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Wild deal 'Hawks rare home defeat

by Brian Compton
There were two rarities that transpired at the United Center on Monday night.

First, a Chicago Blackhawks' season-ticket holder won $1 million as part of a promotion with the Illinois State Lottery, thanks to Martin Havlat's goal at 10:00 of the second period.

And then the Blackhawks lost a home game in regulation.

Marek Zidlicky scored a pair of power-play goals and Niklas Backstrom made 40 saves, as the Minnesota Wild handed Chicago a 4-1 defeat. It was third time the Blackhawks have lost in regulation at home this season, including the 6-4 decision against Detroit that took place at Wrigley Field.

''If you want to score on the power play you have to shoot the puck,'' Zidlicky said. ''Sometimes you shoot too much, take five shots and don't score. Sometimes you take two shots and you score.''

Minnesota scored twice in the opening period and never looked back. Mikko Koivu broke a scoreless tie at 10:15, when his 40-foot shot from the slot went off the skate of Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook and past Nikolai Khabibulin. Zidlicky then scored on the man advantage with 1:46 left, when his shot found its way through a crowd for his seventh goal of the season.

''We got behind 1-0 and things changed rapidly,'' Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. ''That's where they're (the Wild) at they're best. When they get the lead, they check well."

Aaron Johnson in the penalty box, Zidlicky one-timed Andrew Brunette's feed past Khabibulin. 

Havlat tried getting the Blackhawks on the comeback trail with his 15th goal of the season, but Backstrom shut the door for the rest of the night. He robbed Patrick Kane late in the second period, extending the forward's scoreless streak to 11 games.

"Every point is huge for us now," Backstrom said. "It's going to be tight. We know that we need to get some points. It was a big win for us tonight."

After a couple of big saves by Backstrom in the third against Troy Brouwer and Jonathan Toews, Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck sealed the victory with an empty-net goal with 34 seconds remaining.

''I thought we were fine until the middle of the second period,'' Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. ''The momentum shifted. They pushed it a little more and we started to give them the puck.

''We got nervous and started to flip pucks in the air. It was the biggest play we had. Even guys I haven't seen flip pucks all year, they were flipping pucks. But it's OK, we won and we'll take it.''
Lightning 4, Stars 2 | Video

The last time Tampa Bay defeated Dallas on home ice, Vincent Lecavalier was two months shy of his 16th birthday.

On Monday night, he helped end the hex.

The Lightning captain scored twice -- including the game-winner with 5:06 remaining -- as Tampa Bay beat the Stars in Florida for the first time since Feb. 19, 1996.

Trailing 2-1 after two periods, the Lightning rallied for three unanswered goals in the third. Steven Stamkos tied the game with his sixth goal of the season at 11:46 before Lecavalier put Tampa Bay in front just over three minutes later. Vaclav Prospal iced the victory with an empty-net goal at 19:11.

''We're fighting to get back in (the playoff race),'' said Lightning goalie Mike Smith, who made 23 saves. ''It's just a bonus to beat my former team. That makes it just sweeter.''

Smith was referring to the deal made last Feb. 27 between the teams, which sent Brad Richards to Dallas. Monday marked the first time the teams met since the deal was struck. With the victory, Tampa Bay improved to just 2-16-4 when trailing after two periods.

''It was pretty strange,'' Lecavalier said. ''To play against him tonight was pretty special. It was fun. It was a great two points for us.''

Richards and Loui Eriksson scored for the Stars, who held a 20-11 advantage in the shots on goal department after 40 minutes. Dallas went 1-for-7 on the power play.

''It should have never got to 2-2,'' Stars coach Dave Tippett said. ''We made two or three errors in our end that got them the tying goal.''

Hurricanes 2, Maple Leafs 0
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After spending the past two seasons coaching in Toronto, new Carolina bench boss Paul Maurice admitted that Monday's game at the Air Canada Centre meant a little bit more than the average contest.

His players then went out and won one for their coach.

Cam Ward stopped all 35 shots he faced in his 12th consecutive start, as the Hurricanes put an end to a five-game skid by handing the Leafs their second straight shutout loss on home ice in front of 19,018 fans.

"The way things have been going these past five games those pucks probably would have went in," Ward said. "It was nice tonight to be rewarded with some good bounces and get the win. This was a big win for our hockey club and hopefully we can build off it."

Nervous until the very end, Maurice admitted it took a moment for the victory to sink in.

"When I was walking off the bench and neither of the referees were waving that we had to come back, that's when I knew it was over," Maurice said.

Meanwhile, his former team has not found the back of the net in 127 minutes and 51 seconds. Monday's loss was Toronto's 10th in 13 games.

Joe Corvo broke a scoreless tie at 16:26 of the second period, but it was Chad Larose's goal with 4.6 seconds left in the period that really took the wind out of the Leafs' sails. Alexei Ponikarovsky had a chance to clear the zone, but instead gave the puck to Matt Cullen, who quickly fed Larose for the easy tally. Vesa Toskala made 32 saves.

"It's inexcusable," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. "The couple mistakes we made led to their goals."

The win pulled the Hurricanes within one point of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. Carolina visits the Steel City on Tuesday in its final game before the All-Star break.

"We just had to win a game," Maurice said. "We were going so well, feeling so good, and then boom -- we got beat five straight times and you're wondering what's going south on us. This was a big, big win."
Sabres 3, Panthers 2 (SO) | Video

Ryan Miller got some payback on Monday night.

After being unable to stop David Booth on a penalty shot, the Buffalo Sabres goalie denied Booth in the shootout, helping the Sabres earn a second point in Florida.

''He made a nice move,'' Miller said of Booth's goal. ''I see him all summer, but I didn't see that one. I was happy to come through later on.''

