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Thrashers solve Johnson, top Rangers 2-1 in SO

by Brian Hunter
Chad Johnson did everything he could to instill confidence in the New York Rangers that they can give starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist the occasional night off and still be competitive.

Johnson carried a shutout into the third period of his first NHL start, but Jim Slater scored the tying goal and Bryan Little beat him in the fifth round of the shootout as the Atlanta Thrashers rallied for a 2-1 win Thursday night at Philips Arena, snapping a nine-game losing streak.

"We deserved this win," veteran goalie Johan Hedberg said. "We have been working for it for a long time now."

Enver Lisin scored for the Rangers and Johnson stopped 31 shots. He had made one prior appearance in relief of Lundqvist, who had started 17 straight games.

"He was solid," New York coach John Tortorella said. "He made some great saves without any type of panic in his game. He was there. The puck hit him and he looked very confident. That's a very good sign for a guy starting his first game."

Hedberg made 29 saves and stopped four of five shootout attempts to get the best of the rookie. Marian Gaborik extended the penalty-shot tiebreaker by scoring in the third round, answering an earlier score by Atlanta's Vyacheslav Kozlov, but after Little gave the Thrashers the edge, Rangers rookie defenseman Michael del Zotto shot wide on their final chance.

"I tried to make them make the first move," Hedberg said of New York's overtime shooters. "I was a little lucky."

Lisin, a fourth-liner who saw just 5:16 of ice time, made the most of his only shot on goal by putting it past Hedberg at 2:49 of the second period. Johnson earned an assist on the play, his first NHL point.

"I barely touched it," Johnson said.

His first win, though, will have to wait for another night. Slater scored the tying goal on a breakaway 6:06 into the third and the Thrashers -- who were coming off an 0-5-2 road trip -- outlasted the Rangers in the shootout to finally taste victory.

"What I did today was put my red slippers on and click my heels three times and say, 'There's no place like home,'" Thrashers coach John Anderson said.

Capitals 5, Senators 2

Nicklas Backstrom continued his transformation from set-up man to goal-scorer, getting a pair in the third period as Washington pulled away from Ottawa.

It was Backstrom's fifth multi-goal game of the season, after he had just two in his first two NHL seasons. Backstrom added an assist and new captain Alex Ovechkin also had a three-point night, with a goal and a pair of assists.

"(Backstrom) showed a lot of leadership, because I thought we were floundering in the second period when it was 2-1," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "And he comes out in the third period and he gets two goals. He was just determined, and that's what's making him one of the best."

Backstrom scored just 26 seconds into the third, banking a shot from the goal line off Senators goalie Pascal Leclaire. He made it 4-1 on a wraparound with 9:15 remaining. Ovechkin's 27th of the season with 1:26 left rendered a Jonathan Cheechoo goal for Ottawa 31 seconds later window dressing.

"We hung in there for a while," Leclaire said. "They turned it on there in the third."

Veteran goalie Jose Theodore turned aside 26 shots in a rare start for the Capitals. He lost his starting job this season to Semyon Varlamov, then watched as Michal Neuvirth took most of the playing time after Varlamov suffered a groin injury.

"It's not an easy position," Theodore said. "There's always somebody behind you pushing. I didn't play a lot the last couple of weeks, but I worked hard in practice. Tonight right off the bat I felt I controlled the game. I controlled my rebounds, which is something I've been working on."

Boyd Gordon and Mike Knuble staked Washington to a 2-0 lead after the first period. Chris Phillips scored late in the second for Ottawa, but any momentum the Senators carried into the third was quickly wiped out by Backstrom.

"The first shift in the third period -- that goal really seemed to break our back," Senators coach Cory Clouston said.

Canadiens 2, Panthers 0 | HIGHLIGHTS

The Bell Centre faithful had waited a full month to see a victory. Jaroslav Halak made sure that wait ended.

Halak stopped all 38 shots he faced for his sixth career shutout, making a Benoit Pouliot goal late in the first period stand up. Brian Gionta sealed the victory with an empty-netter in the final minute.

The Canadiens had lost four straight at home, last winning there Dec. 7 against the Flyers. It was their longest drought in Montreal since the 2000-01 season.

"We've got four games at home and we knew that this was a big game for us because this team was following us and we need to keep them there," Halak said. "Every game we play at home we need to play better, as we did tonight, because at home we're not even a .500 team (10-10-2)."

Tomas Vokoun was almost as flawless for Florida. He also faced 38 shots and stopped 37 of them.

"You don't get points in this league for playing good games," Panthers center Stephen Weiss said. "We've got to find a way to put the pucks in the net and get results and get points. The effort was there. We played well enough to at least get a point and maybe win the hockey game but we just couldn't pull it out."

Pouliot scored with 12.1 seconds left in the first, taking a pass from Scott Gomez and wristing a shot from the left circle past the glove of Vokoun into the top left corner.

The Panthers pulled Vokoun late in the game and Halak stopped a Jordan Leopold chance from the slot before Gionta hit the empty net with 35.9 seconds remaining.

