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Selanne pays instant dividends for Ducks

by Brian Compton

Teemu Selanne picked up an assist in his season debut last night at the Nassau Coliseum. Watch Selanne highlights
Some random thoughts before I wonder if the Red Wings will ever lose again:

Welcome Back, Teemu -- Teemu Selanne arrives, and the Anaheim Ducks’ losing streak disappears.

Such was the case at Nassau Coliseum Tuesday night, as Selanne helped the Ducks snap a six-game slide with a 3-0 win over the New York Islanders.

Selanne picked up an assist in his season debut, giving an offense a boost that it so desperately needed. Anaheim had been shut out in its previous two games.

"Awesome," Selanne said of his first game back. "But it wasn’t very easy. Missing that much time and playing my first game back, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. But obviously the team played very well and it was a good win. You have to take baby steps to go forward, and this was one of them."

Of course, Selanne had to deal with some fatigue, considering he was playing in his first game since last June. He received 18 minutes of ice time in Tuesday’s win.

"I got tired easily," Selanne said, "but I knew I had to get to this next level of playing games."

No worries, Teemu. If Sylvester Stallone can make another Rambo without collapsing, you shouldn’t have any problems, either.

First Time For Everything -- Leave it to the Detroit Red Wings to end the Minnesota Wild’s perfect record when leading after two periods.


After going 22 games without losing in such a situation, the Wild gave up a late third-period goal to Dan Cleary before Brett Lebda won it for Detroit in overtime in a thriller at the Xcel Energy Center.

"It's disappointing, but I'm really happy with the way our players respond through the whole game," Lemaire said. "We played hard, they really played hard. We got a point."

The victory was the eighth straight for the Red Wings, who continue to find ways to win every night. Even though they were out-worked for the first two periods, Mike Babcock’s club turned on the switch in the third period and played the way it’s capable of playing.

"We weren't Red Wing-like, in my opinion, for the first two periods," Babcock said. "We're a better hockey team than that."

No argument here.

In fact, I’d like to go on record and say I’d rather run full speed into a brick wall than argue with Babcock about anything.

Back In The Hunt -- Just when the Buffalo Sabres appeared to be on the verge of disaster, they’re right back in thick of things.


Daniel Paille’s pair of goals and Ryan Miller’s 30 saves guided Buffalo to its fourth win in five games, a 4-2 victory over the Boston Bruins. After dropping 12 of 13, the Sabres have notched nine of a possible 10 points. Tuesday’s win has the Sabres just four points behind the Bruins for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Buffalo finished a seven-game road trip 4-0-1 after dropping the first two games. The Sabres play the first of three straight home games on Wednesday night against the New Jersey Devils.

”After the first two games (of the road trip), we knew we needed to pick it up,” Paille said. “We're not in a playoff spot yet, so we've got to keep it up.”

Not Giving Up -- Most teams would throw in the towel after coming up short as many times as the Los Angeles Kings did during the first half of the season.

But Marc Crawford’s team wants to fight to the finish.

Alexander Frolov and Anze Kopitar each had a goal and an assist Tuesday, leading the Kings to an impressive 4-2 win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Los Angeles is now 7-3-1 in its last 11 games.

”Even when we were on an eight-game losing streak (Dec. 12-26), we were playing really good, but we lost a bunch of one-goal games,” Kopitar said. “Our record is not great, but the team is showing character and playing really hard now.”

Crawford raved about his young stars after the Kings’ latest victory.

”These guys are very good,” Crawford said of Frolov, 25, and Kopitar, 20. “Their puck-protection skills are at a level of elite players. They protect the puck as well as Jaromir (Jagr) does. They may not have the offensive creativity yet as Jaromir, but they are still young, still developing. They've got tons of talent.”


Niitty’s Gritty -- If the Atlanta Thrashers never saw Antero Niittymaki again, it would probably suit them just fine.

The Philadelphia Flyers’ netminder won his eighth straight against the Thrashers on Tuesday, as he made 23 shots in a 3-2 victory. Niittymaki has allowed only 13 goals during this impressive run against Atlanta.

”It's just something about this building,” Niittymaki said of Philips Arena. “I like to play here. It's one of those things where you feel comfortable playing some teams and you get good bounces, too.”

Not even the recent play of Martin Biron – who has won his last five games – could prevent Flyers coach John Stevens from giving Niittymaki the starting nod in Atlanta.

”Marty has played so well at home, but we just targeted this game for Niitty,” Stevens said. “He seems to play his best games against Atlanta. He really elevated his game. ... I thought he was terrific.”

