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I'm still giving Marek Malik the edge over Alexander Ovechkin for goal of the year.

That's not to take anything away from Ovechkin. Not many people can score while sliding on their back head-first toward the end boards, with one hand on their stick, with a defenseman draped all over them – all that with a loose puck and a bad angle thrown in for difficulty.

The 20-year-old rookie did just that Monday, and some are already comparing the goal to the greatest in league history. Ovechkin falls short in two categories. First, his goal was the final tally in a 6-1 Washington win. No drama. Second, he gets points for improvisation, but not creativity.

Ovechkin's intended move – a deke of goalie Brian Boucher followed by a backhander – was derailed when he was knocked to the ice by Phoenix defenseman Paul Mara. The instincts he displayed were incredible, but the circumstances put the goal in the circus/fluky category.

Now rewind to Nov. 26 and the shootout marathon between the Rangers and these same Washington Capitals. It's the 15th round of the longest shootout in league history and Malik, owner of 28 goals in 11 NHL seasons, narrowly edges out the Zamboni driver and the cotton candy guy to get a shot at earning New York an extra point.

The Rangers' four-game win streak is on the line and fans at the Garden are scrutinizing every passing round. So the 6-foot-5 defenseman decides to drop the puck between his legs and flip a shot with his stick between his skates. It was the ultimate pond-hockey trick shot attempted on one of hockey's grandest stages.

And it beat stunned goalie Olaf Kolzig.

Both were fantastic goals. If you're looking for a tiebreaker, Malik's score flipped the water bottle almost two full rotations, always a nice bonus. On to more traditional rankings:

(Records and rankings through Wednesday, January 18.)

1. Detroit Red Wings (31-12-3; Previous: 1) – Chris Osgood was strong Wednesday, particularly during a first period 5-on-3 that could have shifted momentum to the Blue Jackets. Still, fans in Detroit are wondering: Is their goaltending good enough?

2. Ottawa Senators (31-10-3; Previous: 3) – Is the NHL ready for a third Ottawa line to kick into gear? The forward combination of Patrick Eaves, Chris Kelly and Vaclav Varada has combined for five goals and 11 points in the Sens' last two wins.

3. Carolina Hurricanes (31-10-4; Previous: 4) – Couldn't have written a better script for Tuesday's game, as team captain and former Flyer Rod Brind'Amour scored the deciding shootout goal in a win over Philadelphia. Carolina can count Detroit, Philadelphia and Atlanta among its victims during its current eight-game win streak.

4. Philadelphia Flyers (28-10-8; Previous: 2) – Peter Forsberg will miss at least one game with his latest groin injury. Hey, why not? Only seems fair since goalie Robert Esche (groin) and defenseman Joni Pitkanen (hernia) are just days away from rejoining the lineup.

5. Buffalo Sabres (29-13-3; Previous: 6) – Even in today's NHL, throwing up a 10-spot is worthy of headlines. Buffalo did just that Saturday in a 10-1 drubbing of the Kings, but they're not just scoring goals. The Sabres killed their 35th straight penalty in Monday's win at Edmonton.

6. Dallas Stars (30-14-2; Previous: 5) – Defenseman Sergei Zubov extended his point streak to a career-best nine games before firing a blank Monday at Montreal. Hard to believe this 13-year veteran has never even been a finalist for the Norris Trophy.

7. Vancouver Canucks (26-15-5; Previous: 7) – There's something to be said for balance, but shouldn't the Sedin line be trying to keep up with Vancouver's top line and not the other way around? Anson Carter and the Sedin twins have combined for 21 goals since Dec. 1. Markus Naslund and friends have chipped in with 20.

8. Colorado Avalanche (27-17-3; Previous: 13) – Guess which of the following Colorado players has not scored a goal during the team's current eight-game win streak: Cody McCormick, Joe Sakic, Brett McLean, Ian Laperiere. If you guessed Sakic, who does have five assists in those games, you're right.

9. Atlanta Thrashers (23-18-6; Previous: 12) – A couple of franchise firsts Wednesday. Atlanta won its fifth straight game for the first time ever and the team finally earned two points in a game against the Stars.

10. Calgary Flames (26-14-5; Previous: 10) – The Flames earned only three of a possible eight points on their recent four-game road trip.
11. Los Angeles Kings (28-18-2; Previous: 8) – "I'm not even close," is the timetable Pavol Demitra gave the L.A. Times when asked when he might return from his leg injury. Three of the Kings' top four scorers were out of the lineup in Tuesday's loss to Tampa Bay.

12. New York Rangers (25-14-7; Previous: 9) – Goalie Kevin Weekes doesn't much like being a backup. He has played very little lately, but with seven sets of back-to-back games remaining on the schedule, he'd better be ready.

