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Sykora savors first NHL hat trick

by John Kreiser
A few notes while the Hurricanes and Islanders try to figure out what hit them:

Perfect day for Petr -- Thursday was one of those days when everything went right for Petr Sykora. His son felt better, his game was on TV back home in the Czech Republic, and he finally shed the distinction of never having scored three goals in an NHL game.

Sykora had scored two goals 38 times in 870 games, the most of any player who had never gotten three. He broke through with a bang in Pittsburgh's 9-2 victory against the New York Islanders, scoring once in the first period and twice more in the second. He leaped into Sidney Crosby's arms after getting the third one at 15:42 of the second period, with a wrist shot past Isles goaltender Yann Danis.

The game had to be delayed as rink attendants cleaned up the shower of hats thrown in celebration.

"It feels pretty special," Sykora said. "I know the game was on TV in the Czech (Republic). I know my dad is watching. I think he's very happy right now, very proud."

The big night -- he also had an assist for a four-point game -- was the culmination of a wonderful day for the 32-year-old forward.

"There were a lot of things going around today," he said. "My son's feeling better -- last night he was really sick, but he slept better. The whole day today was really positive."

Perhaps the biggest positive is that he'll no longer have to tell the world that scoring twice but not getting the third goal is no big deal.

"I won't have to talk about it (not scoring three) anymore," Sykora said. "It is a relief. As much as I talked that it didn't bother me, it did bother me, and now I feel pretty good."

Sykora didn't mind sharing top billing with teammate Pascal Dupuis, who had his first three-goal performances in his 461st NHL game.

"I feel really glad for Duper," Sykora said. "He's a good guy and he's been playing his butt off lately. He's skating well and doing so much hard work on the PK. I can relate to that feeling (of getting the third goal) -- I had it about 20 minutes before. I'm very happy for him."

A comeback to remember -- Sykora and Dupuis aren't the only ones who always will remember what happened to them Thursday. The Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes aren't likely to forget -- for different reasons.

The Hurricanes were all over the Flyers in the first two periods at the Wachovia Center, scoring seemingly at will on the way to a 5-1 lead after 40 minutes -- after which Philadelphia coach John Stevens merely told his team he wanted to see a respectable third period.

"I just asked them to go out and play 20 minutes the right way," Stevens said. "I never had any idea that we could come back from that kind of a hole from a team that was playing so well."

Stevens got a lot more than he could have asked for. Scott Hartnell scored twice to complete a hat trick, and Scottie Upshall and Simon Gagne added goals in the last five minutes of regulation. Then Gagne and Mike Richards scored in the shootout to give the Flyers a stunning 6-5 victory.

"I think collectively we came together and we threw everything at them," Upshall said of the third-period turnaround. "We played pretty much Flyer hockey, the way we know how. We shot the puck, we made simple plays and we won battles and that was the difference."

It was the Flyers' biggest comeback since overcoming a 5-1 deficit to beat Detroit 11-6 on Feb. 23, 1988, and the first time this season a team has blown a four-goal lead (or overcome a four-goal deficit, depending on your viewpoint).

If nothing else, it proved again that no lead is safe in today's NHL.

"We played just some fine hockey for 40 minutes and in the third we got a lesson in forecheck pressure," Paul Maurice said after the fourth game of his second hitch as Hurricanes coach. "We had a difficult night moving the puck and our feet stopped moving. We ran a few guys in the back end there awful hard and they probably ran out of a little gas."

Barry who? -- Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and the rest of the Tampa Bay Lightning officially are over Barry Melrose.

Their recently fired coach lashed out at the organization and many of the players during a radio interview this week, saying, among other things, that he hoped the team didn't win another game all season. They hadn’t won in their last nine until breaking that slump by winning in an unlikely place, Montreal's Bell Centre, by beating the Canadiens, 3-1.

"We don't really listen to what he says anymore," Lecavalier said of Melrose, who was replaced by Rick Tocchet four weeks ago. "He said it when he got fired, and he said it again a couple of weeks after so we don't really pay attention to that. We have great players here, a great coaching staff with Rick Tocchet, (associate coach Mike) Sullivan and (assistant coach Wes) Walz, and we're going forward."

They weren't going very fast until Thursday, when St. Louis scored twice and Lecavalier got what proved to be the game-winner.

Playing near home may have given both players an extra boost.

"If you don't get up for these games in this building, you don't have the right blood running through your veins," said St. Louis, who grew up in suburban Montreal.

Watch and learn -- Like any smart rookie, Columbus' Jakub Voracek is learning on the fly in his first NHL season. Apparently, he's a quick study.

Voracek watched the shootout tactics used by Kristian Huselius and Rick Nash against Nashville's Dan Ellis, and then used what he saw to score the deciding goal as the Blue Jackets beat the Predators 2-1 at Nationwide Arena.

