This was the kind of night the Ottawa Senators
have had all too seldom this season -- excellent goaltending, solid defense and plenty of offense. All of a sudden, the Senators are feeling pretty good about themselves.
Ottawa won its season-high third in a row by knocking off the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 on Thursday night before a disappointed sellout crowd at the Wachovia Center. Two goals by Dany Heatley and a 34-save performance by rookie goalie Brian Elliott helped the Sens leave town with a victory one night after winning 3-1 at Buffalo.
"We've beaten two pretty good teams the last couple of days," Heatley said. "We are feeling good about ourselves."
Realistically, Ottawa's playoff chances are slight -- they're still 14 points out of the last playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. But the mini-streak has provided some hope.
"It's definitely not out of the question," said captain Daniel Alfredsson, who picked up an assist and leads the Senators with 49 points. "It's possible. We won the first two games of this road trip. Who knows? We just can't look too far ahead."
It was the third consecutive impressive performance for Elliott, who beat Buffalo 3-2 and 3-1 in his previous two starts.
"Their goalie was great and I didn't have my best night," Flyers goalie Antero Niittymaki said. "I think that was the difference."
Heatley was credited with Ottawa's first goal at 18:22 of the first period when his shot hit the right post, then bounced off Niittymaki and Flyers forward Scott Hartnell before crossing the goal line.
Jason Spezza made it 2-0 with his 21st goal on a power play at 8:40 of the second, and Nick Foligno scored a backbreaker with 14 seconds left in the period by beating Niittymaki with a backhander.
"I thought he was going to shoot, and I just went down too soon," Niittymaki said. "You never want to give up a goal in the last minute of the period like that."
Darrell Powe scored at the 8-minute mark of the third period for Philadelphia, but goals by Heatley and Antoine Vermette were more than enough to keep the Senators comfortably in front. Mike Richards had the Flyers' other goal.
"We gave up a couple of goals, but we scored a couple ourselves," Elliott said. "We didn't lose a period."
Elliott was at his best in the second period, when he stopped all 13 shots he faced, stopping Mike Knuble's deflection and Claude Giroux's breakaway and making an excellent glove save on Joffrey Lupul.
"I thought we created enough chances to win but we were chasing the game," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "For whatever reason, offense comes and goes. That’s why it’s important to always play defense. [But] overall I thought we competed pretty hard."
Red Wings 4, Wild 2 | Video
There are nights when the Red Wings are almost unbeatable. This was one of them. The Wings dominated the puck all night and blew the game open when Marian Hossa set up goals by Jiri Hudler and Kris Draper 50 seconds apart midway through the second period. Rookie Ville Leino connected again with 2:45 left in the period.
Despite missing three key players due to injuries, the Wings outshot Minnesota 43-23 to win their sixth in a row -- and only a superb 39-save performance by goalie Josh Harding kept the game at all close.
"The way they play, they were superior," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. "It's all puck control. Speed -- we can skate. But the thing is skating with the puck and being able to make passes and plays -- it's a different ballgame."
The Wings were without top-six forwards Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen, as well as top-four defenseman Brad Stuart. No one seemed to miss them.
"We've got other guys who are pretty good too," said forward Mikael Samuelsson, who opened the scoring 9:26 into the game.
After Brent Burns' power-play goal at 15:31 tied it, Hudler gave Detroit a 2-1 lead at 10:22 of the middle period by beating Harding with a one-time shot from the bottom of the right circle for his 18th goal, following a give and go with Hossa. Draper then scored on a slap shot from the top of the left circle with 8:48 left -- also off a pass from Hossa.
"It's always a little tough playing against those guys," Harding said. "They have a lot of skill."
Leino made it 4-1 when he scored on a wraparound.
Chris Osgood made 21 saves, allowing Burns' power-play goal and a shorthanded goal by Mikko Koivu midway through the third. Osgood has struggled this season despite his 18-4-6 record. But he made big saves when he needed to.
"It's more mental than anything else," Osgood said of his up-and-down season. "I'm going out there now without the weight of the world on my shoulders. As an athlete you have high expectations for yourself."
Panthers 5, Hurricanes 0 | Video
The way Tomas Vokoun was playing, one goal would have been plenty. The Panthers made his life easier by scoring five times for a rare win at Carolina.