"Jaro's been playing outstanding for us lately," Pouliot said. "He gets so many shots on net and he finds a way to stop everything."

Predators 4, Hurricanes 2 | HIGHLIGHTS

Nashville had a solid night on special teams, scoring a pair of power-play goals and a shorthanded tally in doubling up Carolina.

Patric Hornqvist took over the Predators' lead in goals by scoring twice on the man advantage. He put them ahead to stay with 24 seconds left in the first period, then made it 4-1 with 8:44 left in the third, just 13 seconds into a five-minute major to Hurricanes defenseman Andrew Alberts for checking from behind.

J.P. Dumont and Steve Sullivan also scored for the Predators, who won for the fourth time in five games. Dumont wiped out an early deficit with his first regular-season shorthanded goal.

"The shorthanded goal was just huge for us," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "We were sort of fighting an uphill battle. That gave us some jump."

Pekka Rinne made 25 saves, including one on Carolina's power play right before Dumont scored. Predators defenseman Francis Bouillon pulled the puck from out of the crease behind Rinne and sent Alexander Sulzer and Dumont up the ice on a 2-on-1 that Dumont finished for his eighth goal of the season.

"It was just a big play from the start with a big save by Pekka," Dumont said.

Hornqvist's first of the night came when he tapped in the rebound of a Shea Weber drive off the post. He later set up Sullivan's goal from the edge of the right circle with 1:10 left in the second for a 3-1 lead.

Sullivan was injured after Alberts' check in the third, leading to a major penalty and a game misconduct. Hornqvist quickly made the Hurricanes pay for their eighth penalty of the night.

Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour snapped a 35-game goal drought 2:52 into the first and Tom Kostopoulos added a shorthanded goal later in the Alberts penalty to cap the scoring.

"He buried one for us," Kostopoulos said of the veteran Brind'Amour. "It gave us some momentum. I thought we were going pretty well, but then the penalties kind of took over. They got a little momentum out of their calls, and we didn't get much out of ours."

Blue Jackets 4, Oilers 2 | HIGHLIGHTS

Columbus ended a 13-game losing streak on the road and won for only the second time in 15 games, extending Edmonton's miseries in the process.

Kristian Huselius and R.J. Umberger each recorded a goal and an assist, while Mathieu Garon finished with 27 saves. The Jackets are currently 14th in the Western Conference, with only the Oilers behind them.

"All we needed was a win. We didn't care who it came against," Garon said. "I think it was a desperate game for both teams. Both teams needed this badly, and we played well and came out on top."

Antoine Vermette and Jan Hejda also tallied against Edmonton backup Devan Dubnyk. Fernando Pisani and Sam Gagner had the Oilers' goals.

"You'd like to think you could conjure up a way to win against a team that is battling you for last place," Oilers coach Pat Quinn said. "It's why we are 15th. The way the goals are going in is so repetitive it would be hard to understand why we should be anywhere but there."

Huselius gave Columbus a 3-2 lead on a power-play goal 3:36 into the third, beating Dubnyk from a bad angle off a rebound. Hejda added insurance with 8:39 left, taking a point shot that hit the skate of Edmonton forward Patrick O'Sullivan and deflected into the net.

"This is six of the last seven that we have played real solid," Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said. "In this game, the whole feeling on the bench changed when we scored the third goal. When we got that one we were back to being the team we were before. Everybody was completely energized."

Umberger and Pisani traded goals 19 seconds apart late in the first period. It was the first goal of the season for Pisani in his second game after missing nearly two months due to a recurrence of ulcerative colitis.

Vermette gave the Jackets a 2-1 lead by scoring with 1:17 left in the second, but Gagner evened things up again when he put a shot between Garon's pads 1:36 into the third.

Ducks 4, Blues 2 | HIGHLIGHTS

The second goal of Matt Beleskey's NHL career gave Anaheim its second win in a row.

Beleskey cleaned up on the rebound of Corey Perry's shot with 2:40 remaining in regulation and Todd Marchant added an empty-net goal in the final minute as the Ducks edged the Blues at the Honda Center, overcoming a pair of goals by St. Louis defenseman Barret Jackman.

"We're really running out of time and the gap is just getting larger," Ducks forward Bobby Ryan said. "Teams are playing too well in the Western Conference, so we need to put these games together here and on the road.

"This is a group that has all the tools, has everything we need for a run and we need to put things together to get at it."

Jackman, who opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal in the first period, put the Blues ahead 2-1 with a shot that ricocheted off Ducks defenseman Ryan Whitney and past goalie Jonas Hiller 56 seconds into the third. It wasn't enough.

"We've lost a countless number of games like that this year in the third period," Blues center T.J. Oshie said. "If you want to be a winning team, if you want to win games in this league, it needs to be done in the third period.

"We just kind of sat back."

Ryan tied the score at 8:18 by using Blues defenseman Eric Brewer as a screen and scoring his 20th of the season past Chris Mason.

"For me to get that one was a huge mental boost," Ryan said. "It gives you a second wind."

James Wisniewski also scored for Anaheim and Hiller made 20 saves.

Material from wire services was used in this report

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