"They both went wide and he had space between his legs," Voracek said of Ellis, who stopped Huselius but was beaten by Nash. "So I was sure I was going to put it there. I think I hit his pads a little bit. I was a little lucky that it went in."

Voracek faked a forehand and then slid a backhand between Ellis' legs. Rookie Steve Mason then stopped Martin Erat to give Columbus the extra point.

The victory was balm for the Jackets, who came home after losing three games in California last week.

"It was definitely huge," Mason said of the victory. "Everybody was truly disappointed with how (the road trip) turned out. We put in a great 60-minute effort here. We were rewarded for it."

Coyotes howling -- Olli Jokinen's return was just what the doctor ordered for the Phoenix Coyotes' struggling attack.
"I think collectively we came together, and we threw everything at them, we played pretty much Flyer hockey, the way we know how. We shot the puck, we made simple plays, and we won battles and that was the difference." -- Philadelphia forward Scottie Upshall
Phoenix had trouble scoring while Jokinen missed six games with a shoulder injury, but he scored twice Wednesday in a 5-3 win at Dallas and added his third goal in two nights as the Coyotes beat Minnesota, 3-1.

"Obviously we're a better team with him in the lineup," said Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky, who knows a thing or two about scoring. "He has helped take a lot of pressure off a lot of guys on our team."

The victory ended an eight-game losing streak to the Wild.

"You can't lose forever," said Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who made 30 saves.

Phoenix GM Don Maloney acquired Jokinen on the first night of the Entry Draft in June with the idea that he'd give the Coyotes a true No. 1 center. That's exactly what he's done. But Jokinen said he and his teammates have to keep putting out the kind of effort that produced wins over Dallas and Minnesota.

"The way we've played the last couple of games, we have to bring that game every single night," Jokinen said. "It's been the 'A' game for us."

Numbers can lie -- The shot clock said the Edmonton Oilers outshot the Florida Panthers 41-16. But the Oilers said they made life too easy for Panthers goaltender Craig Anderson, who stopped all 41 in a 2-0 victory at Rexall Place.

"We might have had five chances in the game that were real opportunities," Edmonton defenseman Sheldon Souray said. "The other ones we were just kind of floating in there. There were no rebounds, he was seeing everything. He made the saves he had to make but I don't think he really stole the show for them. We just didn't pay the price enough."

Added forward Erik Cole: "We didn't have guys going to the front of the net with purpose. This is the National Hockey League. If the goaltender sees all the shots, chances are there aren't going to be any rebounds."

Anderson agreed that he didn't see a lot of rebounds and second chances.

"The one thing we did really well was clean up the rebounds and let me see the first shot," he said. "Our defensemen did a really good job and even our forwards coming back to clean up some of the rebounds and beating their guys to the puck. It helped the team get the win."

A different kind of victory -- The San Jose Sharks have been tearing through visiting teams like, well, sharks. They didn't do that to the Anaheim Ducks, but they still left HP Pavilion with two points after a 2-0 victory that left their coach more than satisfied.
"I just stood in front of the net, and when you're in front of the net, good things happen. It just happened to go off my shin pad and into the net. I'll take them any way I can get them." -- Kings forward Dustin Brown
The Ducks are one of the NHL's most physical teams, but the Sharks more then met all the challenges and proved they can muck and grind their way to a victory.

"It wasn't as free-flowing maybe as some of the games we played earlier," coach Todd McLellan said, "but it was good for us to be in a game like that -- a little tighter, a little more physical, a little more muck-and-grind."

In the past, the Ducks have tried to out-tough the Sharks, but McLellan feels his team is plenty tough enough -- at least by his definition of the word.

"I think when you use 'toughness,' the first thing that comes to mind is fighting," he said. "But when you talk about team toughness, you talk about winning faceoffs; you talk about going into some of the harder areas to play in, whether that's in front or in the corners; you talk about blocking shots; you talk about bearing down late in the shift. You talk about sticking together when things get rough. I thought our club did a very good job of that tonight."

King of Kings -- Los Angeles' Dustin Brown was the last of four players to record a hat trick Thursday, and the third to score three goals for the first time in the NHL.

Brown's big night in Los Angeles' 6-2 victory against St. Louis snapped an eight-game goal drought for the Kings' captain. He scored two power-play goals 72 seconds apart in the second period and redirected Jarret Stoll's pass into the net with 7:15 left in regulation for No. 3.

"I just stood in front of the net, and when you're in front of the net, good things happen," Brown said of his third goal, which gave him the 164th hat trick in franchise history. "It just happened to go off my shin pad and into the net. I'll take them any way I can get them."

Brown's first two goals came on power plays, an area in which the Kings have struggled for much of the season. He said they went back to a simpler strategy -- shoot the puck and go to the net.

"The power-play goals were shots with tips, except for my shot (on his second goal)," Brown said. "We're getting pucks from the top and getting them on the net. That's hard to defend on the PK."

Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media were used in this report.

Contact John Kreiser at

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