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What slump? Nash powers Jackets past Oilers

by Brian Compton /
Rick Nash broke out of a scoring slump in a big way on Monday night as he scored three times to lead the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers.
The Edmonton Oilers knew Rick Nash would break out of his eight-game scoring drought.
They were simply hoping it wouldn’t be against them.   
Nash scored three times – including a pair in the third period – as the Columbus Blue Jackets closed out 2007 with a 4-2 win over the Oilers at Nationwide Arena on Monday night.

''I've been struggling lately,'' Nash said. ''Goals seem to come in bunches. They haven't been bouncing my way lately and tonight it was bouncing my way.''
Nash’s outburst dropped the Oilers to 0-4-2 in their last six games. They were locked in a 2-2 tie until Ethan Moreau was whistled for tripping 15:02 into the third period. Nash quickly made the Oilers pay, as he beat Dwayne Roloson on a power-play tally with 3:21 remaining in regulation ( 700K ). Nash had already scored a shorthanded goal ( 700K ) in the second – his first tally of any kind since Dec. 5.
"Very disappointing tonight," Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said. "I thought we played terrific hockey for the better part of the game. That same old play beat us in the end, the back-side empty-netter, really."
Nash iced the victory with a true empty-netter, which came at 19:51 ( 700K ).
"I was looking for anything," Nash said. "I'm not picky right now. When you're not scoring, you can't be picky."
After Jiri Novotny gave the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead 8:15 into the game ( 700K ), Moreau scored his first goal since returning from a shoulder injury suffered in October of 2006 when he beat Pascal Leclaire at the 7:23 mark of the second ( 700K ). Moreau had missed 113 games before returning to the ice on Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild.
"I felt good. There were no limitations," Moreau said.
While the Blue Jackets have been solid on home ice as of late, they’ll need to turn it up a notch on the road, as they begin a four-game trip on Wednesday night at Anaheim. Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock hopes Monday’s dramatic finish will carry over to the West Coast.
"I told the players today the third period was the best we've played at home (so far this season),” Hitchcock said. “I thought we did a great job managing the game in the third period. Both teams really competed tonight."

Bruins 5, Thrashers 2 | Video
In the end, little brother got the better of big brother.
After Colin Stuart’s goal in the first period gave Atlanta a 2-0 lead ( 700K ), his younger brother – Boston’s Mark Stuart – notched what proved to be the game-winning tally in the middle frame ( 700K ), as Boston closed out 2007 by ending a six-game losing streak.
''It was nice,'' Mark Stuart said. ''He one-upped me earlier, so I had to do it.''
It spoiled what was an otherwise special day for Colin Stuart, as his goal was No. 1 of his NHL career. Bobby Holik broke a scoreless tie via the power play only four minutes prior ( 700K ).
''Getting that first NHL goal is exciting, but it would've made it more exciting if we came out of here with a win,'' Colin Stuart said.
Dennis Wideman got the Bruins on the board when he scored the 18,000th goal in franchise history 4:40 into the second period ( 700K ). After Chris Thorburn was sent off for holding, Wideman fired a wrist shot from the point past Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen, who moments earlier had lost his stick behind the net.
Per Johan Axelsson tied things up just 34 seconds later ( 700K ). With the teams back at even strength, Axelsson redirected Zdeno Chara’s blast past Lehtonen to make it 2-2. It was his eighth goal of the season.
Mark Stuart gave the Bruins the lead with 10:20 remaining in the second period. The 23-year-old defenseman took a pass from Peter Schaefer and launched a slap shot from the point past Lehtonen as Atlanta suddenly found itself trailing a Bruins’ team that hadn’t won since Dec. 15.
''I think we stopped trying so hard and stopped doing the easy things and cost ourselves a game,'' Lehtonen said.
Boston added two more insurance goals in the third period. Phil Kessel made it 4-2 on a power play goal at 2:05 ( 700K ) before Matt Lashoff put the game away with a power play goal of his own ( 700K ) – his first in the NHL – with 13:23 to go.
''I think we just decided to play,'' Bruins coach Claude Julien said. ''That's what my message was to them right after the first period.''
Sharks 3, Wild 2 | Video
Jonathan Cheechoo's game-winning goal lifted the Sharks to their 10th straight road win as San Jose defeated the Minnesota Wild 3-2.
NHL, meet your best road team.
Jonathan Cheechoo scored just 10 seconds after Mark Parrish erased a 2-1 deficit late in the third period ( 700K ), leading San Jose to its 10th straight win away from HP Pavilion.
The Sharks are now tied with four other teams for second on the NHL's list for consecutive road wins. They last lost on the road back on Nov. 9, when they suffered a 3-2 shootout loss at Anaheim.
''I really don't know what it is,'' said Sharks forward Joe Thornton, who had two assists. ''We feel comfortable on the road. I can't put one thing on it. We try to play the same on the road as we do at home, but we got wins on the road, so it's been exciting.''