''If you want to score on the power play you have to shoot the puck. Sometimes you shoot too much, take five shots and don't score. Sometimes you take two shots and you score.''  -- Wild defenseman Marek Zidlicky
Ales Kotalik and Derek Roy scored in the shootout for the Sabres, who were able to open their six-game road trip with a victory. They also improved to 6-2 in shootouts this season -- a statistic that has much to do with Miller.

''It starts with Ryan making the saves,'' Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. ''You get a big save and get a goal, that pumps Ryan up. When you see him on the road get the first save and you get the next one, that puts a lot of pressure back on the home team. That means they have to get the next two. Ryan's done a good job on the shootout.''

Nathan Horton scored the other goal for Florida, which fell to 2-6 in the breakaway competition. Tomas Vokoun made 21 saves for the Panthers.

''It's frustrating,'' Florida coach Pete DeBoer said of his team's inability to win in shootouts. ''But what are you going to do about it? We can't practice it any more, we've tried different shooters, both goalies haven't had much luck at it. Hopefully, the tide will turn somehow for us.''

Kotalik scored in the first round, as he improved to 5-for-8 this season. After Miller stopped Booth, Roy clinched the victory when his failed backhand attempt managed to squeak through Vokoun's pads.

''First one I was almost certain I had it,'' Vokoun said. ''Second one, the guy lost the puck. It's tough when he doesn't know what he's doing. It's tough to lose this way.'' 

Tim Connolly erased a 1-0 deficit at 18:03 of the second period, and Thomas Vanek gave Buffalo its first lead of the night with his 28th goal of the season 4:22 into the third. Horton tied the game for Florida with just 3:24 remaining.

''At least we're getting the point,'' Booth said. ''We're coming back, down a goal or two late in the game, so that's a positive. Now we've got to get to the next level and start to win those games.''
Blues 5, Bruins 4 (SO) | Video

St. Louis managed to blow a 2-1 lead and rally from a two-goal deficit during the final five minutes of regulation, then edged Boston in a shootout Monday afternoon on goals by T.J. Oshie and Brad Boyes.

But it never would have gotten that far if not for David Backes. With the TD Banknorth Garden crowd counting down the final seconds until a come-from-behind Bruins win, Backes batted a puck out of midair while positioned at the right post and got it past Tim Thomas with 0.8 seconds remaining. A video review confirmed Backes kept his stick below the crossbar.
"I tried not to watch the replay too many times. But no matter what I saw, I had a bias toward that one," Backes said. "I'm going to have my bias toward that one and say it was a good call."
Following a scoreless overtime, Oshie and Boyes connected in the shootout while Chris Mason, who relieved Manny Legace due to injury midway through the first period, stopped attempts by Blake Wheeler and P.J. Axelsson.
"To our credit, it was a heck of a finish. We didn't give up," Mason said. "We could've easily packed it in there and game over. We got lucky there and found a way to do it."
Jay McClement scored 6:21 into the second to give the Blues a 2-1 lead they carried into the latter stages of the third. But consecutive penalties to Dan Hinote and Backes put the Bruins on a 5-on-3 advantage, and they converted both ends as Michael Ryder and Axelsson scored 19 seconds apart. Zdeno Chara made it 4-2 with 3:05 left, and it looked like curtains for St. Louis.
"The way things have been going these past five games those pucks probably would have went in. It was nice tonight to be rewarded with some good bounces and get the win. This was a big win for our hockey club and hopefully we can build off it." -- Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward
However, David Perron took advantage of a power play and the Blues pulling Mason for an extra skater to score a 6-on-4 goal with 1:20 left, setting up the frantic final seconds where Backes got the equalizer. Wheeler missed an empty net with 20 seconds to play that could have sealed it for the Bruins.
"It was any hockey player's worst nightmare come true," Wheeler said of his shot from just outside the blue line. "It definitely hurts just to know how hard these guys fought all game to get back and pretty much get the win. To have it fall on my shoulders hurts pretty bad."
The teams traded first-period goals, as Chuck Kobasew beat Legace at 4:26 on the first shot for either side, then Brad Winchester redirected a Jeff Woywitka shot between the pads of Thomas at the 7:37 mark. Legace played the first 10:35 before leaving with what the Blues called a lower-body injury, and wasn't on the bench the rest of the way.

Capitals 2, Islanders 1 (OT)
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New York made a strong bid for its first win of 2009, but putting Washington on the power play in overtime turned out to be the mistake that cost the Islanders a chance at the second point.
Alexander Ovechkin scored his second man-advantage goal of the game 1:46 into the extra period as the Capitals disappointed a Nassau Coliseum crowd hoping to see a win during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee. Instead, they saw the Islanders' eighth straight loss.
Jose Theodore made 27 saves to earn his 200th career win as the Southeast Division-leading Capitals closed to within eight points of Boston for most points in the Eastern Conference.
Alexander Semin set up Ovechkin for the winning goal just 21 seconds after the Washington star drew a slashing penalty on Brendan Witt. Not surprisingly, the opposing players had different takes on the call.
"It was a penalty," Ovechkin said. "He broke my stick."
"I didn't break his stick," Witt said. "I got him with one hand. It was a pretty weak call."
Kyle Okposo forced overtime for the Islanders by scoring with 7:42 left in the third on a two-man advantage. Okposo knocked in a cross-ice pass from Frans Nielsen.
"We've got to keep working hard," Okposo said. "We just have to get some breaks. We're getting chances."
Ovechkin's first goal, his 30th of the season, gave the Capitals the lead 6:35 into the first period. His slap shot from the top of the left circle went between the pads of Yann Danis, who turned in a strong effort with 36 saves.
"I just try to give myself a chance to win every night," Danis said. "The better I play, the better the chance I'll be used."

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

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