The Washington Capitals are within a point of first place.
No, really.
Even though they fired their coach on Thanksgiving, the Capitals won for the fifth time in six games, beating Toronto 2-1 Thursday night and winding up one point behind Carolina heading into the All-Star break.
Washington hasn't lost consecutive games in regulation since Nov. 22, the day Bruce Boudreau took over as coach for the fired Glen Hanlon.
``It doesn't surprise me that things are starting to snowball into success,'' defenseman Mike Green said. ``He doesn't make it comfortable around here by any means to make us feel satisfied with what we've done. We want to keep going and making sure we're making strides.''
In Thursday's other NHL games, it was: Ottawa 8, Tampa Bay 4; Edmonton 4, Florida 3 in a shootout; Minnesota 3, Colorado 2; Phoenix 4, Nashville 3 in overtime; San Jose 4, St. Louis 1; Los Angeles 3, Anaheim 1; the New York Rangers 2, Atlanta 1 in a shootout; Buffalo 2, Dallas 1; Columbus 1, Chicago 0; Montreal 4, New Jersey 3; and Boston 4, the New York Islanders 1.
The Capitals were the worst team in the league - with four fewer points than any other team - when Boudreau was summoned from American Hockey League affiliate Hershey.
Asked if he thought he'd be this close to first place so quickly, the coach said: ``No, but that's where I want to be.''
He paused, then added: ``I want to be one point ahead.''
Brooks Laich and Viktor Kozlov scored, and Alex Ovechkin assisted on both goals.
Brent Johnson, giving Olie Kolzig a night off, made 31 saves for the Capitals as the offense that had been clicking so well struggled for the second consecutive night. Ovechkin had his six-game goal-scoring streak snapped, but he still leads the league with 38 goals and his two assists give him 13 points in his past seven games.
The Maple Leafs are 1-1 since general manager John Ferguson was fired and replaced by Cliff Fletcher on an interim basis. Toronto has lost 11 of 13 on the road.
Senators 8, Lightning 4
In Tampa, Fla., Daniel Alfredsson had three goals and four assists for an Ottawa-record seven points, leading the struggling Senators.
Alfredsson and Jason Spezza, who had two goals and two assists, scored 29 seconds apart during Ottawa's three-goal first period. The Senators' captain added a short-handed goal and his 500th career assist in the second as the Senators took a 5-0 lead.
Tampa Bay's John Tortorella coached his 507th game, breaking a tie with Herb Brooks for most games coached by an American-born NHL coach.
Oilers 4, Panthers 3, SO
In Sunrise, Fla., Jarret Stoll scored twice in the final 1:23 of regulation to force overtime and Shawn Horcoff scored the only goal in the shootout.
Ethan Moreau also scored in regulation for Edmonton, which improved its record in tiebreakers to 12-3 - tying Dallas' record for shootout wins set in 2005-06.
Olli Jokinen, Brett McLean, and Gregory Campbell scored for Florida.
Wild 3, Avalanche 2
In Denver, Pavol Demitra had a goal and an assist and Niklas Backstrom stopped 28 shots to make Minnesota 20-0 this season when taking a lead into final period.
Todd Fedoruk and Brian Rolston also scored for the Wild.
Coyotes 4, Predators 3, OT
In Glendale, Ariz., Zbynek Michalek scored with 29 seconds left in overtime on a 40-foot slap shot.
Radim Vrbata scored three goals and assisted on the winner for the Coyotes, who improved to 18-0-0 when they score four goals or more.
Rich Peverley, Martin Erat and Alexander Radulov scored for Nashville.
Sharks 4, Blues 1
Jonathan Cheechoo scored twice in the third period and San Jose moved into a tie atop the Pacific Division heading into the All-Star break.
Milan Michalek and Steve Bernier also scored for the Sharks, who won for the fifth time in seven home games to move to .500 in their own building. Evgeni Nabokov stopped 17 shots for his second straight win.
Brad Boyes scored his team-leading 29th goal for the Blues, who are 0-5-2 in their past seven games.
Kings 3, Ducks 1
In Los Angeles, Derek Armstong had a goal and an assist to help Los Angeles end its four-game losing streak to rival Anaheim.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Ducks headed into the All-Star break with victories in six of their past nine games. The Kings have won five of their past seven.
Rangers 2, Thrashers 1, SO
On Brian Leetch night, the New York Rangers got it done with defense.
Henrik Lundqvist was perfect through three rounds of the shootout, and Brendan Shanahan scored the only goal in the tiebreaker for the Rangers.
Before the game, the Rangers retired Leetch's No. 2 and raised a banner to the Madison Square Garden rafters. Shanahan scored with the first shot of the shootout, and Mark Recchi, Slava Kozlov and Marian Hossa, who scored in the second period, failed to solve Lundqvist in the shootout.
Sabres 2, Stars 1
In Dallas, Derek Roy scored both goals, including the game-winner with 14:48 left after a 2-on-1 break, and Buffalo got its second win in 14 games.
After having the best overall record in the NHL last season, the Sabres (21-21-6) have slipped nearly all the way to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings with only Tampa Bay having fewer than their 48 points. They are only one loss shy of matching last year's total.
Blue Jackets 1, Blackhawks 0
In Chicago, Pascal Leclaire made 30 saves for his league-leading eighth shutout and Jared Boll scored.
Nikolai Khabibulin made his first start in six games and had 26 saves, but his personal losing streak reached eight games (0-7-1).
Canadiens 4, Devils 3
Chris Higgins scored a power-play goal with 5:29 remaining to cap Montreal's three-goal third period.
Brian Smolinski scored twice for Montreal. Patrik Elias scored twice for the Devils.
Bruins 4, Islanders 1
In Boston, Marc Savard and Dennis Wideman each had a goal and an assist for the Bruins, who have won four of six.
The Islanders lost for the first time in five road games but have dropped four of six going into the break.

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