San Jose held a 2-0 lead after two periods. Steve Bernier broke a scoreless tie late in the first period ( 700K ) before Kyle McLaren put the Sharks up by a pair ( 700K ) when he beat Nicklas Backstrom with 1:39 remaining in the second.
But the Wild, who had six of their previous eight games, fought back to tie the game in the third on goals by Dominic Moore (3:37) ( 700K ) and Parrish (15:22) ( 700K ). Parrish’s tally sent the crowd of 18,568 at Xcel Energy Center into a frenzy, but it was quickly silenced when Cheechoo snuck behind Minnesota’s defense before tucking a low shot past Backstrom for his fifth goal of the season.
''You don't draw those plays up,” Cheechoo said. “It was just something where it got dumped in, the guy tried to jump for it and it bounced off his glove, and the other ‘D’ was caught going the other way and basically gave me a breakaway.''
Backstrom, who finished with 22 saves, was disappointed to see his team lose on an unlucky bounce. The Wild will open 2008 on home ice on Thursday night against the Dallas Stars.
''We worked hard to get tied, then a weird bounce and they score from it,'' Backstrom said. ''It was a tough goal for us.''
Almost as tough as the Sharks are on the road. San Jose has visited Los Angeles, St. Louis, Nashville and Minnesota since Dec. 26. The Sharks took all four games, outscoring their opponents by a margin of 12-6.
''We got kind of a lucky bounce and Cheech buried it,'' said Sharks coach Ron Wilson. ''You play four games in six nights on the road, with cross-country travel, and it's pretty phenomenal we found a way to come back on them.''
Blues 2, Red Wings 0 | Video
After being pulled midway through the second period of last Wednesday’s 5-0 loss to Detroit, St. Louis goalie Manny Legace was looking to bounce back in a major way against his former team.
Mission accomplished.   
Legace stopped all 31 shots he faced and handed the Red Wings their first shutout of the season and the first at Joe Louis Arena in nearly four years. Seventeen of Legace’s stops came in the third period and made his biggest save of the night with 8:05 remaining ( 700K ), when he stopped Jiri Hudler on a breakaway.
"The guys played phenomenal for me," said Legace, who played in Motown from 1999-2006. "I was awful after Christmas ... You have to bring your A-game (against the Red Wings) or you'll look bad."
Erik Johnson had the game’s lone goal until Lee Stempniak potted an empty-net tally with 22 seconds to play ( 700K ). Johnson had given the Blues a 1-0 lead 5:47 into the third ( 700K ), when his slap shot from the slot beat a screened Dominik Hasek. The goal ended a 14-game drought for the top pick in the 2006 Draft.
"I was getting a little frustrated because I've been in a drought," Johnson said. "But tonight I was saying 'feed me the rock, feed me the rock and I'll pound it."'
The victory snapped a four-game losing streak for St. Louis, which begins a four-game homestand on Wednesday night against the Edmonton Oilers. Blues coach Andy Murray will surely be banking on some more of the solid goaltending he received from Legace on Monday.
"Goaltending was the key to the game," Murray said. "Manny had a very good night tonight."
Detroit coach Mike Babcock was less than pleased with his team’s performance, although it was the Red Wings’ fourth game in six nights. They return to the ice on Wednesday night, when they’ll host the Dallas Stars.
"We had no juice in the tank, it's pretty obvious," Babcock said. "I thought we did all right for about the first 10 minutes at the start of the game. We tried to push, but we didn't have any jump. Give them credit. They played hard."
Islanders 4, Hurricanes 1 | Video
Goaltender Wade Dubielewicz made 28 saves as the New York Islanders defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 on Monday night. 
Marc-Andre Bergeron’s blast from the point was unquestionably the biggest reason why he was acquired by New York last season.
It was also the biggest reason why the Islanders finished 2007 with a victory.
Bergeron scored two power play goals and added an assist, while Wade Dubielewicz made 28 saves as the Isles won at Carolina for the first time since April 2, 2004.
It was exactly what the doctor ordered for Bergeron, who has spent the season bouncing in and out of the lineup. He had been a multi-game healthy scratch on four separate occasions.
''I knew that everything would be back to normal sooner than later, so hopefully I wasn't going to have to wait too long'' to return, Bergeron said. ''It's turning out pretty good right now, so hopefully, the worst is behind me.''
The worst seems to be behind the Islanders as well, as they’ve scored nine goals in their last two games. They earned a 5-2 win over New Jersey on Saturday night. All four of their tallies on Monday came in the second period – three were scored in a span of 3:39. New York entered the game tied with the Phoenix Coyotes for the fewest amount of goals scored in the league with 90.
But Bergeron’s performance on the man advantage made sure the Islanders would be smiling heading into 2008. The Islanders’ power play chased Carolina goalie John Grahame, who was replaced by Cam Ward with 14:15 remaining in the second period.
