Whatever buttons Cory Clouston has pushed since replacing Craig Hartsburg
behind the bench, it's paying off. The Ottawa Senators
look like a completely different hockey club.
Clouston's club erased a 3-0 deficit and scored a pair of shorthanded goals on Saturday night en route to a 5-3 victory against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Ottawa has won four straight games.
Chris Phillips and Daniel Alfredsson both scored shorthanded, while Brian Lee, Antoine Vermette and Dany Heatley also found the back of the net. The Sens chased Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom after the second period. Ottawa netminder Brian Elliott was pulled in favor of Alex Auld after Owen Nolan scored his second goal of the night just 13:13 into the game which gave Minnesota a 3-0 lead.
"It goes back quite a ways since we've had a win like this," Phillips said. "It's a big lift for a team that for the most part this year has struggled. To come back against a team that is known for their defensive play, it's that much harder. But it feels that much better when you can come back on a team like that."
The Wild, meanwhile, have lost two straight. It was the first time in team history Minnesota lost at home when leading by three goals. Pierre-Marc Bouchard also scored for the club just 1:15 into the game.
"It was the toughest loss of the season so far," said Minnesota defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron, whose team fell to 10th place in the Western Conference standings.
Ottawa is all but doomed as far as the playoff race is concerned, but the team's play has improved remarkably under Clouston, a rookie coach. After falling behind early, the new coach opted to shuffle lines during the first intermission. It worked.
"They're a group that believes right now. We've been down a couple times in the last few games and we've been able to squeak out some points," Clouston said. "All the credit goes to those guys. They went out and executed and got results."
The Sens were able to tie the game before the second period concluded, and all three tallies came after the midway point. Lee made it 3-1 when he beat Backstrom at 12:39 before Vermette cut it to 3-2 less than four minutes later. Phillips scored the tying goal with just 58.8 seconds left, as he finished off a 2-on-1 with Alfredsson for a shorthanded tally.
"I hope these two points are not going to haunt us," Backstrom said.
The goalie change didn't do anything for the Wild, as the Sens scored twice in the third period on only three shots. Alfredsson gave Ottawa a 4-3 lead with a shorthanded goal at 2:29, as he intercepted a cross-ice pass from Marek Zidlicky and went in on a 2-on-1 with Mike Fisher. Alfredsson's shot from the left circle was stopped by Josh Harding, but the rebound popped up in the air and came back down off Harding's arm and into the net. Officials reviewed the play, but the call stood. Heatley sealed the deal with an empty-net goal at 19:39.
"When we were down 3-0 we knew it would be tough, but we it was an upbeat locker room," Alfredsson said. "It's a pretty impressive win."
Maple Leafs 6, Penguins 2 | Video
The first 20 minutes for Pittsburgh were fine. The second 20 were mediocre.
The final 20 were dreadful.
After jumping out to an early 2-0 lead, the Penguins shut it down and allowed five goals in the third period -- two by Jason Blake -- in a horrid loss at Toronto. For a team that is supposed to be playing with desperation, it was the Maple Leafs who played desperate hockey on Saturday night.
"It's up to the players," said Pens coach Michel Therrien, whose team has won once on the road since Dec. 26. "There's a price to pay to win games on the road and right now we're having a hard time staying focused and executing."
Pittsburgh got off to a quick start as it scored two goals on its first three shots and had the home fans booing goalie Vesa Toskala. Matt Cooke scored just 83 seconds into the game before Bill Thomas made it 2-0 with a shorthanded goal at 8:34.
But for whatever reason, the momentum then shifted in Toronto's favor.
Nik Antropov cut the deficit in half at 12:53 of the second period before the remarkable third-period outburst. Blake beat Marc-Andre Fleury twice in 19 seconds early in the frame to give the Leafs a 3-2 lead.
"I thought we did a great job in the second and third period as far as getting pucks deep and getting shots on net," Blake said. "It was just one of those nights. I thought we did a great job of forechecking and we played solid defense."
Things got much worse for the Penguins, who allowed 15 shots in the final 20 minutes. John Mitchell, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Matt Stajan all beat Fleury in a span of 8:39 to blow the hinges off.
"We just made a few mistakes," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. "Just some big mistakes around the net. We didn't get a few pucks deep and we took some penalties. We got away from our game."
The Penguins -- who represented the Eastern Conference in the 2008 Stanley Cup Final -- have to finish 16-9 just to reach 91 points -- a total that hasn't been good enough to qualify for the playoffs any year since the work stoppage in 2004-05.
