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Turco looks like old self in shutout win

by Brian Compton
A few thoughts while the Oilers gauge the Penguins' interest in trading Mathieu Garon:

Here come the Stars -- The Dallas Stars entered Tuesday's action with a 3.22 goals-against average, 27th in the League.

Marty Turco is ready to improve that number.

Turco stopped all 25 shots he faced for his 35th career shutout, leading the Stars to a 2-0 victory against the Atlanta Thrashers at the American Airlines Center.

''You're always striving for shutouts,'' said Turco, who's won all seven of his career games against Atlanta. ''If we can play like this, good things will happen. I didn't miss a beat. I felt fresher."

With the win, Dallas improved to 8-2-1 in its last 11 home games. After a poor start that was highlighted by the Sean Avery fiasco, the Stars are 10-4-3 in their last 17 games and have climbed back into playoff contention.

For Turco, it was just his second shutout of the season. But if he can play like this down the stretch, the Stars will be there right to the end.

''Marty's a proven guy,'' Dallas forward Steve Ott said. ''We knew all along that he'd find his game. We've got to keep building our record and keep pushing for the playoffs.''
He's had enough -- Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash has had it with cleaning out his locker the day after the regular season. It's time for some playoff hockey.

Nash put the Blue Jackets on his back Tuesday and carried them one step closer to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He scored all three of his team's goals in a 3-2 overtime win against the Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena.

''He, more than anyone, recognizes the opportunity in front of us and he sent the other players a clear message,'' Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said of Nash, who scored shorthanded, on the power play and at even strength in OT. ''He wants to finish the job and make a run for this thing. ... Rick's able to start at a high pace and others are able to tag along. And that's what leaders are able to do.''

Columbus has never participated in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since joining the NHL in 2000. Nash, who played his first game with the club in 2002, is eager to change that dubious fact.

''All the moments have felt real,'' said Nash, who leads the Jackets with 22 goals. ''We've been on 10-game losing streaks. They've felt pretty real too. This is a lot better.''

Super sub -- Steve Valiquette doesn't get to play often, but when he does it seems as if he puts the New York Rangers in a position to win. He did just that against Carolina.

With Henrik Lundqvist getting a night off following the All-Star festivities in Montreal, Valiquette made 33 saves for New York in a 3-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at Madison Square Garden. It was Valiquette's fifth win of the season.

The victory kept the Rangers just one point behind the New Jersey Devils, 4-1 winners at Ottawa, for first place in the Atlantic Division.

"Our guys were great in surrounding me and making sure that (Carolina) could not get to rebounds, so I had time to cover up loose pucks," Valiquette said.

Valiquette was most impressed with his team's business-like approach in the club's first game since the All-Star break.

''We're pros, and times have changed. The postgame hydration isn't a Bud Light,'' he said. ''Everybody is very serious about the way they carry themselves. That showed tonight because we came back and were ready to play.''

Given what Rangers coach Tom Renney had to say during the post-game press conference, Valiquette should be ready to play more. The Blueshirts are banking on a fresh, healthy Lundqvist to lead them deep into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I think we have to continue to give Henrik the opportunity to regroup and rest," Renney said. "Steve has demonstrated for the second year in a row that he can play the position really well. And that's good for us to have Steve playing really well, and a rested Henrik playing really well late into the season and deep, deep into the postseason."
He's OK -- Sure, the Washington Capitals and their fans are disappointed about a 3-2 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins at TD Banknorth Garden.

But there also was a reason to cheer. Alex Ovechkin -- arguably the greatest player on the planet -- returned for the third period after a nasty collision behind the net late in the second.

Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with 31 goals, hit the boards behind the Boston goal with his head and right shoulder, then remained motionless on the ice for about 15 seconds. He was able to get up on his own, but shortly after he was forced to leave the ice and appeared to be in a great deal of pain.

As he headed down the ramp to the Capitals' locker room, Ovechkin fired his gloves and helmet to the ground. That's when fans began opening their windows and tried to think of reasons not to jump (kind of like how I felt when I heard about the new Beverly Hills, 90210). Fortunately, though, No. 8 returned for the start of the third period.

''He's a pretty tough kid,'' Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said.

Not done yet -- When asked how it felt to earn his 20th victory of the season, New Jersey Devils goalie Scott Clemmensen gave the kind of answer that likely made people in the Garden State stand up and shout.

''My previous high coming into this year was three,'' Clemmensen said after the Devils' 4-1 win against Ottawa at Scotiabank Place. ''It feels good. Why stop at 20? There's more to go and you take it one game at a time and hopefully 20 can become 21, and then 22, 23, and so on, so forth.''

With Martin Brodeur still a few weeks away from returning to action, it will be up to Clemmensen to keep New Jersey atop the Atlantic Division. Two months ago, such a statement would have made Devils fans cringe. Not anymore.

''I don't think many people would have thought he'd get 20 wins in the NHL this season, that's for sure,'' said New Jersey captain Jamie Langenbrunner, who scored 2 goals in a game for the 17th time in his career.
Better late than never -- After a first period that went about as well as Carl Lewis' attempt at "The Star-Spangled Banner," the Tampa Bay Lightning erupted in the second period and started the second half of the season in winning fashion.

Vincent Lecavalier, Vinny Prospal and Steve Downie all scored in the middle period, while Mike Smith finished with 31 saves as the Lightning skated away with a 5-3 victory against the Montreal Canadiens at the St. Pete Times Forum.

While Tampa Bay trailed only 2-1 after the first, the Bolts allowed 20 shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes.

