Earlier this season it seemed it would take something special to get the Dallas Stars
out of the hole they dug themselves in the standings and back into the Western Conference playoff picture.
finally winning a regular-season game at Joe Louis Arena and becoming the franchise's all-time leader in minutes played in the process was enough to accomplish that.
The former University of Michigan standout made 22 saves and his teammates scored four times in the first 22 minutes en route to a 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings
on Thursday. With the two points giving them 51 for the season, the Stars have climbed from the bottom of the Pacific Division into a five-way tie for the last two playoff spots in the West.
"It's been a long time coming since a win in the regular season -- haven't done that since college," Turco said of conquering the Joe Louis demons that saw him go 0-8-2 in 11 previous regular-season starts for Dallas. "More importantly, the position we're in, the way we've been playing, the way we played the whole game tonight -- especially the third period -- that's the most positive thing. But to get that out of the way, it feels good, not gonna lie."
assisted on a pair of power-play goals 1:17 apart as the Stars built a first-period lead and never looked back. Steve Ott
scored the opening goal and later added an assist, and Jere Lehtinen
, Chris Conner
and Loui Eriksson
had the other goals as Dallas won its season-high third straight.
"We're playing better," coach Dave Tippett
said. "I think the last 20 or 22 games, we're six or seven games over .500 so we've been a good competitive team for a while. It's nice to see us put a string of games together. We've got a long way to go before the end here, but I do like the way our team is coming around."
and Andreas Lilja
cut the Wings' deficit in half with second-period goals, long after Chris Osgood
had been pulled in favor of Ty Conklin
. Detroit, which had its seven-game home win streak snapped, was playing without Henrik Zetterberg
, signed Wednesday to a 12-year contract extension. Zetterberg missed the game with a back injury but hopes to be available Saturday at Washington.
"We give up the two penalty-kill goals right away and then another one," coach Mike Babcock said. "The two penalty-kill goals tonight, for me, were tough to take. You had one on the (goal) line and then another one a foot from the line and we didn't get them out."
Ott got the Stars on the board 18 seconds after a Kris Draper
holding penalty, deflecting a Richards' shot into the net at 10:15. Richards then set up Lehtinen for the second power-play goal, which came 42 seconds into a double high-sticking minor to Chris Chelios
Conner registered his first of the season and fifth in 49 career games with the Stars, beating Osgood to the short side with 1:28 left in the first. Conklin was in net to start the second, and Eriksson greeted him at the two-minute mark with his team-leading 23rd of the season.
"We're slipping defensively," Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom
said. "In our zone, we're not quick to pucks and we're not getting them out of our zone."
The Wings battled back, as Hossa connected on a power play at 4:06 and Lilja beat Turco at 15:11 of the middle period. A couple of other potential goals didn't go their way, however, as a video review negated one and incidental contact on Tomas Holmstrom
in front denied another.
"I'd like to see that call made a little more often," Turco said. "It's tough on referees. He's the best in the game at getting his position and getting in everyone's business."
Said Babcock about the call: "Obviously, we saw it a different way."
Hurricanes 3, Lightning 2 | Video
Carolina scored late in each of the final two periods, taking the lead for the first time in the closing minutes of the second and getting an Eric Staal
goal with 1:36 left in the third to edge Tampa Bay.
In only their second game at RBC Center since Jan. 6, the Hurricanes also got scores by Chad Larose
and Matt Cullen
in at least temporarily brushing aside a streak that saw them drop six of eight. Cam Ward
finished with 27 saves for his 100th NHL victory and improved to 6-1 in his last seven starts against the Lightning.
"We talked about it before the game, (that) this is a huge 30-something games for us," Staal said, referring to the Hurricanes' remaining 32 games. "We've got to win. ... We've got to bring our consistent work ethic and effort every night. Our defense did a tremendous job tonight of blocking shots -- they did good with the sticks, real solid.
"Obviously, Cam was big. We're going to need him to be the rest of the way."
Staal made the game's biggest play with the teams seemingly headed for overtime. After Sergei Samsonov
misfired on a shot from the slot and both he and linemate Tuomo Ruutu
couldn't put home the rebound, Staal snapped the puck past Mike Smith
from the left side for his team-leading 21st of the season.
"(Samsonov) fanned on the shot, but he faked everybody out, and the goalie was down, and he eventually got a shot off enough," Staal said. "I picked up the garbage."
had a goal and an assist for Tampa, opening the scoring with an unassisted goal 16:55 into the first and helping the Lightning draw even at 2-2 when he hit a streaking Ryan Malone
for the tying goal 5:10 into the third.
Carolina came alive in the second. Larose netted a shorthanded goal, the first by the Hurricanes this season, at the 5:34 mark. Cullen, who set it up, then put them ahead 1:24 before intermission by skating out from behind the net and slipping the puck inside the right post.