Vokoun stopped all 42 Hurricane shots and breezed to the victory after his teammates put up five goals in the first 33:33. Anthony Stewart and Gregory Campbell scored 12 seconds apart midway through the second period to turn the game into a rout.
"I much prefer these than the dramatic ones," Florida coach Peter DeBoer said after his team won for only the second time in its last 19 visits to the RBC Center (2-15-2). "I thought our goaltender was our best player tonight."
Vokoun earned his 29th career shutout and became the first goalie to blank Carolina this season as the Panthers moved into a tie with Buffalo for seventh in the Eastern Conference. Carolina and Pittsburgh are tied for ninth, three points behind.
Nathan Horton and Richard Zednik gave the Panthers an encouraging start in their personal house of horrors, scoring goals 5:28 apart in the first period.
Zednik -- who snapped the rebound of his own shot past an outstretched Ward at 12:49 to make it 2-0 -- has three goals in two games and points in each of his last four.
That gave the Panthers some breathing room.
"We got some goals early," Vokoun said, "and we basically controlled the game from there on out."
Stewart beat Cam Ward with a backhander at 9:18 of the second period, and Campbell knocked in a rebound 12 seconds later to send Ward to the bench amid a cascade of boos. Michael Frolik's goal at 13:33 was window dressing.
"We still thought we were fine after the first period," Carolina forward Ray Whitney said. "Those two quick ones in the second obviously killed us. From then, confidence kind of slips a little bit and it just snowballs."
It was a deflating loss for the Hurricanes, who returned home on a high after road wins at San Jose and Phoenix.
"It was 5-0 in your home building," forward Tuomo Ruutu said. "It's not acceptable."
Predators 4, Blues 3 (SO) | Video
Talk about going from sadness to euphoria. The Predators were three seconds away from a damaging home loss before Jason Arnott scored to send the game into overtime, and Steve Sullivan had the lone goal in the shootout as Nashville stole two points, giving them 55 and moving them within four points of the last playoff berth in the West.
"We didn’t start out the way we wanted to but we hung in there and the most important thing is that we came out with two points," Arnott said. "Doesn’t matter how you get them, just how many you get. It was a good win for us at home and now we have to get ready for the next one."
The Blues led 3-1 until Kevin Klein beat ex-Predator Chris Mason at 7:55 of the third period. Nashville kept pressing, but it looked like the Preds would come up short until David Legwand threw the puck from the left boards toward a pile of bodies at the top of the crease and Arnott swatted a backhander into the net.
Sullivan, playing in his 14th game since returning from a back injury that cost him nearly two years, got the lone goal of the shootout by beating Mason with a wrist shot in the third round. He has yet to score a goal since his return, but coach Barry Trotz hopes the shootout goal will give him a spark.
"Sullivan is a guy that just wants to win but he wants to get that first goal," Trotz said. "He is expected to produce some offense and goal scoring is part of it. It is a little bit of an elephant off of his back. Hopefully he’ll get hot and be a really big offensive boost for us."
Pekka Rinne stopped Brad Boyes, Andy McDonald and T.J. Oshie, closing out the game with a brilliant pad stop on Oshie at the left post after Sullivan's goal.
"You try to be patient, every team uses really skilled guys so you wait for a deke rather than a shot," Rinne said. "I tried to read the players and I tried to be patient. … I feel lucky."
It was a heartbreaking loss for the Blues, who were unable to hang onto a third-period lead for the second time in as many games. They led Vancouver 3-2 entering the final 20 minutes on Tuesday, but lost 6-4. Getting one point wasn't what they needed -- with 51 points, they're now eight points out of the last playoff berth in the West.
The first two periods belonged to St. Louis. David Backes backhanded a rebound past Rinne 2:44 into the game, and David Perron scored at 14:47 for a 2-0 lead. Dan Hamhuis got Nashville on the board with a power-play goal at 19:20, but Brad Winchester restored the Blues' two-goal lead at 11:44 of the second period.
"I know Predators hockey, and I've seen a lot of games like that where they are down in the third period," said Mason, who signed with the Blues last summer after spending parts of six seasons with Nashville. "They really worked hard in the third period and put the puck in the goal."
Canucks 4, Coyotes 3 | Video
Phoenix was 20 minutes away from what would have been back-to-back wins against fellow playoff contenders in the West before the Canucks used a three-goal rally to earn their second road comeback win in three nights and fourth consecutive win overall.
