Wild emerge to cool off Flames' five-game winning streak
January 7, 2010
ST. PAUL, MN The Minnesota Wild felt good about their previous two performances, but had nothing to show for them.
They got a much-needed two points Wednesday night.
Eric Belanger scored twice and Minnesota beat the Calgary Flames 4-1 to end a four-game losing streak.
GAME REPORT: Wild 4, Flames 1
Kyle Brodziak and Cal Clutterbuck also scored, and Niklas Backstrom made 25 saves for Minnesota. The Wild allowed at least four goals in each game of the streak, including losses to division leaders New Jersey and Chicago.
"Even with the result of the last two games I felt we played pretty good. We didn't get the wins, but there were some positives," Belanger said. "You look at the standings and you don't move up, but you're doing some good things, and you're going to get rewarded sooner or later."
Unlike their 4-1 loss in Chicago on Tuesday night, the Wild took advantage of its offensive chances, gave up few quality chances, scored on the power play and killed off both short-handed situations. Minnesota outshot Calgary 35-26.
"All four lines were going and all six defensemen were playing well," Minnesota coach Todd Richards said. "The third period was pretty easy just rolling in the lines."
Olli Jokinen scored for Calgary, which lost for the first time in six games. They allowed one goal in each game in their five-game winning streak.
Although the Flames won 3-1 in Nashville on Tuesday night, coach Brent Sutter was critical of his team for allowing the Predators to control play in the final period of a tight game. This time it happened for three periods.
"We just didn't have a push back tonight. It gets back to the energy level, and our mental and physical part of our game wasn't there," Sutter said.
Playing in his 600th NHL game, Belanger gave Minnesota a 3-1 lead midway through the second period with his second goal of the game.
Owen Nolan dumped a pass into the Calgary zone, and Belanger outraced Jay Bouwmeester to the puck in the right circle before lifting a harmless-looking backhander over Miikka Kiprusoff, who lost his third straight game against the Wild.
Clutterbuck took a cross-crease pass from Brodziak for an easy tap-in in the third.
Jokinen scored on a rebound 1:34 into the game for Calgary, but Belanger tipped in Marek Zidlicky's slap shot to tie it 4 minutes later. It was Minnesota's fifth power-play in 55 attempts over its last 16 games, and just the third power-play goal allowed by the Flames in 34 attempts over 10 games.
"This is the closest we've been to putting our whole game together like we know we can," Brodziak said.
Brodziak's first goal in 29 games gave Minnesota a 2-1 lead early in the second.
After his aggressive forecheck knocked the puck from Mark Giordano near the wall, Brodziak went to a low spot in the right circle where he took a pass from Guillaume Latendresse. Brodziak nearly fanned on the puck, but got just enough for it to flutter across the goal line before Kiprusoff could slide over.
"He had a little bit of backspin on it," Richards said.
Backstrom, expected to back up Kiprusoff on the Finnish Olympic team, did not have to make a big save.
After scoring 11 points in the last two games, Calgary's top line of Jarome Iginla, Curtis Glencross and Daymond Langkow was held to just five shots.
"We just weren't quite on top of our game," defenseman Robyn Regehr said. "There were passes that we could have been a lot better with. There were opportunities that we normally take advantage of, or make, that we didn't do. All sorts of stuff like that, and it just leads to giving the other team momentum."
NOTES: Zidlicky and Nick Schultz each had two assists for Minnesota. ... Jokinen's goal was his second in two nights, after he went 11 games without a goal. ... Kiprusoff has started every Calgary game against the Wild since he joined the Flames on Nov. 16, 2003. ... For the third time this season, Minnesota recalled LW Robbie Earl from Houston of the AHL. He has three goals in 10 games with the Wild. ... Minnesota played the 700th regular-season game in franchise history.
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Avery Comes Alive Against the Stars, His Ex-Team
By JEFF Z. KLEIN
January 6, 2010
People say a lot of things about Sean Avery, but no one can say he lacks a sense of the moment.
Avery had a hand in each of the Rangers first four goals in a 5-2 victory over the Dallas Stars, his former team, at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night. He scored the first only his fifth goal of the season, ending a 19-game drought and assisted on the next three.
He was deservedly the No. 1 star in the Rangers first game against Dallas since the Stars dropped him last season after he made vulgar remarks about two of his former girlfriends dating other NHL players.
The Stars were so eager to get rid of Avery they continue to pay part of his salary.
So, Avery was asked after his best performance of the season, what was different about this game?
I was getting paid by two teams, he deadpanned. It was the only joke he made as he talked afterward about his need to play well consistently.
I would have loved to see that delinquent do that for us last year, Dallas goalie Marty Turco said.
Avery did more than score and set up goals. He checked, jostled, jawed with and ridiculed his former teammates, drew two penalties and was called for one. He was sent off for 10 minutes for celebrating the Rangers go-ahead goal by bumping an opponent. He seemed to save some special on-ice treatment for Turco and the captain Brenden Morrow, two Stars who were outspoken in their criticism of Avery in the aftermath of his departure last season.
Averys performance came a few hours after his coach more or less called him out with some pointed criticisms.
We havent gotten enough out of Sean, Coach John Tortorella said before the game. Weve had many discussions with him on what we expect out of him, and this has gone on for two months. He hasnt got close to getting where he needs to be.
Tortorella enumerated what he wanted from Avery: more edge; less circling back and more straight-ahead skating; more finishing of checks; and perhaps be the agitator in front of the net and in the corners. Do those things, Tortorella said, and I think the goals will come.
Avery did those things exactly. His slap shot on the power play at 5 minutes 39 seconds of the first period beat Turco to the short side and tied the score at 1-1. Ten minutes later his quick relay found Marian Gaborik in the slot for a backhander that beat Turco.
In the second period he set up Ales Kotaliks slap-shot goal and in the third fed a beautiful pass into the crease that Chris Drury directed in to make the score 4-2.
He has struggled of late, but Im happy for him, Tortorella said afterward.
It was the Rangers second straight home victory, the first time they had managed that since Nov. 1.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who had 25 saves in his 17th straight start, said of Avery: When hes confident you can tell. He talks more, he gets more physical, he talks to the other goalie. Its a pretty good night when you have 4 points against a team that didnt want you a year ago.
ISLANDERS 3, AVALANCHE 2 Kyle Okposo scored on a three-on-one rush with 3:17 remaining, and the Islanders beat Colorado in Denver in the lone meeting between the teams this season.
SABRES 5, LIGHTNING 3 Tyler Myers, Jochen Hecht and Clarke MacArthur scored for Buffalo in the first 2:11, and Ryan Miller made 36 saves in his 300th N.H.L.
FLYERS 6, MAPLE LEAFS 2 Danny Briere scored two goals to reach the 500-point mark and host Philadelphia routed Toronto in a fight-filled game.
WILD 4, FLAMES 1 Eric Belanger scored twice, Kyle Brodziak and Cal Clutterbuck added goals, and Niklas Backstrom made 24 saves for host Minnesota. The Wild snapped a four-game losing streak.