The San Jose Sharks
hope the arrival of All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell
will give them a spark in the tightly packed Western Conference playoff race.
So far, so good.
Campbell looked sharp in his debut with the Sharks, one day after being acquired from Buffalo for forward Steve Bernier and a No. 1 draft pick in June. He played a team-high 24:34, took four shots and had an assist on the third of the Sharks’ three goals in an 8:01 span of the second period as San Jose won its third straight game, beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 on Wednesday night.
''I had fun out there tonight,” said Campbell, who packed his equipment after the game in his old Sabres bag. “It was nice. I'm always looking for the puck. I thought we worked it pretty good. I'm just kind of sitting back a little and reading plays and seeing what I can and can't do in the system here.''
Campbell’s pass set up Joe Pavelski’s goal on a 2-on-1 rush, and Pavelski got his 13th of the season at 18:52 when his pass through the slot for Tomas Plihal ricocheted off the left skate of Columbus’ Jiri Novotny and past Pascal Leclaire. That capped a three-goal burst that put the Sharks ahead to stay after the Jackets had taken a 2-1 lead at 7:54 on David Vyborny’s second goal of the night.
San Jose improved to 3-3-0 on its eight-game road trip and is 20-8-3 away from HP Pavilion. The victory kept them in fifth place in the West, three points behind fourth-place Anaheim and one ahead of sixth-place Minnesota.
Sharks coach Ron Wilson liked what he saw from Campbell, who was also on the ice for Jonathan Cheechoo's power-play goal 7:28 into the game that gave San Jose a 1-0 lead.
''He showed that he's a player, that he wants to be on the ice all the time. He's generally always in attack mode,'' Wilson said. ''You can see he's a sneaky hitter, too. He moves pucks really well. You can see his speed. I think he will really help our power play, obviously.''
Columbus, still 11th in the West and five points out of a playoff spot, was playing its first game after deadline-day deals that sent captain Adam Foote to Colorado and veteran center Sergei Fedorov to Washington.
"Our team had no emotion — they're in a state of shock and they’re not out of it,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “It's going to take some time. We'll work to get out of it. You could see it in their eyes, you could see it in their faces, and you could see it in their play."
Of the trades, Hitchcock said: “Those were tough decisions that had to be made. We’re not going to win games playing the way we did tonight.”
Cheechoo extended his goal-scoring streak to four games when he redirected Pavelski's one-timer from the left circle past Leclaire. Vyborny tied it at 14:56 by backhanding a rebound past Evgeni Nabokov.
Vyborny put the Jackets ahead with an almost identical shot, backhanding another rebound high and hard past Campbell as he dived to block it.
But the Sharks then took control. Torrey Mitchell tipped Matt Carle’s shot into the net at 10:51, and Jeremy Roenick put San Jose ahead to stay when he one-timed Joe Thornton’s saucer pass behind Leclaire for a power-play goal at 13:57. Pavelski’s goal provided some insurance, and the Sharks’ defense gave Nabokov plenty of help by limiting the Blue Jackets to just 19 shots on goal.
''As a team, we played really solid defensively,'' Roenick said. ''Our power play was really good. The third period we went at them, we didn't sit back, which we have done in the past.''
With time running out and the playoffs slipping away, the Blue Jackets know they can’t afford to worry about players who aren’t there any more.
"The trades are over. We can't use those as excuses,” forward Rick Nash said. “Nothing is going to change. We've got to worry about who's here."
Wild 3, Lightning 2 | Video
Newcomer Mike Smith did everything his could in his first game with the Lightning, but it still wasn’t enough as the Wild ended a four-game losing streak.
Smith, acquired from Dallas on Tuesday in the deal that sent Brad Richards to the Stars, made 24 saves — including a pair on breakaways by Marian Gaborik. The fifth-round pick by Dallas in 2001 was 12-9-0 with a 2.46 goals-against average and two shutouts with the Stars. He had a personal three-game winning streak snapped — a stretch that began on Feb. 7 when he made 25 saves in a 1-0 win at Minnesota.
"It's probably one of the harder games I've ever played, mentally,” he said. “Just everything that's gone on the last couple of days is new to me, so fighting the nerves a little bit and mentally just wandering everywhere, but for the most part I felt pretty good, (just) disappointed in the outcome."
The Wild went ahead on Todd Fedoruk’s fluke power-play goal at 3:46 of the second period. Pierre-Marc Bouchard's pass from the left boards hit Fedoruk's stick and deflected into the net off the skate of Lightning defenseman Paul Ranger.
