A few thoughts before we legally change our names to Brian the Writer:
Deja pew -- One of these days, the Tampa Bay Lightning won't be on the losing end of a one-goal game.
For now, though, it remains Groundhog Day on the Gulf Coast.
Once again, Barry Melrose's team lost by a goal, this time a 1-0 shootout decision against the Minnesota Wild at the St. Pete-Times Forum. The Lightning are winless in their first five games this season, having lost each contest by a single tally.
Melrose, though, was pleased with his team's effort afterwards. He believes the Lightning are on the verge of turning the corner.
"They've just got to believe that if we keep doing that, we're going to win a lot of games," Melrose said.
Until then, however, one has to wonder if the umpteen moves Tampa Bay made during the summer made things any better. After all, Mike Smith recorded his seventh career shutout on Saturday night and didn't come away with a victory. That's more unlikely than Tom Green winning an Academy Award.
"It's just bad news when you get the shutout and you don't win," Melrose said.
A milestone night for Sid -- He's only 21 years old, but Sidney Crosby has been mature beyond his years for quite some time now.
On Saturday night in Pittsburgh, the Penguins' captain reached a milestone when he tallied his 100th career goal during a 4-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs. That would have been special enough in itself.
But Crosby was far from done. He also notched his 200th career assist and his 300th career point in a game that saw him playing on the same line as Evgeni Malkin for the first time this season.
Crosby was happy with the individual achievements, but is much more concerned with helping his team win games.
"(Milestones) are nice," Crosby said. "It's not what you play for, but they're great accomplishments."
Penguins coach Michel Therrien opted to play Crosby and Malkin on the same line in an effort to get their offensive games going. It worked. Crosby had a goal and three assists, while Malkin assisted on each of Pittsburgh's four goals. The duo had combined for just 10 points in the Penguins' first five games this season.
"They certainly had a great game," Therrien said. "They responded exactly the way we expected. They played well together. They responded on the ice the right way."
High five -- For a while there, it appeared as if the San Jose would drop their second game of the season against the desperate Philadelphia Flyers.
Trailing by two goals, the Sharks rallied to tie it before regulation expired, and Dan Boyle scored his first goal in San Jose 85 seconds into overtime in a wild 5-4 decision at HP Pavilion.
Yes indeed, the Sharks are 5-1-0, and with good reason. They outshot the Flyers 45-17 on Saturday night, as Philadelphia matched a franchise-worst start (0-4-1) in 1999 -- the same year the Flyers last defeated San Jose.
When you fire as many shots as the Sharks did, chances are they are going to go in sooner or later.
"We just wanted to maintain what we were doing," San Jose forward Jonathan Cheechoo said. "You change things, you start to give up chances the other way. That's not really what our game's about. We knew we had the talent in here to come back."
One goal, two milestones -- Not surprisingly, the New Jersey Devils rode their defense and goaltending to three wins in their first four games, scoring just six goals but allowing only six in return. The offense erupted, so to speak, for three in regulation and Zach Parise's decisive score in the shootout for a 4-3 win over the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center on Saturday.
The first goal of the night for New Jersey was particularly notable, as veteran Patrik Elias and rookie Petr Vrana teamed up. Vrana, playing his first NHL game due to Brian Rolston's ankle injury, scored the goal off a deflection in front of the net. Elias picked up his 365th career assist, breaking a tie with Scott Niedermayer for the most in Devils franchise history.
"I think it's great," Elias said. "It means I'm doing something right. It's amazing I'm passing a defenseman, but Scotty is a great player. ... It's a great milestone, but hopefully I can add a few more."
Vrana undoubtedly feels the same way. After making the team out of training camp, he was a healthy scratch until Rolston went heavily into the boards in the third period of Thursday's win in Atlanta and sprained his ankle. Now the 23-year-old native of the Czech Republic gets the opportunity to show what he can do, and he made a strong first impression.
"I wasn't even sure if it was in because I think the puck bounced right out," Vrana said of his shot past Capitals goalie Brent Johnson. "I kind of put my hands up in the air and then wasn't sure if it went in, so I didn't celebrate much. I think Patty was excited because I think he said he broke the record for most assists in the team history, so he was doubly excited -- my first goal and his record."
Right back at ya -- After allowing three goals in the first period of a 5-3 loss at Columbus, the Nashville Predators returned the favor in the second game of a home-and-home series. The end result was a 6-3 win against the Blue Jackets.
"Last night we came out really well, but nothing went in for us," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "Tonight we came out really well and got out to a three-goal lead."
Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock was disappointed with the Grade-A chances his team gave the Predators on Saturday night.
