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Tocchet gets first coaching win

by John Kreiser /
Rick Tocchet still has fond memories of the first of his 440 NHL goals. His first win as a coach was every bit as enjoyable.

"It's a thrill to be a head coach and to win your first game. It's almost like your first NHL goal," said Tocchet, who was all smiles after the Tampa Bay Lightning gave him coaching win No. 1 with a 4-1 victory over the Nashville Predators on Friday night. "The last couple games and how hard we worked, it was nice to get the win."

The Bolts lost shootouts in each of Tocchet's first two games after he replaced Barry Melrose on Nov. 14. This time, they jumped out to an early lead as Vincent Lecavalier scored twice in a 2:08 span of the opening period.

"Our last three games, I think, we've had a lot of energy," Lecavalier said.

After Nashville's Jordin Tootoo made it 2-1 at 10:40, Mark Recchi restored the Lightning's two-goal lead at 12:17.

"The guys really went hard in the first period. We had a lot of chances, a lot of shots," Tocchet said. "I told the guys, 'when it's 3-1, you want to make it 4-1,' and that's what we did."

Vaclav Prospal got the Lightning's fourth goal at 6:32 of the second. No. 1 draft pick Steven Stamkos had a pair of assists.

The rest of the night belonged to goaltender Mike Smith, who made 34 saves as the Predators outshot Tampa Bay 35-24. Tocchet was concerned about the fact that Nashville had a host of chances after the Lightning took a three-goal lead.

"I want guys to be happy and satisfied," Tocchet said. "But I wasn't thrilled with the third period. Guys were a little lackadaisical. I think we got a little off the game, but we'll discuss it. It's just a process.

"It was nice to get some goals for him, but he still stopped 30-something shots. He was good in the net."

The Predators are winless in five games at Tampa Bay since a 3-0 win over the Lightning on March 24, 1999.

"They won the game because of everything we did," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "We turned the puck over. We made bad decisions. Some guys played poorly. There's nowhere to hide right now. Some guys are going to have to get their game up or they will not be playing or they will be moved on."

Nashville captain Jason Arnott was in the starting lineup just four days after an on-ice collision Monday night that resulted in a neck strain.

"I felt OK," Arnott said. "It's still a little sore and a little stiff, but it loosens up once you get your adrenaline going and you get going into the game."

Hurricanes 5, Coyotes 2 | Video

Eric Staal got some inspiration from the opposing coach and broke out of an eight-game goal drought in a big way, scoring three times in less than 24 minutes to lead the Hurricanes to their third consecutive win.

The fact that Wayne Gretzky was behind the Coyotes' bench gave Staal a little more incentive.

''He's the best player at it — and he's watching, coaching against you. It definitely adds a little bit more to the game,'' Staal said after Carolina ended a four-game losing streak to the Coyotes. ''And I wanted to show my stuff.''

He showed The Great One a lot.

Staal scored once in the first period and twice in the second to complete his fifth career hat trick. Ray Whitney added two late goals, one into an empty net.

''A guy his caliber is just too good not to be scoring,'' Gretzky said of Staal.

Staal completed his hat trick and put the Hurricanes ahead to stay with 45.1 seconds left in the second period when he backhanded a loose puck past Ilya Bryzgalov. His tip of Joni Pitkanen's shot at the 8-minute mark had tied the game at 2-2.

Kevin Porter put Phoenix ahead with a power-play goal 8:56 into the game. Staal answered with his first of the night at 15:16, chipping in the rebound of Sergei Samsonov's shot.

''It's about burying your head, working hard, not changing your game, getting to those areas where goals are scored — and for me, goals are scored in the front of the net and those traffic areas,'' Staal said. ''Eventually, they were going to fall. I knew that.''

Phoenix captain Shane Doan put the Coyotes ahead for the second time at 17:03 when he picked off Anton Babchuk's clearing attempt, went in alone and beat Cam Ward for his 11th of the season.

But Doan wasn't happy after his team lost its fourth in a row.

''We've got to answer back,'' Doan said. ''Urgency and desperation. It's every single one of us finding a way to get that loose puck and find that second effort. It's not fun when it's not working, and you're having to battle for every little one. When it's easy, it's fun. When it's not, it's really hard.''

Devils 5, Islanders 2 | Video

One night after Scott Clemmensen made his pitch to be New Jersey's No. 1 goaltender during Martin Brodeur's absence, Kevin Weekes did the same by making 25 saves for his 100th career victory as the Devils overwhelmed the Islanders.

Weekes hadn't played since being lifted after allowing four goals in the second period of a 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers nine days ago. He was a lot sharper after watching Clemmensen play three in a row.

"It's always fun when you get a chance to play," said Weekes, now 100-161-39 in his NHL career. "It's a privilege to play in the NHL and I've always had that attitude my entire career. This one was pretty special. Now I know what Marty feels like every day. He's always hitting some milestone."

Devils coach Brent Sutter was pleased with Weekes' play.

"Weekes was solid," Sutter said. "He made the saves that he had to. We got out of Weekes what we wanted."

The Devils gave Weekes a two-goal lead late in the first period when David Clarkson and Travis Zajac scored 10 seconds apart against Isles goaltender Joey MacDonald, both on deflections.

"That really killed us," Islanders captain Bill Guerin said. "They got some really timely goals tonight. You've got to give them credit. They played a real solid game on not a lot of rest."