"We were just brutal," Prospal said of his team's play in the opening period. "The biggest thing was Smitty -- the way he played in the first period gave us a chance to stay in the game. We played totally different in the second and third periods."

Lightning interim coach Rick Tocchet is confident that if his team can put forth 60-minute efforts, the wins will come at a more consistent pace.

''We were a little sleepy," said Tocchet. "The first period was not a good period for us. 'The good thing about it, we responded. To me, that's a sign of a team that's coming together.''

No Frolik-ing -- Florida Panthers forward Michael Frolik is getting the attention of coach Peter DeBoer. And that's a good thing.

Frolik played a role in all three of his team's goals against Philadelphia, scoring once and assisting on the other two in the Panthers' 3-2 win against the Flyers at the BankAtlantic Center.

''At the start of the season I didn't get much ice time,'' said Frolik, who played in the Young Stars game in Montreal this past weekend. ''Now I'm playing more and more and the coach is believing in me more and more. I'm getting more comfortable and confident.''

"At the start of the season I didn't get much ice time.  Now I'm playing more and more and the coach is believing in me more and more. I'm getting more comfortable and confident." -- Michael Frolik
DeBoer especially was impressed with Frolik's effort, given the latter's participation in this weekend's All-Star festivities in Montreal.

''After (Tomas) Vokoun, he was our best player tonight,'' DeBoer said. ''I thought he did an outstanding job for someone who just got back from the All-Star break. It's a credit to him and his commitment to help us win the game.''

Little help here?
-- Not too many players are eager to return to the American Hockey League, but if Justin Pogge feels that way, you could hardly blame him.

The Toronto Maple Leafs hung their rookie goaltender out to dry in a 6-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Making just his second career start, Pogge stopped just 15 of 21 shots. The Leafs did not receive a power play all night -- a sign that the effort just wasn't there.

''We've got a lot of guys who have to show a lot more pride in their performance defensively than they are showing,'' Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. ''You should dig in a little harder when you've got a young kid playing goal.''

Pogge didn't have much to say when it was over, but one has to believe that when the final horn sounded, he was more relieved than when the credits started to roll in "Who's Your Caddy?"

''Yeah, it's over,'' Pogge said. ''I can't change the fact that I let in six. Oh well, (forget) it. It's time to go on to the next one.''

They haven't forgotten -- Claude Lemieux certainly has played the villain role in the past. On Tuesday night, though, in his return to Colorado, he was appreciated.

The San Jose Sharks forward was back at the Pepsi Center -- a place where he provided plenty of special moments -- and received a rousing ovation during his team's 3-0 win against the Avalanche. Lemieux, who has returned to the NHL after a 5 1/2-year absence -- recorded two shots on goal in 9:30 of ice time.

''There's plenty of places I can get booed,'' said Lemieux, who helped the Avs win a Stanley Cup in 1996. ''This is a special place to me and I always love and still spend a lot of time in Colorado.''

Avs forward Ian Laperriere still can't believe Lemieux was able to return to the NHL after being away for so long. Lemieux, 43, spent the majority of the first half of the season with the Worcester Sharks in the AHL before finally getting the call from Sharks GM Doug Wilson.

''I'll give him all the credit in the world,'' Laperriere said. ''He put out the effort to get here.''

Now 35, Laperriere knows where he'll be when he's Lemieux's age.

''I'll be playing, but not in the NHL -- with my kids,'' he said.

A real stinker
-- For Craig MacTavish, there really wasn't any way to sugarcoat what transpired at Rexall Place.

"A debacle of monumental proportion," was his response after watching his team drop a 10-2 decision to the Buffalo Sabres -- the worst home loss in franchise history. "It started early and kept coming through three periods."

"You can't sugarcoat how tough a night it was, but we have to put this behind us quickly and move on." -- Steve Staios on the Oilers' 10-2 loss to the Sabres
Indeed it did. Twenty minutes into the game, the Oilers trailed 3-0. After 40 minutes, it was 7-1. The icing on the cake was Tim Connolly's shorthanded tally with 1:15 remaining.

"We were just chasing our tails all night," MacTavish said. "It was a case where we have to execute our game plan a whole lot better in all areas."

It certainly was quite the way to end a three-game win streak. The eight-goal differential eclipsed a game that tied the then-record seven-goal mark from earlier this season, when the Oilers lost 9-2 to Chicago.

"We didn't think that this could happen to us again, especially the way that we were playing of late," Edmonton defenseman Steve Staios said. "Hopefully the experience we have from trying to shake it off last time is the way to do it because we started playing better and got ourselves into a playoff position. You can't sugarcoat how tough a night it was, but we have to put this behind us quickly and move on."

Come on down! -- The Anaheim Ducks didn't always get the lucky bounces during the first half of the season, but they sure did Tuesday.

Corey Perry scored twice for Anaheim in its 7-3 win against the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena. On the first one, the puck deflected off his hand and past Ilya Bryzgalov. The second came off a juicy rebound in the slot.

''It was Plinko,'' Perry said, referring to the ''The Price is Right'' game that involves a disc ricocheting down a peg board. ''There haven't been many of those this year. You watch a lot of the teams that are having that success, they're getting those points and they're getting those goals."

The willingness to score the dirty goals helped the Ducks move into a fifth-place tie with the Coyotes in the Western Conference standings. Each team has 53 points.

''You look at the goals we scored. They were all from the crease in,'' Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. ''They were goals off faceoffs, off deflections and from jamming the crease. Those are the ugly areas to score goals from.''

Contact Brian Compton at

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

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