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Stamkos leads Lightning to 5-3 win at Boston

by John Kreiser
Move over, Alex and Sid. Steve Stamkos wants in on the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy -- and a playoff berth for the Tampa Bay Lightning as well.

Stamkos, the No. 1 pick in the 2008 Entry Draft, tied Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead in goals by scoring twice on Thursday as the Lightning beat Boston 5-3 to extend the Bruins' woes at TD Garden.

Paul Szczechura also scored twice as the Lightning earned the 500th win in franchise history and kept the Bolts' playoff hopes alive.

Stamkos said he's more interested in team goals than individual ones.

"It would be nice," Stamkos said of winning the Richard Trophy, given to the NHL's leading goal-scorer. "But if I win it and help this team win at the same time, that's (better). I just want to try and produce offense. That's my job, that's my role. I want to help this team win and see what happens at the end of the year."

Antero Niittymaki did his part to keep the Bolts' hopes alive by making 47 saves in Tampa Bay's second straight win after a five-game losing streak. He made 19 saves in the third period to keep the Bruins at bay. Martin St. Louis also scored for the Lightning.

Boston rookie Tuukka Rask had a tough night, making only 13 saves as Boston fell to 15-15-6 at home. The B's have won just twice in their last 14 games at the Garden and saw their lead over ninth-place Atlanta reduced to two points. The New York Rangers, 4-3 winners at New Jersey, are three points back.

Then there's the Lightning, who jumped over Florida into 11th place, six points behind Boston.

"We've got an uphill climb, but no one in this dressing room is quitting right now," Stamkos said. "That's two big wins for us -- a big win against the team that we're chasing. It's been a tough year for us. We believe we deserve a better fate. We've been very inconsistent this year and it's definitely cost us to where we are right now. But we've still got a shot. We've got to believe that."

Stamkos was the No. 1 pick in 2008, following the path taken by Ovechkin in 2004 and Crosby a year later.

"It's pretty surreal when you think about" being tied with Ovechkin and Crosby, Stamkos said.

Stamkos scored 49 seconds into the game and then his 45th of the season with 26 seconds remaining in the second period to make it 4-2.

"He's a young player that's had a great year, and he's playing with a lot of confidence," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "They're led by a guy named St. Louis, who's the heart and soul of this team. This young player is kind of riding his coattail and soaking in everything he can."

First-period goals by Stamkos and St. Louis had the Bruins playing catch-up all night. They never did get even.

Zdeno Chara scored his first goal in 16 games, cutting the deficit to 2-1 with 27 seconds left in the first period. But the Lightning capitalized on another turnover in the Boston end when Szczechura got the puck between the circles and beat past Rask to make it 3-1 at 6:50 of the second period.

Johnny Boychuk made it a one-goal game midway through the second, but Stamkos scored on a slap shot to extend the lead again.

Szczechura scored at the 3-minute mark of the third period to give Tampa Bay a three-goal lead. Mark Recchi added a goal for Boston with 8:10 left, but that was as close as the Bruins got.

Maple Leafs 2, Thrashers 1 (OT) | HIGHLIGHTS

His team moved a point closer to the eighth-place Bruins, but Atlanta coach John Anderson was in no mood to celebrate -- not after watching the Leafs leave Philips Arena with two points after Mikhail Grabovski's goal 39 seconds into overtime.

"I'm disappointed and really dismayed," Anderson said after his club was dominated for much of the night by the Eastern Conference's last-place team. "If we play like that, we'll be out in two or three games from now. We have to be better. We've got to be smarter. We have to play harder. We've got to show that we want it. We can't let teams like this just hang around and hang around."

Atlanta moved within two points of the Bruins. The Thrashers are one point ahead of the 10th-place New York Rangers.

Atlanta's Zach Bogosian and Toronto's Phil Kessel traded goals midway through the first period. The 1-1 tie lasted through regulation -- much to the consternation of Anderson.

"We didn't put forth our best effort, and that really bothers me at this point," said Anderson, whose team was outshot 30-20.

"We just got beat off the wall in front of the net," he said of the deciding play. "We can't get beat off the wall. We know that … and it's in our net now."

