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Spectacular season sets stage for Stanley Cup

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The Capitals' Alex Ovechkin can't wait to make his playoff debut.  Washington will open their first round series Friday night when they host the Philadelphia Flyers (7 pm ET, Versus, TSN)
NEW YORK -- From the opening face-off in London, England, to the snowy spectacle of the Winter Classic in Buffalo to the final nerve-wracking weekend of playoff-spot suspense, the 2007-08 National Hockey League season featured an extensive array of excitement and achievement. With the curtain about to rise on the Stanley Cup Playoffs, here is just a sampling of the countless memorable moments:

The Washington Capitals make the playoffs in their final regular-season game, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin is the runaway leader in goals (65), points (112), shots (446), power-play goals (22) and game-winning goals (11). The Capitals’ Mike Green leads the League in goals by a defenseman with 18, Washington C Nicklas Backstrom finishes second (within three points of Patrick Kane’s lead) in scoring by rookies with 14-55--69 and trade deadline acquisition G Cristobal Huet wins each of his final nine starts.

Chicago Blackhawks rookie Jonathan Toews scores a point in each of his first 10 NHL games (5-5--10), the longest point scoring-streak by a rookie since Dmitri Kvartalnov of the Boston Bruins began his career with a 14-game point streak in 1992.

Blackhawks rookie Patrick Kane, the first player selected in the 2007 Entry Draft, tallies 16 points in October, the most by an NHL rookie in the season's opening month since 1992-93, and his shootout goal against childhood hero Dominik Hasek in his second NHL game gives the Blackhawks their first victory of the season -- a 4-3 decision over Detroit Oct. 6.

Minnesota Wild RW Marian Gaborik becomes the first player in more than a decade to score five goals in one game Dec. 20 in a 6-3 victory over the New York Rangers at Xcel Energy Center. Gaborik's five-goal game is the first in the NHL since one by Sergei Fedorov, then of Detroit, in a 5-4 overtime victory over Washington on Dec. 26, 19

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With snow falling and a New Year's Day sellout crowd of more than 71,000 at Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium roaring, Pittsburgh Penguins center and reigning MVP Sidney Crosby scores the decisive shootout goal in a 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres in the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic. The game, broadcast coast-to-coast on NBC, earns a 2.6 overnight rating and a 5 share, the best overnight NHL regular-season rating in more than a decade (Feb. 3, 1996 on Fox, six-game regional, 3.0/7).

The Detroit Red Wings collect at least 100 points for an eighth consecutive season, tying an NHL record; win the Presidents' Trophy as the League's top regular-season club for the fourth time in the past six campaigns; and qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the 17th consecutive time, the longest such streak among the four major pro sports.

Detroit defenseman Chris Chelios, who turned 46 on Jan. 25, becomes the second-oldest player in National Hockey League history, trailing only Gordie Howe. Chelios passes Moe Roberts, a former NHL goaltender serving on the Chicago Blackhawks' training staff who came out of retirement to play one period in relief of Blackhawks starter Harry Lumley in a game against the Red Wings on Nov. 25, 1951.

Ottawa RW Daniel Alfredsson sets a franchise record with seven points (three goals, four assists) in the Senators' 8-4 win at Tampa Bay Jan. 24. It is the most points in one game by an NHL player since Jan. 11, 2003, when Jaromir Jagr scored three goals, four assists for Washington in a 12-2 win over Florida.

Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal tallies a team-leading three points (two goals, one assists) to earn MVP honors as the Eastern Conference defeats the Western Conference 8-7 in the 56th NHL All-Star Game in Atlanta, Jan. 27.

Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Rick Nash scores an unassisted goal for the Western Conference just 12 seconds after the opening faceoff, the fastest goal ever from the start of an All-Star Game.

To mark the 50th anniversary of Willie O’Ree becoming the first black player to play in the NHL (Jan. 18, 1958), the city of Fredericton, N.B. honors its hometown hero with the official naming of 'Willie O’Ree Place' public recreation facility on Jan. 16. The Boston Bruins pay tribute to O’Ree in conjunction with their game against the New York Rangers on Jan. 19.

Defensemen Brian Campbell, a high-profile acquisition by the San Jose Sharks at the Feb. 26 trade deadline, shows his new fans a 'spin-o-rama' move to tally the insurance goal in a 6-4 victory over Montreal March 3.

