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Shorthanded goals in third lift Penguins

by John Kreiser and Brian Hunter
A third-period cross-checking penalty appeared to put the Pittsburgh Penguins behind the eight ball. Instead, their shorthanded unit went on the attack and turned the game in their favor.

Maxime Talbot had the go-ahead goal with 10:14 remaining and Kris Letang added insurance 55 seconds later as the Penguins scored twice while the Montreal Canadiens were on the power play and went on to a 3-1 win Saturday night at the Bell Centre.

Evgeni Malkin opened the scoring and Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves for Pittsburgh, which will begin the Stanley Cup Playoffs against Philadelphia in a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference finals. Home ice has yet to be determined -- the Flyers would clinch the No. 4 seed by securing at least a point in their regular-season finale Sunday against the New York Rangers.

"There have been some good games throughout the whole year, going back to last year's playoffs, too," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. "There's a rivalry there already and don't expect it to be any different in the playoffs. It'll be intense, but both teams know each other pretty well."

Roman Hamrlik tied the game late in the first period and Carey Price made 17 of his 38 saves during a scoreless second, but the Canadiens missed an opportunity to jump ahead of the Rangers into seventh and put pressure on New York to win on Sunday. For the second straight playoffs, Montreal will open against Boston -- but this time the seeds are reversed, with the Bruins the best in the East and the Habs coming in eighth.

"I don't know how many times this is, but it's a traditional rivalry, and I think I'd prefer to wait until Monday before we really start to talk about Boston, just to give us some time to get our thoughts together," Canadiens general manager and coach Bob Gainey said.

Talbot gave the Penguins the lead with 56 seconds left on a minor to Brooks Orpik, finishing off a 2-on-1 break with Pascal Dupuis. Then, just before Orpik was set to be released from the penalty box, Letang beat Price with a slap shot from the left side for a two-goal advantage.

"The main goal is to kill the two minutes, but when you get some offense out of it, it's great," said Talbot, who had another potential shorthanded goal disallowed in the first.

Malkin, who earned his first Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer, netted his 35th goal of the season just 1:05 into the game. Sergei Gonchar took a shot that Price stopped, but he couldn't clear the rebound and Malkin scored from the edge of the crease. He finished with 113 points, three more than Alex Ovechkin of Washington, and joined Crosby, Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux as Penguins to win the trophy since 1988.

"It's amazing. It really is when you look back at our team's history," said Crosby, who led the League in 2006-07. "Gino's a well-deserving scoring champion with the way he's played all year. He's been so consistent and so important to our team, so to have it stay in Pittsburgh is great for everybody."

Hamrlik made it 1-1 with 2:31 left in the first, taking a shot from the left point that got in past Fleury.

Flyers 3, Islanders 2 | Video

The Flyers moved a step closer to finishing fourth in the East by completing a season sweep against the last-place Islanders. Second-period goals by Joffrey Lupul, Mike Knuble and Simon Gagne were enough to hold off the Isles, who carried the play for most of the day but lost their 10th in a row to the Flyers.

"We have to work terribly hard against them," Knuble said. "They're very tough to play against, especially here, and especially after the last two games they had."

The Isles bounced back from 9-0 and 6-1 losses at Carolina and Pittsburgh by outshooting Philadelphia 15-5 in the first period and taking a 1-0 lead on Sean Bergenheim's tip-in at 14:06.

But goals by Lupul at 5:04 and Knuble at 10:51 of the second put the Flyers ahead. Tim Jackman tied it at 15:27, but Gagne's writer through traffic 52 seconds later put the Flyers in front to stay. Martin Biron finished with 30 saves to win his 12th in a row against the Islanders.

"I thought we did better as the game wore on," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "I have seen the focus get a lot better this week. Even in practice, the guys seemed more relaxed and focused, and that's a sign that the playoffs are getting close."

Philadelphia will face Pittsburgh in the first round and needs at least a point in Sunday's game against the New York Rangers to ensure the fourth seed and home ice.

The Islanders are guaranteed to finish last overall, regardless of the outcome of their season finale against Boston on Sunday. Their big night comes Tuesday, when they find out whether they'll pick first or second in a draft that features two players regarded as franchise talents -- center John Tavares and defenseman Victor Hedman.

