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Ward leads surging 'Canes past Chicago

by Brian Compton
Cam Ward is doing his best to get the Carolina Hurricanes back in the playoff race.

Ward made 39 saves on Saturday night and Brandon Sutter and Matt Cullen scored 26 seconds apart as the Hurricanes won for the fifth time in six games with a 4-2 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks at the RBC Center.

"Cam was fantastic tonight," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "I'll say it again -- every once in a while, we actually expect that out of him because we need it in a game like tonight."

Sergei Samsonov and Jussi Jokinen also scored for the Hurricanes, who have won four straight but remain 11 points out of a playoff spot after reaching the Eastern Conference Finals a season ago. Ward has stopped 129 of 134 shots in his last four games.

"I feel very comfortable in net," Ward said. "But that's a result of the guys playing in front of me. You can see the guys play extremely hard. You can see we're playing with a lot more confidence. It just urges myself to come up with those key saves."

Marian Hossa and Andrew Ladd scored for Chicago, and Cristobal Huet made 20 saves. Ladd, who beat Ward with a wrist shot in the third period, helped Carolina win the Stanley Cup in 2006 before he was traded to Chicago for Tuomo Ruutu last season.
Chicago (37-14-4) went 5-3-0 on its season-high eight-game trip. The Blackhawks hadn't played in Raleigh since December 2005.

"We're not complaining, but we thought maybe we deserved a better way to end it today," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said.

Carolina held a 1-0 lead after the first period as Samsonov scored in the final 10 seconds, but Hossa tied things up with his 15th goal of the season at 6:46 of the second when he backhanded a shot through Ward's legs.

But Jokinen put the Hurricanes back in front with 2:17 remaining in the second when he one-timed a cross-ice feed from Eric Staal past a sprawling Huet. The shot was originally stopped, but the puck just made it over the goal line, giving the Hurricanes a goal that survived video review. Carolina is 11-1-3 when Jokinen scores.

Ladd once again tied the game 7:43 into the third period, but Sutter again put Carolina ahead when he redirected Chad LaRose's blast past Huet at 9:08. Cullen then quickly doubled the Hurricanes' lead as he took a pass from Tom Kostopoulos and tapped it past Huet for his 11th goal of the season.

"I think this is what we all expected," Cullen said. "It's disappointing that it comes so late, but at the same time, it's there and we have a lot of pride."

Blue Jackets 3, Blues 2 (OT) | HIGHLIGHTS | PHOTOS

Kris Russell scored at 1:32 of overtime to give Columbus its first victory in St. Louis in nine games. Russell skated into the Blues' zone and snapped a shot past Mason on the Jackets' first shot in overtime. It was his sixth goal of the season.

"This is a tough building for us to win in and I thought we played a really good game tonight," Russell said. "We just got to keep playing and working hard. If we play like that, good things are going to happen."

Fedor Tyutin and Derek Dorsett scored for the Jackets, and Mathieu Garon stopped 25 shots in his first game since Jan. 19. Columbus was 0-7-1 in its previous eight visits to St. Louis.

"We're grinding it and we'll see where we go," Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We kept going. We're trying to keep ourselves up and keep fighting. We're not going to skill our way into this (playoff race). We're going to claw our way in it."

David Backes and Andy McDonald scored for St. Louis, and Chris Mason made 16 saves.

Tyutin gave the Blue Jackets a 2-1 lead during a two-man advantage with 1:24 left in the second, but McDonald forced the extra session when he beat Garon from the right circle for a power-play goal with 1:35 remaining in regulation.

"We had quite a few chances," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "We had to grind out way in the third to get one to go and also had one there in the last few seconds (of regulation) after we won the faceoff. We had a chance right on the doorstep there."

Blues forward Keith Tkachuk became the fourth player in League history to record 2,200 penalty minutes and 1,000 points when he was whistled for high-sticking in the second period.

Predators 4, Thrashers 3 | HIGHLIGHTS | PHOTOS

Jason Arnott scored seven seconds into the third period, and Nashville snapped a five-game skid by holding off Atlanta at the Sommet Center.

The Predators -- who received 23 saves from Pekka Rinne -- were coming off a winless four-game trip and had lost five straight in regulation despite outshooting their opponents in each game. Joel Ward, Jerred Smithson and Martin Erat also scored for Nashville.

"As harsh and ugly as it looked at the time, the beauty of the thing was we gutted it out and found a way to win, and that's real important," Preds coach Barry Trotz said.

It was Arnott's first goal since Jan. 2. Cody Franson fed the veteran forward off the opening faceoff, and the Preds' captain skated up and ripped a shot past Johan Hedberg for his 13th this season to put Nashville ahead to stay.