"We were poor in a lot of aspects and we didn't get away with them tonight," Hitchcock said. "We didn't give up a lot of scoring chances, but the ones we did were doozies."
The Predators have won nine straight home games against the Blue Jackets. The loss Friday night ended Nashville's string of 16 games with a point against Columbus (15-0-1) -- the longest active streak in an NHL regular-season series. On Saturday, a good start may have sparked a new streak.
"We didn't get off to the start we wanted to the other night," Predators goalie Dan Ellis said. "We got back at them tonight, played Predators hockey, and that is why we got the two points tonight."
Coming up clutch -- Andy McDonald was racking up the assists over the St. Louis Blues' first four games. He couldn't have picked a better time to score his first goal of the season.
McDonald took a Paul Kariya feed and ripped a shot that got a piece of a Chicago Blackhawks defenseman and deflected in with 13.9 seconds left in regulation. It set up T.J. Oshie's shootout goal that gave the Blues a 4-3 win at Scottrade Center and first place in the Central Division by virtue of a 4-1 start.
"The puck kind of bounced around off a Chicago defender," McDonald said. "It came to me and I just wanted to get the puck on net."
Brad Boyes and Jonathan Toews traded goals in the second round of the shootout before Oshie provided the winner in the fourth round, relying on his tried and true method of skating in and simply sliding the puck past helpless goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.
"It's been kind of my go-to-move since high school," Oshie said. "So I stuck with it."
Manny Legace, who figures to see a heavy workload with veteran backup Chris Mason expected to miss two weeks after an emergency appendectomy, was grateful for McDonald and Oshie's help in leading the Blues back from a 3-1 deficit.
"I give a lot of credit to the boys." Legace said. "They never gave up."
Manny being Manny -- Wins have been hard to come by for Manny Fernandez since he signed with the Boston Bruins, mainly because he's only played a handful of games since the start of the 2007-08 season due to injury. Now splitting time in net with Tim Thomas, he rebounded from a loss to Minnesota in his first start by making 21 stops in a 4-2 victory against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place on Saturday.
Fernandez had a light workload over the first 40 minutes, facing only 12 shots, but he came up with the big saves when the Bruins needed them.
"The team now realizes that they have to play a strong game when I'm back there," Fernandez said. "They want to play good defensively and they want to help me out as much as they can, so I can't say it's good or bad to only get 12 shots. I have to be focused for those 12 shots, but I wouldn't rather have 36 shots, though."
The strong effort from Fernandez combined with an offensive attack led by Phil Kessel's two goals helped Boston complete a season-opening, four-game road trip with a 2-1-1 record. The Bruins will be the final team in the League to play their home opener when they face Pittsburgh on Monday.
"I thought the team played really well overall and really limited the scoring chances," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "Overall, I thought it was a good solid effort from out hockey club, probably the best one so far this year."
Little bit of luck -- Just like most teams in the Western Conference, the Colorado Avalanche know they're going to need a little bit of luck if they want to still be playing once their regular season concludes on April 12.
They received some on Saturday in their 5-4 win against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center.
Leading 5-4 late in the third period, the Avs appeared to have lost their 5-4 lead when Brenden Morrow scored on the power play with 7:31 remaining. But the goal was disallowed when it was ruled Brad Richards' shot had gone off Morrow's glove.
“We got a lucky call on Morrow’s goal,” Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote said. “They kept coming after that and we really weathered the storm. This was a huge win.”
While Stars coach Dave Tippett conceded that when the puck goes in off a glove, officials will disallow a goal “almost 100 percent of the time," Morrow was livid after a loss that left Dallas 1-3-1 after its first five games.
"It’s not intentional,” Morrow said. “If the puck bounces off me and goes in the net, if it’s a rule, those two refs didn’t know it. … I know what happened. It hit me but I didn’t intentionally knock it in with my glove. It’s a bad call.”
Second chance -- The Atlanta Thrashers were just over three minutes from handing the Buffalo Sabres their first loss of the regular season when Jason Pominville beat Kari Lehtonen with 3:08 left in regulation.
Never mind. Lehtonen and his teammates quickly recovered and claimed a 4-3 shootout victory at Philips Arena on Saturday, with Ilya Kovalchuk and Vyacheslav Kozlov netting the goals for Atlanta and Lehtonen stopping two of three Buffalo shooters, including the League's leading goal scorer, Thomas Vanek, on the game's final attempt.
"It was pretty exciting. Nice to get the two points," Lehtonen said. "Those (shootouts) are not so much fun for goalies."
Nevertheless, it was the difference between winning and losing on this night. It also provided Lehtonen the chance for atonement after Pominville scored on the rebound of his own shot, which bounced high off the goalie's glove and right back to him.
