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Sabres rally for 3-2 win over Flyers

by John Kreiser
Jochen Hect's goal snapped a late third-period tie spoiling ex-Sabre Daniel Briere's return to HSBC Arena as Buffalo defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 on Friday night.
Daniel Briere got a warm pregame reception in his first visit to Buffalo’s HSBC Arena since signing a big free-agent contract with Philadelphia this summer. The Sabres got what they really wanted — two points.

Jochen Hecht snapped a late third-period tie, and Ryan Miller made 20 saves as the Sabres beat the Flyers 3-2 on Friday night in the first game of a home-and-home series for their fifth straight victory.
The win ruined the return to Buffalo of Briere, who signed an eight-year, $52 million contract with the Flyers during the offseason. Briere failed to pick up a point and finished with a minus-2 rating. Flyers goalie Martin Biron also made his first appearance in Buffalo since the Sabres traded him to Philadelphia in February.

"'We didn't focus on those two players, we focused on the team,'' Hecht said. ''We came in to have a good game. We're on a winning streak now and we've put together some games where we've found a way to win.''

Hecht beat Biron with a backhander off a rebound with 2:51 remaining to snap a 2-2 tie ( 700K ).

''It was a deflection that went off my shoulder,'' Biron said. ''They got to it first and I think it went off a defenseman's skate.''

The Sabres also got goals from Drew Stafford and Ales Kotalik as they beat the Flyers for the ninth time in their last 11 meetings in Buffalo.

''We're gaining confidence,'' Miller said. ''Our puck possession time has been a lot better in the last 12 games or so. We're playing smarter, and that gives us the puck more.''

Jeff Carter and Joffrey Lupul scored for Philadelphia, which has lost five straight, its longest losing streak of the season.

There were plenty of ''Welcome Back Danny'' signs in the sellout crowd, scattered throughout the crowd, including one that said: ''All I want for Christmas is Briere in a Sabres jersey.'' But once the puck dropped, Briere was booed every time he touched the puck.

''It was what I expected,'' Briere said.

Stafford opened the scoring at 17:55 of the opening period ( 700K ), beating Biron on a rebound that barely crossed the goal line. Philadelphia scored twice in 45 seconds early in the second period to go ahead: Carter fired a wrist shot through Miller’s legs at 2:13 ( 700K ) and Lupul lifted a loose puck over Miller at 2:58 ( 700K ).

Kotalik’s power-play goal at 4:30 of the third period tied the game at 2-2 ( 700K ).

“It was good to come back in the third period,” Buffalo captain Brian Campbell said. “We’re finding ways to win. We’re playing Sabres hockey now.”

Blue Jackets 2, Kings 1 | Video

When you’re struggling, the breaks all seem to go against you. Just ask the Kings, who lost their sixth in a row on a night when video review took away one goal and Columbus defensemen twice cleared pucks off the goal line.

Nikolai Zherdev had a goal and an assist and Fredrik Norrena made 33 saves for Columbus, which limited the visiting Kings to Mike Cammalleri’s first-period goal. Jiri Novotny had the other goal for Columbus, which also killed off six of seven power plays.

''I thought our penalty killers did the job,'' Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said.

Zherdev broke a 1-1 tie 37 seconds into the third period when he deflected Ron Hainsey’s centering pass past Jason LaBarbera ( 700K ).

''It's about getting people to the front (of the net) and getting pucks in there,'' said Hainsey, a defenseman who also cleared away a sure goal early in the first period.

Los Angeles opened the scoring midway through the first period when Cammalleri's wrist shot went between Norrena's pads for his 15th goal of the season ( 700K ) and first in eight games.
Rob Blake nearly made it 2-0 moments later, but his apparent goal was nullified because he was in the crease before redirecting the puck into the goal.

''Unfortunately the breaks went against us,'' Los Angeles coach Marc Crawford said. ''When those things happen, all you can do is just keep working and try to get through it.''

Minutes after Curtis Glencross cleared the puck off the Columbus goal line in the second period, the Blue Jackets tied the game when Novotny jammed the rebound of Zherdev’s backhander past LaBarbera with 2:47 left in the period ( 700K ).

Crawford was happy with just about everything except the outcome.

 "If you work hard, the breaks will turn your way,” he said. “We were good tonight; I thought we deserved a better fate. I thought our execution was the only thing we need to improve on from that performance; I thought we got an effort from everybody."

Devils 3, Oilers 1 | Video

Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta (above) scored in a 35-second span of the third period and the Devils rallied to beat the Oilers 3-1.
As far as Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish is concerned, Santa Claus made an early delivery to the visiting Devils, with his players serving as elves.

“We gave that game away,” he said after New Jersey scored three times in the third period to improve to 5-0-1 in its last six visits to Rexall Center. “It’s Christmas time, and we wrapped it up and gave it to them.
“We didn't compete hard enough in the second period to get the game. You string a team along and let them stay in the game and bad things happen and that's exactly what we did tonight. I thought we should have put them away in the first.''

Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta scored 35 seconds apart early in the third period and John Madden added an empty-netter to give new coach Brent Sutter a victory in his return to Alberta. Sutter, from nearby Viking, left the Red Deer Rebels, the Western Hockey League team he owns, to take over the Devils in July. Red Deer is about halfway between Edmonton and Calgary, where the Devils play Sunday night.

It was the Devils’ first game in Edmonton since Dec. 30, 2001. New Jersey hasn't lost in Edmonton since Oct. 31, 1995.

It looked like they might when the Oilers took a 1-0 lead into the second intermission thanks to Joni Pitkanen’s first-period goal ( 700K ). But five minutes into the third period. Gionta fed a pass through the top of the crease to Elias, who ripped his seventh goal of the season into an open net ( 700K ).

“Brian made a perfect pass,” Elias said of the Devils’ first goal in more five periods. “I’m just glad it went it.”

Gionta tucked in Dainius Zubrus’ rebound at 5:35 to put the Devils ahead to stay ( 700K ) , but Sutter said his team really took control of the game in the second period, when New Jersey outshot the Oilers 12-2.

“We started to come on in the second period and play the way we wanted to play,” he said. “We started to move our feet better.”

Oilers goaltender Mathieu Garon, who made 30 saves, agreed that this was a game his team should have won.

“I think we let this one get away,” he said. “We were up one (goal) after two, and we should have been better defensively.”

With Dwayne Roloson sidelined with a strep throat, Garon’s backup was University of Alberta netminder Aaron Sorochan.

“He’d been in camp and we always liked him,” MacTavish said. “It’s too bad his night ended up on a note like that.”

Avalanche 4, Rangers 3, OT | Video

Forgive the Rangers for not wanting more trips to Denver on their schedule. Wojtek Wolski’s goal 1:16 into overtime gave the Avs their seventh straight victory over the Rangers, who haven’t won in Denver since 1998.

Wolski was in the right place at the right time when Jeff Finger collected a loose puck in the Rangers' zone and fired a shot at Henrik Lundqvist, who had the puck trickle through his pads. Wolski tapped in the loose puck for his 12th goal of the season ( 700K ), giving Colorado its 14th win in 17 home games.

''I was changing and trying to get into the play,'' Finger said. ''The puck happened to bounce out to me. I had so much time — almost too much time. I hit the shot as hard as I could.''

The Avs are among the best in the West despite the absence of Joe Sakic and Ryan Smyth. Sakic missed his 11th straight game with a groin injury, and Smyth has sat out two in a row with a sore neck.

"You can't replace Sakic and Smyth," Wolski said. "We miss them a lot."

Getting a point one night after a 6-3 loss at Minnesota wasn’t enough for Rangers coach Tom Renney.

"I think our guys are pretty disappointed. They want to be a better team than this," Renney said.

The Rangers led 3-2 before Marek Svatos tied the game at 8:23 ( 700K ) of the third period, beating Lundqvist on the second try after he fanned on his first shot.

Brendan Shanahan scored a power-play goal 13:23 into the game to give the Rangers the lead ( 700K ). Milan Hejduk scored twice in a span of 5:16 ( 700K ) ( 700K ) early in the second period to put Colorado ahead, but Michal Rozsival tied it at 8:04 ( 700K ) and rookie Mark Staal put the Rangers back in front 65 seconds later ( 700K ).

The Rangers fell to 2-5-2 in their last nine games.

"It's just tough, because we know we need the points right now and we were really close to getting two points tonight," Lundqvist said.

Stars 3, Flames 2, OT | Video

Mike Ribeiro netted his second goal of the night 57 seconds into overtime lifting the Dallas Stars to a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames.
Mike Ribeiro was just 5-7 on faceoffs, but he won the one that counted. The Dallas center won a draw in Calgary’s zone early in overtime, went to the net and deflected Sergei Zubov’s shot past Miikka Kiprusoff to give Dallas a victory ( 700K ) after the Flames controlled play for most of the last two periods.

Ribeiro has six goals in the past six games; his 18 goals are just two shy of his career high set with Montreal in 2003-04.

Matthew Lombardi ( 700K ) and Alex Tanguay ( 700K ) scored in the second period for Calgary, which was playing its first home game after becoming the third team in NHL history to go 6-0-0 on a six-game trip. They got a point for the eighth straight game.

“I thought we had lots of energy,” assistant coach Rob Cookson said. “Historically, when teams come off an extended road trip, they struggle in their first game back. I didn’t think that was the case. We were adequate and we got a point.”

Niklas Hagman was robbed by Kiprusoff three times in the second period and rifled another shot off the goal post. He finally got one past Kiprusoff 4:01 into the third period ( 700K ), racing to the net to one-time a pass from defenseman Lou Eriksson.

“I can't say I was frustrated because I was getting the chances all the time,” Hagman said after scoring for the first time in six games. “I knew it was going to come eventually.”

Mike Smith stopped 21 shots for Dallas, and was at his best with the score tied 2-2 in the third period. In one stretch, he sprawled to get a stick on Jarome Iginla’s one-timer from the faceoff circle, then stopped Daymond Langkow's shot moments later.

“He played really well,” forward Stu Barnes said of Smith, who gave Marty Turco a night off after Turco played in Vancouver on Thursday. “We feel really good about our one-two punch.”

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