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Three in a row for Luongo

by John Kreiser /
The way Roberto Luongo is playing, he might never give up another goal.

Luongo stopped 29 shots for his third consecutive shutout as he won a goaltending duel with Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom on Saturday night and led the Vancouver Canucks to a 2-0 victory over the Wild.

The All-Star goaltender extended his shutout streak to 201:08, dating to late in the second period of last Sunday's 3-2 loss to Detroit.

"I went through a similar stretch last November," said Luongo, who also had three consecutive shutouts on Nov. 25, 27 and 29, 2007. He'll get the chance to beat the franchise record of 212:12 he set last season when Colorado comes to G.M. Place on Wednesday.

"I wish we played in a couple of days, not wait until Wednesday," said Luongo, who has four shutouts in his last six games and is 5-0-1 in that stretch.

This performance was easily the best of Luongo's NHL-leading five shutouts.

His biggest saves came against Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Luongo threw out his left pad to take away an empty net 13 minutes into the second period, then slid across his crease at the last second to get his pad on Bouchard's one-timer with 18 seconds left in the period.
Luongo also stopped Andrew Brunette on a breakaway late in the second, and got his paddle down on Brunette in tight during a power play with eight minutes left.

"He's definitely found his groove," coach Alain Vigneault said. "He's playing with a lot of confidence, and the guys in front of him are going a lot of good things. It's a combination of several things. He's on a roll."

Luongo had to be good to beat Backstrom, who made 27 saves. Backstrom turned back several point-blank chances before Sami Salo's one-timer beat him through a screen on the Canucks' third power play at 13:36 of the first period. It was only the fourth goal allowed by Minnesota's league-leading penalty-killing unit all season.

"We knew this would be a hard-fought game," said Vigneault, whose team moved into first place in the Northwest Division, one point ahead of Minnesota and Calgary. "They've played very well on the road and don't give you a lot of room. When we made some mistakes, our goalie did the job."

Daniel Sedin scored on a breakaway with 2:40 left to give Luongo a lead of more than one goal for the first time in two games. He stopped 28 shots in a 1-0 win over Phoenix on Thursday and 28 more in a 4-0 win against Los Angeles on Tuesday.

The injury-riddled Wild is 2-4-0 after a 6-0-1 start. They won twice on a four-game trip and now play 10 of their next 12 at home.

"We did have a lot of good chances. Guys played hard," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. "Their goalie was great. Our goalie was good too. Every time we play them it's that type of game. It's exciting. Luongo — he's proven himself to be one of the best goalies, so what can you do."

Red Wings 3, Devils 1 | Video

Five days off gave the Wings a chance to work on keeping the puck out of their net, and practice nearly made perfect as Detroit shut down the Devils.

Zach Parise's second-period goal was the only shot to beat Chris Osgood, as the Wings reverted to the defensive form that helped carry them to the Stanley Cup last spring — rather than the style that allowed 39 goals in their first 12 games this season.

"We're getting back to the way we usually play," Osgood said. "We gave it away a few times, and we have to get away from that on a regular basis. It was good for us to practice for a week and get back to the basics. We did a lot better job tonight defensively than we have in the past."

The layoff didn't cool off Marian Hossa, who scored Detroit's first two goals and now leads the team with 17 points.

"We had a lot of rest, obviously," Hossa said. "First couple of shifts we were a little rusty, but then we got our legs going."

Hossa scored 3:30 into the game, but Parise tied it at 4:15 of the second period when he tipped in Johnny Oduya's shot for his team-high eighth goal. Hossa put the Wings ahead to stay at 10:41 when he beat Kevin Weekes from the left circle to finish off a 2-on-1 break.

Kirk Maltby added an insurance goal 4:11 into the third, beating Weekes from the lower left circle.

The Devils, playing without starting goaltender Martin Brodeur, played well enough to win on a lot of nights — but not this one.

"We played hard here tonight," coach Brent Sutter said. "I know it was a 3-1 game, but we did a lot of good things."

