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Thrashers spoil Graves Night with 2-1 win

by John Kreiser
The New York Rangers raised Adam Graves' No. 9 to the rafters of Madison Square Garden prior to Tuesday night's game against Atlanta. The offensively challenged Rangers could have used him on the ice, too.

Not even Markus Naslund's game-tying goal with 10.7 seconds left in regulation was enough to send the Garden crowd home happy -- Bryan Little and Slava Kozlov scored in the shootout to give the Thrashers a 2-1 victory. Kari Lehtonen stopped 39 shots in regulation and overtime, then made two more saves in the shootout. The Garden crowd slunk toward the exits after Lehtonen stopped Fredrik Sjostrom to hand the Rangers their third consecutive loss.

It was especially disappointing after Graves became the sixth Ranger to have his number retired.

"I was proud to be out there to watch it," Rangers coach Tom Renney said of the hour-long ceremony honoring Graves, who had 280 goals in 10 years with the Blueshirts and a team-record 52 in 1993-94. "It couldn't happen to a better guy. It was pretty special stuff, and there's such great tradition here."

Too bad for the Rangers that Graves makes his living these days wearing a suit and tie instead of a sweater and skates.

Despite all the emotion in the Garden, the Rangers -- coming off a 1-0 loss at Boston on Saturday -- were oddly flat for the first two periods, generating a number of shots but little sustained offense against a team that had lost its last four games.

Things got worse early in the third period when Henrik Lundqvist tried to clear a dump-in, but had his pass picked off by Colby Armstrong, whose pass deflected off Atlanta's Marty Reasoner to teammate Joe Motzko. The just-recalled forward stuffed the puck into the net at 6:26. Motzko has two NHL goals -- both against the Rangers.

Atlanta sniper Ilya Kovalchuk missed an open net with about 30 seconds left in regulation, and the Rangers capitalized to earn a point. A centering pass from Scott Gomez found Naslund in the high slot, and Naslund stepped up before ripping a high shot past Lehtonen's glove. The goal ended New York's scoreless streak at 125:54.


"I thought, 'Here we go again," Lehtonen said. "We haven't won here in a long, long time. There was time in the break for me to regroup and go at it again."

The Rangers had won eight of 10 shootouts, but they were facing a team that's now 3-0 in the breakaway competition.

For the Rangers, it was definitely a "glass half-empty" kind of night.

"It was a big point for us, but we needed two," Lundqvist said. "It's been pretty tough for us to score, but we played pretty solid defense, so at least we had a chance to win. It's a little frustrating (to lose in the shootout), but those were two pretty good shots."

For the Thrashers, who have struggled all season and are next-to-last in the overall standings, the win was more than welcome.

"We needed this badly," Little said. "We've been through a pretty rough time. The points aren't coming easy for us. It feels extra good to get the win."

Canadiens 4, Penguins 2 | Video

Montreal rebounded from a less-than-stellar effort against Boston on Sunday with a solid 60 minutes to beat the floundering Penguins, who can't seem to get untracked.

"Tonight was a good example of how to play with all 20 guys together," said defenseman Roman Hamrlik, who tied the game at 1-1 when he scored 4:31 into the first period. "I think against Boston we played well, but not well enough."

Christopher Higgins' shorthanded breakaway goal at 11:05 put Montreal ahead to stay, and Maxim Lapierre tucked in Max Pacioretty's passout at 15:07 for a 3-1 lead.

Evgeni Malkin's power-play wrister from the slot at 10:03 of the third period cut the deficit to one goal, but the reunited line of Alex Kovalev, Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn put the game away when Kostitsyn scored a second-effort goal with 4:15 left.

"I thought that line was pretty good tonight," Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said. "They played against [Sidney] Crosby and Malkin pretty much right up to the third period, when they separated both of them, and they did a good job."

Kovalev felt his line -- a big factor last season, when the Canadiens finished first in the East -- started to come together in the second period.

"It's slowly coming back," Kovalev said. "We talked before the game and we've got to find a solution, one way or another, because we don't have that many games left to play and if we want to stay together, that's what we have to do."

The Penguins again spent too much time playing from behind.

"We got stuck playing catch-up," Crosby said. "You can’t always play from behind. We came hard in the third, but it was a little too late.”

Despite a goal by rookie Luca Caputa 2:30 into his NHL debut that gave Pittsburgh an early lead, the Penguins lost for the fourth time in five games. With 53 points, the Penguins are 10th in the East -- three points behind eighth-place Florida, which has two games in hand.

"We got beat by high speed," coach Michel Therrien said. "Our guys looked really, really slow tonight. We can't give up four goals on the road and then score more than two. You need more desperation from a lot of players -- some players were a no-show."