"They've got two of the best power-play players in the world out there," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice
said in referring to Vincent Lecavalier
and Martin St. Louis
, "and our penalty kill did an outstanding job. Getting a shorthanded goal like that, that's more than being able to shut that team down. It's a huge, huge lift for us."
It was deflating for Tampa, which came into the game only seven points behind Carolina in the Southeast Division and was trying to inch closer in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
"The margin of error is so small now that a loss like this, especially to a team we're trying to catch, is a huge loss," Lightning center Jeff Halpern
said. "Every loss right now is a big loss."
Islanders 5, Thrashers 4 | Video
New York snapped a 14-game road losing streak -- but not without a few anxious moments. The Islanders raced to a 4-0 lead after 20 minutes but ended up needing Kyle Okposo
's second goal of the game to help hold off a furious third-period rally by Atlanta at Philips Arena.
, Okposo, Tim Jackman
and Doug Weight
staked the Islanders to what appeared to be a comfortable lead by scoring in the first 13:17 of the game, sending Keri Lehtonen to the bench. Yann Danis
stopped all 22 shots he faced over the first two periods, and there seemed little doubt going into the third that New York would end its drought away from home.
began the Thrashers' comeback by beating Danis on a slap shot 26 seconds into the third. Rich Peverley
converted on a power play at 6:20 and when Marty Reasoner
's wraparound snuck into the net at 8:36 it was suddenly a 4-3 game.
Okposo restored order for the Islanders with the eventual game-winner at 12:39 and they survived an Ilya Kovalchuk
goal with 58 seconds remaining to win their first road game since Nov. 24 in Montreal.
"We may have run out of gas," Islanders coach Scott Gordon
said. "Atlanta came on hard and turned it up a notch."
By contrast, the Islanders came out in the first clicking on all cylinders. They put 20 shots on goal in the first, including 15 on Lehtonen before he was pulled in favor of Johan Hedberg
. Hunter's wrist shot found the net 55 seconds in for his first goal since Dec. 4 and the onslaught had started. Josh Bailey
set up Okposo at 7:29, Jackman followed at 10:25 and Weight followed with his eighth of the season.
"I liked the way we're starting to have periods where we're dominating," Gordon said. "The first period we had four straight goals and probably could have had another two or three."
It turned out they could have used them, but Okposo's second goal helped ensure disaster didn't strike. It also left the Thrashers in a down mood in spite of the way they responded in the final 20 minutes.
"Just because we had a good third doesn't mean anything," Peverley said. "We didn't get a point out of it. You shoot yourself in the foot going down 4-0. I think it was a lack of effort by the whole team."
Panthers 5, Canadiens 1 | Video
Florida has spent most of the season striving to put itself in the solid playoff positioning Montreal typically enjoys. By decisively beating the suddenly struggling Canadiens at BankAtlantic Center, the Panthers took another step in getting there.
Power-play goals by Jay Bouwmeester
and Stephen Weiss
in the first period got the Panthers off to a fast start and Tomas Vokoun
made 35 saves as Florida improved to 7-1-3 in its last 11 games and moved into the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
"Probably our best 60 minutes of the season from a system point of view and how we want to play," coach Peter DeBoer
said. "I think we've done a good job of playing to our identity in spurts and at times. Tonight it was the full 60 minutes. I thought we were good from the goaltender on out."
, Radek Dvorak
and Michael Frolik
also scored for Florida. Zednik's goal was pivotal, as he made a move around defenseman Josh Gorges
, held the puck while being tripped by goalie Carey Price
and scored into an empty net to make it 3-1 with 5:16 remaining in the second. Dvorak converted on a penalty shot with 8:47 left in regulation, extending the Panthers' lead to 4-1 and ending any Montreal hopes of a comeback.
"It was a great effort on his part and a good goal," Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau
said. "But we were still there at 3-1. Our confidence is really low right now and we seemed to go down instead of picking it up and helping each other after that. It was a tough goal for us."
's power-play goal 53 seconds into the middle period cut the Canadiens' deficit to 2-1 but they went on to drop their fourth straight in regulation.
"We have to find that desperation back in our game," defenseman Mike Komisarek
said. "We need that one shift, one period, one game to get us back on track, and get us playing with confidence, with poise and playing together."
Bouwmeester, who leads the Panthers in power-play goals, got his seventh with the man advantage and 11th overall at 3:54 of the first, putting in the rebound of a Cory Stillman
shot. Weiss made it 2-0 at 15:36 when his tip of a Stillman pass from behind the net bounced in off Price's pads.