Penguins 4, Islanders 3, SO | Video

The Islanders blew yet another two-goal lead and couldn't hang on for the win in the third period, though at least this time, they got a point. But the Penguins got two when Tyler Kennedy scored with 3:15 left in regulation and Petr Sykora scored the only goal of the shootout.

It was the fourth time in five games that the Islanders have blown a multi-goal lead, though they won one of those games in overtime.

"It's terrible," said New York defenseman Andy Sutton, who blocked eight shots. "If you lose and learn from it, it's one thing, but if you lose and don't learn from it, it's completely another. You have to make a decision on how you want to play and stick with it."

Kennedy's goal, a tip of Alex Goligoski's point shot, capped a third period in which the puck rarely left the Isles' zone. Pittsburgh had 18 unanswered shots before the Isles' Jeff Tambellini had his team's only shot of the period.

"It was just a crazy game," Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby said. "We came out hard in the third period. We had to."

Sykora scored in the first round of the shootout, and Dany Sabourin stopped all three Isles shooters — including Trent Hunter, whose shot wound up buried in the goaltender's pads as he slid back into the net. It was ruled no goal on the ice and video review didn't show conclusive evidence that the puck had entered the net, even though both of Sabourin's pads appeared to cross the goal line.

"It was a tough call," Sabourin said. "It was pretty close. The puck was in my pad where my knee was. There's no way (the referees) could see the puck."

Doug Weight's flutterball wrist shot from the slot beat Sabourin at 16:23 to put the Isles ahead. Kennedy tied it with a backhander past Joey MacDonald 2:16 into the second period. Tim Jackman and Andy Hilbert scored to put the Isles up by two before Jordan Staal capitalized on a puck that hopped past defenseman Bruno Gervais to beat MacDonald on a breakaway at 16:01. Evgeni Malkin had an assist on the play, extending his scoring streak to 10 games.

"What we were able to do through two periods was pretty impressive," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said. "But at the end of the day, the third period is a result of our own decisions with the puck."


Capitals 3, Rangers 1

The Capitals brought in Jose Theodore as their No. 1 goaltender. Brent Johnson may be making them think twice about who should be the starter. He continued his superb play by making 28 saves, including one on Chris Drury's third-period penalty shot while the Caps were hanging onto a 2-1 lead.

Johnson played for the third consecutive game. He's 2-0-1 and has allowed just four goals in that span.

"Brent kept us in the game," Washington forward Brooks Laich said. "He's seeing everything. He'll probably say the puck looks like the size of a beach ball."

Johnson hasn't been a starter since 2001-02, when he played for St. Louis. He's 3-0-2 in five starts this season and is making a good case for more playing time.

"I'm just seeing the puck real well," said Johnson, who has turned aside 102 of 107 shots during his three-game run.

Caps coach Bruce Boudreau is playing it close to the vest.

"He might (start) Monday again, but Wednesday we might have a different No. 1. I'm not into these goalie controversies. If you're playing good, you're playing good," Boudreau said. "Right now Brent is really playing well and he's in a position he hasn't been in for quite a few years. So I hope he's relishing it."

Laich and ex-Ranger Tom Poti had first-period goals as Washington improved to 11-0-1 in its last 12 home games. The Rangers never recovered from the two early goals — and were very upset that Poti's goal at 17:06 was allowed, arguing that the net was off its moorings.

"We have speed. We have an ability to play physical. We need to be proactive and believe in what we're doing all the time and we'll have success," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "We got some tough calls. Your tendency is then to play a little safer, and that's not the way to play this game."

Aaron Voros made it 2-1 early in the third period before Johnson poke-checked Drury on the penalty shot attempt with 10:35 remaining.

"I just came out and challenged him as much as I could," Johnson said. "He was close enough that when he tried to go to the backhand, I was able to get my stick on it."

Alex Ovechkin got an assist, but now has gone a career-high nine straight games without a goal.