Pavol Demitra made it 2-0 when he was left alone in the low right circle and beat Smith at 4:56.
Michel Ouellet pulled the Lightning within 2-1 during a power play with 7:38 left in the period. Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom robbed Andre Roy four minutes later to preserve the lead.
"I'm really happy with his performance tonight because he made great saves, especially all the power plays they had," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said of his goaltender. "They had great scoring chances. He was on the top of his game.”
Brian Rolston knocked in a rebound for a power-play goal 1:53 into the third period. Jeff Halpern, who came with Smith from Dallas, got the Lightning within a goal again with 10:44 to play.
“We just played well tonight," Rolston said. "We got the goaltending that we needed, Backstrom really stood tall for us, and we did a great job of killing penalties."
Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella was pleased with the play of the newcomers —but not as much with the holdovers.
"I have no problems with the guys that were traded for," Tortorella said. "How many breakaways did our top two defensemen give up?"
Maple Leafs 4, Panthers 3, SO | Video
One day after trading away three veterans — including two to Florida — the Leafs showed they have no intention of giving up on a playoff berth, rallying from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to beat the Panthers in a shootout for their fifth win in six games.
"I think the last three weeks we've been playing a lot better and it felt like, even though we were down tonight again, we were in the game pretty much the whole way," said captain Mats Sundin, who forced overtime by scoring his second goal of the game with 1:08 left in regulation.
The Leafs moved into 12th place in the East with 65 points, one ahead of Florida and six behind eighth-place Buffalo.
''Six points is not much,'' said defenseman Tomas Kaberle, who scored the only goal in the shootout. ''We need to get on a roll. It's wide open if we keep winning.''
|The Maple Leafs moved into 12th place in the East with 65 points, six behind eighth-place Buffalo.
The lost point was another blow to the playoff hopes of the Panthers, who’ve lost five of six and blown four two-goal leads in less than two weeks. "This time of the year, all that matters is getting the two points and we just keep allowing scoring chances when we have the lead like that,” Florida forward Brett McLean said. “I can't tell you how frustrated we are as a team right now."
The Panthers beat the Leafs 8-0 at Toronto 22 days ago — the most lopsided win in Florida’s history — and started off as if they were ready for a repeat. Defenseman Jassen Cullimore’s bad-angled wrist shot deflected off Toronto’s Jeremy Williams and into the net at 9:27, and McLean made it 2-0 at 17:13 when he skated through three Toronto players and put the puck past a sprawling Vesa Toskala, who made 37 saves. But they couldn’t get a third goal.
“We’ve got to bury teams when we’re up,” forward David Booth said.
Williams, one of three players recalled from the minors after Tuesday’s trades, made it 2-1 at 6:56 of the second period, and Sundin tied it 2:49 into the third. But Rostislav Olesz backhanded the rebound of Jay Bouwmeester’s blocked shot into the net at 11:45, five seconds into a power play.
But Sundin, one of five Leafs who refused to waive no-trade clauses before the deadline, tied the game after Toronto pulled Toskala by sending a wrist shot from the high slot between Booth's legs and past Tomas Vokoun’s glove.
''He's the man here, and he's always been,'' Kaberle said. ''Everybody follows him and tries to play like him.''
Kaberle scored on the first attempt of the shootout and Toskala stopped all three Florida attempts.
Giving up a late lead was nothing new for the Panthers, who have allowed six tying or winning goals in the final minute this season.
''We've just got to be better and win some games,'' captain Olli Jokinen said. ''This is not fun.''
Ex-Leaf forward Wade Belak played 5:09 for the Panthers; the other player traded, center Chad Kilger, didn’t dress and has been granted a leave of absence by his new team.
Blackhawks 1, Coyotes 0 | Video
Patrick Lalime had a shutout in his first game as a Blackhawk last Feb. 7, and none since then — until Wednesday night, when he stopped 32 shots to beat Phoenix in a goaltending duel decided by a lucky bounce. Jason Williams’ first-period goal gave Lalime all the support he needed for his 35th NHL shutout as the Blackhawks moved within six points of the last playoff berth in the West.
''We know how big the points are right now, and to win is all that matters right now,'' Lalime said. ''The defense let me see the puck and they were taking away the rebounds. It made my job a lot easier.''
Phoenix remained 10th in the West, still three points out of eighth.