Kings 1, Senators 0 | Video

Cory Clouston's NHL coaching debut was a dud. Michal Handzus' goal with 2:39 left in regulation spoiled things for Clouston, who was promoted from the AHL Binghamton Senators when Craig Hartsburg was fired on Sunday.

"He did a good job behind the bench getting us fired up," center Jason Spezza said of the 39-year-old. "It's unfortunate we didn't score a goal. It's going to be a learning process for us here for the next couple of weeks."


SHOTS: 29 | SAVES: 29
SAVE PCT: 1.000 | GAA: 0.00

The Senators fell into a tie for 28th in the overall standings, four points behind the last-place Islanders, after their third consecutive loss -- including two by 1-0 scores. They are last in the NHL with 116 goals in 49 games.

"We've got to do a better job of getting rebounds and getting goals. That's what's missing," captain Daniel Alfredsson said.

Handzus broke the scoreless tie when he picked up the puck behind the Senators net and jammed it in from the left side of rookie netminder Brian Elliott, who stopped the other 25 shots he faced.

"I was just trying to get the puck to the net and hope for a rebound," Handzus said.
"That was a huge win for us."

Unfortunately for the Senators, Kings' rookie Jonathan Quick was perfect -- stopping all 29 shots he faced for his third shutout.

"You had to expect them to come out with a bit of jump with the new coach there," Quick said. "They had a good first period and in the second period you could tell they were really trying to pour it on, but the defense played great."

Clouston's post-game summary sounded a lot like Hartsburg's on all-too-many nights.

"Their best player was their goaltender tonight in Quick. He was very, very solid," Clouston said. "We had some opportunities … we just couldn't capitalize on our chances."

Panthers 4, Maple Leafs 3 (OT) | Video

Toronto fans couldn't wait for the Leafs to get rid of defenseman Bryan McCabe, who wound up being traded to Florida before the season. That might have made getting the game-winner in his first game back at the Air Canada Centre a little sweeter.

McCabe's blast from the left faceoff dot 3:30 into overtime leaked through Vesa Toskala to give the Panthers a victory in a game they trailed 3-1 entering the third period.

"It just snuck through under my arm," Toskala said. "I thought I was in a good position and ready to make a save, but it just went through."

Cory Stillman powered the Panthers' comeback, setting up Stephen Weiss for a goal that made it 3-2 at 2:21 of the final period and lifting a power-play rebound over Toskala with 52.7 seconds left in regulation to force OT.

McCabe then won it when he got open down left wing and beat Toskala. The veteran defenseman, who was booed every time he touched the puck, gave a hearty wave to the Air Canada Centre crowd and tossed his stick over the glass after being named first star of the game.

Again, the boos rained down.

"There was some mixed reviews in the star selection," he said with a laugh.

Before the late comeback, the Leafs were on the way to their third win in a row. Alex Ponikarovsky scored with 20 seconds left in the opening period to break a 1-1 tie, and Nik Antropov made it 3-1 by banging in a rebound 3:11 into the second period.

"We did enough things to have won the game," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "But unfortunately we didn't."

Blues 4, Blue Jackets 2 | Video

St. Louis was playing for the second time in two nights, on the road, against a rested opponent. It didn't matter -- not as long as Chris Mason was in the net.

Mason continued his mastery of the Jackets by stopping 33 shots -- including 15 in the third period to improve to 10-1-1 lifetime against Columbus. The Blues beat the Jackets for the fifth time in a row.


GOALS: 2 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 3
SOG: 4 | +/-: +3

Brad Boyes snapped a 2-2 tie when he beat Steve Mason with a one-timer from the left circle at 15:41 of the second period for his second of the night and 22nd of the season. Jay McClement hit the empty net with 48 seconds left in regulation for his second of the night.

"It's been a while since I put one in so it felt good," Boyes said of his first goals since Jan. 15. "We've been playing well. We've been playing solid. For us right now unless everyone goes, we struggle. If everyone picks up what they've got to do, that's when we're successful."

The Blues are 5-1-2 in their last eight games, including a 4-3 shootout loss at Detroit on Monday, as they try to climb out of the Western Conference cellar.

"We played really well in Detroit and we're disappointed with the loss there," St. Louis coach Andy Murray said. "There was some determination to get a split on this road trip. The guys battled, scrambled, and did whatever they could do."

The Blue Jackets led twice in the wide-open first period. R.J. Umberger opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 8:50, but Boyes jammed in a rebound 48 seconds later after Steve Mason couldn't hold David Backes' shot.

Fedor Tyutin's screened snap shot from the point made it 2-1 at 14:11, but McClement picked up a blocked shot in the slot and scored with 22 seconds left in the period to make it 2-2.

"We managed the first period really well, but we're making really poor errors in our own zone with the puck, at critical times in critical places," Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said.
"The goal we gave up at the end of the first period was ridiculous. To give up a goal in that position is not right. Everything (the other team) shoots seems to go in our net right now. When you make mistakes like that, it's not right."