Lightning 2, Flyers 1 | Video

Philadelphia's offense has gone cold, and not even the return of Daniel Briere could make a difference as the Flyers lost their third in a row.

Briere, coming back two weeks earlier than expected from abdominal surgery, scored at 17:20 of the first period during a 5-on-3 advantage. But that was the only one of the Flyers' 18 shots in the period to beat Mike Smith, who finished with 35 saves.

Tampa Bay's first-period performance drew some paint-peeling between periods by coach Barry Melrose.

"I went in and called them every name under the sun," Melrose said. "I challenged their manhood. And if I have to do that after every first period, I will. When we play hard, we're an excellent team."

The Lightning got the point — then went out and scored twice in the second period to beat the Flyers for the 14th time in their last 17 meetings.
"I went in and called them every name under the sun. I challenged their manhood. And if I have to do that after every first period, I will. When we play hard, we're an excellent team." -- Lightning head coach Barry Melrose

Ex-Flyer Mark Recchi fed Jussi Jokinen, who snapped a shot past Martin Biron at 7:58. Vaclav Prospal, who finished last season with the Flyers before re-signing with Tampa Bat, put the Lightning ahead to stay at 13:35 when he finished off a 3-on-1 after a bad Philadelphia line change.

"We responded and I'm happy with the way the guys responded," Smith said. "You could tell in the first period, we were lackadaisical with the puck. We weren't hitting, we were losing puck battles, and it showed all over the ice."

The Flyers scored just one goal for the second straight game.

"It's odd when we're scoring goals in bunches and couldn't keep them out of our net, now we are keeping them out of our net and we are not scoring," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "It has to start from not giving up as much at our net. That is where this thing is going to turn around. I think we did that tonight and that is a step in the right direction."

Melrose hopes his players get the point — that they have to play a full 60 minutes to win.

"I have no problem doing it," he said. "I'm hoping that they get to the point where they don't want to hear me do it. That's the ideal thing."

Bruins 3, Sabres 1 | Video

The already-hot Bruins got some help as forward Chuck Kobasew had a goal and an assist in his return after missing 12 games with a broken leg, leading Boston to its sixth win in seven games and fourth straight at home.

"Chuck looked good," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "I told him if he came back in, he had to be a difference-maker."

After Tim Connolly put Buffalo ahead at 10:16 of the opening period by beating Manny Fernandez on a 2-on-1 break, Kobasew and Stephane Yelle assisted on Dennis Wideman's screened point shot past Ryan Miller at 17:36.

Kobasew put Boston ahead to stay 2:47 into the second period when he took a pass at his blue line, skated down the right wing and fired a shot that appeared to deflect off Buffalo defenseman Teppo Numminen and past Miller.

''It's nice when you don't have to fight it,'' Kobasew said of his first goal. ''I got lucky.''

Marc Savard fired home the rebound of Phil Kessel's shot at 7:59 of the third period to give Boston some insurance.

Buffalo lost in overtime to Atlanta on Friday, and Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said things started going downhill for his club in the second period.

"Up to that point it was pretty tightly contested," he said. "We gave up some opportunities. (That was when) their transition game really got started."

Manny Fernandez gave starter Tim Thomas a night off after Thomas had played in five consecutive games. He finished with 32 saves.

"It took the first period to get adjusted,'' Fernandez said. "You try to keep the rebounds in your favor."

Blue Jackets 3, Flames 1 | Video

Steve Mason's magical mystery tour of the NHL continues to roll along. The 20-year-old rookie goaltender made it three wins in as many starts by making 22 saves to lead the Blue Jackets past Calgary.

"The organization doesn't have a reputation of being a strong team, but I think we've changed that this year," he said. "And hopefully it continues."

"With the confidence comes being more comfortable on the ice.  Hopefully that continues. Every day I'm feeling more comfortable on the ice, reading the speed of the game and all the plays. I'm having a lot of fun. I couldn't ask for more."
-- Steve Mason

Jason Chimera, Derek Brassard and Manny Malhotra scored for the Jackets, who have points in their last six games.