Leafs coach Ron Wilson, whose team is playing its best hockey of the season, said he could sense the Thrashers were pressing.
"We were playing a team that really needed the points, and I think they were probably doing a little bit of scoreboard watching there," Wilson said.

Canadiens 4, Panthers 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

One night after blowing a two-goal lead in the final 1:59 of regulation and losing in a shootout, the Canadiens made sure history didn't repeat itself. After Radek Dvorak made it 2-1 with 3:36 remaining, Montreal got empty-netters from Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta to end a three-game losing streak.

"We all knew what happened last night against Buffalo and we didn't want it to happen again," said Plekanec, whose goal with 1:24 to play was the 100th of his career.

Benoit Pouliot and Gionta had first-period goals for Montreal and Jaroslav Halak made 23 saves as the Canadiens, sixth overall in the Eastern Conference with 82 points, moved within one point of fifth-place Ottawa.

The Panthers fell to 12th place in the East with 71 points, one behind Tampa Bay, which won 5-3 in Boston. Florida is seven behind the eighth-place Bruins.

"We had some chances," forward Nathan Horton said. "I think (Halak) played good when we did, even with traffic and tip-ins. He's a pretty good goalie. We played hard but it wasn't enough and we lost."

Florida forward David Booth left early in the second period after he was flattened by Jaroslav Spacek's open-ice shoulder check to the head.

"I think he was just looking back to grab the puck," Horton said. "It wasn't a dirty hit, I don't think, but it's just a tough one."

A team spokesman said Booth was taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons after being examined by Canadiens physician Dr. David Mulder, who said Booth was alert and coherent.

"The tests have come back negative -- in a positive sense, so to speak -- so we'll keep him overnight just for precautionary measures. But we fully expect he'll travel with us (Friday) to Ottawa," Panthers GM Randy Sexton said.

Islanders 3, Flames 2 | HIGHLIGHTS

Calgary's first visit to the Nassau Coliseum didn't turn out to be a happy one after Matt Moulson and Bruno Gervais scored third-period goals to cost the Flames a desperately-needed two points.

The Flames held a heated 20-minute meeting after losing a game against the 28th-place team in the NHL and missing a chance to move within two points of eighth-place Detroit in the race for the last playoff berth in the West.

Flames coach Brent Sutter said the harsh words will need to translate into wins for his team to salvage its postseason hopes. Calgary visits Boston on Saturday and Washington on Sunday.

"We need that desperation and sense of urgency," Sutter said. "Tonight at times we had (it) and at times we didn't."

One night after being embarrassed in a 5-0 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, the Isles found a way to win despite trailing 2-1 after two periods. Moulson got his team-high 27th of the season by banging a rebound past Miikka Kiprusoff 28 seconds into the third period. Gervais' slapper through a screen went into the net with 8:29 left, one second after an Islanders' power play expired.

"I thought it was a great thing for our guys to throw that (Rangers) game away and come out and play hard,” Isles coach Scott Gordon said. "In the third period we came out with the mindset to shoot, and we did."

Flames captain Jarome Iginla said Moulson's goal turned the game around after Calgary appeared to be in charge entering the final 20 minutes.

"It was a game-changer and a big momentum shift," Iginla said. "That was the turning point."

Trent Hunter ended the Isles' scoring drought at 154 minutes and 6 seconds when he chopped a loose puck off Kiprusoff's back and into the net 8:23 into the game. Nigel Dawes' deflection 50 seconds later tied it, and Eric Nystrom -- son of former Isles' star Bob Nystrom -- put Calgary ahead by beating Martin Biron at 13:08 of the second period.

Nystrom, who grew up on Long Island and played at the Coliseum as a youngster, also had an assist in his first visit as an NHL player.

"We didn't work hard enough and this time of year, that's unacceptable," he said. "We have to win every game for the rest of the year or else we're in trouble."

Hurricanes 3, Capitals 2 (SO) | HIGHLIGHTS

Carolina's Chad LaRose made the most of his first career shootout attempt, beating Semyon Varlamov for the winner as the 'Canes beat Washington for the third time this season.

After each team scored once in four tries, LaRose was surprised to get the call in Round Five.

