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Tavares scores twice, but Isles lose to Leafs

by Brian Compton
Once again, John Tavares had a pair of power-play goals … and once again, his team lost.

Tavares single-handedly erased a 2-0 deficit with two tallies in a 10-minute span in the third period, but a horrid giveaway by defenseman Mark Streit led to a goal by Jason Blake with just 4:05 to play as the Toronto Maple Leafs skated away with a 3-2 win against the New York Islanders at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night.

Tavares, the No. 1 selection in the 2009 Entry Draft, also had two power-play goals in Tuesday's 6-2 loss at Philadelphia. Overall, the 19-year-old is responsible for New York's last five tallies and has 15 goals in his first 31 NHL games.

"It's good to contribute, but in the end, it really doesn't matter," said Tavares, who hails from the Toronto area. "It's too bad we weren't able to at least get the point. There were some positives, but we have a lot to work on."

The Maple Leafs capitalized on a pair of minor penalties against Isles forward Matt Moulson in the first period. Just 27 seconds after he was whistled for holding the stick, Francois Beauchemin one-timed a feed from Tomas Kaberle past Dwayne Roloson -- who stopped 58 shots in the same building on Nov. 23 -- at 6:03.

Toronto capitalized again -- although this time it technically wasn't on the power play -- when Ian White beat Roloson at 14:40, just one second after Moulson's holding penalty expired. It was White's fifth goal of the season and gave the Leafs a 2-0 lead.

Tavares finally solved Vesa Toskala -- who stopped 18 shots through the first 40 minutes -- when he capitalized on a two-man advantage just 92 seconds into the third period. With White and Mike Komisarek both in the penalty box, Tavares took a nice cross-ice feed from Kyle Okposo and swatted a one-timer past Toskala to make it 2-1.

The Islanders tied it with 8:06 remaining on a very similar play, as Tavares again tapped a feed from Okposo past Toskala. Rob Schremp, who made his first appearance since Nov. 13, also picked up an assist.

"As we know, he's very good around the net," Isles coach Scott Gordon said of Tavares. "It's good to be able to see him bury those, because he had some chances early in the year. It looks like he's found the spot."

But the Isles failed to notch a point in the standings when Blake scored against his former team at 15:55, as he stole the puck from Streit behind the net and wristed the rebound of Mikhail Grabovski's shot past Roloson for his fifth goal of the season.

"I had some other opportunities in the game that didn't pan out," Blake said. "You've just got to keep working and stay positive, hopefully get a bounce. Fortunately, it went in."

Blue Jackets 3, Panthers 0 | HIGHLIGHTS | PHOTOS

The 2008-09 version of Steve Mason was on the ice Wednesday night -- and that was good news for Columbus.

Mason stopped all 32 shots he faced and Jason Chimera scored for the third straight games as the Blue Jackets blanked Florida at Nationwide Arena, handing the Panthers their third consecutive loss and fourth in a row on the road.

"It's been kind of weighing on me the last little while," said Mason, who had 10 shutouts last season en route to Rookie of the Year honors but has struggled badly over the past few weeks. "Obviously, every goaltender likes to have a couple of goose eggs throughout the year. I was having trouble getting the first one, but it's nice to get it out of the way."

Chimera scored the only goal the Blue Jackets would need with 1:41 remaining in the first period. In what was nearly an end-to-end rush, Chimera gained control of the puck in his own zone, skated almost the length of the ice and backhanded a shot that Tomas Vokoun thought he trapped against his chest. But Chimera gathered the loose puck and poked it between Vokoun's pads to give Columbus a 1-0 lead.

After watching Mason stop 16 shots in the second, the Blue Jackets put the game away in the third. Derick Brassard scored his first goal in 14 games at 14:10, after Columbus killed off three straight Florida power plays. Samuel Pahlsson added an empty-netter with 1:28 to go.

"I was not playing bad," said Brassard, who played only the first 31 games last season before having season-ending shoulder surgery. "I was just not playing like a great player, which is what I want to be. For me, when you think about it, I missed 50 games last year. I'm pretty much still a rookie this year. I think it's just going to come with experience, where you go on the ice just to be strong on pucks and make some plays."

The loss was the Panthers' ninth in their last 10 games.

"We weren't able to capitalize on our chances," said Vokoun, who made 29 saves. "It's been a problem for us lately."

Oilers 3, Lightning 2 | HIGHLIGHTS | PHOTOS

Not only did Tampa Bay lose a game, it also lost two of its best players.

Zack Stortini scored what proved to be the game-winner midway through the second period as Edmonton extended its road winning streak to four games with a victory over the Lightning, which lost both Ryan Malone and Steven Stamkos -- their top two goal scorers -- during the game.

"Some guys are going to get opportunities," said Lightning coach Rick Tocchet, who is unsure how long either player will be out. "They're going to get their shot. It's put up or shut up time."

Martin St. Louis gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead just 68 seconds into the first period, when he finished off a 2-on-1 with Vincent Lecavalier with a shot from the left circle that beat Jeff Deslauriers.

"Pretty high intensity game," Lecavalier said. "Obviously, you're missing Stamkos and Malone, it definitely hurts your team."

Tom Gilbert tied the game for the Oilers with his second goal of the season at 11:21 of the first. With the teams at even strength, Gilbert beat Mike Smith for his first goal in 14 games. Dustin Penner put Edmonton in front at 6:31 of the second with his team-leading 17th tally.

