At a point in the season when every two points are crucial, Marty Turco
led the Dallas Stars
to four straight wins.
But on Thursday night, it was Mike Smith’s turn to shine.
Given the opportunity to start at Minnesota in a showdown of first-place teams, Smith turned aside all 25 shots he saw for his fifth career shutout and Niklas Hagman scored early in the third as the Stars beat the Wild 1-0 at Xcel Energy Center to further solidify their No. 2 position in the Western Conference standings.
Smith got the chance to play because Turco was unable to go due to a sore neck. He made the most of his opportunity.
“We’ve played well since the All-Star break, and this is the right time of season to start playing well,” Smith said after earning his 10th victory of the season. “I just wanted to come in and stabilize the team like Marty’s done in the last four games. I mean, he’s played unbelievable and probably stole four wins for the team, and that’s what we’ve got to do right now.”
Hagman scored career-high 20th goal of the season, and second in three games, on a backhander that eluded Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom 3:11 into the final period. Hagman took Loui Eriksson’s pass in the left circle and fought off a check from Martin Skoula before cutting across the crease and slipping the puck past Backstrom, who also stopped 25 shots.
“Overall, the whole season has been special,” Hagman said. “I’ve got the chance to play a lot and it’s been real fun to play. I managed to play a little more offensively, got the chance to play on the power play … of course, scoring 20, it’s nice, but the whole year overall I’ve been pretty happy with the way things have gone and the way the team is playing right now has helped a lot.”
If not for Smith, however, the outcome would have been different. In the seconds before Hagman’s goal, Smith robbed Marian Gaborik with a brilliant right pad save as Gaborik attempted to tip a pass from linemate Pavol Demitra.
“It’s just one of those plays where it’s a bang-bang play,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “Everybody’s oohing and aahing over the save Smith made, and we end up with a breakaway at the other end and it goes our way.”
Smith also poke-checked the puck off Gaborik’s stick during the second period to prevent a scoring chance and denied a good opportunity by Todd Fedoruk before Pierre-Marc Bouchard fired the rebound over the net.
“It obviously gives the team a good chance to win when you know your goalies are playing well,” Hagman said. “Marty was tremendous for the whole trip through Canada and back at home, too, and Smitty played tremendous.”
Before the game, Minnesota honored Mike Modano, who began his NHL career in the state playing for the North Stars and earlier this season became the NHL scoring leader among American-born players.
“Mike thinks a great deal of Minnesota,” Tippett said. “I’ve known Mike for a long time, and he looks at the past here of where he got his start in the NHL. He still has many great friends here and the people treated him unbelievable. He always speaks of Minnesota as a very special place.”
Ducks 4, Rangers 1 | Video
Teemu Selanne’s return has sparked the Ducks’ offense. Selanne picked up an assist in his second straight game after returning to the lineup and four different players scored as Anaheim won its second in a row after a six-game losing streak.
Mathieu Schneider had a goal and an assist, and Corey Perry, Chris Kunitz and Todd Bertuzzi also scored for Anaheim, which tied San Jose for second in the Pacific Division and fourth in the Western Conference.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere was strong in net for the Ducks, who were outshot in each period and 33-19 overall. Giguere finished with 32 saves.
“I think at times we did what we wanted to do,” said Anaheim defenseman Scott Niedermayer, who, like Selanne, sat out a chunk of the season while contemplating retirement after last year’s Stanley Cup victory before eventually deciding to come back.
“They have a pretty high-powered offense over there, and they definitely generated some chances,” Niedermayer said of the Rangers. “I think our goaltender maybe saved us from playing a lot tighter game, or closer game, than it was tonight.”
Ryan Callahan scored his first goal since opening night, a span of 26 games, but the Rangers have dropped consecutive home games after winning three in a row on the road. They also fell to 0-7-2 this season against teams from the Western Conference.
“We can’t be frustrated right now,” Rangers center Scott Gomez said. “What can you say — we put in a good effort, but we still made the littlest mistakes and when you do that against this club, that’s the game right there.”
