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Sens' slump ends at seven

by Brian Compton
Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators celebrates his goal with teammates Dany Heatly and Jason Spezza.
Twenty-four hours after a gut-wrenching loss — their seventh defeat in a row — the Ottawa Senators finally secured what they had failed to do since Nov. 19: Two points.

Randy Robitaille scored a pair of goals and Ray Emery stopped a penalty shot in the third period Wednesday night as the Sens finally got back on the winning track with a 5-4 victory over the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center.

The Senators led 3-2 when Emery — who played in Tuesday’s 4-3 overtime loss at Tampa Bay — denied Kamil Kreps on a penalty shot with 15:25 remaining in the third period. He got a pad on Kreps’ shot to preserve the lead.

"I've never seen him before," Emery said. "I just came out reacting."

Jason Spezza contributed a goal and an assist for Ottawa, which ended its longest losing streak since it dropped 11 in a row in 1995-96. The win improved the Senators to 6-0 against Florida over the past two seasons.

"During our little stretch, we were close, but we were not able to finish games out," Spezza said. "Tonight, we were able to, and it's nice to get two points."

Florida has lost three straight games after a four-game win streak got the tea Panthers back to the .500 mark. Olli Jokinen scored twice for the Panthers on his 29th birthday and defenseman Steve Montador had a goal and two assists.

"It's frustrating. You lose the game when you score four," Jokinen said. "Most of the time you win those."

A poor start certainly had a lot to do with the loss. Starting goalie Tomas Vokoun was pulled by coach Jacques Martin just 7:10 into the game after allowing two goals on five shots. Robitaille and Mike Fisher were responsible for Ottawa’s early lead.

"It's obviously not a pleasant thing to get pulled, but ... it's nothing that unusual that the coach would pull you out and try to change the momentum of the game," Vokoun said. "It was pretty early, but he's trying to make the best decision at the time."

The decision clearly worked out — at least early on — as the Panthers roared back to tie the game later in the period on goals by Jokinen and Montador. Vokoun was replaced by Craig Anderson, who made 24 saves.

"We were down 2-0 and I just thought we needed to change things," Martin said. "You know, shake up the troops. I thought we would bounce back."

In the end, though, it would be the Sens who bounced back — though there was a sense of relief when the final horn sounded.

"The way things have been going, you can't be too careful," Robitaille said. "It definitely was nice to hear the buzzer."

Devils 4, Bruins 3, OT | Video
Tuukka Rask’s first loss in the NHL was not exactly well-deserved.

The rookie netminder was thrust into a tie game with 1:10 left in regulation after starter Tim Thomas was forced to leave due to an undisclosed injury. Thomas fell while attempting to glove a shot.

With 1:44 to play in overtime, Patrik Elias scored his second goal of the night ( 700K ) as New Jersey won its eighth straight by rallying from a 3-0 deficit to beat Boston at the Prudential Center. Zach Parise, who had four points, left a drop pass for Elias, who fired a shot through a screen past Rask for the game-winner.

"You wouldn't want to be in his position," Elias said of Rask, who won his first two starts. "It's tough for a goalie. We knew right away we wanted to test him. He couldn't see that shot with a screen in front of him."

As for Thomas, the Bruins are still awaiting word on the prognosis. Thomas entered the game with a .938 save percentage and a 2.09 goals-against average, easily making him a candidate for next month’s All-Star Game at Atlanta.

"We're not 100 percent sure what the injury is," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "He's still being evaluated. Rask was put in a tough position. Don't blame him for the last goal."

Parise scored a pair ( 700K  , 700K  ) to help the red-hot Devils rebound after spotting the Bruins a 3-0 first-period lead. Zdeno Chara ( 700K ), Glen Murray ( 700K ) and Dennis Wideman ( 700K ) beat Martin Brodeur to give the Bruins their advantage.

"We knew that the first period was gross," Parise said. "There was no panic. It was a matter of waking up. We weren't out of the game. It shows the difference between the team now and when the streak started. We're more resilient and it's fun to win."

Wednesday night marked the first time Julien has faced the Devils since the club fired him with just three games remaining last season. New Jersey was atop the Atlantic Division at the time the decision was made.

"Payback for me is winning the game for all the right reasons," Julien said.

Thrashers 4, Islanders 3, SO | Video
The Islanders finally scored more than two goals in a game. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to get the two points they were looking for.