"I think realistically we had to do this to get back in the picture," Edmonton captain Ethan Moreau said of his team's recent success on the road. "This trip, if it went the other way, could define our season. We didn't want that to happen."

Rookie defenseman Victor Hedman tied the game just 63 seconds after Penner's tally, but Stortini restored Edmonton's lead when he won a battle behind the net for the puck, moved toward the slot and scored at 11:07 of the second.

"It was an eventful night," said Stortini, who fought Zenon Kenopka later in the period. "That's something that's part of my game. Obviously getting on the forecheck quickly, putting pucks in the net, playing the body, fighting. These are the skills that I bring to the game, I think."

Blues 1, Red Wings 0 | HIGHLIGHTS | PHOTOS

Ty Conklin stuck it to his former team. The ex-Red Wing stopped all 42 shots he faced and made Brad Boyes' eighth goal of the season -- which came just 1:56 into the game -- stand up as St. Louis blanked Detroit at Joe Louis Arena.

Jimmy Howard, Conklin's replacement in Detroit, made 25 saves for the Red Wings, who were shut out on home ice for the third time in their last five games.

"It's definitely a little extra motivation," Conklin admitted.

It was Conklin's second shutout this season as he won his third straight start, playing for the third time in 14 games.

Conklin's performance was no surprise to his former coach

"He battled hard for us last year, too," Detroit's Mike Babcock said. "He won some big games for us — 25 of them to be exact."

Free agency and injuries have hurt the Red Wings, who lost Marian Hossa and Jiri Hudler before the season and Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula since the start of the campaign. If the season ended today, the reigning Western Conference champions would miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They went 0-for-6 on the power play on Wednesday.

"I think we're going to get better when we get guys back," captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "But right now, we have to get some wins with the players we have, and we’re confident we can get it done.

"I don't think we're getting nervous, but we see the standings every day."

Detroit had a glorious chance to tie it on a power play with five minutes left, but Conklin slammed the door during a phenomenal 15-save performance in the third period.

"That's why you pay goalies," Blues coach Andy Murray said. "It was good to see him come in here and get a win."

Wild 1, Avalanche 0 | HIGHLIGHTS | PHOTOS

Antti Miettinen scored the lone goal and Niklas Backstrom made 23 saves for his first shutout of the season as Minnesota edged Colorado at the Pepsi Center.

The Wild, who have won seven of nine, haven't lost to Colorado in four games this season, including two shootout wins. Backstrom has three of those victories. Peter Budaj made 21 saves for the Avs, who have lost three in a row at home.

"It seems to be a one-goal game every time we play against them," said Backstrom, who notched his 18th NHL shutout.

Minnesota scored the only goal it needed 5:57 into the game when Miettinen pounced on Andrew Brunette rebound and knocked it past Budaj for his eighth goal of the season.

"It kind of bounced right on my tape there," said Miettinen, who has 7 goals and 9 points in his last eight games.

Colorado, which returned home after a 3-1-1 road trip, managed only 23 shots on goal despite being awarded six power plays. Marek Svatos had a pair of quality chances in the first six minutes and was also denied on a breakaway with 7:20 left.

"We have to be better on the power play," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "We'll continue to work on it and we'll get better at it. It was probably the difference in the game."

The Avs thought they tied the game when rookie Matt Duchene beat Backstrom with 14:37 left in the second, but the officials ruled the net was off its moorings when the puck crossed the line. Replays confirmed the call on the ice.

"The ref said our player kicked the puck in," Sacco said. "It was a kicking motion, so it probably would have been nullified anyway. That wasn’t the difference in the game."

Flames 3, Thrashers 1 | HIGHLIGHTS | PHOTOS

Olli Jokinen scored in the second period and Miikka Kiprusoff made 24 saves as Calgary returned home in grand fashion with a win against Atlanta.

Jarome Iginla added two assists for the Flames, who won four times during a six-game road trip and are 7-2-1 in their last 10. Kiprusoff, who made a dazzling glove save on Ilya Kovalchuk in the second period, picked up his 17th victory of the season.

"We've been playing well as a team," Jokinen said. "That's all that matters. We're going in the right direction as a team. I think every guy is real proud about the way we've been playing."

Nigel Dawes opened the scoring at 2:09 with his ninth goal of the season, as he redirected Aaron Johnson's shot from the slot past Johan Hedberg. Jokinen increased Calgary's lead when his slap shot went off Hedberg's glove and into the net at 14:28 of the second. It was his seventh goal of the season.

"Kipper made some big saves, and from there we kind of got our feet under us," Dawes said. "We played our game and kind of limited them to not too many opportunities."

Colby Armstrong had the lone goal for the Thrashers, which came 12:27 into the third period, when Rich Peverley's rebound went off Armstrong's skate and past Kiprusoff. Armstrong was credited with his fourth goal of the season.

Armstrong and the Thrashers will finish their four-game road trip on Thursday at Vancouver. Atlanta (15-10-3) has lost three of its last four and fell to 0-5-0 lifetime at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

"We're just one of those teams that like to make the perfect play, and sometimes it's not there," Thrashers coach John Anderson said.

Rene Bourque iced the victory with an empty-net tally at 19:20.

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report

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