13. Nashville Predators (28-12-5; Previous: 11) – Nashville is 0-5-2 in its last seven games against teams with winning records. On the horizon: New Jersey and back-to-backs against the Red Wings.

14. San Jose Sharks (21-17-5; Previous: 14) – Trade rumors are suddenly swirling around goalie Evgeni Nabokov. After letting Miikka Kiprusoff go, maybe the Sharks are hesitant to allow fellow Fin Vesa Toskala jump ship when he becomes a free agent after the 2005-06 season.

15. New Jersey Devils (23-18-5; Previous: 19) – New Jersey has scored eight power-play goals in its last three wins. That matches the Devils' power-play output over their previous 14 games.

16. Edmonton Oilers (24-17-5; Previous: 16) – Coach Craig MacTavish told the Edmonton Sun he's tired of discussing the team's goalie situation. Talk to GM Kevin Lowe, Craig. Once he swings a deal for a legitimate goalie, reporters will quit asking you who will start from night to night.

17. Toronto Maple Leafs (24-19-3; Previous: 15) – Defenseman Bryan McCabe reportedly won't need surgery. He doesn't know when he'll return, however, and the Maple Leafs aren't sure they can win without him. Toronto has lost all four games since McCabe suffered a groin tear.

18. Minnesota Wild (21-21-4; Previous: 17) – Minnesota beat Toronto for the first time in franchise history Wednesday. It was a much-needed victory after three straight setbacks at home.

19. Anaheim Mighty Ducks (19-16-9; Previous: 18) – Shootouts and 4-on-4 overtimes may be must-see hockey for most, but Mighty Duck fans are better served getting a jump-start on Southern California traffic. Anaheim dropped to a league-worst 1-9 in overtime games after Monday's 4-3 loss at Boston.

20. Tampa Bay Lightning (23-20-3); Previous 22) – That 0-for-40 power-play drought mercifully ended in Tuesday's 4-1 win over Los Angeles.

21. Florida Panthers (18-22-7; Previous: 20) – That four-day break in the schedule would have been a nice time to nail down a new contract for goalie Roberto Luongo.

22. Phoenix Coyotes (22-22-2; Previous: 21) – The Coyotes have lost their last two home games by a combined score of 11-3. The combined record of their opponents: 31-53-7.
23. Montreal Canadiens (21-16-6; Previous: 23) – Montreal is 3-1 in its last four games with wins over Dallas, Ottawa and San Jose.

24. Columbus Blue Jackets (16-29-2; Previous: 25) – The momentum built by three wins in four games ground to a halt Wednesday in a 4-0 loss to Detroit. Columbus failed to capitalize on a 5-on-3 chance in the first period. The Blue Jackets have squandered all but one of their two-man advantages in 2005-06.

25. New York Islanders (20-23-2; Previous: 24) – Team USA goalie update: Rick DiPietro was pulled for the third time this season Saturday and saw his goals-against average balloon to 3.48, Robert Esche might not have a starting job when he returns and John Grahame is fighting for ice time in Tampa. Ryan Miller, anyone?

26. Washington Capitals (15-24-5; Previous: 28) – Alexander Ovechkin had a hand in three of Washington's six goals Monday. What's shocking is how commonplace that is. The rookie entered the game having scored or assisted on 43 percent of the teams's goals.

27. Boston Bruins (17-21-7; Previous: 26) – Hard to believe, but Boston was 7-5-4 the last time it visited Philadelphia on Nov. 8. It was on that night that the Bruins blew a two-goal lead in the final four minutes on their way to an OT loss. Eight losses in nine games followed, a slide that culminated in the infamous Joe Thornton trade. Boston is back in Philly Thursday.

28. Pittsburgh Penguins (11-26-9; Previous: 27) – Looks like speedy winger Konstantin Koltsov will take over for the recently retired Ziggy Palffy on the Sidney Crosby line. More help for Crosby is on the way in the form of tough guy Eric Cairns, who was acquired from Florida Wednesday as Pittsburgh hangs a "hands off Sidney" sign at Mellon Arena.

29. Chicago Blackhawks (14-25-4; Previous: 30) – Truth be told they didn't do much to merit a rise in the rankings, but as you'll see below, who am I to stand between a fan and his dream? Points in back-to-back games and the return of goalie Nikolai Khabibulin are positives to build on.

30. St. Louis Blues (10-29-5; Previous: 29) – I'm going to turn over this space to reader Brian from New York: When will you give my Blues their rightful place at the bottom of the power rankings? Every week I look forward to the rankings, and every week a somewhat less terrible team has beat them to the bottom. Chicago, who you put at No. 30 [last] week, has 11 more points than St. Louis! Please reconsider. Blues fans deserve to be recognized for the agony that is watching this team. Well Brian, savor the moment, you've arrived.

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