The Islanders came out stronger in the second period, but weren't really lucky. Andy Hilbert's bad-angled shot from near the right boards sailed through a screen and past Weekes at 3:29, but Bryce Salvador put the Devils back in front by two just 23 seconds later when his slap shot hit Isles defenseman Chris Campoli and went past MacDonald.

Sean Bergenheim's backhand rebound at 13:04 cut the margin back to one, but Brian Gionta jammed in a loose puck for a shorthanded goal at 19:44.

"That's a huge play," Sutter said. "It's 3-2, and you start the period then (up) 4-2. To get up two goals like that was big."

Paul Martin's goal during a 5-on-3 power play in which only one of the three Islanders on the ice in front of MacDonald had a stick closed the scoring.

"I thought we played a very complete game," Sutter said. "We played well. Our faceoffs, we did a lot of things right. We had times in the second period where certain things happened and we still held our composure tonight. We didn't get run out of position. We were solid, a very solid team tonight."

"''He's the best player at it — and he's watching, coaching against you. It definitely adds a little bit more to the game, and I wanted to show my stuff.'' -- Hurricanes forward Eric Staal on playing in front of Wayne Gretzky
The Islanders saw their three-game winning streak snapped.

"We had a few turnovers that cost us the game," MacDonald said. "In the second period I thought we started throwing some stuff at the net and we started getting some bounces on them and there were rebounds there for the taking, but it seemed like every time we battled back, they came down and the third goal just shot off our 'D' into the net. Just one of those nights that the puck was just bouncing."

Flyers 3, Sabres 0 | Video

Every player likes to play well against his former team, so Martin Biron must have really enjoyed his 40-save performance at the arena he used to call home. His teammates sure did.

Biron made a number of spectacular saves as the Sabres dominated play for most of the night but couldn't beat the goaltender they traded to the Flyers in February 2007. Jeff Carter scored twice and Scott Hartnell had the other as Philadelphia improved to 8-6-4 with its third win in a row.

"We played a pretty basic game, and Marty did everything that we needed him to do," Carter said. "They had a lot of chances and a couple of lucky bounces off posts, but Marty was great. It gives us great confidence knowing how good he's playing right now."

The outcome left Lindy Ruff, Biron's old coach with the Sabres, frustrated.

"We did a great job of making their goaltender look good," Ruff said. "We had breakaways and great opportunities. We just didn't finish."

The Sabres played much better than they did in a sloppy 7-4 loss at Boston on Thursday, but still fell to 1-5-1 in their last seven games. They are 9-7-3 despite a 6-0-2 start.

"We did a lot of good things tonight," Ruff said. "We're a lot closer to winning than losing. But when things go bad, you don't get the bounces."

Hartnell opened the scoring with 58 seconds left in the first period when he came out of the penalty box, took Simon Gagne's breakaway pass and beat Miller. Carter made it 2-0 with 11:41 left in regulation with a bouncing-puck wrist shot from the right circle that came about two minutes after Buffalo's Jason Pominville missed a wide-open net.

Carter added an empty-netter for his team-high 13th goal of the season.

"It wasn't a perfect game for me, nor was it for the whole team, but we pulled it off," Biron said.
Blues 3, Ducks 2, OT | Video

Lee Stempniak's goal at 2:39 of overtime took the sting out of what could have been a horribly disappointing night for St. Louis.

The injury-riddled Blues appeared to have wrapped up a 2-1 win before Scott Niedermayer scored with :00.9 remaining after a wild power-play scramble that saw Anaheim forward Corey Perry fall into Blues goaltender Manny Legace before the puck slid into the net.

Legace felt Perry was not knocked into him and was irate that the goal was allowed to stand.

"You've got to give the goalie a chance to make a play," he said. "The game should never have gone to overtime. I guess the hockey gods were looking down on us."

Niedermayer, one of a pile of Ducks jabbing away in front of Legace, said he "was just fishing for the puck. It just happened to come to my stick."
Stempniak gave the Blues the second point when he picked off a pass in the neutral zone, used 6-foot-6 defenseman Chris Pronger as a screen and zipped a wrist shot past Jean-Sebastien Giguere for the winner.

"I think once that goal went in, there was nothing we could do about it," Stempniak said of the overtime. "Either way, we were going to get a point, which is good. But we wanted that second one. It was like someone stole it from us, with them scoring so late. It seemed like we took the play to them in overtime. It was a good sign of desperation."

Of the goal, he said, "I think Pronger was coming off the bench and caught a little bit flat-footed, so I just tried to use him as a screen."

The winner, a shot from the left circle, deflected into the net off the goalie's stick.

"I think he used Prongs in a very effective way," Giguere said. "I would still like to see that shot again. But you can't go back."

David Backes' power-play goal 7:14 into the game was the only scoring through two periods. Chris Kunitz tied it at 7:13 of the third, but Steve Regier put St. Louis back in front at 10:15 with a power-play tap-in. For Regier, who didn't score in a couple of stints with the Islanders, it was his third goal in two games.

"He's humble, he's working his butt off, and he's being rewarded," Backes said.

The Ducks lost for the fifth time in six games.

"We feel we're a better team than we've shown in a number of games this year," Niedermayer said. "It's frustrating when you don't play to your potential."

Anaheim defenseman Bret Hedican played in his 1,000th NHL game, becoming the 14th American player to reach that milestone.

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

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