"It was Franny's call," Arnott said. "He came up to me before the draw and said, 'If we win it, bust up the middle and I'll hit you,' and he did. And it just happened so fast. It's nice to get back on the winning track, though. That's the main thing now and just keep it going."

Bryan Little had two goals for Atlanta, and Chris Thorburn scored shorthanded. Atlanta ended a two-game winning streak after failing to score twice on the power play after Arnott's goal. Hedberg made 27 saves.

"Our 'D' have to react to come across to the middle," Thrashers coach John Anderson said. "You just don't say, 'I've got my man,' and that's it. They didn't react."

Coyotes 3, Rangers 2 | HIGHLIGHTS | PHOTOS

Shane Doan scored for a third straight game and Jason LaBarbera made 24 saves as Phoenix held off New York at Arena for its third straight win.

Sami Lepisto had his first career goal and Mikkel Boedker also scored for the Coyotes, who built a three-goal lead in the first period. They have won six of eight and moved three points ahead of Colorado for fourth place in the Western Conference.

"It was a game where we were in control early and the style that they play tends to make the game look a little bit ragged," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We had some opportunities in the second period but didn't put it away."

Marian Gaborik and Sean Avery scored in the third period, but it was too little, too late for the Rangers -- losers of five in a row. Gaborik's goal ended a scoreless streak of 202:04 on the road. New York is 2-7-1 in its last 10 games.

"We stayed with it and got rewarded at the end, just not enough," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "We battled hard, we regrouped and we made a game out of it."

Gaborik, who scored off a brilliant give-and-go with Erik Christensen, nearly tied it with 1:26 left when his shorthanded chance hit the goal post.

"Obviously we can't win if we take four or five penalties in the second period," Gaborik said. "We really have to work on our discipline because special teams can win in these games. We just have to battle through it."

Boedker, recalled from San Antonio of the AHL on Friday, made it 2-0 just 42 seconds after Doan opened the scoring when he took a pass from Robert Lang in the slot and beat Chad Johnson via the backhand on his first shift.

"I don't know why I didn't put him on the ice sooner," Tippett said.

Lepisto made it 3-0 when he beat Johnson on a wrister from the point at 14:13 of the opening period.

"I saw it go by and I could hear his shot," said Johnson, who made 21 saves in his fourth appearance of the season. "I just tried to go down and be as large as I possibly could. It was a tough goal."

Sharks 5, Wild 2 | HIGHLIGHTS | PHOTOS

Patrick Marleau scored his League-leading 36th and 37th goals and Jason Demers also scored twice on the power play as San Jose cruised past Minnesota at HP Pavilion.

Evgeni Nabokov made 36 saves for the Sharks, who have won six of their last seven games and went 4-for-7 on the power play.

"Everyone was going tonight," Demers said. "Pucks were getting through to the net. I was just fortunate enough to get these two goals."

Owen Nolan and Cal Clutterbuck scored for the Wild, who had a three-game winning streak snapped. Josh Harding, who is playing with a sore hip because Niklas Backstrom was worse off with a sore back, made 29 saves.

The Wild struck quickly, with Nolan wristing a shot past Nabokov 6:25 into the game. It was his 13th goal of the season and the first in six games.

"We made a couple of bad decisions," Minnesota coach Todd Richards said. "They made the big plays. I liked the way the guys battled and competed. We played hard."

Demers answered from just inside the blue line five minutes later with his first goal of the night, but Clutterbuck made it 2-1 with 18 seconds left in the first period, squeezing the puck past a startled Nabokov after taking a nifty pass from Kyle Brodziak.

"We battled hard, there's definitely no question about that," Brodizak said. "It's obviously very frustrating. It's tough to put a finger on exactly where the game went wrong."

Demers scored an unassisted goal early in the second period. Pavelski scored on a breakaway after taking a pass from Marleau, and Marleau scored both of his goals in the final seven minutes.

"Our power play got the job done for us," Marleau said. "But we have to be a little sharper right from the start."

Flyers 2, Islanders 1 | HIGHLIGHTS | PHOTOS

Hoping to get more offense from his slumping top two lines, Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette shook them up Saturday, and the change worked on two first-period goals in a victory over the New York Islanders at the Wachovia Center.

Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell scored for the Flyers, while Ray Emery made 31 saves. Josh Bailey scored for the Islanders, while Dwayne Roloson stopped 30 shots. Philadelphia has now taken 14 straight games from the Isles, the longest current winning streak between NHL teams.

To read's Flyers-Isles recap, CLICK HERE.

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

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