"Every point is very important and we need them," said Pittsburgh defenseman Sergeri Gonchar, who made his season debut. "There's not that much time left, we have to focus on every single point. Pretty much every single turnover can cost us the season."
Blue Jackets 5, Hurricanes 1 | Video
One more road game like the one they played on Saturday night, and Columbus will set a new franchise mark.
Kristian Huselius scored twice and Steve Mason was solid again in a 26-save effort as Columbus extended its road winning streak to four games with a victory at Carolina.
"We've put together a pretty good stretch of hockey," Mason said. "I think everybody realizes what's at stake with the games left this season. We have to take advantage of it. The standings, every day they change."
The Blue Jackets didn't get a shot for the first 10 minutes, but Mike Commodore gave the club a 1-0 lead on its first shot when he beat Cam Ward at 9:26. Huselius made it 2-0 with a power-play goal at 9:14 of the second when he stuffed a rebound past Ward for his 15th goal of the season.
R.J. Umberger extended the lead to 3-0 when he tallied his 17th goal of the season just 2:25 into the third period on another power-play goal. Dennis Seidenberg finally solved Mason at 6:29, but Manny Malhotra restored the three-goal lead just over four minutes later. Huselius put the game away with an empty-net tally at 16:19.
"We know we have the personnel. We know we have the ability. We know we have the game plan to get wins now," Malhotra said.
"It's not a matter of just going out there and rolling the dice. It's having confidence in each other to play well. And when (Mason) is standing on his head the way he is, that boosts our confidence."
The Hurricanes had no trouble finding the net on a recent West Coast trip, as they scored 13 regulation goals in three games. But since returning home, they have been outscored 10-1, including Thursday's 5-0 loss to Florida. Carolina is five points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
"We're not doing enough to score goals," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. "When you're playing catch-up all the time, it's very, very difficult."
Flyers 5, Islanders 1 | Video
All Martin Biron needed to snap out of his slump was a chance to play the Islanders. Biron stopped 39 shots for his first victory since Jan. 10 -- but his 10th in a row against the Isles, the most consecutive wins by any goaltender against them since the franchise entered the NHL in 1972.
"I wasn't happy with the way I was playing the last two, three weeks, maybe a month or longer," Biron said after his first win since he beat Toronto 4-1 on Jan. 10. He was 0-4, allowing 17 goals in 13 periods, before beating the Islanders to move the Flyers into fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
Biron was lifted in his last start, on Feb. 7, after allowing three goals in the first period at Boston -- a game in which the Flyers rallied for a 4-3 overtime win.
"That's why I tried to get fired up to feed off the guys and get something going," Biron said. "I brought a lot of emotion, a lot of energy to practice this week."
A little offensive support doesn't hurt either -- and the Flyers grabbed an early two-goal lead when Claude Giroux beat Yann Danis with a one-timer at 5:00 and Scott Hartnell tipped in Jeff Carter's shot 44 seconds later.
"I thought we came out strong in the first period and we didn't give up much defensively," Hartnell said. "For most of the game we played the way we needed to."
Isles coach Scott Gordon wasn't happy with the way his team came out.
"I just don't think we were ready to play," Gordon said. "We weren't very sharp at the beginning of the game and it took us a few shifts to get our legs under us."
It stayed 2-0 until the Islanders' Andy Hilbert ripped a high wrist shot past Biron 6:15 into the third period. But Matt Carle got an unassisted goal at 9:10, Arron Asham scored 13 seconds later and Simon Gagne beat Danis on a penalty shot at 10:17.
That was more than enough on an afternoon in which Biron played his best game in a month.
"I thought Marty was solid today," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "He looked square to the puck and his balance looked good. It looked like his confidence is coming back."
Oilers 3, Kings 2 (SO) | Video
Dwayne Roloson stole two points for the Oilers, who won the opener of a four-game trip at Los Angeles despite being outshot 41-21 and blowing a two-goal lead. Roloson stopped 39 shots through regulation and two more in the shootout, while Sam Gagner and Robert Nilsson beat Jonathan Quick in the breakaway competition.
"Dwayne was outstanding," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "He played exceptionally well. It was a great performance."
The Oilers got first-period goals by Dustin Penner and Shawn Horcoff on only five shots against Quick. The two teams spent the rest of the first team scuffling in front of a sellout crowd at Staples Center.