Atlanta LW Ilya Kovalchuk scores his 30th goal of the season Dec. 27, becoming the first player to reach the plateau before the end of December since Pittsburgh's Jaromir Jagr in 1999-2000.

C Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh) posts a 15-game point streak from Oct. 23 to Nov. 22, the longest by a Russian player in NHL history. The previous mark of 14 was set by Boston Bruins forward Dmitri Kvartalnov in 1992-93.

G Evgeni Nabokov (San Jose) posts a 43-game consecutive-start streak to begin the 2007-08 season, one short of the longest such streak since 1989-90 (Martin Brodeur, 44). Nabokov finally gets a night off in Anaheim Jan. 13.

ALSO OF NOTE:

Toews

The resurgent Blackhawks go 23-16-2 at home and attract 12 sellouts, including a season high of 21,929 in their final home game. Attendance jumps 46 percent . . .  Patrick Kane (21 goals) and Jonathan Toews (24) become the first Hawk rookies to have 20-goal campaigns in the same season since Darryl Sutter and Denis Savard in 1980-81 . . . Biggest gains in points by teams: Philadelphia improved 39 points (to 95 from last season’s 56), Washington was up 24 (to 94 from last season’s 70), Boston gains 18 (to 94 from 76), Edmonton gains 17 (to 88 from last season’s 71) and Phoenix finished up 16 (to 83 from last season’s 67) . . .  Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom leads all defensemen in scoring with 10-60--70 and posts a +40 rating for the second consecutive season . . . Top gains in points by individual players: Washington’s Mike Green (up 44, to 56 from last season’s 12), Montreal’s Alexei Kovalev (up 37, to 84 from last season’s 47), the Blue Jackets’ Nikolai Zherdev (up 29, to 61 from last season’s 32); Chicago’s Patrick Sharp (up 27, to 62 from last season’s 35), and Montreal’s Mark Streit (up 26, to 62 from last season’s 36) . . . San Jose goes 20 games (18-0-2) without a loss in regulation . . . The St. Louis BluesBrad Boyes sets a personal record with 43 goals . . . Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist leads the NHL in shutouts with 10, the Blue Jackets’ Pascal Leclaire is next with nine . . . Detroit’s Johan Franzen scores six game-winning goals in March . . . Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin obliterates any concerns over a “Sophomore Jinx” by running up 47 goals, 59 assists and 106 points. In the 10 NHL seasons prior to this one, the top goal output by an NHL sophomore had been the 46 by Alex Ovechkin in 2006-07 . . . Mats Sundin takes over the Maple Leafs’ all-time points and goal-scoring lead . . . The defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks welcome RW Teemu Selanne back to their lineup on Feb. 5 and go on to end the season on a 20-5-1 a tear that includes 10 consecutive victories at home from Feb. 17-March 26 . . . The Ducks also go 32-12-4 after the return of Scott Niedermayer . . . Minnesota D Brent Burns enjoys a breakout year, while Marian Gaborik sets personal highs