Perry and Kunitz scored 1:27 apart in the second period, putting the Ducks ahead to stay. Perry made it 2-1 at 12:05 by scoring his team-high 28th on a shot from the right circle that squeezed under the left arm of Henrik Lundqvist and trickled over the goal line.
Kunitz helped Anaheim take advantage of a Fedor Tyutin hooking penalty by converting the rebound of Chris Pronger’s shot, bouncing the puck off the right post and off Lundqvist into the net. Bertuzzi closed the scoring with 7:47 left in the game.
Anaheim has scored seven goals in its last two games after managing just five during their six-game skid.
"It's much easier to win when you get that many goals," Giguere said. "It's never fun not to score. I'm sure the guys are having a lot more fun now."
Schneider got the Ducks going with the first period’s only goal, a shot from the right point through traffic that beat Lundqvist at 10:36. Callahan tied it 7:42 into the second on a blast from the right circle that nearly took out teammate Blair Betts, who had been knocked into the net.
Canucks 2, Thrashers 1 | Video
This third-period comeback couldn’t have come at a better time for the Vancouver Canucks. Daniel Sedin tied the score on a power play at 6:32 and Alex Burrows scored the go-ahead goal with 8:46 left in regulation as the Canucks salvaged the finale of what had been an empty four-game road trip.
"We really wanted to find a way to win tonight," Burrows said. "After that second period we got together and played a really strong third period."
|Alex Burrows scored the go-ahead goal with 8:46 left in regulation to give the Canucks a 2-1 victory over the Thrashers.
Pascal Dupuis garnered the lone goal for the Thrashers, who missed an opportunity to leapfrog the idle Washington Capitals into first place in the topsy-turvy Southeast Division.
The Canucks have seen their fortunes change drastically in the span of just a month. On Jan. 8, they led the Northwest Division and were tied for the second-best record in the Western Conference. Entering Thursday’s action, they had slipped to 10th place, out of a playoff spot. But Vancouver has enjoyed good success in its rare meetings with Atlanta, particularly at Philips Arena. The Canucks lost their initial meeting there, on Nov. 22, 1999, but carried a modest two-game winning streak on Atlanta ice into the game.
Daniel Sedin was able to tip home a point shot by Mattias Ohlund to draw the Canucks even. Ohlund returned to the team after returning to Vancouver briefly to attend to a family matter.
"Mattias had to go home for a family medical reason, and for him to take the red-eye last night to come here and play says so much about that individual and how much he cares about his teammates," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. "I think that was a huge lift for us."
Less than five minutes later, Burrows took advantage of a scramble in front of the net — teammate Ryan Kesler tangled with Eric Perrin of the Thrashers, and Perrin’s stick knocked goalie Kari Lehtonen off his feet. Lehtonen ended up on his backside and couldn’t stop Burrows’ sixth of the season.
"Perrin's stick hit me right here," Lehtonen said, pointing to a six-inch red mark on his upper chest. "That's why I went on my butt. I couldn't get up fast enough. I was complaining a lot because I thought it was their player's stick, but I was wrong. Sometimes things like that happen."
Roberto Luongo’s 27 saves also helped the Canucks win for just the second time this season when trailing after the second period — they carried a 1-19-1 mark in such situations.
The only shot Luongo couldn’t stop was a follow by Dupuis at 7:58 of the second. Luongo made the save on Tobias Enstrom’s shot from the left circle, but the puck came off his pads and Dupuis was in position to capitalize.
Otherwise, the Canucks played a solid game defensively, holding Ilya Kovalchuk scoreless on six shots.
"Obviously, he is a big part of their team,” Luongo said. “We put a lot of focus on him. We didn't want to give him much room."
Kings 5, Red Wings 3 | Video
The suddenly red-hot Kings weren’t daunted by the Red Wings’ quest to tie the longest win streak in franchise history. Frolov had a goal and two assists as the Kings rallied for four unanswered goals in the third period to improve to 3-1-1 on an eight-game road swing. Despite having the fewest points in the NHL with 49, Los Angeles has been on a recent surge, going 8-3-1 since Jan. 10.