''Both teams are battling for their lives,'' Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. ''They played hard, and one goal is the difference. When we did get some chances, their goaltender was really good. When they got chances, our guy was good.''
Lalime started his third straight game for Chicago because No. 1 goalie Nikolai Khabibulin remained sidelined due to back spasms.
Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 24 shots for the Coyotes. Chicago’s goal came 7:58 into the game when Williams, standing in the right circle, deflected Dave Bolland 's cross-ice feed off the skate of Phoenix forward Joel Perrault and into the net. It was Williams' second goal in four games after he missed 35 due to a groin injury and sports hernia surgery.
“It was [an] unlucky goal,” Bryzgalov said. “Nothing we can do about it. It was a tight game. Both teams played well ... we still have a chance, both teams have a chance to find their spot for the playoffs and it was an even game. I don't give an advantage to either team. The only difference is they score a goal and we don't.”
Lalime made key stops in the middle period on Shane Doan, Niko Kapanen and Perrault, then stopped Martin Hanzal from point-blank range in the final minute. He stopped 16 shots in the third.
The bad news for the Hawks was that they may have lost forward Martin Havlat indefinitely with an apparent shoulder injury.
''It's up around the shoulder area,'' Chicago coach Denis Savard said. ''I'm not sure.''
Avalanche 3, Canucks 2, SO | Video
With his team’s season on the line, Joe Sakic wouldn’t let the Avalanche lose. Colorado’s captain tied the game with 14.7 seconds to play in regulation and scored the winning goal in the shootout as Colorado moved into a tie for the last playoff spot in the West.
Vancouver appeared on its way to a win when Alex Burrows dove and nudged the puck barely over the goal line with 1:45 remaining in regulation — a goal that was originally waved off before being confirmed by a video review following an additional 30 seconds of play. The time was put back on the clock, the Avs pulled Jose Theodore in the final minute, and Sakic forced overtime when he backhanded his own rebound past Roberto Luongo after Ruslan Salei’s point shot hit a body in front. The Canucks had a couple of chances to clear the puck but couldn’t before Salei, acquired Tuesday at the trade deadline, got the puck to the front of the net.
|Joe Sakic tied the game with 14.7 seconds left, and Marek Svatos scored the winning goal in the shootout, lifting the Avalanche to a 3-2 win over the Canucks.
“We had two clear opportunities to get the puck out of our zone,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. “It wasn’t from lack of trying from the guys who were on the ice. They probably over-tried. Colorado was able to keep the puck in the zone and made us pay.”
Added Burrows, who was on the ice: “We tried to collapse in front of our net and give them the outside, but they found a way to get the puck through. You can’t really leave a world-class player like Joe Sakic to have two whacks at (the puck) in front of the net. He’ll make you pay every time.”
After the scoreless overtime, each goaltender stopped one shot before Sakic — playing his third game after missing almost three months with sports hernia surgery —scored on a backhander. Theodore then stopped Ryan Shannon before Marek Svatos fired a wrist shot that Luongo got a piece of, but couldn’t stop.
Avs coach Joel Quenneville said the return of Sakic has given his team a big boost.
“Joe means everything to this organization,” he said. “Having him return and have that jump and quickness he’s demonstrated the last couple of games has everyone excited around here.”
The victory left the Avs tied for eighth with Nashville at 72 points, one less than Vancouver. It was the second third-period comeback in two nights for the Avalanche since acquiring defensemen Adam Foote and Salei. They rallied for a 3-2 overtime win in Calgary on Tuesday.
“We could easily have lost the last two games,” Sakic said. “We fought back and late to tie it and win in overtime. Every game is important, especially when you’re playing teams you have to catch. Games like this definitely help.”
The Avs are also anticipating the return of Peter Forsberg, who signed Monday.
“Peter should be back soon,” Sakic said. “Everyone here is really excited over what management has done for us.”
“Those last two games were huge,” Svatos said.
Vancouver is 6-1-4 in its last 11 games, but has lost a League-high nine shootouts.
“I think our guys are trying their best,” Vigneault said of the Canucks’ shootout struggles. “We’re going with guys who’ve had some success in the past or who are having some success during that game. Obviously, our record right now is not on the positive side. We’ll just keep working at it.”
The Canucks grabbed the lead 8:31 into the middle period when Burrows’ shot hit Mason Raymond and pinballed into the net. Andrew Brunette tied it at the 19-minute mark when he took a pass from Svatos, broke in alone, deked Luongo and beat him with a backhander.
Material from wire services, team websites and broadcast media was used in this report.