''We haven't done it in a little while, so it's about time our power play got going,'' Dubielewicz said. ''We jumped on them pretty quick, and when they took some penalties in the second period, we didn't look back. We kept our feet moving, forcing them to take penalties and capitalized and made them pay.''
Bill Guerin ( 700K ) and Ruslan Fedotenko ( 700K ) also scored for the Islanders, who play their first game of 2008 on Thursday night against the Florida Panthers at Nassau Coliseum. Fedotenko’s was the only New York tally that came at even strength.
''We wanted to get some trapping in front of the goaltenders. We wanted to get some point shots from the point and the redirect,'' Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. ''We haven't been scoring a lot of goals all season, but I think if we get some pucks on the net and get some screens, there's a good chance they'll go in.''
Despite back-to-back losses – the Hurricanes dropped a 4-1 decision at Columbus on Saturday – Carolina remains atop the Southeast Division. Monday was also the Hurricanes’ fourth loss in six games.
''The good thing is that we haven't played well for the whole season and we're still sitting there,'' captain Rod Brind'Amour said.
Coyotes 4, Avalanche 3, SO | Video
Colorado’s Cody McLeod erased a one-goal deficit with just under five minutes left in regulation, but Peter Mueller and Radim Vrbata scored in the shootout as Phoenix put a stop to a two-game slide.
After failing to take advantage of the man advantage in recent games, the Coyotes scored twice on the power play and reached the .500 mark at 18-18-1.
''We really worked hard on the power play,'' Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. ''We've tried to simplify it, and make sure everyone understands the responsibilities and the work ethic. Just as important is your skill level.''
The Coyotes’ skill up front propelled them to the shootout victory. They are now 3-1 when the game reaches the breakaway round, but Monday’s win was just their sixth win in 17 tries on home ice.
''We have many good days ahead of us,'' Gretzky said. ''There is a long road ahead of us, but there really is a light at the end of the tunnel.''
Wojtek Wolski gave the Avs a 1-0 lead when he beat Ilya Bryzgalov 12:23 into the game. But the Coyotes scored twice in just 11 seconds in the middle period on goals from Vrbata and Steven Reinprecht to take a 2-1 lead. Vrbata scored his second of the night with 4:08 left in the second to make it 3-1.
''In recent games, I felt like the puck was not bouncing my way,'' Vrbata said. ''It seemed to find my stick. As a player, you don't try and change anything. You just hope you're in the right place.''
Colorado closed the deficit when Brett Clark put home a rebound in the final minute of the second period. McLeod knotted things up with 4:49 to play, but the Avs failed to notch a second point in the standings.
''We'll take the point,'' coach Joel Quenneville said. ''We're coming off two disappointing losses at home (to Detroit, Los Angeles) and down 3-1 in this one, getting the one point isn't too bad.''
Predators 1, Stars 0 | Video
J.P. Dumont scored the game's only goal in the second period as the Nashville Predators ended a seven-game losing skid with a 1-0 victroy over the Dallas Stars.
J.P. Dumont scored the game’s only goal in the second period, and Dan Ellis stopped all 22 shots he faced as Nashville ended a seven-game losing streak by blanking Dallas at American Airlines Center.
It was an ounce of revenge for Ellis, who grew up in the Stars’ organization but couldn’t land a permanent job in the NHL with the club due to the likes of Marty Turco and Mike Smith. Ellis inked a deal with the Predators as a free agent last summer. Monday’s performance earned him his third career shutout.
''It always has some extra meaning when you play an organization that you were with for your whole pro career,'' Ellis said. ''I loved being a Dallas Star and have the utmost respect for their organization but tonight was an opportunity to play for the Predators. They're the ones that gave me a shot in the NHL.''
Turco – who made 29 saves in the loss – is happy to see Ellis succeed at the NHL level. The two practiced several times together over the years in training camps.
''He's a good fundamental goalie,'' Turco said. ''He gives you a solid performance each night. It was tough for him to play in the minors. He's made the most of his chances and it's exciting for me to see him play at this level.''
Afterwards, Nashville coach Barry Trotz admitted he used Ellis’ prior history with Dallas as motivation for the game. Hey, whatever works.
''I said to him that those guys didn't want him,'' Trotz said. ''He played a real good game. I thought we played a really good game in front of him. He made a couple of big saves when we needed them and got the job done. I'm really happy for Ellie. He's been a real good story for us this year.''
Dumont cashed in on Nashville’s successful second period – the Predators outshot Dallas 15-5 in the frame – when he beat Turco at 16:42 on a setup from Alexander Radulov. It was Dumont’s 12th goal of the season.
''I pretty much didn't get anything on it,'' Dumont said of his goal. ''Radulov made a good play and I just found an opening there. It hit my stick and I shot it. It was a big goal and after that, we never looked back.''

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