NEW YORK, N.Y. – Scott Gomez credited his first goal in over a year to hard work rather than divine intervention.
Gomez scored for the first time since Feb. 5, 2011, Max Pacioretty had his first NHL hat trick and the Montreal Canadiens beat the New York Islanders 4-2 Thursday for their third straight win.
Earlier Thursday, the Catholic church in Montreal placed an ad in local newspapers encouraging people to pray for an eighth-place finish—and a playoff spot—for the Montreal Canadiens.
The ad shows the Eastern Conference standings with every team listed except the Canadiens. In eighth place, the final playoff spot, it simply says, ”Let Us Pray.”
Gomez, however, credited the Canadiens’ recent win, and his goal, to old fashioned work ethic.
“I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself, I’ve just kept working,” said the 32-year-old Gomez, acquired by Montreal with his sizable contract in an oft-criticized trade with the New York Rangers in June 2009. “It’s certainly good to get a win, and of course it’s great to finally score.”
Gomez had seven assists in 24 games this season before Thursday, and seven goals in 80 games last season. He is in the fifth year of a seven-year, US$51.5 million contract he signed with the Rangers in 2007.
“It was a big goal for us, proved to be the game-winner,” Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth said. “We worked hard and the effort paid off. We have to get it going and keep it going.”
The 11th-place Canadiens (22-24-9) moved one point ahead of the Islanders (22-23-8) and nine back of eighth-place Toronto in the tightly packed Eastern Conference.
Carey Price made 31 saves for his fifth win in seven games. The Islanders scored twice in the last three minutes, but couldn’t get even.
Matt Moulson made it 3-1 with 2:41 remaining on a power play, with an assist from John Tavares, who earned the 100th helper of his NHL career. Islanders captain and defenceman Mark Streit made it 3-2 just 48 seconds later.
FLYERS 4, MAPLE LEAFS 3
PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn scored 1:14 apart in the second period to lift Philadelphia over Toronto.
Scott Hartnell and Max Talbot also had goals for Philadelphia, which snapped a three-game losing streak.
Tyler Bozak scored two goals and Joffrey Lupul had one for the resurgent Maple Leafs, who were 6-2-1 in their previous nine games.
Coming off a 1-0 shootout loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday night, the Flyers needed this victory to strengthen their hold on fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
Sergei Bobrovsky made 24 saves, including a pad stop on Bozak’s hard shot during a 4-on-2 rush with five minutes left.
JETS 3, CAPITALS 2, SO
WASHINGTON (AP)—Winnipeg overcame a two-goal deficit in the final 2:15 of regulation and then prevailed in a shootout for a victory over Washington.
Evander Kane and Dustin Byfuglien awoke a pedestrian Jets attack with power-play goals to get Winnipeg into a tie. Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little scored in the shootout.
Alex Ovechkin had the lone shootout goal for the Capitals. Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec stopped shots by Alexander Semin and Mathieu Perreault.
All of the game’s goals came in the final 10 1/2 minutes of the third period, and all were on power plays. Ovechkin broke a scoreless tie with 10:14 to play, and Semin made it 2-0 with 7:30 remaining.
Pavelec made 32 saves for the Jets. Tomas Vokoun stopped 25 for the Capitals.
SENATORS 4, PREDATORS 3
OTTAWA (AP)—Chris Phillips scored his first two goals of the season in his 1,000th NHL game, Jason Spezza also scored twice, and Ottawa ended a seven-game losing streak by topping Nashville.
Phillips scored his first goal in 75 games 7:50 into the second. He lay on his back on the ice after adding a power-play goal 13:35 into the third to put Ottawa up by two. It was his fourth two-goal game—his first since Nov. 19, 2009, in a 6-2 win over Pittsburgh. That was his 800th career game.
CANUCKS 5, WILD 2
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP)—Henrik and Daniel Sedin both scored against Minnesota for the first time in their careers to lead Vancouver over the Wild.
Maxim Lapierre, Manny Malhotra and Ryan Kesler also scored for the Canucks.
