PITTSBURGH – Evgeni Malkin’s first goal in his much-anticipated NHL debut didn’t prevent Martin Brodeur from achieving a milestone of his own: his 450th career victory.

Brodeur withstood Malkin’s first career goal to become only the third goaltender in league history to reach the 450-win mark, with Jamie Langenbrunner’s goal in the third period making the difference in the New Jersey Devils’ 2-1 victory over the Penguins.

Malkin, one of the most awaited young players in recent seasons, was everything he was supposed to be despite missing nearly a month of play with a dislocated left shoulder. The 6-foot-4 center made exceptional passes, used his long reach to grab pucks and set up scoring chances. He also showed he could create scoring of his own by somehow finding a puck that Brodeur thought he had controlled and pushing it into the net.

Capitals 5, Panthers 2

WASHINGTON – Alexander Semin had a goal and an assist during Washington’s five-goal first period, and the Capitals cruised past Florida.

The Capitals, who hadn’t scored more than five goals in any of their first four games, tallied five in the opening 15 minutes against the Panthers.

Predators 3, Rangers 0

NEW YORK – Tomas Vokoun made 38 saves in his 17th NHL shutout, and Scott Nichol had a goal and assist for his first points of the season in the surging Predators’ victory over the Rangers.

Vokoun, who allowed 13 goals in Nashville’s opening two losses, has starkly turned his early season around.

Avalanche 4, Leafs 1

TORONTO – John-Michael Liles scored twice to lead the Avalanche over the Maple Leafs.

Brett McLean and Milan Hejduk also scored for the Avalanche, who avoided a three-game losing streak.

B’hawks 2, Canadiens 1

CHICAGO – Bryan Smolinski’s goal early in the third period lifted the Chicago Blackhawks over the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 Wednesday night.

Smolinski scored from the slot 2 minutes into the third after taking Tony Salmelainen’s centering pass from behind the net. Jeff Hamilton set up the play.

by forcing Montreal’s Janne Niinimaa to turn over the puck.

Montreal (3-1-2) lost for the first time in regulation this season.

Martin Havlat, who entered the game as the league’s leading scorer, also scored for Chicago (4-2-0) but was held to one point in a game for the first time this season.

Chris Higgins, the Canadiens’ leading scorer, recorded his fourth goal and David Aebischer made 21 saves for Montreal.

Nikolai Khabibulin had 28 stops for Chicago.

Havlat put the Blackhawks in front with his seventh goal just 49 seconds into the game. Carrying the puck down the right wing, he skirted past the Montreal defense and cut toward the net. Havlat then slid an off-speed backhand shot between Aebischer’s legs.

Higgins tied it with 2:04 left in the first, just 2 seconds after a Montreal power play expired. After Khabibulin stopped Higgins’ first shot from the left circle, he fired in the rebound from a sharp angle.

The Canadiens outshot the Blackhawks 9-4 in a scoreless second and forced Khabibulin to make several close-in saves.

Chicago survived the final 1:58 of the third playing short-handed. Aebischer was on the bench for a sixth attacker for the final 57 seconds.

Notes: Higgins has points in five of Montreal’s first six games. … The Canadiens, who defeated Calgary 5-4 in Montreal on Tuesday, didn’t hold a game-day skate Wednesday morning. … Montreal D Mathieu Dandenault missed the game with a thigh injury. Canadiens F Aaron Downey sat out with a concussion. Both are out indefinitely. … Chicago forwards Denis Arkhipov and Reed Low were healthy scratches.

AP-ES-10-18-06 2315EDT

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