|Sharks clinch playoff spot with shootout win over Wild|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 19 March 2008 23:24|
The surging San Jose Sharks maintained their mastery of the Minnesota Wild to clinch a spot in the playoffs on Wednesday night.
Jeremy Roenick scored his 507th career goal and added the decisive shootout score to help the Sharks secure a playoff berth with their 13th victory in 14 games, 4-3 over the Wild.
Roenick and Curtis Brown each had a goal and an assist, and Evgeni Nabokov made 21 saves in his NHL-leading 42nd victory for San Jose, which took 27 points from 14 games since Feb. 21 after beating Minnesota for the seventh straight time.
The Sharks have the NHL's second-best record with 97 points, but their latest win had a somber tone after Minnesota defenseman Kurtis Foster broke his left leg in the second period. Foster, a third-year pro, hit the boards violently after a collision with San Jose rookie Torrey Mitchell.
``I feel real bad for the kid,'' said Roenick, who shook Foster's hand as he left the ice on a stretcher. ``It takes a lot of guts going in there with speed. Going in there that fast, there's going to be some bad things happen.''
In other games Wednesday it was: the New York Rangers 2, New Jersey 1 in a shootout; Buffalo 7, Tampa Bay 4; Chicago 5, Washington 0; Anaheim 2, Dallas 1; Detroit 3, Columbus 1; and Carolina 5, Atlanta 3.
Joe Pavelski put the Sharks ahead with 2:02 left in regulation on an awkwardly angled shot set up by Milan Michalek, who stole a puck behind the Minnesota goal and fed Pavelski for the go-ahead score. But after a penalty and an empty net gave the Wild a 6-on-4 power play, Marian Gaborik slammed home his second man-advantage goal of the night with 28 seconds to play.
Roenick scored the decisive shootout goal in the third round when Niklas Backstrom couldn't hold on to his hard shot. Nabokov stopped Mikko Koivu to end the meeting of division leaders, gleefully kicking the puck after dropping it out of his glove.
``Our team gave an unbelievable effort considering it was our third game in four nights,'' Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. ``We're just focusing on winning our division and finishing ahead of any team in the East.''
Gaborik scored a quick power-play goal early in the third period of the Wild's first stop on a four-game road trip that carries serious playoff implications. Stephane Veilleux also scored for Minnesota, and Backstrom stopped 29 shots in the Wild's sixth loss in eight games, though they still lead three pursuers in the Northwest Division by two points.
The Wild were more worried about Foster, who went hard into the boards when Mitchell touched him from behind as their skates got tangled while chasing a puck for icing.
The Minnesota defenseman left the ice on a backboard and a stretcher with a splint around his left leg. He was expected to have surgery Wednesday night at O'Connor Hospital to insert a stabilizing rod into his leg, the club said.
Rangers 2, Devils 1, SO
Chris Drury scored the tying goal with 4:46 left in regulation, and Nigel Dawes beat Martin Brodeur in the shootout to give the visiting Rangers a victory over New Jersey.
New York tied Ottawa in points in the Eastern Conference playoff race but is still in sixth place because it has one fewer win. The Rangers are 6-0 this season against the conference-leading Devils, holding them to five goals and winning three times after regulation.
Dawes had the only goal in the shootout, and Henrik Lundqvist turned aside Jamie Langenbrunner, Brian Gionta and Zach Parise in the tiebreaker after making 17 saves through overtime.
The only blemish was Dainius Zubrus' power-play goal in the first period that looked as though it would be enough for New Jersey to finally top the Rangers.
Sabres 7, Lightning 4
Thomas Vanek scored three consecutive goals and Jochen Hecht scored twice during host Buffalo's six-goal third period, capping a comeback victory.
Jason Pominville had two goals and two assists and the Sabres scored six times on their final 10 shots to overcome a 4-1 deficit. Derek Roy had a goal and two assists and Drew Stafford set up three goals in helping Buffalo inch within a point of Philadelphia for the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff berth.
Vincent Lecavalier scored twice, including his 39th of the season, for the Lightning.
Blackhawks 5, Capitals 0
Nikolai Khabibulin made 25 saves in his first start in nearly a month to earn his second shutout this season.
Jason Williams, Jonathan Toews, Yanic Perreault and Patrick Sharp scored in the first period for host Chicago, which ended Washington's four-game winning streak. Rene Bourque also scored for the Blackhawks.
Ducks 2, Stars 1
Todd Bertuzzi's power-play goal with 27.2 seconds left broke a tie, and Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped 20 shots for visiting Anaheim.
Defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim strengthened its grip on second place in the Pacific Division behind San Jose, moving three points ahead of third-place Dallas.
Brenden Morrow scored a short-handed goal for the slumping Stars, who lost their third in a row and are 1-6 in their past seven games.
Scott Niedermayer added a power-play goal for the Ducks, 15-3-1 in their past 19 games.
Red Wings 3, Blue Jackets 1
Henrik Zetterberg scored three goals in the third period to lift host Detroit and record his third career hat trick.
Manny Malhotra scored Columbus' goal.
Hurricanes 5, Thrashers 3
Eric Staal scored his 35th goal and Sergei Samsonov added a goal and an assist in visiting Carolina's victory.
The Southeast Division-leading Hurricanes have won 10 of 12.
Atlanta has won two of its past 15 games. Defenseman Steve McCarthy added his first goal to make it 4-2 Carolina at the 4:56 of the period.