New York rallied from a 3-1 deficit on goals from Mike Sillinger and Trent Hunter, but the Isles failed to solve Kari Lehtonen in the shootout; meanwhile, Vyacheslav Kozlov and Ilya Kovalchuk beat Rick DiPietro as Atlanta picked up its second victory over the Islanders in five nights.

While the Thrashers did go 0-for-9 on the power play, they certainly didn’t mind when the Isles had a man advantage. Atlanta picked up two shorthanded tallies in the second period. Marian Hossa erased a 1-0 deficit 7:06 into the period ( 700K ), and Pascal Dupuis scored another shorthander at 15:36 ( 700K ) to give the Thrashers a 3-1 lead. Kovalchuk had an even-strength goal ( 700K ) in between the two shorthanded tallies.

"It seemed like four guys work better than five-on-four," Hossa said. "It was good. The penalty kill stepped up."

But Sillinger came up with a big goal in the closing seconds of the second period ( 700K ) to pull the Islanders within one. The veteran center was able to redirect Andy Sutton’s blast from the left point past Lehtonen with 19 seconds remaining for his fifth goal of the season.

Hunter tied the game with a power-play goal 7:32 into the third period ( 700K ). In desperate need of somebody – anybody – to shoot the puck with the man advantage, Hunter took a pass from Bill Guerin and fired a rocket from the top of the left circle that beat Lehtonen thanks to a perfect screen in front by Josef Vasicek.

It marked the first time the Islanders have reached the three-goal plateau since a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers on Nov. 6. The Isles held Atlanta to just three shots on goal in the third period.

“If we hadn't given up those two short-handed goals, you never know the result," Isles coach Ted Nolan said. "Our power play wasn't very good. We have to get some confidence on the power play."

Blue Jackets 5, Avalanche 4 | Video
Colorado entered the night with a record of 10-0-0 when leading after two periods. Forty minutes into Wednesday’s match, the Avalanche held a 3-1 edge.

Game over, right?


Dan Fritsche jumps into the arms of Jason Chimera to celebrate his game winning goal.

Rick Nash’s goal at 7:07 ( 700K ) ignited a fire within the Blue Jackets’ offense, as Columbus scored four times in the final frame en route to a rare victory over Colorado. The Avalanche came into the game with a record of 22-1-1-1 against Columbus.

"We've got to play off the momentum we had in the third," said Nash, who now has 18 goals this season. "Our fans were into it, they were loud. If we can play three periods that way, we could be a pretty good team."

The Blue Jackets weren’t good through the first two periods. While Nash gave them a 1-0 lead 6:33 into the game ( 700K ), Pascal Leclaire was forced to make 11 saves in the first 20 minutes.

Colorado continued to apply pressure and scored three times in the second period, as they outshot Columbus 14-8. Wojtek Wolski tied the game just 2:25 into the period ( 700K ), while Peter Stastny ( 700K ) and Jeff Finger ( 700K ) beat Leclaire 53 seconds apart late in the period to give the Avs a 3-1 after 40 minutes.

Looking for a spark, Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock replaced Leclaire with Fredrik Norrena to start the third period.

"We got reckless and things started to turn our way," Hitchcock said. "It's that we played for each other in the third period."

Nash got the Blue Jackets back on track with his second goal of the game to make it 3-2, before Joakim Lindstrom tied things up just over two minutes later ( 700K ) on a power play tally.

"They seemed to get a lot of momentum off that second goal," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. "We played two rock-solid periods and then they got some life, scored a power-play goal right after and made it a different ballgame at that point."

Nikolai Zherdev gave the Blue Jackets a brief lead when he beat Avalanche goalie Peter Budaj on a low shot from the slot with 5:16 to play ( 700K ). Scott Hannan tied the game for Colorado just 41 seconds later ( 700K ). It was the only goal Norrena allowed on 11 shots.

Dan Fritsche capped the wild period when he scored what proved to be the game-winner with 4:05 to play ( 700K ). After Budaj made an initial save on Jason Chimera, Fritsche was on the doorstep and backhanded the rebound home to make it 5-4.

"That's one we let slip away," Avalanche defenseman John-Michael Liles said.

Flyers 3, Wild 1 | Video
Philadelphia continues to find ways to win on the road. Because of that, the Flyers remain a major threat in the Atlantic Division.

Jeff Carter had a goal and an assist, and Antero Niittymaki made 28 saves as Philadelphia pulled into a first-place tie with the Rangers in the Atlantic with a win at Minnesota.

