Wednesday, December 30, 2009

NHL Recap 12-29-09: Lalime saves Sabres; Ducks tame Wild

Not sick now. Just pissed. Maybe a little sick too. For various reasons.

Hey wait, put him back in
Ryan Miller looked downright mortal in allowing three goals on 11 shots against Pittsburgh. Fortunately his understudy didn't.

Buffalo backup Patrick Lalime relieved Miller after the Penguins took a 3-0 lead 1:28 into the second period and stopped the bleeding, making 18 saves just in the second period, many of them stellar, and 27 overall, to lead the Sabres to a 4-3 stunner over Pittsburgh.

The man who will probably get the headlines more is Drew Stafford, a healthy scratch last game who hadn't scored in his past 15. And with good reason. Stafford started the Buffalo comeback by converting a penalty shot, netted a second goal later and set up the game-tying goal in the third period by Paul Gaustad, the latter two being pretty nifty plays by Stafford. Jason Pominville tallied the winner on the power play after Pittsburgh forward Craig Adams took a foolish offensive zone penalty and the Sabres held off the Penguins from there.

But it was Lalime most responsible for the comeback. If he'd given up another goal or two in that second period, Pittsburgh most likely wins.

Jordan Staal, Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz scored for the Penguins.

Remember when Anaheim forward Bobby Ryan was struggling? Me neither.

The second-year player scored goals 18 and 19, the latter being the winner on the power play, and set up Dan Sexton's goal, and Anaheim held off yet another Minnesota charge, 4-2. Jonas Hiller made 29 saves.

Ryan has eight goals and seven assists in 14 December games, with one more to play, and has 15 goals and 11 assists since October ended. His power play goal came three seconds after a 5-on-3 advantage ended and gave the Ducks a two-goal lead.

While the holding penalty to Kyle Brodziak was rather weak - "marginal" as the Ducks announcers called it - the Wild had three power plays in the final eight minutes of regulation, albeit the final one coming with just 48 seconds left. Kim Johnsson's goal with 6:53 remaining had Anaheim thinking "Not again" before Todd Marchant's empty-netter had the Ducks breathing easy.

Antti Miettinen also scored for Minnesota.

Stars of the night
--Dwayne Roloson made 41 saves and three more in the shootout to lead the Islanders over Columbus, 2-1. Josh Bailey scored in regulation and Rob Schremp had the only goal in the tiebreaker for New York. R.J. Umberger scored for the Blue Jackets.
--Steve Ott broke a 4-4 tie with his second goal of the game and Dallas defeated Chicago, 5-4. Ott also had an assist and Marty Turco made 33 saves. Patrick Kane had a pair of goals for the Blackhawks.
--Shea Weber notched three assists and Nashville hung on for a 4-3 win over St. Louis.
--Jason LaBarbera made 28 saves and went 3-for-3 in the shootout as Phoenix set a franchise-record with its 10th straight home win, 3-2 over Vancouver. Lauri Korpikoski had the shootout winner.

Stat of the night
1-37 - The Islanders power play in the last nine games. Ugh. And it's still better than the Penguins. Double ugh.

Quote of the night
"We got one of those loser points so everybody can get off our case because we didn't have one. But I would rather have won and still have people on our case for not having one of those loser points."
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault. The Canucks suffered their first loss after regulation Tuesday

Notable games
Wednesday, Dec. 30 (8 games)
-Toronto (14-17-9) at Edmonton (15-20-4), 9:30 p.m. ET. That Pat Quinn head explosion is going to happen soon, and it might occur if he loses to his former team.

-Washington (24-9-6) at San Jose (24-8-7), 10 p.m., one of many potential Stanley Cup Final previews. (Unlike Toronto-Edmonton. That's not likely to be the final series.)

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