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Straka, Weekes Lead Ranger to Victory

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Martin Straka and Kevin Weekes spend way more time in the shadows of the spotlight than in the center of its glow.

That changed recently for the New York Rangers teammates, yet likely on a temporary basis.

Straka, a supporting player to high-profile stars Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan, set up both New York goals in a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Sunday night.

That stretched his career-best point streak to 10 games and lifted the Rangers to their third straight win, tying a season high.

``That's the way it is sometimes. Whenever you pass or shoot, it's going in,'' Straka said. ``I'm just getting a little bit lucky right now.''

Straka earned the second assist on defenseman Michal Rozsival's first-period goal and then made the key pass to Michael Nylander for another tally in the final frame.

Straka has seven goals and 11 assists during his spurt that began on Nov. 19, and New York is 6-1-3 during the run.

The Rangers will take it, and anything they can get from Weekes, their backup goalie. He gave Henrik Lundqvist a night off and made 34 saves in his second home start of the season.

``We do have a lot of secondary offensive and defensive players and in my case, a goalie. Guys that are good players, too,'' Weekes said.

In other NHL games, Columbus routed Ottawa 6-2, and Chicago beat Edmonton 4-1.

Last season, Jagr set Rangers records for goals and points. He was thrilled this summer when Shanahan _ tied for the NHL lead with 22 goals _ came to New York to help with the scoring load.

With strong contributions from Straka and Nylander, tied for sixth in the league with 37 points, New York's offense is as balanced as it's been in years.

``When you get a few goals and a few assists, your confidence gets a little bit higher,'' Straka said. ``At the same time, Jaromir and Michael, they make the game a lot easier for me.''

Weekes did the rest.

He was steady throughout and confidently snared most of Florida's long-range shots with his glove. He was on track for his 20th NHL shutout, but Panthers defenseman Mike Van Ryn wrecked those plans with 9:55 left, scoring his second of the season and cutting the Rangers' lead to 2-1.

Weekes made 15 saves in the third period as Florida pressed to tie the game.

He often hears boos in rare appearances at Madison Square Garden, but he bounced back from a relief stint at home a week earlier in which he allowed three goals on 13 shots in a loss to the New York Islanders.

Once fans got over the disappointment of not seeing Lundqvist, who posted wins over Pittsburgh and Ottawa in the previous three days, they got behind Weekes and chanted his name on several occasions.

``People have an attachment to certain players and that is understandable,'' Weekes said.

Ed Belfour, playing for just the fourth time in the past 11 games, made 26 saves for the Panthers but failed to earn his 462nd NHL victory, which would have broken a second-place tie on the career list with New Jersey's Martin Brodeur.

Florida, which lost a shootout on Long Island on Saturday night, was trying to earn points in a season-high four straight games, following a 2-0-1 stretch.

``We got five points out of a possible eight this week,'' Panthers captain Olli Jokinen said, ``but it's not good enough.''

Blue Jackets 6, Senators 2

At Columbus, Ohio, Rick Nash and Dan Fritsche both scored twice and the Blue Jackets set a franchise record with five power-play goals against Ottawa.

It was the Blue Jackets' fourth straight win, improving coach Ken Hitchcock's record to 5-3 after taking over a team that was 5-13-2.

Ottawa had not given up more than two power-play goals in a game this season. The five goals with a man advantage tied the Senators' franchise record for an opponent.

Defenseman Ron Hainsey had a goal and two assists for Columbus, which had its highest-scoring game of the season. Manny Malhotra scored his first goal in 23 games.

Pascal Leclaire made 19 saves before leaving with a 5-0 lead late in the second period. He stretched to kick aside a shot and was unable to get back up.

Christoph Schubert and Mike Fisher scored in the third period for Ottawa, which lost its third in a row.

Blackhawks 4, Oilers 1

At Chicago, Martin Havlat and Bryan Smolinski each had a goal and an assist to lead the Blackhawks.

Tuomo Ruutu and Denis Arkhipov added goals for the Blackhawks, who had lost three straight after regulation _ falling twice in shootouts and once in overtime.

Jarret Stoll converted a second-period penalty shot for the Oilers, who had a three-game winning streak snapped.

Chicago's Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 18 shots, while Edmonton's Dwayne Roloson turned aside 23.
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