NEW YORK - Sean Avery has shed nerves and any inhibitions that might have crept into his game during his banishment from the NHL.
After a short and explosive stay with the Dallas Stars, hockey's most hated man has found his comfort zone back under the bright lights of Broadway. Avery scored two power-play goals and drew a pair of penalties to lead the New York Rangers to a 4-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday.
The noted agitator had just one assist in his first three games with the Rangers after the NHL and the Stars sent him away in December for crude public remarks he made about players dating his former girlfriends.
"The first couple of games I was just so nervous, kind of playing a little too hard," Avery said. "I'm just trying to slow it down, think about the plays and where they're going to end up.
"I feel good as far as just being happy that I'm out playing, and trying to play hard and help the team win. I've gotten some good bounces and I've gotten some good passes. It's tough to explain. Obviously, the team playing better is something that helps a lot."
Avery has scored in three straight games and has four goals in that stretch. The Rangers are 4-2 with him in the lineup. As much as opposing players tell themselves to ignore him and to stay focused on their game, Avery has the knack to get them off it.
Jeff Carter took a hooking penalty against him in the first period, and Andrew Alberts was called for charging in the third.
"His probation period is over and now he's back to his old antics and we got sucked in," Flyers coach John Stevens said. "He obviously had a game plan. Give him credit. That's what he does best."
New York tied a season high with three power-play goals and moved into a sixth-place tie with Montreal in the Eastern Conference. Both clubs have 80 points.
Nik Antropov also scored a man-advantage goal for the Rangers, who split a weekend home-and-home series with the Flyers and got back within four points of Philadelphia. The Rangers won their fifth in nine games (5-3-1) since John Tortorella replaced fired coach Tom Renney.
Henrik Lundqvist earned his 31st win, allowing only Simon Gagne's power-play goal in the second period.
Avery, who earned first-star honors, had only three goals in 27 games this season with Dallas.
"He's a very underrated as a player," Rangers captain Chris Drury said. "He's skilled and people are starting to realize how good he is besides all the other stuff.
"Rather than booing us they're chanting 'Avery!' I'll take that any game."
RED WINGS 4, BLUE JACKETS 0 - In Columbus, Ohio, Chris Osgood made 23 saves for his 49th career shutout and Detroit became the first team in NHL history to top 100 points in nine straight seasons.
Johan Franzen and Niklas Kronwall each had a goal and an assist, and Marian Hossa and Mikael Samuelsson also scored to help the Red Wings clinch a 17th straight playoff spot.
Detroit broke a tie with Montreal (1974-75 to 1981-82) for consecutive 100-point seasons.
PENGUINS 6, BRUINS 4 - In Pittsburgh, Sergei Gonchar and Chris Kunitz scored 18 seconds apart early in the third period, and Petr Sykora added the winner to help the Penguins take over fifth place in the East.
Pittsburgh picked up at least a point for the 10th straight game, going 8-0-2 during the run that began with a seven-game winning streak.
Kunitz also scored in the first period, and Bill Guerin and Jordan Staal added goals. Phil Kessel, Mark Recchi, Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder scored for Boston.
SHARKS 1, DUCKS 0-At Anaheim, Calif., Evgeni Nabokov made 34 saves for his sixth shutout of the season, Travis Moen scored in his return to Anaheim, and the Sharks reached 100 points to clinch a playoff spot.
Moen, acquired at the trade deadline, deflected Jamie McGinn's backhander past Jonas Hiller with 1:05 left in the second period.
Nabokov earned his second win in two days after missing seven games because of an upper-body injury. He has 46 career shutouts.
ISLANDERS 4, BLACKHAWKS 2 - In Chicago, Peter Mannino made 40 saves in his first NHL start, and defenseman Mark Streit had two power-play goals and an assist for New York.
Richard Park and Frans Nielsen also scored for the Islanders, 6-2-1 in their last nine games. New York was 3-for-7 on the power play.
Patrick Kane and Kris Versteeg scored for Chicago, and Nikolai Khabibulin made 15 saves in his first game since aggravating a groin injury Feb. 11.
CANUCKS 4, AVALANCHE 2 - In Vancouver, British Columbia, Kyle Wellwood, Alex Burrows and Taylor Pyatt scored first-period goals, and Vancouver won its ninth straight at home to match the club record set in 1992. Wellwood had a power-play goal, and Burrows scored short-handed.
Ryan Kesler added three assists, Alex Edler had a power-play goal with 1:13 left, and Roberto Luongo made 18 saves to help Vancouver end an eight-game (0-5-3) losing skid against Colorado. Ryan Smyth and Darcy Tucker scored for the Avs.
BLUES 5, WILD 3 - In St. Louis, Keith Tkachuk and David Perron scored on a two-man advantage in the second period, and David Backes also had a power-play goal for the Blues.
Brad Winchester and Brad Boyes added goals, and Chris Mason stopped 19 shots to help the Blues tie the Wild for 10th place in the Western Conference. Andrew Brunette, Stephane Veilleux and Marc-Andre Bergeron scored for Minnesota.