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Sharks end six-game slide with 4-1 win over Wild

by John Kreiser
The San Jose Sharks aren't heading home empty-handed -- or looking up at the Phoenix Coyotes in the Pacific Division.

San Jose got 18 saves by Evgeni Nabokov and goals from four players as it beat Minnesota 4-1 on Tuesday night, ending a six-game losing streak that included regulation losses in the first five games of a six-game trip.

Goals by Joe Pavelski, Dany Heatley, Torrey Mitchell and Joe Pavelski helped San Jose win for the first time since beating Nashville on March 11. The Sharks snapped their longest skid since Nov. 5-30, 2005. It was also their first road win since beating Detroit on Feb. 11.

"We didn't give them as many chances as we have in the past, and we still found a way to win the game," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "But it wasn't easy. It won't be easy from here on in."

The victory, combined with the Coyotes' 2-0 loss at Chicago, also moved San Jose back into first place in the Pacific Division. The Sharks are second in the West, one point behind Chicago.

"We need to keep working," McLellan said. "Obviously, we know how fast it can go and get away from you."

Playing against the Wild was just the tonic for Nabokov, who had started and lost all five games on the trip but improved to 11-0-1 in his last 12 games against Minnesota by allowing fewer than three goals for the first time since March 6.

"In the first period they had a couple of power plays and were zipping around pretty good," Heatley said. "Nabby made some big plays for us. I thought he was real good in goal."

Pavelski beat Niklas Backstrom 5:12 into the first period to give San Jose a 1-0 lead. Heatley scored his 38th of the season on a backhander 8:35 into the second to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead, a rare cushion on this road trip.

"It's tough to chase," Backstrom said of playing from behind. "They're a tough team when they get up. They played pretty tight and didn't give us much."

Guillaume Latendresse cut the deficit to 2-1 at 12:44 when he beat a sprawling Nabokov for a power-play goal. It was his 27th of the season and 25th since in 48 games since coming to the Wild.

But Mitchell scored his second goal of the season and first since Dec. 30 just 17 seconds into the third to put the game out of reach. Thornton added an empty-netter to send the Sharks home on a positive note despite getting only 17 shots on goal. Minnesota had just 19 and didn't test Nabokov often.

"They play tough through the neutral zone, and we just didn't generate enough chances the other way," Wild defenseman Nick Schultz said. "They had five guys back, so it's hard for us to generate offense."

The Wild remained 13th in the West, nine points behind eighth-place Detroit with nine games remaining.

"I think the desire and will was there. We played a very good team and we had our opportunities and were unable to cash in," coach Todd Richards said. "They had a lot of opportunities. Backstrom was good, but they obviously finished more than we did."

Flames 3, Ducks 1 | HIGHLIGHTS | PHOTOS

Rene Bourque's breakaway goal broke a second-period tie as the Flames won a game they had to have.

Jarome Iginla poke-checked the puck away from Corey Perry and chipped it to Bourque, who raced in alone and wristed a shot past Jonas Hiller with 1:35 remaining in the second period to break a 1-1 tie.

"Jarome reacted quickly to him," Flames coach Brent Sutter said of Perry, who was carrying the puck over the Calgary blue line. "He stripped the puck away and was able to get it to Bourque. That was a huge goal -- we were able to go into the third period ahead a goal instead of tied."

Niklas Hagman added an insurance goal 3:05 into the third, converting a feed from Iginla for his first goal in 13 games, and Miikka Kiprusoff made 22 saves.

The victory gave the Flames 83 points, two behind eighth-place Detroit in the Western Conference playoff race, though the Red Wings have a game in hand.

Nigel Dawes opened the scoring 15:11 into the game with a power-play goal that gave Calgary a 1-0 lead. Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer tied it with a wrist shot through traffic that beat Kiprusoff at 14:27 of the second.

"We didn't give up much time and space," Sutter said of his team's defensive effort. "I thought we did a good job of reacting properly and making sure our support was good in our zone. Once we got our legs going, we were better on the forecheck and we were able to spend some time in the offensive zone."

The Ducks remained 12th in the West, nine points out of the last playoff berth with 10 games remaining.

"We're obviously pretty disappointed," Niedermayer said. "We know the position we're in each night. Those two points are what we need each night. You've got to give the Flames credit, they played a pretty good defensive game and made it tough for us to get chances, but I think we could have done more to create more chances and go to the net a bit more."

Oilers 3, Canucks 2 | HIGHLIGHTS | PHOTOS

The last-place Oilers won their third in a row by fending off the visiting Canucks, thanks to a 31-save performance from Jeff Deslauriers.

Andrew Cogliano scored what proved to be the game-winner 8:01 into the second period when he fired a shot from the slot that hit goaltender Roberto Luongo and had enough momentum to slide into the net for a 3-1 lead.

Cogliano said the Oilers caught Luongo on an off-night.

"He was struggling," Cogliano said. "He struggled early in the first and I just threw it at the net and it somehow found its way in. He's one of the top goalies in the League and that's not going to happen often, but when it does, you take them and run."

Daniel Sedin cut the deficit back to one goal at 16:12 when he one-timed a passout from twin brother Henrik past Deslauriers.