A CT scan earlier in the day on Henrik Sedin’s foot came back clean and the Canucks captain played in his 553rd consecutive game, the second-longest active streak in the NHL.
Henrik’s foot appeared to be just fine when he flew in behind a Wild defender and gave the Canucks (34-15-5) a 3-1 lead early in the second period.
Dany Heatley scored 13 seconds in for the Wild (25-21-8), the fastest goal to start a game in team history. Devin Setoguchi got Minnesota within 4-2 in the third period.
Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu returned after missing eight games because of a shoulder injury.
COYOTES 2, FLAMES 1, OT
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP)—Shane Doan scored a power-play goal at 3:05 of overtime, and Phoenix beat Calgary to extend its winning streak to a season-high four games.
Doan’s game-winner came 58 seconds after Calgary’s Mikael Backlund was called for tripping. Phoenix moved into the eighth place in the Western Conference.
Flames defenceman Blair Jones was hit by a shot in front during the overtime power play and was left ineffective. With essentially two Calgary defenders on the ice, Doan was set up by Radim Vrbata at the left circle and ripped a one-timer past goalie Leland Irving.
Taylor Pyatt gave the Coyotes a 1-0 lead in the first period. Olli Jokinen got the Flames even 4:01 into the third.
RANGERS 4, LIGHTNING 3 (OT)
NEW YORK (AP)—Brad Richards scored 2:37 into overtime to give the New York Rangers over Tampa Bay.
New York’s Brian Boyle tied it at 10:13 of the third period, pouncing on a loose puck and driving it past Mathieu Garon.
Steven Stamkos scored his NHL-best 36th goal of the season in the first period and added an assist for Tampa Bay, which has lost three of four. Defenceman Bruno Gervais and Vincent Lecavalier also scored.
Derek Stepan had a goal and an assist, and captain Ryan Callahan added a goal for the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers, who have earned at least one point in six of seven games.
BLUES 4, DEVILS 3, SO
NEWARK, N.J. (AP)—T.J. Oshie scored the only goal in the shootout and relief goalie Brian Elliott was perfect as St. Louis snapped New Jersey’s five-game winning streak.
Oshie, the first shooter in the tiebreaker for the Blues, fooled Johan Hedberg with an off-speed shot that trickled through his pads.
Elliott, who replaced Jaroslav Halak in the second period, stopped Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias and Zach Parise. Elliott also stopped all 15 shots in regulation and overtime.
Chris Stewart, David Perron and Patrik Berglund scored for the Blues, who are 11-0-2 against the Eastern Conference.
Parise, Adam Henrique and Elias had New Jersey’s goals. Hedberg made 23 saves, getting the start because Martin Brodeur sat out after twisting his right ankle on Tuesday in a 1-0 shutout of the Rangers in New York.
STARS 4, BLUE JACKETS 2
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—Jamie Benn scored two goals and Kari Lehtonen had 26 saves to make an early lead stand up in Dallas’ victory over Columbus.
Alex Goligoski and Stephane Robidas each had a goal and an assist, and Mike Ribeiro added two assists for the Stars.
Dallas led 3-0 barely 21 minutes in and then hung on behind Lehtonen to win its fourth in the last six games.
Vinny Prospal and Rick Nash scored, and Fedor Tyutin and Derick Brassard had two assists apiece for Columbus, which was trying for its first three-game winning streak of the season.
PANTHERS 3, KINGS 1
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP)—Sean Bergenheim and Mike Santorelli scored in the second period, sending Florida past Los Angeles.
Matt Bradley also scored for the Panthers and Scott Clemmensen stopped 22 shots. Florida beat the Kings for the first time in eight tries, snapping a seven-game losing streak in the series that dated to Nov. 27, 2002.
Drew Doughty scored for the Kings and Jonathan Quick made nine saves. Quick was replaced by Jonathan Bernier to start the third period, and stopped 11 shots. The Kings have scored one goal or fewer six times in 10 games. They are the lowest-scoring team in the NHL with 119 goals.