"It's a funny game," Weiss said. "Sometimes the last few games it seems like the game is going really hard. It feels like you're going one way and the puck is going the other way. Tonight, kind of the opposite."
Meanwhile, the bounces have been going the other way for the Canadiens, who are on their longest losing streak since March 2007 and have given up at least four goals in all of the losses.
"You go from having the best time of your life to the worst time of your life," Price said. "We've got to pull together. We can't start pointing fingers now or you'll never dig yourself out of the hole."
Senators 3, Blues 1 | Video
It's been a difficult season for Ottawa, but some new blood invigorated the Senators and led to a win over St. Louis at Scottrade Center.
scored his first NHL goal with 1:57 left in regulation, snapping a 1-1 deadlock, and the victory was iced on Mike Fisher
's empty-netter with 32.4 seconds remaining. Brian Elliott
stopped 22 shots for the Senators.
Regin, in his third game, gained control of the puck on the left side, skated behind the net, came out and whipped a wrist shot from the right circle past Blues goaltender Chris Mason
for an unassisted goal.
"I tried to shoot it high, but missed and the puck went low. That's often how you score, you miss the puck a little," Regin said. "It's something I've dreamed about since I was a kid. A dream come true for me."
For Mason, who finished with 27 saves and was locked in a goaltending duel with Elliott to that point, it was a tough goal to allow.
"A heartbreaker. I think that was a team we could have beat there," Mason said. "We played a lot harder in the third period, but it stinks with the result. To let them score with two minutes left kind of leaves a mark."
Fisher and Brad Winchester
exchanged goals in the first period. Fisher's first tally of the night came shorthanded after St. Louis forward David Perron
mishandled a rebound in front of Mason. Fisher was able to regain control of the puck in the slot and put a wrister past Mason at 10:06.
Elliott had a light workload early, seeing just one shot in the first 13 minutes. The second one beat him, as Winchester deflected a centering pass from the left wing by Jeff Woywitka
into the net with 7:56 left in the first.
"I didn't like what I saw," Blues coach Andy Murray said. "I thought for the significance of the game and having three days of practice, that our sense of urgency and intensity was not at a level we needed."
Senators coach Craig Hartsburg
had a rosier outlook, particularly where it concerned his newest contributor, Regin.
"Peter showed speed, showed skill, and good poise with the puck," Hartsburg said.
Maple Leafs 7, Avalanche 4 | Video
It was a good night for the goal scorers at Pepsi Center. Dominic Moore
tallied twice and five other Toronto skaters lit the lamp as the Leafs snapped a four-game losing streak.
's go-ahead goal 4:56 into the third triggered a three-goal outburst by the Leafs over the final 20 minutes. Nik Antropov
, Mikhail Grabvoski, Jeff Finger
and Matt Stajan
"It's hard to remember who has the lead and what the score is when there's that many goals," said Finger, whose goal came against his former team. "It was a great win for us."
scored twice for the Avalanche, which also received goals from Chris Stewart
and John-Michael Liles
. Moments after Blake scored, it appeared Hejduk had tied the score and completed a hat trick, but the goal was nullified because of an interference call on Ryan Smyth
, who crashed into Vesa Toskala
after being checked by Toronto defenseman Luke Schenn
"I didn't agree," Smyth said. "I thought I stopped and got pushed."
Toronto coach Ron Wilson said the penalty on Smyth to wipe out the goal was justified.
"Smyth took the goalie out of the play," he said. "You know who it was -- Ryan Smyth
. He's known for doing that. He's got a reputation, and the referee was watching. Luke bumped him and Ryan had his stick between his legs."
Hejduk earlier had a video review award him a goal during a back-and-forth second period that ended with the Leafs holding a 4-3 lead. He put the Avalanche ahead 2-1 on the power play at 1:21 when a replay showed the puck crossing the goal line before Vesa Toskala
cleared it away. After Grabovski and Finger scored to give the Leafs the lead, Hejduk tied things up only to have Moore answer back.
Liles' blast past Toskala 3:10 into the third temporarily drew Colorado even again, but Blake quickly responded by taking advantage of a turnover to beat Andrew Raycroft
. Stajan made it 6-4 with 4:16 remaining -- the first time in the game either side held a two-goal lead -- and Moore's second of the night with 1:57 left capped the scoring.
"We got some breaks for a change and took advantage of them," Wilson said. "The little tweaks we made energized some of our players. ... It was fun to see."
Not for the Avalanche and Raycroft, who spent the past two seasons in Toronto.
"It doesn't matter if they've scored goals or not, it's disappointing to give up seven goals," he said. "If it's the Detroit Red Wings
you're disappointed giving up seven goals. That's not the issue."
Sharks 2, Coyotes 0 | Video
continues to stop everything that came his way, setting a San Jose franchise record for consecutive shutout minutes in the process.
