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Take nothing for granted in the 'final' minute

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Take nothing for granted in the 'final' minute
John Kreiser | columnist
Feb 2, 2007, 11:22 AM EST

Coaches always preach that hockey is a 60-minute game. That warning is especially important when the opponent is the New Jersey Devils.

The Devils lead the NHL in scoring game-tying goals in the final minute. Zack Parise’s tally with 32 seconds left in regulation Thursday night in Philadelphia marked the 27th time this season a team has scored a goal in the final minute to force overtime. The Devils have done in five times, by far the most in the league — five teams have done it twice and 12 others once each. Two of the Devils’ five last-minute tying goals have come against the Flyers. New Jersey’s Brian Gionta has three of the five goals, and New Jersey has won four of the five games in which it rallied to force overtime. In all, the teams that scored to tie the game and force OT have gotten a boost: They’re 18-0-9 in the 27 games.

The Atlanta Thrashers are the only team to allow three last-minute goals that forced overtime — six teams have allowed two and 12 have surrendered one. The Devils, one of those 12 teams, allowed the latest of the 27 goals, surrendering a game-tying tally to the Islanders on Jan. 13 with :00.7 left on the clock.

Another Record -- Martin Brodeur has been the beneficiary of four of the Devils’ five last-minute, game-tying goals, and he’s made the most of them — New Jersey has won all four games, three in shootouts and Thursday night’s game in overtime. That victory gave Brodeur another line in the record book: It was the 45th overtime (non-shootout) victory of his career, breaking a tie with Patrick Roy for the most in NHL history. It was also Brodeur’s 31st victory of the season — he became the first goaltender in league history to post 11 30-win seasons when he blanked Tampa Bay on Jan. 26.

It was a good thing for Brodeur that the Devils were able to score in overtime and avoid a shootout. New Jersey is 3-0 in OT this season, all with Brodeur in net, but he’s only 5-5 in shootouts and has allowed 13 goals, more than any other netminder in the NHL.

Flyer Foiler -- New Jersey’s Brad Lukowich is the prototype of a defensive defenseman, a player whose success is measured more in the goals his team doesn’t allow rather than the ones he scores. But Lukowich seems to save his rare offensive successes for games against the Philadelphia Flyers. Lukowich had the overtime winner on Thursday night in the Devils’ 6-5 victory. He has two of his three goals this season and three of his five in the last two seasons against the Flyers — and two of those have been game-winners.

Sid’s Shootout Struggles -- Sidney Crosby may be on his way to his first NHL scoring title. Luckily for him, shootout success — or lack thereof — doesn’t count in scoring totals. Crosby failed to score in Thursday night’s shootout against Montreal, dropping him to 0-for-7 for the season, by far the biggest 0-fer among all shooters this season. Florida’s Nathan Horton, Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin, Toronto’s Alex Ponikarovsky and Chicago’s Radim Vrbata are next at 0-for-4.

And who is this season’s top gun? Try Minnesota defenseman Petteri Nummelin, who’s 6-for-6 — even though he’s scored just two goals in regulation play. The only other players who are perfect on more than one attempt are Phoenix’s Shane Doan, the Rangers’ Marcel Hossa and Boston’s Phil Kessel, all of whom are 2-for-2.

Just What They Needed -- The Philadelphia Flyers are on the way to the worst season in franchise history, but they’ve still got the Atlanta Thrashers’ number. The Flyers improved to 16-4-6 all-time and 8-2-3 at Atlanta when they beat the Thrashers 2-1 at Philips Arena on Jan. 27. The Flyers have just 12 wins this season, but have won both their games against Atlanta, where they play again on Saturday night.

No one was happier to see the Thrashers than Flyers goaltender Antero Niittymaki, who had lost 15 straight decisions before the victory over Atlanta. Niittymaki is now 5-0-0 lifetime against Atlanta.

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