Mason made his 19th consecutive start despite being fighting off mononucleosis, finishing with 18 saves.

The Jackets have lost back-to-back games at home, and Hitchcock wasn't happy with his team's performance in either game.

"We want the game to be easier than it is," he said. The third period was the first time we decided to dig our heels in, like we were (at beginning of January). We've decided to play a different game and I think it's painfully obvious to everyone that it's not working. The age old adage -- we would like to play with skill ahead of work. The game could go either way, but we're not going to win very many games playing the way we played the last two games."

Islanders 3, Lightning 1 | Video

The few thousand fans who braved a snowstorm to make their way to the Nassau Coliseum were rewarded by seeing the suddenly-hot Islanders' fourth consecutive win, thanks to 29 saves by Yann Danis and three goals in a 3:25 span of the second period.

Danis, slated to be the Isles' top minor-league goaltender, has been fabulous during New York's recent hot streak, which includes a 2-1 overtime loss to Washington before wins over Anaheim, Atlanta, Florida and Tampa Bay. He has a 1.79 goals-against average and a save percentage of .951 during the 4-0-1 streak.

"I'm feeling pretty good, pretty confident," Danis said. "I feel like everything is hitting me. The guys are playing well in front of me. We're scoring some goals, so that makes my job easier."

Even Isles coach Scott Gordon, who had been hard on Danis earlier in the season, couldn't find much wrong with his performance.

"He controlled his rebounds," Gordon said. "That's the biggest improvement I've seen. He was solid tonight."

The Isles got on the board 6:27 into the second period when Trent Hunter tipped Frans Nielsen's power-play shot behind Karri Ramo. Just 2:02 later, defenseman Mark Streit's shot from the left point was deflected into the net by Ramo. Radek Martinek's slapper from the right circle 83 seconds later made it 3-0 and sent Ramo to the bench in favor of rookie Mike McKenna, who stopped 11 shots in his NHL debut.

"It wasn't his fault," Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said. "I was just trying to wake the guys up a little. It was one of those things."

The Lightning dominated play in the third period but managed only Vincent Lecavalier's goal 3:05 into the third period during a 5-on-3 power play.

"The second period, we're down 3-0 and put ourselves in a tough hole," Lightning forward Ryan Craig said. "You create your own breaks, and we need that sense of urgency."

Canucks 4, Hurricanes 3 | Video

The smell of victory was sweet for the Canucks, who ended an eight-game losing streak and a nine-game slide at home when Alex Burrows scored a shorthanded breakaway goal with 1:22 left in regulation.

Vancouver's penalty-killers had allowed two goals in Carolina's first three power-play chances, but redeemed themselves with Mats Ohlund in the box. Ryan Kesler beat Joni Pitkanen to a loose puck and chipped it up to Burrows, who skated in alone from the blue line and roofed a backhander past the outstretched blocker of goalie Cam Ward.


GOALS: 1 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 3
SOG: 1 | +/-: +3

"It wasn't our best game, but it's still a win," Kesler said. "We're back on track now."

The Canucks led 2-0 after one period on goals by Kesler and Kevin Bieksa, but coughed it up midway through the second period on goals 25 seconds apart by Joe Corvo and Joni Pitkanen. Mats Sundin put Vancouver back in front at 15:10, beating Ward on a wraparound, but Eric Staal's power-play goal 33 seconds into the third period pulled Carolina even again.

It was the Canucks' first win since a 4-2 victory over Edmonton on Jan. 7, and their first at G.M. Place since beating Ottawa 3-0 on Dec. 28. Despite the slide, they're still seventh in the West.

"The streak was on everyone's mind," a relieved coach Alain Vigneault said. "It had taken on a life of its own."

Added goaltender Roberto Luongo: "We needed that one big-time. I think the guys are relieved we got it out of the way. Now we can focus on winning some games."

Sundin had his best game since joining the Canucks last month, getting his third goal and adding an assist.

"Mats was better tonight," Vigneault said. "It's a matter of him getting his game to where he can get it."

The loss dropped the Hurricanes behind Florida into ninth place in the Eastern Conference, one point out of the last playoff spot.

"It was a good effort. I thought we worked hard," Staal said. "The power play scored some goals, and I don't think we gave up much 5-on-5. It's unfortunate what happened to us tonight."

Predators 2, Coyotes 1 | Video

Nashville used its best formula for success -- score early and rely on defense and goaltending -- to win its second in a row and hand Phoenix its fourth loss in as many games since the All-Star break.

Jason Arnott scored 2:50 into the game and Radek Bonk made it 2-0 just 45 seconds into the second period. That was enough offense for Pekka Rinne, who was beaten only by Joel Perrault's backhander 4:40 into the third period -- the Coyotes' first goal in more than nine periods.