"They were going after some of our players and we went after some their players. That's just the nature of the way the playoff chase is going to be," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "These are games that are going to be emotional games, especially when they're a couple of points ahead of us. If we came out better in the first period, we might win that game in regulation."
The scrapping must have energized the Kings, who outshot Edmonton 29-14 through the final two periods. Los Angeles got one goal back at 6:29 of the second period when Drew Doughty scored on a screened 50-footer during a 5-on-3 power play.
The Kings nearly tied it midway through the third period when Patrick O'Sullivan beat Roloson on a shorthanded breakaway -- only to hit the crossbar and have the puck bounce away. They did tie it with 26 seconds left when Brown tipped Alexander Frolov's shot past Roloson with the Kings playing 6-on-4 after pulling Quick during a power play.
But after a scoreless overtime, Gagner and Nilsson beat Quick to give the Oilers their fifth post-regulation win in six tries on the road this season -- they're 0-3 at home.
"They're a good team, they've been playing pretty well and they were coming hard there at the end," Gagner said. "It was a tough win, and it was a good thing we were able to get it in the shootout."
Predators 3, Bruins 2 (SO) | Video
David Legwand scored twice in regulation, then added another in the shootout for good measure as Nashville edged Boston at the Sommet Center.
Legwand beat Manny Fernandez in the fourth round of a shootout after scoring a pair of goals in the first three periods -- including his third shorthanded goal of the season. Eight of his 14 tallies this season have come in the last 17 games.
"My objective was to get it high up over his pads," Legwand said about his deciding shootout goal. "Getting it over and into the net was all I was looking for."
Two nights after beating St. Louis in the shootout, the Predators were forced to work overtime again after Zdeno Chara erased a 2-1 deficit with 1:16 remaining in regulation. Phil Kessel nearly prevented the shootout on a breakaway in the final seconds of the overtime period, but Preds goalie Pekka Rinne was able to make the save.
"We only had three guys on the ice at the time," said Rinne, whose team is 7-3 since the All-Star break. "It was just a mistake by some of our guys. It was 4-on-3 even though there wasn't a penalty. I was watching the time and there was about 10 seconds left. I thought that I better make the save."
The Predators escaped with a victory after allowing a 2-0 lead to slip away. Legwand's first tally came 14:24 into the game off a setup by Jordin Tootoo. Legwand increased Nashville's lead when he beat Fernandez again at 12:24 of the second period on a shorthanded tally, as his slap shot beat the Bruins' goalie through the pads. Nashville is 13-0 when it scores first.
"Legwand's first two goals were huge," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "He is skating really well right now. When you see him and Marty Erat skating the way they are, using their speed, taking the puck to hard areas and having a very high competition level it just enhances and showcases their talent and abilities.
"Leggy has a tremendous amount of talent. We have always wanted him to produce offensively. When he is skating like that he can be a force."
Boston quickly cut the deficit in half as Blake Wheeler scored just 61 seconds later to make it 2-1. With the teams back at even strength, Wheeler took a pass from David Krejci and backhanded it past Rinne for his 16th goal of the season.
"We made some mistakes," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We've got guys that we've relied on all year to score goals that are fighting it right now. That's making it tough for us."
Blackhawks 6, Stars 2 | Video
Home, sweet home.
After playing eight straight games on the road, Chicago returned to the United Center on Saturday night and put on a show for the capacity crowd in a rout against Dallas.
Martin Havlat had two goals and an assist, Jonathan Toews had a goal and two assists and Cristobal Huet made 16 saves in a rare second straight appearance for the Blackhawks, who went 5-3 during the second-longest trip in franchise history.
"From the national anthem on, I though everybody contributed to what we were looking for," said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, whose team built a 5-0 lead before Fabian Brunnstrom scored 4:40 into the third period. "Tonight was what we were hoping for. We had a lot of jump in our team game tonight. Everybody was part of it."
Truth be told, Dallas was never in the game. Not only did the Blackhawks lead 3-0 after 40 minutes, but the shots on goal disparity was 27-12. Recognizing the lack of effort, Stars coach Dave Tippett opted to pull Marty Turco -- who made his 26th consecutive start -- after the second period in favor of 26-year-old rookie Brent Krahn, who appeared in his first NHL game. Krahn allowed three goals on nine shots.