"I didn't know I was going until (Coach Paul Maurice) just hit me on the backside," said LaRose, a fifth-year forward, who scored before Manny Legace stopped Mike Green for the win. "It didn't really make up for the game that I played, but it was a good win for the team."

It was a good night for rookie defensemen -- Carolina's Jamie McBain and Bryan Rodney and Washington's John Carlson all scored goals, marking the first time three first-year defensemen scored in the same game since Toronto and Chicago did it March 8, 1947.

Alexander Semin also scored for Washington, which beat Pittsburgh 4-3 in a shootout Wednesday night and forced a shootout this time by overcoming a 2-0 deficit

"When you play that team you have to spend quite a bit more," Maurice said. "We certainly don't want to pull back in a third period and they started to skate better and create more. I still think we had some great chances in the beginning of the third."

McBain and Rodney gave the 'Canes a 2-0 left before the first period had reached the midway point. Semin scored early in the second period, and Carlson tied it early in the third with his first NHL goal.

But Caps coach Bruce Boudreau was disappointed with his team's poor start after the emotional win over the Penguins.

"We weren't ready to play," Boudreau said. "It's safe to say that in the first 10 minutes we were leaving our poor goalie out to dry. I don't know if that happens when you play an emotional game the night before. But I thought in the last two periods we picked it up pretty well."

Blue Jackets 8, Blackhawks 3 | HIGHLIGHTS

Chicago became the second club to punch its ticket for the Stanley Cup Playoffs despite one of its worst performances of the season. Calgary's loss clinched a playoff berth for the Hawks despite the fact that they were buried by the offensively-challenged Blue Jackets.

"Across the board, from the first shift to the end of the game," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of the meltdown. "There's nothing to be excited about. Discount it and throw it in the garbage can."

Chicago looked nothing like a team with 99 points, eager to get tuned up for a lengthy playoff run. Nor did the Hawks' search for a playoff goaltender get any help -- Cristobal Huet was pulled in the second for Antti Niemi with the score 5-1, then put back in to start the third. Chicago has allowed 21 goals in its last six games.

"I don't think anybody played good tonight," Quenneville added after his team fell to 5-5-2 since the Olympic break. "(Huet) had a tough night. It can happen, but it was contagious tonight."

Antoine Vermette had two goals and an assist, and the Blue Jackets scored four second-period goals -- one on Jakub Voracek's penalty shot. The eights goals set a Columbus mark for most scored at home and tied the franchise record for most in a game.

"It wasn't an outcome we anticipated," interim coach Claude Noel said. "They are a very good team, and we certainly have a lot of respect for them. Their goaltending struggled a bit tonight and that showed in the result of the game."

Blues 3, Kings 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

St. Louis' playoff hopes still have a pulse after the Blues ground out a home victory over Los Angeles for their 10th win in 15 games.

Despite the victory, the Blues are still eight points behind eighth-place Detroit. But interim coach Davis Payne said his club won't quit -- after all, the Blues went 9-1-1 down the stretch last season to steal a berth.

"We're going to keep on winning hockey games," Payne said. "Until they tell us we're not eligible (for the playoffs), we're going to make sure that hey, if there's fight left in us, we're going to put it out there, here at home (or) on the road.

"Stranger things have happened and we intend to keep winning until the games run out."

B.J. Crombeen gave the Blues a 1-0 lead 3:57 into the game, beating Jonathan Quick with a snap shot through the five-hole on a 2-on-1 break. T.J. Oshie made it 2-0 at 1:06 of the second period, lifting a shot over Quick with Keith Tkachuk clogging up the slot.

Dustin Brown picked off Barret Jackman's clearing attempt and beat Chris Mason with a high backhander 4:38 into the third period to cut the Blues' lead to 2-1. But Mason preserved the lead when he made perhaps the best of his 30 saves -- a glove stop on the Kings' Anze Kopitar with 13:54 remaining.

Paul Kariya added an insurance goal off a scramble with six minutes to play.

"It's tough to come from behind every game," said Brown, whose team lost 4-3 in a shootout at Colorado on Wednesday and dropped into sixth in the West, one point behind Nashville. "Our third period was great, but they got a timely goal with six minutes left that kind of takes the wind out of our sails."

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

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