The Flyers improved to 9-6-0 away from Wachovia Center. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Wild, which went 1-for-9 on the power play — including two 5-on-3 man advantages.

"When you don't move, you can't get great scoring chances," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. "I felt that we stopped doing things."

The Flyers received team-wide contributions in this one and took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. Scottie Upshall opened the scoring 4:44 into the game ( 700K ) with his sixth goal of the season. Carter put Philadelphia up by a pair when he beat Niklas Backstrom on a backhand chance less than five minutes later ( 700K ).

"They were great. I really thought that whole line was good," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "Upshall had good jump. We got great minutes out of the fourth line there. ... They looked very comfortable early on there. We got a lot of good things from a lot of different areas of our hockey team."

That included Niittymaki, whose only blemish on the night was courtesy of Pavol Demitra’s first goal since Nov. 1 ( 700K ). The power play tally came in the first minute of the second period. Braydon Coburn’s goal on a shot from outside the blue line that beat Backstrom 4:01 into the third ( 700K ) certainly relaxed the Flyers’ netminder — giving him a two-goal lead to work with for the final 16 minutes. Niittymaki stopped all nine shots he faced in the third.

"The thing is we play a simple game on the road. That's the key," Niittymaki said. "We go home and we try too much, try to play a little silly game. I think this is the way we should play, just good defense and get great turnovers and score from there."

Canucks 3, Blackhawks 2 | Video
Markus Naslund became Vancouver’s all-time scoring leader and Roberto Luongo made 25 saves in his sixth straight start as the Canucks snapped Chicago’s five-game home winning streak.

Not lost in the shuffle was Brendan Morrison, who broke a 2-2 tie early 3:11 into the third period ( 700K ). Morrison entered the game with just one goal in his last 11 games. But his shot from the right circle deflected off the stick of Chicago defenseman Andrei Zyuzin and found its way past Nikolai Khabibulin.

Roberto Luongo made 25 saves in the Canucks' 3-2 win over the Blackhawks.

''I just let 'er go,'' Morrison said. ''I was just trying to shoot through a screen. It bounced off his shaft and changed direction.''

Perhaps one reason for Morrison’s reversal of fortune was a change in linemates. Canucks coach Alain Vigneault had Morrison playing alongside Taylor Pyatt and Byron Ritchie. Pyatt had two assists and Ritchie scored a goal.

But if the Canucks are going to be a serious contender in the Western Conference, Vigneault believes he needs more offensive production from Morrison, who has scored 20 or more goals four times in his career. His tally on Wednesday was his eighth of the season.

''We need to find a way for Brendan to give us more offense,' Vigneault said. ''He seemed excited about playing with Pyatt and Ritchie and it worked out well for us tonight.''

Naslund picked up an assist on Mathieu Ohlund’s goal 7:24 into the game ( 700K ). It was his 725th point as a Canuck, as he passed Trevor Linden for No. 1 on the franchise’s all-time list.

''I guess it's something to reflect on when you're done,'' Naslund said of the record. ''It wasn't a pretty game at all, but we found a way to win.''

Martin Lapointe ( 700K ) and Martin Havlat ( 700K ) scored for the Blackhawks, who nearly tied the game in the last minute. However, Luongo was there to deny Patrick Kane’s point-blank chance ( 700K ).

''We played like half a game,'' Lapointe said. ''Luongo is a world-class goaltender, but he's not unbeatable. We've got to get traffic in front of the net.''

Denis Savard agreed. The Chicago coach will be looking for a 60-minute effort when the Blackhawks (14-11-2) host the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night.

''I didn't like our start,'' Savard said. ''We should have played better in the second and third, but if the start was as good as we've had at home the last couple of weeks, we'd have been OK.''

Sharks 3, Stars 2 | Video
Joe Thornton broke a 2-2 tie with 8:36 to play ( 700K ) and added two assists as San Jose pulled within two points of first place in the Pacific Division with their second win of the season at Dallas.

With the game tied, Thornton raced toward the net, took a pass from behind the goal by Milan Michalek and banged the puck past Marty Turco for his 12th goal of the season.

''Milan made a great play and I slapped it in,'' Thornton said. ''He got it and he saw me. I don't think Marty had the time to react.''

How good has Thornton been? The Sharks’ No. 1 center has been involved in 10 of the Sharks’ last 11 goals over the past four games.

''It was a pretty dominating performance by Thornton,'' Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. ''It's not just points but all the other little details he has in his game. To have a player like that, it's enjoyable to watch.''