"Some people had the opportunity to make a difference," Tippett said. "I felt sorry for Krahn to go in there and have that happen to him. Our team certainly needs a strong re-focusing from a large group of players."
The only negative for Chicago on Saturday night was the loss of forward Patrick Sharp, who suffered a lower-body injury 39 seconds into the game following a hit into the boards by Stars center Steve Ott. Sharp did not return and is doubtful for Tuesday's game at Tampa Bay.
"I don't think he'll be going on the trip," Quenneville said. "We'll know more on Monday."
Turco was sensational early, as he stopped 14 of 15 shots in the opening period. His lone blemish was Troy Brouwer's tally at 13:22 on a one-timer that beat the Stars' goalie through the legs. But Chicago peppered Turco with 12 more shots in the second, and Havlat converted twice to build the 3-0 lead.
"Turco made some great saves early, but we didn't have enough players who thought this game needed the urgency it did to get the job done," Tippett said. "You're not going to win in this League like that against good teams in big games. It's as simple as that."
Chicago busted the game wide open with a pair of goals just 2:19 into the third. Toews made it 4-0 when he picked off Mike Ribeiro's pass and scored from the edge of the crease. Colin Fraser connected from the slot 1:37 later to make it 5-0.
Brian Sutherby tried to make things interesting when he cut the lead to three at 14:08, but it was much too late. Kris Versteeg rounded out the scoring with just 4.2 seconds left.
"They (Chicago) just outplayed us," Dallas defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "That's not how we want to be perceived as a team."
Flames 7, Coyotes 5 | Video
Talk about two teams headed in opposite directions.
Matthew Lombardi enjoyed his first multi-goal game of the season and his second multi-point night in four contests and stay-at-home defenseman Cory Sarich had a goal and two assists as Calgary outlasted Phoenix at Jobing.com Arena. The Flames have won three of their last four games and have accumulated points in all of them.
Adrian Aucoin, Daymond Langkow, Curtis Glencross and Eric Nystrom also scored for Calgary, which turned an early 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead and managed to score seven goals without a single point from captain Jarome Iginla. Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 32 of 37 shots, while Todd Bertuzzi contributed with four assists.
"I think I've had two (points) a couple of times, but three? Never before," Sarich said. "It's nice to see us get rolling. It's nice to see all the lines contributing. You need that. We were a little bit flat for a little while, but now we're putting pucks in the net."
Meanwhile, the Coyotes are reeling. Saturday's loss was their eighth in nine games and goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov allowed seven goals for the second time in a week. Daniel Winnik and Viktor Tikhonov each had two goals for Phoenix, and Shane Doan also scored.
"We've played some good games," Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris said. "We're young, which is not an excuse for us because we've been that all year. I think the biggest thing was we had a few games that slid away for us. We've lost a lot of games 1-0, 2-1. It's kind of snowballed from there. But we're putting an effort in and we're playing hard. We've just got to tighten up."
The Phoenix power play, tied for 28th in the NHL, clicked with the man advantage midway through the first period. Winnik tipped in Zbynek Michalek's shot from the right point for his first of the season at 8:23 of the first. The Coyotes -- who have dropped five straight at home -- fired 20 shots in the opening frame, their most in a period this season.
''In the first period, we played very well, and did many good things,'' Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. ''But one period doesn't win a hockey game and that was the difference.''
The Flames -- who lead the Northwest Division by 11 points -- responded by scoring five of the game's next seven goals. Aucoin tied it with a slap shot from the right circle at 14:21 of the first before Langkow and Sarich scored 2:26 apart early in the second to give Calgary a 3-1 lead.
Winnik beat Kiprusoff to make it 3-2 at 11:58, but Lombardi put home his own rebound 54 seconds later before Glencross gave the Flames their first three-goal lead of the night at 19:45. Lombardi scored again 3:05 into the third period to make it 6-2.
''Down the stretch, we have to get as many points as possible,'' Flames defenseman Dian Phaneuf said. ''Did we have a few lulls in this game? Yes, but the bottom line is that we won the hockey game, and now move forward.''
Doan cut the deficit in half with his 22nd goal of the season at 5:17, but Eric Nystrom made it 7-3 just over five minutes later. Tikhonov got the Coyotes within two with a pair of goals 3:04 apart late in the third, but the Flames still managed to finish their three-game trip with five out of six points.
''This was a good trip for us. Getting two points on the road in any game at this time of the year is critical,'' Calgary assistant coach Jim Playfair said.
Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.