"There's a lot of talk about these two players," Bergenheim said. "They'll bring a lot to this team."

Devils 3, Hurricanes 2 | Video

With the Hurricanes facing the Devils in the opening round of the playoffs, they might do well to spend some time getting used to the end boards at the Prudential Center. The third-seeded Devils used a pair of funky bounces to score two goals before Dainius Zubrus got the game-winner with 4:26 remaining in regulation.

The sixth-seeded 'Canes gave Cam Ward the day off after 28 consecutive starts and got 32 saves from Michael Leighton, but he made a bad clearing play on the game-winner by Zubrus and also the victim of two bad bounces that led to open-net goals in the first period.

David Clarkson and Zach Parise scored first-period goals on dump-ins that hit something and kicked back in front with Leighton behind the net.

"We got a couple of bounces," Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "It's been a while since that happened."

The Devils won for the fourth time in five games after a six-game losing streak.

"Mentally for us, it's good to end on a win," said Parise, who finished his best regular season with 45 goals. "It's good to go into the playoffs off of a high like this, winning a tough game."

Anton Babchuk scored both Carolina goals on power plays.

The Hurricanes won three of the four games between the teams, and center Eric Staal said Carolina has no fear of meeting the Devils again.

"We knew we can beat them and we can beat them in this building," Staal said. "Those are positives things to know going into the playoffs."

Sabres 6, Bruins 1 | Video

Buffalo took out its frustrations at not making the playoffs on the conference-champion Bruins, getting two goals from Thomas Vanek while denying Boston a chance to win the Presidents' Trophy.

The Sabres were eliminated from the playoff race on Thursday night, but came out flying against a Boston team that rested several regulars -- including captain Zdeno Chara, leading goal-scorer Phil Kessel and starting goaltender Tim Thomas.

''We didn't have our heads into it,'' said Boston coach Claude Julien, whose team was down 4-0 before the game was 18 minutes old. ''It would've been nice, but we're not going to cry over spilled milk."

Julien didn't rule out resting more players on Sunday because there is nothing at stake. Boston already knows it will open the playoffs at home against eighth-seeded Montreal.

"They were extremely professional about their approach to the game," Julien said of the Sabres. "They've got my respect for the way they conducted themselves."

Buffalo scored four times on 16 shots in the opening period to take away any suspense about the outcome. Tim Connolly opened the scoring at 3:34, and Chris Butler, Vanek and Daniel Paille added goals before the period ended.

Matt Ellis made it 5-0 with a wrist shot from the right circle past Manny Fernandez 1:26 into the second period. Mark Recchi's power-play goal with 6:05 left in regulation spoiled Mikael Tellqvist's shutout bid before Vanek reached the 40-goal mark by stuffing a loose puck under Fernandez with 16 seconds remaining.

''It doesn't mean anything. Before the year, my goal was to help this team and lead them to the playoffs. And that goal failed,'' said Vanek, who added an assist. ''The last few days, it's just been a little bit of a daze; frustrating and trying to reflect what went wrong.''

The Sabres finished 7-2-1 but came up short for the second year in a row.

''We put a pretty good run here at the end, but not good enough,'' forward Jason Pominville said. ''We dug ourselves into that kind of hole. ... We were inconsistent. It just wasn't good enough.''

Panthers 7, Capitals 4 | Video

A five-point performance by David Booth came too late to save Florida's playoff hopes, but it did provide a measure of satisfaction to end the season in the form of a win over Washington.

Booth scored two goals and added three assists as the Panthers treated their fans at BankAtlantic Center to the type of offensive outburst that would have helped several days ago. Radek Dvorak, Bryan McCabe, Steve Eminger, Michael Frolik and Nick Tarnasky also scored for Florida, which finished ninth and came up short in its quest to make the playoffs for the first time in nine years.

"That was a great effort tonight," said Booth, who finished with a career-high 31 goals. "Kind of wish maybe Montreal or New York lost on Thursday but that's the way it goes. You look back and over the course the year and just think where you could have made up one point."