"I was disappointed for giving up the tying goal just before overtime," Lehtonen said.
Vanek had scored his seventh of the season in the second period to start Buffalo's comeback from a 2-0 deficit, but the Sabres tasted defeat for the first time in five games.
"We expected Atlanta to come out hard," said backup goalie Patrick Lalime, who started and made 35 saves. "I like how we came back in the second and third. It would have been nice to get the extra point."
Shift in momentum -- An early 2-0 deficit was hardly enough to prevent the Edmonton Oilers from getting off to their best start in 23 seasons. A three-goal second period rallied them to a 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames on Saturday and a sweep of the home-and-home against their Alberta rivals.
Before Ethan Moreau, Fernando Pisani and Andrew Cogliano scored in a span of less than four minutes, the Oilers got a lift when 28-year-old rookie Steve McIntyre walloped Dustin Boyd of the Flames with a mammoth hit, then got into a dust-up with Brandon Prust. It brought the fans at Rexall Place to life, and the goal scorers then kept them rocking.
"That was a wicked hit on Boyd," said Oilers coach Craig MacTavish. "It was an inspirational shift. The momentum changed somewhat at that point. He built an instant relationship with the fans tonight. That was 'Relationship Building 101' by him tonight."
McIntyre dressed for two previous games but rarely saw the ice, amassing just 2:31 of actual game time. He understood what his role was with the Oilers lagging behind and he played it to perfection.
"I just try to go out there and finish my checks and be a little bit of a spark for the guys," McIntyre said. "That's what I am here for. I was able to make a big hit and it seemed to help."
Ricky starts, but ... -- New York Islanders franchise goalie Rick DiPietro made his 2008-09 season debut on Saturday night, but his team was in 2007-08 mode in Tampa Bay.
The Isles did not give the effort needed to win in Florida, and were ultimately shut out by Tomas Vokoun and the Panthers in a 2-0 loss at BankAtlantic Center. New York recorded 31 shots, but failed to generate many quality chances.
"I felt good," said DiPietro, who made 34 saves. "It's nice to, obviously, be back and contribute. Unfortunately, we lost, obviously, but nice to get my feet wet and finally see some action."
Panthers coach Pete DeBoer was impressed with the opposing goalie's debut.
"We probably deserved more than two goals," Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said. "I thought he made some big saves and we just missed a few more."
Picking his spot -- Amidst a rather ordinary start to the season for the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings was a goalless drought of four games for their stud free-agent signing. Marian Hossa wasn't going to be held down for long, however, and the New York Rangers were reminded of his prowess in the clutch on Saturday.
Hossa, who had picked up his fourth assist earlier in the night, notched his first Detroit goal and the 300th of his NHL career by lighting the lamp 23 seconds into overtime as the Wings treated the Joe Louis Arena crowd to their first home victory of the season.
"It doesn't get any better than this," said Hossa, who knocked the Rangers out of the playoffs last season with an OT goal for the Penguins. "The 300th, the first goal as a Red Wing and the game-winner in overtime."
Hossa entered the season with 299 goals in 705 career games for Ottawa, Atlanta and Pittsburgh. Hockey fans salivated over his potential point total after he passed up other lucrative, long-term offers to sign a one-year deal with the Wings over the summer. Hossa said he didn't let the lack of early success putting the puck in the net or Detroit's occasionally lackluster 2-1-1 start prior to Saturday get to him.
"I knew I was getting chances. I tried to stay calm on the ice, and off, too. there was no panic," Hossa said. "I knew the goals would come, and tonight I got the first one. Hopefully, now we can roll."
New year, same results -- It's a brand new season but the same old formula for the Montreal Canadiens. The Eastern Conference's top team during the 2007-08 regular season continues to get plenty of offense and strong goaltending while racking up the victories.
"Winning is fun, and right now we've only lost that first one in the shootout in Buffalo so we're still at the point where we need to rack up wins and move up in the standings," said Alex Tanguay, who netted a pair of goals in Saturday's 4-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes. "Right now we're certainly having fun."
So are the fans at Bell Centre who have seen Montreal celebrate its 100th season by taking the first two games at home. On Wednesday, the Canadiens prevailed 4-3 over Boston in a shootout. Their 4-0-1 record is tied with the Sabres for tops in the Northeast Division.
It's safe to say the Coyotes aren't having quite as much fun at the moment. They also got off to a quick start by winning their first two games, but a four-game road trip ended with three straight losses in which Phoenix was outscored 14-5.
"We played two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference back to back (the Coyotes lost 6-3 to Ottawa on Friday), and I know we're going to have some bumps along the way, but we've got to learn from it and get better from it," coach Wayne Gretzky said.