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Wheeler's hat trick leads Bruins over Leafs

by John Kreiser /
Maybe all Blake Wheeler needed was a new number.

Hours after the Boston rookie changed from No. 42 to No. 26, Wheeler scored three times for his first NHL hat trick as the surging Bruins whipped the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2.

"It's something I just wanted to do," Wheeler said while sitting in his locker — with the No. 42 still on a nameplate over his head. "I always said I wanted to change it. A couple of days ago they said, 'If you want to change it, go ahead.'

"I told them I was going to change my number before every game," he said with a smile. "They said, 'That's not a good idea.' I guess I'll stick with the No. 26, it's working for me."

The Bruins opened the scoring on Dennis Wideman's power-play goal 5:56 into the game. He beat goalie Vesa Toskala with a slap shot from the point inside the right post. Wheeler's power-play tip-in of Wideman's shot just 1:50 later made it 2-0.

"We got ourselves in penalty trouble, they took advantage," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. "A couple of fluky kind of long-shot goals that changed direction on the goalie."

Wheeler made it 3-0 at 5:18 of the second period when he took a pass from Marco Sturm, deked Toskala and tucked the puck into the net.

Alex Steen ended Tim Thomas' shutout bid when he scored off a scramble 2:13 into the third period. Zdeno Chara's unassisted goal with 2:45 left made it 4-1, and after Mikhail Grabovski scored for Toronto 51 seconds later, Wheeler hit the empty net in the final minute to complete the hat trick.

"Every time he's on the ice, he seems to make things happen," Boston coach Claude Julien said of Wheeler, a former No. 1 pick by Phoenix who signed with Boston this summer as a free agent. "Tonight was a good night for him. He's a smart player. Since training camp he's been getting more and more confidence."

Rangers 5, Lightning 2 | Video

Chris Drury and New York's power play both broke out of their slumps as the Rangers proved they could beat the Lightning on this side of the Atlantic, too.

Drury came into the game with just two goals in 14 games, but bettered that total in one night by scoring twice with the man advantage and once while the Rangers were shorthanded. Ryan Callahan also had a power-play goal for the Rangers, who came into the night ranked 29th and had scored more than one power-play goal just once all season.

"I have to give a lot of credit to [assistant coach] Perry Pearn. He made some adjustments," Drury said. "He makes sure we're always prepared. Tonight it paid off."

The Rangers beat the Lightning for the third time this season. They swept a pair of 2-1 decisions in Prague a month ago.

"We played better tonight than we did in Prague and that was a 2-1 game," said forward Martin St. Louis, who scored Tampa Bay's first goal. "Tonight I thought we played hard. Our special teams hurt us a little bit, obviously.

"It's kind of hard to bounce back from that."

Callahan's wrist shot past Mike Smith at 16:09 of the opening period gave the Rangers the lead. Drury made it 2-0 at 14:23 of the second period, scoring on a breakaway for New York's first shorthanded goal of the season.

St. Louis cut the margin to 2-1 at 18:36, beating Henrik Lundqvist with a backhander, but Drury scored his first power-play goal 35 seconds into the third period to put the Rangers back up by two.

Ryan Malone's power-play goal made it a one-goal game again, but goals by Marc Staal and Drury iced the win.

"It's great to see him play out there and get rewarded because he works so hard," Lundqvist said. "He definitely deserves this."

The Rangers had been 10-for-74 on the power play before Thursday.

"We worked on what we've been working on all year," coach Tom Renney said. "It wasn't like we did anything extraordinary."

Capitals 3, Hurricanes 2 | Video

Alex Ovechkin is stuck in a goal-scoring slump, but that doesn't mean he can't help the Caps win. Ovechkin set up all three Washington scores, including Alexander Semin's game-winner with 10.9 seconds left, as the Caps stunned Carolina.

"I think everybody knows I'm going to shoot. But I just made one step in the middle, the goalie stops, and the guy with Semin came to me. So I just made (an) easy pass."
-- Alex Ovechkin

Ovechkin has gone without a goal for a career-high eighth consecutive game. But he set up Semin's game-tying goal from close range with 2:43 remaining in regulation. Semin then got his 10th in the Caps' 12 games by beating Cam Ward from inside the right circle.

On the game-winning goal, Ovechkin's reputation as a gunner was as important as his pass to Semin.

"I think everybody knows I'm going to shoot. But I just made one step in the middle, the goalie stops, and the guy with Semin came to me," Ovechkin said. "So I just made (an) easy pass."

Sergei Fedorov also scored as Washington improved to 10-0-1 in its last 11 regular-season home games.