Chara
with 42 goals and 83 points . . . Boston highlights at All-Star Weekend include Zdeno Chara winning the hardest shot competition, Tim Thomas being the winning goalie and Marc Savard scoring the winning goal . . . Edmonton finds its shootout ace in G Mathieu Garon who faces 32 shootout shots – and stops 32 of them . . . Florida G Craig Anderson stops 53 shots in a 1-0 shutout of the Islanders March 2. . .  . Calgary’s Jarome Iginla scores a career-best 98 points, 50-48--98 . . . Carolina’s Eric Staal steps into the key center’s role when Rod Brind’Amour suffers a season-ending knee injury, Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin steps into the role of offensive firestarter when Sidney Crosby suffers a high ankle sprain, and Penguins G Ty Conklin steps up when Marc-Andre Fleury is injured . . . Chicago’s Patrick Sharp scores 36 goals, teammate Jonathan Toews adds 24, leading all NHL rookies, and Patrick Kane chips in with 21. . . Tampa Bay D Dan Boyle plays an astonishing 37:03 in a 5-3 home loss to Boston on Feb. 23 . . .  Calgary’s Dion Phaneuf has a five-assist game against Tampa Bay Dec. 13 and Brad Richards of Dallas has one against Chicago Feb. 28 . . . Brendan Shanahan of the Rangers takes 13 shots against Ottawa Oct. 13 and Michael Ryder of Montreal matches that firepower Nov. 17 against the Boston Bruins – Montreal’s first-round playoff opponent . . . The Blackhawks bring back Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito . . . The Rangers retire No. 2 in honor of Brian Leetch, the Canadiens honor Bob Gainey and Larry Robinson . . . The Hockey Hall of Fame welcomes one of the most celebrated classes ever: Ron Francis, Al MacInnis, Mark Messier, Scott Stevens and the NHL’s own Jim Gregory . . . The Islanders provide one of the season’s feel-good moments by bringing back legendary coach Al Arbour to coach his 1,500th career game . . . The Canadiens match the biggest comeback in NHL history when, after trailing the Rangers 5-0 in the second period, they tied the game in the third period and won in a shootout . . . The Dallas Stars get a strong season from Mike Ribeiro,
Ellis
who finishes 27-56--83 . . . Nashville G Dan Ellis sets a franchise record with a 233:38 shutout streak from the first period against Chicago on March 22 to overtime at Detroit on March 30. He stops 147 consecutive shots during the stretch, the best in the NHL this season . . . New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur adds to a remarkable resume with his 500th career victory, his 12th straight season of 30 or more victories and his seventh career season of 40 or more victories . . . Jacques Martin (Florida), Ron Wilson (San Jose) and Jacques Lemaire (Minnesota) collecting 500th victories as coach . . . The Blues’ Keith Tkachuk and the Sharks' Jeremy Roenick score their 500th goal; Roenick tallies a team-leading 10 game-winning goals, his most in one season since notching 12 with Phoenix in 1999-2000 . . . The Stars’ Mike Modano becomes the top-scoring U.S.-born player ever . . . Ottawa G Martin Gerber has a 30-victory season . . . Paced by rookies Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano, the Oilers make a late-season charge for a Western Conference playoff spot by going 13-4-1 from Feb. 23 to Mar. 31 . . . Cogliano makes NHL history by scoring overtime goals in three consecutive games, March 7, 9 and 11 . . .  Montreal rookie G Carey Price backstops the Canadiens to their first Eastern Conference title in 19 years, going 12-3-0 after the Feb. 26 trade deadline . . .  In Phoenix, under Coach Wayne Gretzky, the Coyotes solidify in goal by obtaining Ilya Bryzgalov and get extremely promising performances from C Martin Hanzal, C Peter Mueller, LW Daniel Winnik, D Keith Yandle, feisty LW Daniel Carcillo and late arrival Kyle Turris . . . The Devils’ Prudential Center home opens with a game against Ottawa Oct. 27. Prudential Center is the 23rd new NHL arena to open since Anaheim opened Oct. 8, 1993 . . . Colorado's Joe Sakic moves past Phil Esposito into eighth place on the career points list and later becomes the 11th player in NHL history to tally 1,000 career assists . . . The Rangers' Jaromir Jagr moves past Ray Bourque into 10th place on the all-time scoring list . . . Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings defines 'power forward,' tallying a club-leading 33 goals and leading the NHL in hits with 311, 17% more than any other player . . . Buffalo's Derek Roy ranks third among NHL scorers after Dec. 31, tallying 19-32--51 in 41 games - the only players with more were Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin . . . Sabres teammate Jason Pominville ranks seventh overall with 18-31--49 . . . Canucks all-time games and assists leader Trevor Linden receives a thunderous ovation from the GM Place faithful and special recognition from Calgary captain Jarome Iginla and the entire Flames lineup at the conclusion of the teams' final game of the regular season - Linden's 1,382nd over a 19-season NHL career.

Stats: Of the 1,230 games, 553 (44.9%) were one-goal decisions and another 114 were one-goal games that ended in two-goal margins due to empty-net goals in the final moments . . . It took at least 94 points to make the playoffs in the East, 91 points to make the playoffs in the West . . . The Bruins, who were shorthanded 442 times in 2006-07, reduced that figure to 332 in 2007-08 -- by far the NHL’s best improvement this season . . . No team led more minutes and seconds of its playing time than Detroit’s 2,088:53, or 42% of its total 4,978:43 . . . No team trailed fewer minutes and seconds of playing time than San Jose’s 1,089:40, or 21.8% of its total 4,999:49 . . . No team attempted more shots on goal than Carolina: 4,881 (991 were blocked; 1,221 missed the net).

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