As players return, the team wins
The Ottawa Senators are suddenly a team to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference. Coincidentally or not, it's happened at roughly the same time they got their top line back.
Center Jason Spezza became the third Ottawa player to score a goal in his first game back from injured reserve and the Senators edged Boston, 2-1, for the Senators' sixth straight win.
Daniel Alfredsson scored his 14th goal of the season with six seconds to play in the first period and Spezza's goal broke a 1-1 tie after Daniel Paille scored for the Bruins. Brian Elliott stopped 32 shots for Ottawa, which is now just three points behind Pittsburgh for fourth in the East.
In addition to Spezza, Alfredsson and Milan Michalek had scored immediately upon returning to the Ottawa lineup.
For the first time this season, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville started backup Antti freaking Niemi for a second straight game. Wonder if he regrets that move.
Vancouver pounced on Niemi for three first-period goals and Quenneville pulled the plug on the youngster, replacing him with Cristobal Huet to begin the second period. It wasn't enough as the Canucks rolled to a 5-1 win despite being out-shot, 44-28.
Danrik Sedin (my new name for the Sedin twins) had six points on two goals and an assist from NHL leader Henrik and one goal and two helpers by Daniel. Alex Burrows had three assists and Steve Bernier and Mikael Samuelsson also scored for the Canucks. Henrik Sedin's second goal of the game might've been the biggest, as it came 32 seconds after Jonathan Toews scored for Chicago in the third period to make the score 4-1.
Instead of gaining momentum from the Toews goal, the Blackhawks were back to trailing by three. Bob Luongo shut the door from there, making 43 saves. Vancouver hurdled Phoenix for fourth in the West, tied in points with Colorado for the Northwest Division lead but with one more game played.
Stars of the night
--Jeff Carter had two goals and an assist as Philadelphia doubled up Carolina, 4-2.
--Anze Kopitar's goal and two assists helped Los Angeles erase a 2-0 first-period deficit and defeat Detroit, 3-2.
--Alexander Semin notched four points on a goal and three helpers for Washington in its 4-2 win over Phoenix. Alex Ovechkin scored his 33rd goal and an assist.
--Jamie Langenbrunner had a goal and two assists, Zach Parise scored a pair and the Devils scratched out a win over the Islanders, 4-2. New York held New Jersey to one shot in the second period, but the Devils held the Islanders to three shots in the third. Travis Zajac had three assists.
--Mikko Koivu's brace led Minnesota to a 4-2 win over Columbus.
--Joe Pavelski's two goals and Evgeni Nabokov's 38 saves guided San Jose to a 5-2 win over Buffalo.
--Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves and Mike Cammalleri had four points, including two goals, as Montreal beat down the Rangers, 6-0. Benoit Pouliot scored his 12th goal on a nifty deflection.
--Tomas Vokoun picked up his sixth shutout of the season, stopping 39 shots, and Florida defeated Toronto, 2-0. Goals were by Cory Stillman and Kenndal McArdle.
Working extra late
--Jeff Halpern's shootout goal in Round 5 was the only one to find the back of the net legally and Tampa Bay outlasted Atlanta, 2-1. The Lightning seemed to score on Kurtis Foster's chance in the fourth round but the puck was ruled to have bounced off his leg and into the net, thus a rebound and thus no-goal. Antero Niittymaki made 37 saves and Steven Stamkos scored in regulation for TB.
--Collapse, thy name is St. Louis. The Blues held a 3-0 lead after T.J. Oshie's goal early in the third period, but Anaheim roared back, getting a goal from Scott Niedermayer and two from Bobby Ryan, including the tying goal with 30 seconds remaining. Then James Wisniewski's shootout goal in the bottom of the seventh round gave the Ducks a shocking 4-3 win.
Stat of the night
7, 9 - Goals and points for Cammalleri in three games against the Rangers this season
Quote of the night
"I said, 'Give a defenseman a try. We never get an opportunity. When I saw it go in, it was a pretty good feeling."
Wisniewski. It was his first career shootout attempt.
Sunday, Jan. 24 (3 games)
-Pittsburgh (31-20-1) at Philadelphia (26-21-3), 12:30 p.m., NBC's first Game of the Week. The Penguins will be on NBC three straight weeks, which is absurd.