Scott Walker scored 2:59 into the game to put Carolina ahead. After Fedorov tied it early in the second period, Tuomo Ruutu beat Brent Johnson between the legs at 12:13.

"We thought we had the game, and that was the problem," Ruutu said. "We've got to play 60 minutes to win. A team like this is going to come after us. We have to learn from this."

The loss prevented Carolina's Peter Laviolette from becoming the winningest American-born coach in NHL history. He remains tied with John Tortorella at 239 wins.

"It's a tough way to lose a hockey game," Laviolette said.

Senators 4, Flyers 1 | Video

It's not a coincidence that Dany Heatley and the Ottawa Senators are both hot at the same time. Heatley scored a goal for the fifth consecutive game and the Senators improved to 4-0-1 in that span by whipping the visiting Flyers.

"When things are going good, they're going good sometimes and you don't want to ask why," Heatley said. "I think overall, it starts with [Auld]. He's just solid for us, calm and solid back there, and then from there, we work on our defensive game. Overall, we're coming back, our D are moving the puck well and recently we're getting offensive contributions from everybody."
Auld, who's taken the No. 1 goaltending job away from Martin Gerber, finished with 17 saves as the Senators improved to 10-3 with five ties in their last 18 home games against Philadelphia.

Anton Volchenkov and Heatley scored in the first period. Arron Asham made it a 2-1 game with a goal 7:18 into the second period, but rookie Jesse Winchester put the Senators back on top by two 56 seconds later with his first NHL goal.

"Both of my brothers were here and my cousin from Philly, actually, so it's pretty special," Winchester said.

Chris Neil added an empty-netter with 1:41 to play.

"They're playing well right now," Philadelphia coach John Stevens said of the Senators. "You've got to give them credit. They played a sound hockey game, and we've got to show more patience from start to finish to keep these games close early so we don't have to play catch-up all night."

Thrashers 4, Islanders 3

Atlanta became the latest team to take advantage of the Isles' third-period problems. Slava Kozlov, Jason Williams and Tobias Enstrom scored in the first 11:29 to give the Thrashers their first back-to-back wins since mid-February.

"Yes, it feels good to come here and smile two times in a row," John Anderson said before adding that his players had disappointed him in the second period. "That's not what I want this team to be about."

The Islanders blew a multi-goal lead in the third period for the third time in four games. They blew a 4-1 lead in a 5-4 loss to Montreal on Saturday and led Columbus 3-0 after 40 minutes on Monday before the Blue Jackets tied the game and the Islanders won in OT.

"It's very frustrating to throw away 40 minutes of solid hockey and throw away a lead," coach Scott Gordon said. "It happened for the wrong reasons.

"Forget about the first two goals, we stopped skating. If you can't figure it out by now, what we do that gives us success is skating," Gordon added. "If we worry about what might transpire, we're a different team. Again, we beat ourselves."
"He was very upset with the way we were working, and if we keep playing like that, we weren't going to win. He has a lot of patience, but once in a while, he will get upset like that." -- Slava Kozlov on head coach John Anderson

Anderson reamed out his team after the Isles dominated the second period.

"He was very upset with the way we were working, and if we keep playing like that, we weren't going to win," Kozlov said. "He has a lot of patience, but once in a while, he will get upset like that."

After Jon Sim and Kozlov matched goals in the first period, the Islanders dominated the second and scored twice in 17 seconds for a 3-1 lead. Frans Nielsen tapped in a loose puck at 9:40 and fed Trent Hunter for a one-timer from the slot at 9:57.

The Thrashers scored twice in the first 1:17 of the third period to tie it. Kozlov beat Joey MacDonald at 29 seconds and Williams batted in his own rebound 48 seconds later during a power play set up when MacDonald needlessly shot the puck into the crowd.

Enstrom put the Thrashers ahead when his point shot hit the stick of Isles defenseman Thomas Pock and went past MacDonald.

"Hopefully we can get back on track," Enstrom said. "It means a lot to the team to get two points in this game. It's always fun to get your first goal as long as we win."

Wild 3, Avalanche 1 | Video

Minnesota's first visit to the Pepsi Center this season turned out much better than its last trip. The Wild got first-period goals by Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Benoit Pouliot as they won their first meeting with the Avs since Colorado eliminated Minnesota from the playoffs last spring. This time, the Wild handed Colorado its fifth consecutive loss.

Bouchard knocked in his own rebound just 3:35 into the game and Pouliot scored off Marek Zidlicky's 's rebound on a power play at 7:44 to make it 2-0.