"It's always great when you can come back and win a game in the third period," said defenseman Brad Stuart, whose goal with 6:53 left put the Kings ahead to stay. "But it's much better when you can do it on the road against the best team in the League."
The Red Wings led 3-1 entering the third, but Patrick O’Sullivan’s goal 39 seconds into the period served notice that the Kings weren’t going away. Frolov followed at 6:15 with a power-play goal to tie the score and Stuart notched his fifth of the season on another man advantage to give Los Angeles the lead. Anze Kopitar added an insurance goal 1:32 later.
"We played very well all night, and we deserved to win," Kings coach Marc Crawford said. "We were a much better team tonight than Detroit.”
The Wings, aiming for a ninth consecutive victory, wasted a pair of goals by Henrik Zetterberg. Tomas Kopecky also scored just 49 seconds after the opening faceoff.
“We didn’t play well in the third,” Wings forward Dan Cleary said. “L.A. obviously has been playing well. Their record in the last 11 games speaks for itself. They got four in a row and beat us fair and square.”
Kopecky and the Kings’ Kyle Calder traded goals in the first before Zetterberg scored with 1:09 left in the period to put the Wings ahead. Zetterberg extended the lead to 3-1 at 13:05 of the second with his 33rd of the season, matching his total from last season and just six off his career-high in 2005-06.
That was merely an afterthought for the League’s top team after its collapse in the third.
"Their team won more battles and got more pucks to the net," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "Their power play was better than our penalty kill and their penalty kill was better than our power play.
“Every once in a while in life you need to be reminded. We know you can't just come to the rink and put your jersey on. You've got to outwork the opposition."
Penguins 4, Islanders 3 | Video
The Penguins and Islanders continue to head in drastically different directions.
Defenseman Kris Letang scored the go-ahead goal with 3:39 left in regulation and the Islanders had the apparent tying goal waved off in the final seconds when the referee blew the whistle after losing sight of the puck an instant before it crossed the goal line.
Ryan Whitney scored two power-play goals and assisted on Ryan Malone’s tally for Pittsburgh, which moved into a tie for first in the Atlantic Division with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Isles lost their sixth in a row.
"We've got to shoot the puck, and we did that tonight," Whitney said. "I think we had seven shots on three power plays. Our power play's been pretty good lately."
Letang’s third of the season came unassisted when he skated down the right boards and wristed a shot that deflected off defenseman Brendan Witt’s stick and past goalie Rick DiPietro.
"I just saw the goalie down and the defenseman was backing up so I just tried to put it on net and make something happen," Letang said.
Mike Comrie scored twice for the Islanders — including a power-play goal with 9:13 remaining to tie the game at 3-3 — and Ruslan Fedotenko ended a nine-game goal drought. But New York continues to lose ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
“It’s a game of mistakes, and we made one too many,” Islanders coach Ted Nolan said.
Comrie got the Islanders on the board first thanks to a mistake by Ty Conklin. The Pittsburgh goalie misplayed the puck in the left corner and was left a spectator as Andy Hilbert collected it and fed to Comrie, who had an empty net.
Whitney drew Pittsburgh even midway through the period off a crisp passing play involving Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora. Whitney, who would later snap a 2-2 tie with his second of the night and 11th of the season, picked up his play after coach Michel Therrien criticized him following a 4-3 overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils on Monday.
"He responded exactly the way I expected. Give him credit," Therrien said. "He upgraded his game not only offensively — it is great to get two goals tonight – but defensively he was sharp. This is what I want from him."
Malone gave the Penguins their first lead 2:24 into the second, deflecting Whitney’s blast from the point past DiPietro. Fedotenko tied it at 6:30 when he took Trent Hunter’s feed and beat Conklin to his glove side.
Senators 5, Panthers 4 | Video
Ottawa’s recent slump reminded the Senators about the importance of Dany Heatley while the star forward was sidelined with a shoulder separation. Heatley underscored that point Thursday by lifting his teammates and the fans at Scotiabank Place in his return.