"This is not an easy league to come back from," said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, whose team also rallied to win 6-4 at St. Louis on Tuesday. "Any time you're behind, statistics show the team that’s ahead wins. We have done it two times in a row here. We are playing better at both ends of the rink. I don’t think we gave them a lot offensively tonight."
The turnabout left the Canucks alone in sixth place in the West with 60 points, while the Coyotes remained with 55 -- four behind Dallas and Minnesota, which are tied for the last two playoff berths. Phoenix has lost seven of eight games since the All-Star break.
"This one hurt because it would have really got us in the middle of the mix again," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "Their big guys stepped it up in the third period. (Mats) Sundin and the Sedins and (Pavel) Demitra and they went up another level and we didn’t answer that very well. This loss hurts. It was a tough loss."
The Coyotes looked to be in good shape when Derek Morris blasted a slap shot from the top of the left circle that beat Roberto Luongo just inside the right post at 19:27 of the second period, giving Phoenix a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes.
But the Canucks came out flying in the third period and needed less than 11 minutes to take the lead. Pavol Demitra made it 3-2 at 2:16, Kevin Bieksa tied it at 8:22, and Henrik Sedin scored a power-play goal at 10:47.
"We have a good feeling right now, and playing with confidence," Sedin said. "Yeah, we were down, but started to move the puck in the third period and made sharp passes. We also have several lines which can score."
Phoenix, coming off a 1-0 win at Dallas on Wednesday, jumped on the Canucks for a pair of first-period goals. Enver Lisin, the goal-scorer in the win over the Stars, stepped through the defense and beat Luongo 2:20 into the game. Steven Reinprecht's power-play goal at the 16-minute mark made it 2-0.
The Canucks got on the board at 17:51 of the second period when Mattias Ohlund beat Ilya Bryzgalov with a slap shot from the blue line.
"We were caught sitting back," Morris said. "When you're a young team, like ours, it's tough to stay aggressive. You get up a few goals and think you have to sit on that. We need to be real aggressive and stay tight with teams."
Flames 2, Kings 0 | Video
If dominating play meant winning games, the Kings would have left Staples Center with their fifth consecutive victory. Miikka Kiprusoff had other ideas.
On a night when his team was outshot 36-20, the NHL's winningest goaltender made Mike Cammalleri's first-period power-play goal stand up until Rene Bourque steered a long pass into an empty net with 36 seconds remaining. That came just seconds after Kiprusoff robbed Kyle Calder after allowing a rare rebound.
He finished with 36 saves for his 32nd win of the season and 30th career shutout -- and ended a slide that saw the Northwest Division leaders lose five of their previous six games.
''We have to win some hockey games on the road because our schedule favors road games from here on in, but if we get efforts like we did tonight, we'll find a way to win on the road,'' Flames coach Mike Keenan said. ''It's not always the best-looking game, but that's what you have to do in this league."
The Kings were blanked for the eighth time this season, including six at home. The loss left Los Angeles with 55 points, tied with Nashville for 11th in the West and four points out of the last playoff spot.
"The effort was there," Kings forward Anze Kopitar said. "The energy was there. We just couldn't put the puck in the net, and that's what counts."
Added coach Terry Murray: "These are games you have to find a way to win. You're making a push to make the playoffs, a win puts you one point back of getting over that threshold and into that top group. You have to find a way to do it."
The Kings came home after winning the last four games on a five-game trip and had the better chances early. But Calgary capitalized on its first power play when Cammalleri, a former King, fired Todd Bertuzzi's cross-crease pass past Jonathan Quick from the right post at 8:58 of the opening period for his 29th goal of the season.
Kiprusoff, with some help from his defense, did the rest.
''They were shooting a lot, but most of their shots I saw them and our 'D' took care of the rest,'' he said. ''We knew they wanted to do that -- shoot a lot -- and I think we were ready and I saw most of the shots.''
The Flames killed off all six Los Angeles power plays -- including a 5-on-3 for 1:54 early in the third period after Craig Conroy was sent off for hooking and Robyn Regehr joined him six seconds later after flipping the puck into the crowd for a delay-of-game penalty.
"The work side, the structure, the system were all there," Murray said. "The part that's missing, when you have a goaltender as good as Kiprusoff, you have to make life a little more difficult for him. You have to make him work around you. If he doesn't have any obstruction, in most situations, he's going to make the save. We have to get dirtier and uglier and battle harder."
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report