"He was really sharp tonight and confident and in mental control," coach Pat Quinn said. "Our guys battled hard all night long and I like how they played around him. But he was good all night long. He was our best player."

The Oilers, who've now beaten Detroit, San Jose and Vancouver in a five-day span, grabbed a 2-0 lead before the game was seven minutes old. Tom Gilbert took a feed from Fernando Pisani and beat Luongo 3:02 into the game, and Robert Nilsson put Edmonton ahead by two at 6:58, rifling a shot from the left wing into the net.

Mason Raymond got the Canucks on the board at 13:21 of the opening period, tapping in a feed from Michael Grabner.

Luongo took much of the blame after allowing three goals on 22 shots.

"I made some good saves, but unfortunately I should have had all three of their goals," he said. "I've got to find some consistency in my game. It was a bad game every 12 games or so but now it is every two or three games. I have to get my swagger back."

Stars 3, Predators 1 | HIGHLIGHTS | PHOTOS

Dallas made the most of its 14 shots, getting goals by Loui Eriksson and Matt Niskanen 30 seconds apart early in the third period to win at Nashville and keep its flickering playoff hopes alive.

Eriksson beat Pekka Rinne 90 seconds into the final period following a turnover by Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter, and Niskanen scored on a seeing-eye shot from the right point.

"I tried to shoot it quick, and I went high glove there," Eriksson said of his goal, which came after Brad Richards intercepted Suter's pass. "He wasn't able to save it, so it was nice that it went in."

The Stars are now seven points behind eighth-place Detroit with nine games remaining, one less than the Wings. Nashville, which saw its six-game winning streak end, is sixth with 89 points, but both the Red Wings and seventh-place Colorado have two games in hand. Ninth-place Calgary is six points behind the Preds and has played one fewer game.

"You can see how much confidence (Nashville) is playing with," Dallas coach Marc Crawford said. "When they make a mistake, they don't get worried. It's a nice feeling, it comes from winning. Hopefully we can put a few wins together so we'll have that feeling, too."

Kari Lehtonen stopped 34 shots for the Stars, allowing only Shea Weber's goal at 16:02 of the second period on a blast from the top of the right circle.
That offset a goal by Dallas' Trevor Daley 8:10 into the second.

"Obviously, we had plenty of shots and plenty of chances," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "We had some chances, but just didn't finish."

Panthers 4, Maple Leafs 1 | HIGHLIGHTS | PHOTOS

Former Leaf Scott Clemmensen stopped 42 shots and David Booth scored twice as the Panthers kept pace with eighth-place Boston in the East by winning in Toronto.

Booth, who missed 45 games with a concussion after a controversial hit by Philadelphia's Mike Richards, stripped the puck from Luke Schenn and beat Jean-Sebastien Giguere at 11:30 of the opening period -- one in which the Panthers went off the ice with the lead despite being outshot 19-8.

"It's hard to come back from two months of not doing anything and then try to skate and play," said Booth, who scored 31 goals last season. "That two weeks was huge. I got some games in before the break and then we came back and I'm feeling a bit better out there."

He made it 2-0 by tipping Bryan McCabe's shot past Giguere 1:25 into the third. Michael Frolik gave Florida a 3-0 lead at 11:38 before Fredrik Sjostrom beat Clemmensen with 2:20 remaining. Jason Garrison then hit the empty net with 1:31 to play.

With 71 points, the Panthers are still seven behind the Bruins. But they've won back-to-back games and are 6-3-1 in their last 10.

"We have to win all of our games," McCabe said. "I thought we played really solid tonight, got some great goaltending."

Toronto had won six of seven and was hoping to move closer to escaping the basement in the Eastern Conference. The Maple Leafs remain four points out of 14th place.

"We had some good moments in this game, for sure, but we also had a few lapses and kind of gave them their goals," Sjostrom said. "It was a little step back for us. We've been playing good in the previous games, so it's definitely a tough loss for us."

Lightning 3, Hurricanes 2 (OT) | HIGHLIGHTS | PHOTOS

Martin St. Louis won't let the Lightning go quietly into the postseason. He made a brilliant move to score his second goal of the game 29 seconds into overtime as the Bolts beat Carolina to end a five-game losing streak.

"We're going to play it out and play it hard," St. Louis said. "It's a tough go coming to work when you're in the slide that we were. Now we win a game, the guys feel good about themselves."

St. Louis won the game when he skated into the Hurricanes' zone from center ice, made a backhand pass to himself that got him past defenseman Brett Carlson and then beat goalie Manny Legace with a quick, high wrist shot.

"He's one of the special players and has the ability to do special things like that," Legace said. "It was a great move."

Tampa Bay, which also got the tying goal from Steve Downie with 6:57 left in regulation, is still eight points behind Boston for the last playoff berth in the East.

"You look at the standings, sometimes you get discouraged," St. Louis said. "You can't look at the standings. Play the game and try to get a win."

The Hurricanes, now 16-8-1 in their past 25 games, got goals from Erik Cole and Chad LaRose.

"We just have to try and do what we've done so well for a long time and put this loss behind us," coach Paul Maurice said.

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