Heatley scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner 7:26 into the third period, and the Senators held off Florida to pad their lead in the Eastern Conference standings over Montreal to three points.
"I felt good," said Heatley, who hadn’t played since being injured on Jan. 12. "The first period was just to get back to game pace and a little bit rusty, but the second and third felt a little more comfortable and I got the timing and felt good."
Jason Spezza assisted on three goals, including both of Heatley’s, and was delighted to have his regular linemate back in the fold after the Senators went 3-8-0 in his absence.
"We've got pretty good chemistry and Heater was pretty excited to play," Spezza said. "When you're losing games it's nice to get a jolt of energy back in your lineup and it's nice when it comes in the way of a 50-goal man."
Christoph Schubert, Joe Corvo and Chris Phillips also scored for Ottawa, which received 29 saves from Ray Emery.
David Booth’s power-play goal at 16:19 of the first staked the Panthers to a 1-0 lead before the teams revved up the offense during a back-and-forth second.
Heatley started a three-goal burst by the Senators just 58 seconds in, followed by goals from Schubert and Corvo just 1:39 apart.
Brett McLean got one back for Florida on a power play and Nathan Horton tied the game 45 seconds later. Phillips put Ottawa back up 4-3, but that lead lasted all of 46 seconds before Olli Jokinen scored his 27th of the season.
Heatley then picked up his 27th when Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun stopped Wade Redden’s shot but left the rebound for Heatley to tap in.
"The win is all that matters and we needed that," Spezza said. "We played a pretty competitive game and really battled against a team that's playing well."
Lightning 2, Predators 1 (OT) | Video
After six straight road wins, the Tampa Bay Lightning don’t feel such a heavy load on their shoulders when they travel away from St. Pete Times Forum.
Vaclav Prospal knocked a rebound past Dan Ellis 58 seconds into overtime and Johan Holmqvist made 10 of his 18 saves in the third period as the Lightning left Sommet Center with a victory.
|Tampa Bay's Vaclav Prospal scored the game-winning goal in overtime to give the Lightning a 2-1 victory against the Predators.
“A really good team effort and I’m just glad we got the two points for the win,” Prospal said after scoring his 23rd of the season.
Brad Richards, who scored in regulation for Tampa Bay, set up Prospal’s winner with a slapper from the top of the right circle that Ellis stopped. Prospal, standing to the goalie’s right, pounced on the rebound.
"It was a situation where they found a loose puck and they passed it across to Brad Richards,” Ellis said. “The puck was bouncing, he had to wait for it to settle down and he took a shot. It was fluttering around and it was hard to get control of it. It hit my chest and went down. It was bouncing again and they were just able to whack the rebound in."
The Lightning prevailed against a Nashville team that had won the first three of a four-game homestand, including a 1-0 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.
Alexander Radulov, who assisted on the only goal of that game but saw a franchise-record, six-game goal streak snapped, got right back in the groove at 12:37 of the first period when his wrist shot beat Holmqvist.
Richards made it 1-1 with 6:51 left in the second, as his line with Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis clicked once again.
“Their line is good and strong and if you add up the points by the trio from Tampa Bay, it’s as good as it gets,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “They were good and we had to use two lines tonight to check them for the most part. They were just tough all night.”
Holmqvist outlined the easiest way for the Lightning to keep their success going.
“We just have to keep it simple and grind it out,” Holmqvist said.
Not only do the six consecutive road wins represent a season-high for Tampa Bay, they’re one off the franchise record of seven set last season. Despite the improvement, the Bolts are still last in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s great, but we’re just coming back to the beginning of the year when we were not that good on the road,” Prospal said. “So basically right now, we need to get some wins because that’s where we put ourselves in a jam.”
Blackhawks 3, Flames 1 | Video
There was no big comeback for the Flames this time — and as a result, there’s no more losing streak for the Blackhawks, who won for the first time in six games.