Alexander The Great -- “Is this the year someone scores 93?”

OK, so Alex Ovechkin won’t break Wayne Gretzky’s record this season. But man, is this guy fun to watch, or what?

The superstar scored two more goals on Tuesday night – including the game-winner in overtime – as the Washington Capitals rallied for a 4-3 win at Columbus.


The two goals give Ovechkin – who will dazzle crowds in the U.S. capital for more than a decade – 45 on the season. He finished the 2006-07 campaign with 46.

Rotislav Klesla summed it up best regarding Ovechkin, the top pick in the 2004 Draft.

"I thought we did a good job on him and he still got two goals," the Blue Jackets defenseman said. "He's just a special player, having a great year."

Eight Is Enough -- Well if fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs weren’t angry about the way their team’s season has gone before, they will be now.

Richard Zednik had a hat trick and Tomas Vokoun made 23 saves as the Florida Panthers pummeled the Leafs by an 8-0 score at the Air Canada Centre.

After trailing by only one goal through 20 minutes, the Leafs allowed three tallies in the second and another four in the third.

"I think right now we're a little bit shell-shocked," Toronto defenseman Hal Gill said. "The second period, we just got our confidence checked and it wasn't there. We just started doing things that we can't do as a team to win and they took advantage of it. I hate when it snowballs like that, but that's what happened."

As if things couldn’t get any worse, the Leafs now have to attempt to bounce back on Thursday night at Montreal against the red-hot Canadiens.

"We can't roll over like that in any game," Toronto forward Matt Stajan said. "It's embarrassing to lose like that on home ice. We know that in this room."

Beasts Of The East? -- Granted, the Ottawa Senators have been hit hard by the injury bug over the last month. But with the way the Montreal Canadiens have been playing as of late – Saturday’s loss to the Rangers aside, of course – it’s time to seriously consider the Habs as an Eastern Conference powerhouse.


Montreal’s top line of Alexei Kovalev, Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn was sensational on Tuesday night, combining for nine points in a 4-3 win over the Sens at the Bell Centre. The victory has the Canadiens within a point of the Sens for the No. 1 seed in the conference.

"We all know nobody trusted us before the season," Plekanec said. "We were supposed to be in 13th or 12th place right now, and we are where we are and we know what we can do, but we're not going to get overconfident, that's for sure."

Sounds like the Canadiens are playing with a chip on their shoulders. That might not be good news for the rest of the conference.

Smile, John! -- Not even their first win in St. Louis since 1992 can get Tampa Bay Lightning coach John Tortorella to show us his teeth.

Sure, Tampa gave up a pair of goals in the third period to make Tuesday night’s 5-4 win more interesting than it probably should have been, but it’s not like Hollywood announced it was re-releasing Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot on the big screen.

”You can't even enjoy a win,” Tortorella said. “It's just awful. It's just no pride in detail.”

Man … can you imagine Tortorella writing for Hallmark? The front of the card would probably read, “Happy Birthday … you’re a year closer to death.”

Scary night -- Scary scene at the Sommet Center on Tuesday night, as fans were forced to remain in their seats following the Predators’ 1-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes due to tornado warnings in the area.

The fans were evacuated from the main seating area after the game and were allowed to head home shortly thereafter.

”One of the referees came over with nine minutes to go and said we might have to evacuate because of the weather,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “At that time, it was still 0-0 and some of the guys on the bench thought maybe each team would be given a point and we would right to the shootout.”

Louie’s Angry -- Even though the Vancouver Canucks’ blue line is currently thinner than Calista Flockhart, Roberto Luongo isn’t interested in excuses.


Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars was the fourth straight for Vancouver, as it dropped to 1-5-3 in its last nine games. And although the Canucks are missing the likes of Willie Mitchell and Lukas Krajicek on the back end, Luongo believes there’s still enough there to win hockey games.

In all, Vancouver was missing five of its regulars.

”It's not an excuse,” Luongo said. “It doesn't matter who you play back there. I wish (reporters) would stop asking me that. The young guys did a good job stepping up.”

Back On Track -- It had been a while since Jarome Iginla found the back of the net, but the Calgary Flames’ captain came up huge on Tuesday night.

Iginla scored his first goal in 11 games in the final moments of the third period, then scored again in the shootout as the Flames rallied from a 3-0 deficit for a 4-3 win over the gritty Phoenix Coyotes.

"I just tried to turn around and shoot,” Iginla said of the tying goal, which came with only nine seconds remaining in regulation. “Sometimes the ones you don't expect to go in find their way."

And if Iginla has found his way again, the rest of the Northwest Division had better take notice.

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