"We outshot them 35-12 the last 50 minutes of the game," Colorado coach Tony Granato said. ''But if you're not ready for the first 10 and they're able to jump on you, everybody knows what kind of team that is when they have the lead."

Ex-Av Andrew Brunette, playing his first game against his former team, put Minnesota up by three when he one-timed Antti Miettinen's pass behind Peter Budaj at 9:56.

"Mitts made a real nice little pass and it went in," Brunette said. "'He made a real clever play."

Niklas Backstrom did the rest, finishing with 35 saves. He lost his shutout when Darcy Tucker banged in T.J. Hesnick's rebound at 12:18 of the middle period, but stopped all 14 Colorado shots in the third period to improve to 8-1-1 lifetime in the regular season against the Avs.

"You look at him and at times you have so much confidence you don't think they'll score against him," coach Jacques Lemaire said. "It's a great feeling to see your goaltender like that."

Colorado played without captain Joe Sakic, who was scratched with a lower back injury.

"This is a team that's looking to get back on track," Lemaire said. "When you don't win enough games you get fragile, and we took advantage of it right at the start. They came back hard in the second and third and our goaltender was super."

Flames 7, Predators 6 | Video

The Flames had their biggest offensive night of the season — and needed every one of their seven goals as the Predators nearly caught them after falling behind 5-0.

Calgary led 4-0 after one period, and it looked like party time at the Pengrowth Saddledome after Jarome Iginla's power-play blast from the slot made it 5-0 at 2:13 of the second period.

"We chip away and get three goals, then give up two. That's ridiculous."
-- Nashville assistant coach Brent Peterson

"I thought we had pretty good energy, but we made some bad decisions, especially in our own end," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.

But the Predators refused to quit and quickly cut the margin to two goals. Martin Erat and Jason Arnott scored 78 seconds apart during 5-on-3 power plays to make it 5-2, and Shea Weber's first of two goals, a blast from the point at 8:25, quieted the sellout crowd.

"We let them back in the game," Conroy said. "No lead is safe in the NHL this year. You can't take 10 minutes off."

That includes Daymond Langkow, who put Calgary back in front by three when he scored a minute after Weber's goal. Iginla's second goal of the night 38 seconds into the third period made it 7-3.

"We chip away and get three goals, then give up two. That's ridiculous," Nashville assistant coach Brent Peterson said.

But the Predators made the Flames sweat again. David Legwand's goal at 5:26 made it a three-goal game, and Nashville scored a pair of shorthanded goals in the final minutes to make the Flames and their fans sweat. Vernon Fiddler beat Miikka Kiprusoff with a backhander on a penalty shot with three minutes to play, and Weber scored with 20 seconds to play.

The Predators actually got off a last shot, but Kiprusoff stopped Ryan Suter's 30-foot backhander in traffic.

"The good news is that we got seven goals," Conroy said. "The bad news is that they got six. We still got the two points. We have to learn from this game. If we play like this, we won't win a lot of games."

Canucks 1, Coyotes 0 | Video

Roberto Luongo is in one of his "unbeatable" modes. Luongo stopped 28 shots and made Kevin Bieksa's first-period goal stand up for his second straight shutout.

Luongo made his best stops early and late. He turned aside a shorthanded breakaway bid by Garth Murray in the opening minutes, and made a big glove save on Ed Jovanovki's blast with 25.2 seconds left and the Phoenix net empty for an extra attacker.

''I felt pretty good, but guys are doing a great job in front of me, too,'' said Luongo, who also made 28 saves to blank Nashville on Tuesday and Los Angeles last Friday. ''When we help each other out like that on the ice, we get good results.''

The shutout was Luongo's third in five games and League-leading fourth overall. His shutout streak is now 141:08, and he hasn't allowed a goal since late in the second period of Sunday's 3-2 loss to Detroit.

Vancouver's Daniel Sedin hit the post twice in the first three minutes before Bieksa joined the rush to create a 3-on-2 that became a 2-on-1 after Ryan Kesler drew a defender to him before passing off to Alex Burrows. Bieksa buried Burrows' cross-ice pass with a 20-foot wrist shot before Ilya Bryzgalov could get across his crease.

''I didn't really have to do a whole lot, just jump up in the play,'' Bieksa said. ''Kes and Burr made a great play and I had an empty net and I'll take those.''

That was the only shot to beat Bryzgalov, who made 31 saves. Two of the best came against Mason Raymond: a sliding glove stop to take away an empty net midway through the second period and a save on a 3-on-1 bid with three minutes left.