"We're definitely evolving as a team and becoming more of a team, if that makes sense," Malhotra said. "We now have the ability to roll four lines competitively. Everybody can contribute. Our young guys are adding points and playing well. Our goaltending is standing on its head. Every aspect of our game is coming along nicely. It's all coming together."

Chimera scored 4:03 into the game when he picked off a bad pass by Rene Bourque in the Flames' zone and beat Curtis McElhinney, making the start as Calgary gave starter Miikka Kiprusoff his first night off.

"They capitalized on some errors that we made — and that was fundamentally the difference in the hockey game," coach Mike Keenan said. "It was a tight game from both sides and chances to score were low. We made a couple of errors that gave them the opportunity to put the puck in the net, and they did that."

Jarome Iginla tied it 1:05 into the second on a rocket from the slot during a power play. But Brassard put the Jackets back in front at 2:57, controlling Mike Commodore's high pass in the neutral zone, splitting the defense and beating McElhinney.

Malhotra gave the Jackets some insurance at 8:37 of the third period when he blocked Cory Sarich's shot, picked up the puck and raced into the Flames' zone before beating McElhinney for his second of the season.

Mason did the rest.

"With the confidence comes being more comfortable on the ice," Mason said. "Hopefully that continues. Every day I'm feeling more comfortable on the ice, reading the speed of the game and all the plays. I'm having a lot of fun. I couldn't ask for more."

Avalanche 1, Predators 0 | Video

Two teams that had been struggling defensive combined to allow just one goal. Unfortunately for the Predators, Colorado's Darcy Tucker got it — and Peter Budaj made it stand up to end the Avs' five-game losing streak.

Tucker backhanded T.J. Hensick's pass behind Dan Ellis at 15:39 of the second period for the 200th goal of his career and third of the season. It came 24 seconds after Budaj stopped Vernon Fiddler on a breakaway.

"It's a nice reward for a lot of years of hard work," Tucker said of his milestone goal.

The shutout was Budaj's first since he blanked Boston 2-0 on March 6, 2007.

"Boots played a great game," defenseman Ruslan Salei said. "He made huge saves."

Two of the biggest were stops on Shea Weber midway through the second period during one of Nashville's seven power plays.

Budaj had allowed 17 goals in losing his previous four starts.

"I made a couple of big saves early and it helped me calm down," Budaj said. "When you're losing, you try to think too much, you try to create too much. We simplified it tonight."

Dan Ellis made 19 saves for Nashville, which is 1-6-1 on the road and was coming off a 7-6 loss in Calgary in which the Predators' defense leaked badly.

The improved defense was of some consolation to Ellis, who wound up taking the loss in Calgary in relief of Pekka Rinne.

"We had gotten away from what had given us success," he said. "This was a big confidence-builder. It's not the result you want, but it's something to build on moving forward."

Coyotes 4, Panthers 1 | Video

Olli Jokinen let his play do the talking against his former team. Florida's former captain had a goal and an assist to lead his new team past the club that dealt him away on Draft Night.

"I think it was more emotional for my family, but when you're playing, you don't think about it," Jokinen said. "It's nice to score but at the end of the day, you want your team to win."

Jokinen set up Peter Mueller's tying goal early in the second period and gave the Coyotes a 3-1 lead when he stole an errant pass by Keith Ballard — one of the players who went the other way in the trade — and rifled a shot past Tomas Vokoun at 5:39.

Rookie Mikkel Boedker, who was selected minutes after the trade with Florida was made, had two goals for the Coyotes.

"We have a way of not handling adversity very well.  That's been a problem here in the first month of the season. As soon as we face adversity, we're trying to do too much. That's not the way a team handles adversity." -- Panthers head coach Peter DeBoer

Ilya Bryzgalov was solid in goal, finishing with 26 saves, and with some timely scoring and good goaltending, the Coyotes (6-6-0) are learning how to win.

