper said with a smile when asked where he was headed.

Predators 4, Kings 3 | Video
Nashville got a big night from its captain to snap a five-game losing streak. Jason Arnott scored once in each period for his first hat trick in more than two years as the Predators handed the visiting Kings their seventh straight loss.

Jason Arnott scored three times against the Los Angeles Kings in the Predators' 4-3 victory.

“He was great," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said of his captain. "Tonight he knew this game was really important for us, and he gets a hat trick for us."

It was Arnott’s seventh career hat trick and first since he scored three times against Anaheim on Nov. 16, 2005, while playing for Dallas.

Arnott scored 2:34 in to give the Predators a 1-0 lead ( 700K ), redirecting a pass from Jordin Tootoo past Jason LaBarbera.

"Jordin is known for his aggressiveness, but he can also make plays," Arnott said. "He showed great energy and great skill to set me up on the first goal."

The Kings went ahead when Lubomir Visnovsky scored at 11:10 of the first period ( 700K ) and Patrick O’Sullivan beat Dan Ellis for a shorthanded goal at 10:23 of the second ( 700K ). Ryan Suter tied it at 12:43 ( 700K ), and Arnott put the Preds ahead to stay at 14:21( 700K ), beating LaBarbera with a wrist shot from the left circle.

Arnott’s third goal was a shot from the left circle at 3:04 of the third period ( 700K ).

“I didn't even see him," LaBarbera said. "It was kind of on my blind side, and I didn't even see him shoot it."

It proved to be the game-winner when O’Sullivan scored again with 8:53 remaining ( 700K ).

"It's nice to get the hat trick, but the win is even bigger," Arnott said. "If we would have lost, it would have been pretty devastating."

Hurricanes 4, Lightning 1 | Video
A victory at Tampa Bay was a great Christmas present for the Hurricanes. Ray Whitney scored twice in the third period as Carolina beat its Southeast Division rival, which had won 13 of the previous 20 meetings.

"This team has been a problem for us," Whitney said. "I think patience was what won it for us. We didn't force too many things."

Whitney gave Carolina a 2-1 lead with a shot from the left circle during a delayed penalty call at 9:31 of the third period ( 700K ). He added an empty-netter with one minute left ( 700K ).

Andrew Ladd and Eric Staal, who had an empty-net goal with 2.8 seconds to play ( 700K ), also scored for the Southeast Division-leading Hurricanes, who are 3-4 in their past seven games.

Whitney passed up a chance for his third goal when he set up Staal's empty-netter.

"For me, it doesn't matter," Whitney said. "Staal, I thought he played an unbelievable game."

Martin St. Louis scored 23 seconds into the game for Tampa Bay ( 700K ); Ladd tied the game at 18:04 ( 700K ). Rookie Karri Ramo, who beat Toronto 2-1 in his first NHL start on Thursday, stopped 33 of 35 shots.

"You've got a kid, who's playing (strong) in net, you've got young defensemen who are getting run all over the place by a quick Carolina team. I'm disappointed in the core," Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said. "I didn't like anything about our third period. That falls on the core. No one else. I'm totally disgusted as far as what happened there."

The happiest Hurricane was center Brandon Nolan, son of Islanders coach Ted Nolan, who got a point in his NHL debut when he assisted on Ladd’s goal. The Hurricanes say Nolan is the 15th son in league history to play a game in the same season that his father served as a coach.

“It was just good to get that first one under my belt,” Nolan said. “I thought my linemates helped me out a lot. They made it easy for me. Overall I thought it went pretty good, but it can always go better.”

Canucks 2, Coyotes 1, SO | Video
Vancouver won a goaltending battle in the desert when Taylor Pyatt scored the deciding goal in the fourth round of the shootout.

The game was scoreless until Daniel Sedin beat Ilya Bryzgalov from the edge of the right circle with 9:49 left in regulation. Zbynek Michalek tied the game with 5:51 remaining in regulation, one-timing Shane Doan’s pass behind Roberto Luongo for his first goal of the season.

“I saw the right side was wide open and so I had a chance to sneak in,” Michalek said. “I just tried to make sure I hit the net, and it went in.”

In the shootout, Radim Vrbata scored in the second round, but Trevor Linden tied it for Vancouver by beating Bryzgalov with a high wrist shot in the third round. After Luongo stopped Doan, Pyatt scored on a wrist shot and Joel Perrault missed the net on the Coyotes’ last attempt.

“It was like last Saturday in Edmonton (a 2-1 shootout loss),” said Luongo. “It was pretty tight most of the night, but things got pretty exciting in the last 10 minutes and the overtime.”

Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky was disappointed with the results, though not the performance of his team.

“It’s a heartbreaking loss for our team,” he said. “Both goalies were great. I’m proud of our effort. We did a lot of good things. Luongo is Luongo — he’s an outstanding goalie.”

Though Luongo may be the best goalie in the NHL, the Canucks had lost all four previous shootouts this season. He was 0-for-3 before Saturday.

''It has been a while,'' said Luongo. ''It's always exciting when you win and not so exciting when you lose, so we'll take this one.''

Ducks 5, Sharks 2 | Video
How does the “Duck Tank” sound? Anaheim might want to take up residence in San Jose after beating the Sharks at HP Pavilion for the sixth straight time and second in four days.

Chris Pronger had a goal and an assist for the Ducks, who lost a 2-1 shootout to the Sharks at the Honda Center in Anaheim last Sunday but responded with wins at the Shark Tank on Wednesday and Saturday. Anaheim is 4-0-1 against the Sharks.

''It's always good when you play well against a division rival like this,'' Pronger said. ''It was a big game for us to keep moving up the standings, and a step forward for us the way we've been playing the last few games, and getting back to playing the way we can.''

Todd Bertuzzi, Corey Perry, Chris Kunitz and Sean O’Donnell also scored for the Ducks, who won their third straight. Patrick Marleau and Marcel Goc had third-period goals for the Sharks, who continue to struggle at home. They’re an NHL-best 12-3-2 on the road, but have dropped four in a row at home, where they are just 6-9-3.

A two-hour players-only team meeting Friday did nothing to stop the Sharks' fumbling play, particularly in the first 40 minutes.

''I think guys are nervous,'' defenseman Craig Rivet said. ''They're grabbing the sticks and trying to push themselves to do too much, and you can see that in a number of the guys. Guys are putting too much pressure on themselves.''

Evgeni Nabokov stopped Bertuzzi’s penalty shot 13:07 into the game, but Pronger scored at 17:57 with a shot that went off the post and into the net. Perry and Kunitz scored 61 seconds apart midway through the second period to give Anaheim a 3-0 lead.

“We got some good bounces in the second period,” Perry said, “and when we get the lead, we’re tough to beat.”

Marleau ended Giguere's bid for his second shutout of the Sharks in five days when he tipped home a power-play goal early in the third period, but San Jose gave up a breakaway moments later, and Bertuzzi backhanded home his fifth goal in 24 games at 4:01. Goc scored with 8:20 remaining; O’Donnell hit the empty net with 1:05 left.

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

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