''Bryz matched (Luongo's) effort and was our best player tonight for sure,'' Jovanovski said. ''The first couple of periods, (Luongo) didn't really have to work too hard, but in the third, especially toward the end, he made some real good saves.''

The Coyotes continued their lose-one, win-one pattern for a seventh consecutive game, leaving coach Wayne Gretzky frustrated.

''It's a tight close-checking game. You need a couple of your big boys up front to score and we didn't get that,'' he said. ''You're not going to be successful against a good team if your top-echelon guys aren't there."

Sharks 5, Blues 4, SO | Video

Ryan Clowe wouldn't let the Sharks' perfect start at home end. He scored two game-tying goals in the third period and then got the shootout winner as San Jose improved to 8-0-0 at the Shark Tank and 12-2-0 overall.

Clowe forced the overtime when he controlled Brad Lukowich's pass in the crease and flicked it past Ben Bishop with 1:39 left in regulation. He beat Bishop again in the fourth round of the shootout, and the Sharks escaped with the victory when Patrick Berglund missed on a wrist shot. Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov had to be helped off the ice with what appeared to be a leg or knee injury when he dove for Berglund's shot.

The Blues broke a 2-2 tie at 7:56 of the third period when Andy McDonald circled the net and whipped a shot past Nabokov. But Clowe tied it 67 seconds later. David Backes knocked a puck out of the air and behind Nabokov at 10:38, only to see Clowe's late goal get the Sharks even again.

"They came at us in the third period," said Clowe, who has eight goals in his last nine games. "To be down twice in the third period and win the game is a great feeling."
"It was disappointing to have the lead with a few minutes to go and not get the two points. We have to play a full 60 minutes. But I admire the guys for what they gave tonight." -- Blues head coach Andy Murray

It was a frustrating feeling for Blues coach Andy Murray, whose team was coming off a physical 5-2 loss at Anaheim on Tuesday.

"It was disappointing to have the lead with a few minutes to go and not get the two points," Murray said. "We have to play a full 60 minutes. But I admire the guys for what they gave tonight."

St. Louis carried the play for much of the night and never trailed in regulation despite playing without Paul Kariya, who's out with a lower body injury. The Blues got goals by Keith Tkachuk and Lee Stempniak in a 1:16 span of the first period to take an early 2-0 lead.

But the Sharks rallied. Joe Thornton got one back at 9:24, and defenseman Rob Blake scored his first as a Shark during a power play 7:07 into the second.

"I'm glad he got that off his back," McLellan said. "I'd like to see that more often."

The Sharks now own the NHL's best record and are three wins away from tying the 1963-64 Montreal Canadiens for the most home wins from the start of a season.

"We have that confidence," Thornton said. "We know we're a good team. We know we play well at home. Every night when we throw on that jersey, we feel like we're going to win."

Kings 3, Panthers 2 | Video

The Kings won a battle of struggling teams as they ended a five-game losing streak by shutting down the Panthers, who have now lost five in a row.

Rookie Brian Boyle, defenseman Tom Preissing and Dustin Brown scored for Los Angeles, which also got two assists from rookie defenseman Drew Doughty, the No. 2 pick in last June's Entry Draft.

"I think we have been playing pretty good hockey and obviously not getting the results that we wanted in a couple of these games at home," Brown said. "Tonight we put forth a good effort and got the result that we wanted."

The Kings led 2-0 after 40 minutes on first-period goals by Boyle and Preissing and held Florida to six shots in the first two periods, outshooting them 12-3 in each period.

"To come out flat like that is not acceptable," said center Stephen Weiss, who returned to the Panthers' lineup after missing four games because of a groin injury. "We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and figure out why that was. We just didn't have any legs, or anything, really. It's not the coaching staff's job to motivate players. It's our job to make sure we are ready to play."

Anthony Stewart's made it 2-1 when he beat Erik Ersberg with the first shot of the third period, a 50-footer through a screen. But Brown put the Kings back in front by two at 11:23, faking a pass and whipping a 35-footer past Tomas Vokoun.

"It was an awkward play," Brown said. "I almost entered the zone backward. I threw it on the net without looking. It caught some people off-guard."

Nathan Horton's shorthanded goal with 51 seconds left made it close — but not close enough. The result left coach Peter DeBoer contemplating some lineup changes.

"We're just not good enough — bottom line," DeBoer said after the Panthers' fifth consecutive loss to the Kings. "We didn't have a good first period. It's inexcusable, and you'll have to ask the leadership group in the room why. We're at the point in the season now where you have to earn your ice time or you're not going to play. Unfortunately there were too many guys to sit tonight to use benching as a motivation."

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

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