"We really started attacking the net in the second period, and that was the difference,"  Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "It turned things around for us and I just thought our team played really well."

Florida has lost six straight (0-5-1).

''We're not playing hard enough,'' Ballard said. ''At times we play OK, but at times we make dumb plays and it's not good.'

Coach Peter DeBoer said Jokinen's goal took a lot of the life out of the Panthers.

"We have a way of not handling adversity very well," he said. "That's been a problem here in the first month of the season. As soon as we face adversity, we're trying to do too much. That's not the way a team handles adversity."

Sharks 2, Stars 1 | Video

Marty Turco is one of the NHL's most active puck-handling goalies — and usually one of the best. But no one's perfect, as Turco proved when his misplay led to Patrick Marleau's tie-breaking goal with 28.3 seconds left.

With the game apparently headed for overtime, Turco tried to throw a backhand breakout pass instead of safely shooting the puck into the corner. Instead, he put the puck off the skate of Marleau, who whacked at it twice, with the second try going into the net past Turco's dive.

"It's self explanatory," a distraught Turco said. "Generally, I let them dictate the play and I shouldn't be going high over the middle. To make matters worse, I knocked it into the net. I don't know what I was thinking."

Before his gaffe, Turco had played well for the second night in a row. He was solid in Friday's 5-2 win at Anaheim.

"(Turco) played a very good game," coach Dave Tippett said. "It was a hard-fought game and we played well. But in the end we made a mistake that cost us."

The NHL's best team improved to 9-0-0 at home and won its seventh in a row overall. The Sharks also got some satisfaction by beating the team that eliminated them from the playoffs last spring.

"I was on the good end of a nice bounce, and I was fortunate to put it in," Marleau said. "We still had a little bit of a bitter taste in our mouth (from last year) so it was good to get the win."

Dan Boyle gave the Sharks the lead by beating Turco with a wrist shot at 7:13 of the first period, converting a feed by Joe Thornton.

Brian Boucher, playing in place of injured starter Evgeni Nabokov, had shutouts in his first two starts and continued his run of perfection until 3:41 of the third period when the rebound of Steve Ott's shot came off the boards right to Loui Eriksson, who rapped it in for his sixth goal.

"Last year with the playoff loss to them it was pretty fresh in our mind," Boucher said. "They're a division opponent, so it was nice to get this win. We struck first, kept the lead for most of the game, and maybe that kept them on their heels."

Kings 5, Blues 3 | Video

The Kings' struggling power play came alive against St. Louis as Alexander Frolov, Tom Preissing and Drew Doughty all scored with the man advantage to help L.A. win its second straight game.

Anze Kopitar scored his first goal in nine games by wrapping a rebound of Dustin Brown's shot past Manny Legace at 3:01 of the first period to make it 1-0 before the Kings' power play took over. Frolov and Preissing scored in the second period to give the Kings a three-goal lead, and after Andy McDonald's goal 1:50 into the third period broke up Erik Ersberg's shutout, Doughty beat Legace at 11:58.

Goals by Patrik Berglund and Brad Boyes made the Kings sweat a bit before Brown hit the empty net to seal the win.

"I thought we had all kinds of chances to score on our power plays, but Ersberg played well," Blues coach Andy Murray said. "We were trying, we didn't quit. We were battling until the end and I think we made them nervous. They made a good play and got that empty-net goal, but we didn't fade away."

Kopitar, who scored for the first time in nine games, said getting off to a fast start was vital.

"You always want to get the first goal, especially on home ice," he said. "We were able to build on that. We got a little sloppy in the third period, but we'll take the win."

Ersberg started for the third consecutive game after Jason LaBarbera played the first 10. He's 2-0-1 in those games and is enjoying the chance to play.

"We've got two wins in a row and it feels great," he said. "It's always easier to play when the defense plays like it has the last two games. They're letting me see the puck and clearing the rebounds."

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

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