Alex Ovechkin scored his League-leading 56th goal of the season for Washington, which enters the playoffs as the No. 2 seed and will host the seventh-seeded Rangers in the first round. Alexander Semin added a pair of goals and Brooks Laich also tallied for the Capitals.

"It's finally good to know so you can prepare," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "But then it's like we're preparing for a whole new team because we haven't seen this team under (John) Tortorella that's played very good. Right off the bat, I think we're in for a tough team."

Ovechkin made it 4-4 by beating Tomas Vokoun with 6:51 left in the third period, but Eminger and Frolik put pucks past Jose Theodore eight seconds apart to turn the game in Florida's favor. Eminger netted his first goal as a Panther with 4:28 left and Frolik followed off the ensuing faceoff by putting in the rebound of a Booth shot. Tarnasky put the puck into an empty net with nine seconds remaining.

"I know this game didn't mean anything for the playoff push any more," Eminger said. "But it's still a game. You've still got to work hard and make the best of it."

Maple Leafs 5, Senators 2
| Video

Boyd Devereaux doubled his goal output for the entire season, recording a hat trick to help Toronto close out the season with a win at Air Canada Centre.

Martin Gerber stopped 37 shots to defeat Ottawa, the team that sent him packing at the trade deadline, and Niklas Hagman scored a pair of goals, but the hero of the night was a guy who spent most of his time in the AHL this season.

Devereaux entered with three goals in 22 NHL games, but scored a pair off Lee Stempniak assists to give the Leafs a 2-0 lead. After the Senators rallied to tie, Hagman registered the go-ahead goal 3:37 into the third period and Devereaux scored his third goal in shorthanded fashion, roofing a backhander over Brian Elliott with 2:49 to play. Hagman added an empty-netter with 44 seconds left.

"It's still Saturday night in Toronto and you're playing for the Leafs on 'Hockey Night in Canada,'" Devereaux said. "Definitely whenever you get a chance to pop a hat trick, you definitely get excited about it.
"I'm sure it's more satisfying in a Game 7 playoff game but certainly I'll take it. For sure."

Jason Spezza and Chris Kelly scored 2:28 apart midway through the second and Elliott made 25 saves for Ottawa, which is out of the playoffs for the first time since 1996.

"Any time you lose it's disappointing," said Senators coach Cory Clouston, who replaced Craig Hartsburg on Feb. 1. "But overall, I'm not disappointed in this group."

Gerber, who started for the Senators in their season-opening game against Pittsburgh in Stockholm, held his old team at bay in the first period by stopping all 16 shots he faced. He turned aside 13 more in the third to help the Leafs hold the lead.

"It was probably more exciting than everybody thought it was going to be," Gerber said. "It was well fought to the end. We're happy to come out on the good end."

Thrashers 6, Lightning 2 | Video

Atlanta already knows Ilya Kovalchuk can score goals. Heading into the offseason, the Thrashers are learning about Kovalchuk as a team leader.

After they closed out their schedule with a rout of Tampa Bay at Philips Arena, a game in which Kovalchuk scored his 43rd goal, the recently-appointed captain made it clear the franchise must find a way back to its postseason form of two seasons ago and then some.

"I don't want to compete just for the playoffs," he said. "I want to compete for the (Stanley) Cup. I know for sure we need some more players."

The players Atlanta has got the job done down the stretch this season, as the Thrashers closed out a disappointing campaign by winning 12 of their final 18 games. Colby Armstrong scored twice against the Lightning and Eric Perrin, Ron Hainsey and Colin Stuart added goals. Kari Lehtonen finished with 33 saves.

"I feel like we can play with any team," first-year coach John Anderson said. "The great thing about our team is we were very young."

Matt Pettinger had a power-play score for Tampa and Steven Stamkos, the No. 1 pick in last June's draft, concluded a rookie season that improved by leaps and bounds in the second half by notching his 23rd goal. Still, the Lightning only improved one spot, from dead last in the League standings to 29th.

"That's the only positive I take from this year, that we have some young guys to build some depth," St. Louis said. "We rushed some guys, and I think that will help us in the long run. It's hard. There's nothing like being in the playoffs."

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.

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