Evgeni Nabokov made 17 saves for San Jose, which also got goals from Patrick Marleau ( 700K ) and Jonathan Cheechoo ( 700K ). But again, it was Thornton who made the difference for a Sharks’ team that is closing in on first-place Dallas.

''Joe Thornton is one of the best in the league,” Stars forward Stu Barnes said. “He has great hands, great vision and has a heavy shot. He's an outstanding player who had a great game.''

Mike Modano scored his 516th career goal ( 700K ) for Dallas (15-10-4). America’s all-time leading scorer tied the game 2-2 at 6:08 of the third period on a sharp-angle shot.

Despite the loss, Stars coach Dave Tippett was pleased with his team’s effort.

''I thought we did a good job hanging around the game,'' Tippett said. ''It certainly wasn't our best game by any stretch, but we kept finding a way to keep ourselves in it. Thornton was the difference in the game.''

Coyotes 4, Kings 1 | Video
Nineteen-year-old Peter Mueller ( 700K ) had the second three-point night of his career, and Ilya Bryzgalov made 28 saves as Phoenix stopped a four-game losing streak with a home win over Los Angeles.

Peter Mueller had a goal and two assists in the Coyotes' 4-1 victory over Los Angeles.

Playing on the top line with Shane Doan ( 700K ) and Steve Reinprecht ( 700K ), Mueller was a force all night. His goal and two assists helped the Coyotes pull to within two games of the .500 mark (12-14-0).

“It’s definitely a good thing,” Mueller said of being on the top line. “It’s definitely a good thing when you’re playing with Doaner and Reinprecht. It’s kind of hard not to have fun out there.”

Mueller has been everything the Coyotes were hoping for when they selected him in the first round of the 2006 Entry Draft. He’s one of the many reasons why Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky believes the franchise has a bright future.

''He's a good kid; he works hard every day and loves to play, and you can see what he can do offensively,'' Gretzky said. ''He makes a lot of tough plays look pretty easy because he is so calm with the puck.''

Meanwhile, the Kings are in the midst of a major slump. Wednesday marked their ninth loss in 11 games. Michael Cammalleri scored the lone goal ( 700K ) for Los Angeles (10-15-2) 17:09 into the first period, cutting the Coyotes’ lead to 2-1.

But Los Angeles was badly outplayed for most of the night, and was outshot 40-29. Jean-Sebastien Aubin finished with 36 saves for the Kings.

''We need more run support than that for our goalie,'' Cammalleri said.

Ducks 4, Sabres 1 | Video
Think Anaheim is excited about the return of Scott Niedermayer?

The Ducks fed off the new that the Conn Smythe Trophy winner would be returning as Andy McDonald and Mathieu Schneider each had a goal and an assist at the Honda Center.

It marked the first time in 10 tries that the Ducks (13-12-4) have beaten Sabres, whose lone goal came from Jochen Hecht just 4:07 into the game ( 700K ). Jean-Sebastien Giguere was sharp the rest of the way and finished with 22 saves.

McDonald tied the game at 15:33 of the first ( 700K ), and the Ducks added two more in the second to take a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes. Schneider scored at 12:22 of the second ( 700K ) on a one-timer from the top of the right circle before Todd Bertuzzi got his second goal of the season when he redirected a feed from McDonald past Sabres goalie Ryan Miller at 18:20 ( 700K ).

"We came out and played a hard-nosed game," Bertuzzi said. "I think along with losses, ones like this, you have to throw them out and take all the positives we had out of it. We need to get ourselves ready and try to get some momentum going and continue this run."

Corey Perry put the Ducks up by three with his 14th goal of the season 11:03 into the third period ( 700K ), when deflected Francois Beauchemin’s shot from the right point past Miller for a power-play tally.

"I thought they got kind of fortunate on two of the plays," Miller said. "Point shots ended up going to two of the guys. It's a tighter game otherwise."

Ducks forward Drew Miller had two shots on goal against his brother in 10:13 of ice time. Wednesday marked the first time the brothers faced each other as NHL players. Ryan Miller finished with 29 saves for Buffalo.

“It was fun," Drew said of playing against his brother. "It’s the first of hopefully many times we play against each other. We approached it as something fun. Our team wanted to win and his team wanted to win. You have to draw the line there and just go out and play your best. I got a couple of chances on him tonight and he shut the door on me, so I’m sure he’ll be getting me on that. It was great for our team to get that win."

Material from wire services and Anaheim's team Web site was used in this report.

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