's power-play goal in the second period was all Nabokov would need -- and that was a good thing, because for more than 59 minutes it was all he got. Nabokov finished with 24 saves and Marcel Goc
put the puck into an empty net with 14.3 seconds remaining to seal the win after the Sharks hit the post twice moments earlier.
In addition to getting the winning goal with the man advantage, the Sharks also killed all six power-play opportunities by the Coyotes.
"I think the first goal by Christian gave us an edge and then obviously our penalty kill was good again tonight, and that's always the key," said Nabokov, who blanked Colorado on Tuesday and now has a shutout streak of 169 minutes, 14 seconds. "Any time you win the close games, the special teams will be the key."
The victory improved the Sharks to 23-1-2 at HP Pavilion while increasing their total to 77 points, one more than Boston for the lead in the Presidents' Trophy race. The Bruins lost to New Jersey in overtime.
was also stellar in turning aside 27 shots for the Coyotes, and he kept the game scoreless into the middle period. Todd Fedoruk
was penalized for delay of game at 5:21 and the Sharks struck on the ensuing power play.
With Joe Thornton
setting a screen in front, Ehrhoff's long, low shot got past Bryzgalov at 5:59. It was the second in four games for Ehrhoff after he suffered through a 36-game goal drought.
Nabokov took it from there.
''We have the puck a lot, and we like to play in their end as much as possible,'' forward Ryan Clowe said. ''That's why the other team doesn't get as many shots. When we backcheck, it's not just to look around, either. ... But you're going to have breakdowns sometimes, so it's nice to have a goalie like Nabby in there.''
The Coyotes missed out on a chance to take sole possession of fifth in the West and open up a four-point lead over the glut of teams vying for the final playoff spots.
''Special teams are so important, and our power play has to be better,'' Phoenix captain Shane Doan
said. ''You know when you play these guys, it's going to be intense and it's going to be a fun game. It's one of reasons why they're one of the best teams in the league right now. You have to rise up and play against them.''
Kings 5, Blackhawks 2 | Video
Los Angeles has no choice but to start stringing together wins in order to make a push in the West. Dustin Brown
collected a pair of power-play goals as the Kings beat Chicago at Staples Center for their third straight victory.
Brown opened the scoring and closed it with an empty-netter in the final minute. In between, Jarret Stoll
, Patrick O'Sullivan
and Alexander Frolov
also netted goals and goalie Jonathan Quick
stopped 31 shots. He also picked up his first NHL point by assisting on O'Sullivan's shorthanded goal in the second period.
''We know we can beat good teams,'' Stoll said. ''We were not as consistent as we wanted to be, and they were kind of all over us in the third. But Quick held us in it and Frolov gave us a timely goal. We needed that one bad. We know we got away with one here.''
set up third-period goals by Dave Bolland
and Patrick Sharp
. Cristobal Huet
made 21 saves for the Blackhawks but lost for the second time this season to the team he broke into the League with back in 2002-03.
''I think that team is a lot better than what people give them credit for,'' Campbell said. ''They're knocking on the door for the playoffs, and I think probably too many teams underestimate them.
''I know (coach Joel Quenneville
) went over that with us, telling us, 'Don't take this team lightly. They're a good hockey team.' But I don't think we competed as hard as we need to in order to win hockey games. Some nights we're still trying to figure out our roles, maybe a little bit.''
Chicago got into penalty trouble, setting up a pair of Los Angeles goals 1:45 apart in the first. Brown made it 1-0 with 5:13 left in the period, just seven seconds after a 5-on-3 expired, then Stoll connected on another power play with a one-timer off a Kyle Calder
O'Sullivan netted his fourth career shorthanded goal 5:26 into the second. Quick made 15 saves in the period, allowing the Kings to enter the third in full command.
''Quick saved our bacon a couple of times out there. He's been that way through most every game that he's played,'' coach Terry Murray
said. ''That eight-day break is nice to have because you get rested. But professional hockey players getting away for eight days from intense competition means your timing is off. That's all there is to it, and your goaltender has to save you.''
Bolland ended Quick's shutout bid and got the Blackhawks on the board 7:31 into third, but Frolov made it a three-goal lead again for the Kings by scoring his team-leading 21st of the season just 37 seconds later. Sharp cut it back to 4-2 at 11:32 but Brown took advantage of a power play and Huet being pulled for an extra attacker to score again with 19 seconds left.
''We didn't have a great first period and it ended up coming back to haunt us,'' Chicago forward Craig Adams
said. ''The last 30 minutes of the game we played pretty hard and put some pressure on them. They don't give you much. We had some good chances, but their goalie made some good saves.''
Material from wire services and team broadcast media was used in this report.