"We wanted to get off to a good start and try to build off of it," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "We came out really well in the first 10 minutes. When you get the first goal that means the other team has to get two to beat you."

That's more than the Coyotes have been able to manage these days. They've lost all four games since the break and remained in a three-way tie for the last playoff spot in the West -- though they've played more games than Minnesota and Edmonton.

"I thought our guys did everything possible to win this game," Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. "We were strong defensively. Our goaltending was good. Our penalty kill was good. We're disappointed about the loss, there's no question."

Arnott scored on a quick backhander, while Bonk skated through the inside edge of the right circle and down the middle of the ice, beating Ilya Bryzgalov over the left shoulder with a wrist shot.

"Bonk was really good with a real nice play on the goal," Trotz said. "I thought he was pretty solid defensively. He plays a heavy game where he uses his size and his weight."

The Predators, tied for in the Western Conference, are four points out of the last playoff berth. They are 3-1 since the All-Star break.

"We had a meeting after the break and said we have to start winning games," Bonk said. "We have a lot of points to catch up. But nothing is impossible."

Stars 3, Flames 1 | Video

It took more than half the season, but the Stars are finally on a roll. They won their season-high fifth in a row behind a 24-save performance by Marty Turco and power-play goals by Jere Lehtinen and James Neal and are now sixth in the West, the highest they've been since the season's early weeks.

"We've come together the last month," said center Brad Richards, who added a third-period insurance goal. "It took some time for everybody to get together."


SHOTS: 25 | SAVES: 24
SAVE PCT: .960 | GAA: 1.00

The teams met for the first time since Dec. 2 in Calgary when then-Dallas winger Sean Avery made some crude comments to reporters about ex-girlfriends. Those remarks led to Avery's suspension and eventual parting of the ways with the Stars. Dallas won that game 3-1 and has gone 16-7-3 to move up from last in the West.

Turco's improved play has been a major reason for the surge. He's allowed just 12 goals in his past seven games and improved to 14-6-3 in his career against Calgary.

"It's been a great sight to see, doing whatever it takes to win games, blocking shots, clicking on the power play," Turco said. "We're starting to see what we're capable of and I think I'm coming around."

Mike Cammalleri's early power-play goal put Calgary ahead, but Lehtinen's deflection of Mat Niskanen's shot sailed past Miikka Kiprusoff with 43.8 seconds left in the opening period to tie the score. Neal flipped in his own rebound to put Dallas ahead at 4:21 of the second period, and Richards finished off a give-and-go with Neal by backhanding a shot past Kiprusoff with 3:16 left in regulation.

Flames general manager Darryl Sutter met with his team for about five minutes after the game. The message: Play better on the road, where the Flames are 1-4 in their past five. Overall, Calgary is 19-5-3 at home, just 11-11-1 on the road.

"He tells it like it is," Flames center Craig Conroy said of Sutter. "Obviously we're not playing well on the road right now. Enough with the excuses -- we have to play better on the road. There are a lot of opportunities to do that. We're giving away points right now."

Blackhawks 3, Oilers 1 | Video

The Hawks completed a two-game sweep of the Oilers at Rexall Place, a building in which they haven't fared particularly well in recent years. Dave Bolland and Martin Havlat each had a goal and an assist as Chicago won for just the fourth time in their last 17 visits to Edmonton (4-11-1-1).

After Ethan Moreau's fluke goal 4:48 into the game gave Edmonton the lead, Chicago tied it 3:06 into the second period on Cam Barker's power-play goal, a screened point shot that beat Dwayne Roloson.

Bolland's drive from the point, Chicago's 29th shot of the game, beat Roloson and put Chicago ahead at 16:12, and Havlat bounced a wraparound off a stick and into the net at 9:50 of the third period for an insurance goal, giving the Hawks a 3-1 record halfway through their eight-game road trip -- including a 4-2 win at San Jose on Saturday.

''I thought we had a lot of energy before the game coming out of the way we played in San Jose,'' coach Joel Quenneville said. ''We just didn't feel satisfied coming in here after a good game in San Jose. I thought we had a real good response.''

The Oilers were vastly better than they were in Chicago's previous visit -- a 9-2 loss on Dec. 16 -- but remained in a three-way tie for eighth in the West. However, coach Craig MacTavish felt his team was dominated in many areas of the game.

"It's hard to exhibit intensity in the defensive zone and we spent the majority of our time there,'' he said. "Our smaller guys didn't exhibit a lot of skill tonight or make a lot of plays and that is a bad combination."

Roloson was the biggest reason this game was closer than the Hawks' previous visit.

"I think we played such a good game tonight," goaltender Cristobal Huet said. "I felt like ... without him it would have been a three- or a four-goal game. We played hard and I tried to make the saves I had to make in the third and help them win the game."

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

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