Two nights after overcoming a 3-0 deficit in the third period against Phoenix and winning in a shootout, the Flames managed only Adrian Aucoin’s goal as Blackhawks netminder Nikolai Khabibulin made 26 saves and improved to 19-5-2 in his career against Calgary.
"It's obviously nice to win, it hasn't happened in a while,” Khabibulin said after ending a personal 10-game losing streak with his first win since Dec. 26. “I thought I played some good games during the losing streak, probably could have won the game before this one — but it didn't happen."
Khabibulin’s teammates were happy for him, too.
“Khabby has played great and we just can’t seem to get him a win, so it was real nice that the team came out with a big effort tonight,” Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook said. “What can I say about Khabby — he was stellar tonight and he made a lot of big saves to help us win.”
Chicago shook off a 4-1 loss in Edmonton on Wednesday to improve to 1-2-1 on a season-high seven-game road trip. Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp and Yanic Perreault scored for the Blackhawks.
“We had a lot of odds against us tonight,” coach Denis Savard said. “Two games in two nights. It was a tough game (Wednesday) night, we played a heck of a third period in Edmonton. We spent a lot of energy trying to come back, and again, Khabby was phenomenal in the third. That’s what goaltending does for you.”
Sharp snapped a 1-1 tie with 4:53 left in the second period with his 25th of the season, and Khabibulin made the lead stand up with 12 third-period saves. Perreault put the puck into an empty net with 12 seconds remaining.
“We battled hard, we skated hard, we finished our checks, and that’s why we got the win,” Chicago center Tuomo Ruutu said.
Keith got the Blackhawks off to a good start with a 40-footer that beat Miikka Kiprusoff between the legs 7:14 into the second period.
Aucoin tied the score for the Flames with a similar goal at 11:30.
"Tonight, it seemed like we were fighting the puck," Calgary center Alex Tanguay said. "We were giving the puck away, we were putting the pucks in bad areas and that's just mental sharpness. Everybody's responsible to be accountable before the game and be ready and tonight we were ready for some shifts, and not ready for others. It ended up costing us."
Blue Jackets 2, Coyotes 1 | Video
Special-teams play helped Columbus get off to a fast start in the desert and close the gap on Phoenix in the Western Conference standings. A solid effort in goal by Fredrik Norrena didn’t hurt, either.
|Fredrik Norrena made 26 saves as Columbus won its third straight against Phoenix.
Jason Chimera scored shorthanded to get the Blue Jackets started, Nikolai Zherdev added what proved to be the game-winner on a power play and Norrena made 26 saves as Columbus won its third straight against Phoenix. The Blue Jackets moved within a point of the Coyotes and are just three points out of a playoff spot.
“This was a big win for us,” Norrena said. “We haven’t played that well lately and have been giving up too many goals. Today I think we (gave) a great team effort. We were really sharp in front of our net and got that 2-0 lead and kind of stayed in the fight the whole way.”
David Vyborny’s early hooking penalty gave the Coyotes a man advantage, but it was the Blue Jackets who took advantage. When Peter Mueller couldn’t hold a pass in at the right point, Chimera beat him to the loose puck at center ice, skated down the left side and beat Ilya Bryzgalov at 5:20 for a 1-0 lead.
Columbus enjoyed a 5-on-3 when Zherdev knocked in the rebound of Ron Hainsey’s shot at 9:09.
Mike York drew the Coyotes within one at 12:56 of the second, but Norrena shut the door from there. He made 11 saves in the third period and withstood a late 6-on-4 advantage after Columbus was penalized and Phoenix pulled Bryzgalov.
"We played a very structured game," Chimera said. "Defensively, we did not give them too much and really limited their good chances."
It was the second straight one-goal defeat for the Coyotes, who dropped to 11-12-2 at Jobing.com Arena — the worst mark among the teams scrambling for playoff spots in the West.
"It just seems like we keep digging ourselves in holes now at home, and that's not good," Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. "We need to figure out a way to come out quicker and get ahead."
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.