Saturday April 18th, 2009

My Three Stars from Night 3 of the playoffs:

1. Bill Guerin, Penguins: The Penguins' veteran forward converted a 5-on-3 in overtime by beating Flyers goalie Marty Biron by skating from the left corner to the side of the goalmouth and stuffing the shot between Biron's pads. Amazingly, Guerin's second goal of the game was the first game-winning goal of his 17-year career.

2. Roberto Luongo, Canucks: As good as Luongo has been in the post-season, it took him until Friday night to record his first career playoff shutout. Luongo turned back 30 shots in the Canucks' 3-0 victory against St. Louis. Luongo is still just 7-7 in his playoff career despite some outrageous stats (.946 save percentage and a 1.61 goals-against average).

3. Tim Gleason, Hurricanes: The Hurricanes' defenseman waited for the opportune time to score his first goal of the season, beating New Jersey's Martin Brodeur with a 50-foot screen shot at 2:40 of overtime to give the Canes a 2-1 victory that evened the series at a game apiece. Though Gleason made his NHL debut with the Kings in 2003, he only appeared in his first playoff game on Wednesday in the series opener.

1. Is there a player in the entire league who plays the game with more color, imagination and enthusiasm than Philadelphia left wing Scott Hartnell? The second-year Flyer achieved career-highs in goals and assists (30 of each) in his eighth NHL season. On Friday night, he was in the center of both good plays and controversial plays. Midway through the first period, he tipped in a shot from Matt Carle at the point to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead that held up until the middle of the second period. But earlier in the game, Hartnell pulled a sly trick, chasing Pittsburgh's Petr Sykora back into the Philadelphia zone as Sykora was speeding down his right wing. Hartnell dove at Sykora's back, clearly let go of his stick and threw it along the ice until it knocked the puck away from Sykora. The officials somehow managed to miss it and the play went unpenalized. This wasn't the first time Hartnell has ejected his equipment in the name of thwarting a foe. Back in December when the Flyers were playing Tampa Bay, Hartnell tossed a glove at Lightning left wing Ryan Malone who was bearing down for a point-blank shot on Marty Biron. The Flyers goalie then stopped Malone on the ensuing penalty shot caused by Hartnell's exuberance.

2. What happened to that famous New Jersey Devils discipline? Because of the hubbub over Gleason's gamer in overtime, it was easy to overlook Eric Staal's power-play goal that evened the score, 1-1 with 25 seconds left in the first period. Now, Eric can quiet his brothers, Jordan and Marc, both of who won their respective series openers with their teams, the Penguins and Rangers. With Travis Zajak in the box for New Jersey, Devils defenseman Colin White committed the cardinal sin of letting himself get caught out of the play by over-indulging in a check against Canes' defenseman Joe Corvo. As Corvo tried to skate down the right wing with the puck, White checked him against the side of the Devils' players' bench and then pushed him into the bench, leaving Carolina a man down as well. Unfortunately for White, he took himself away from the play with the extra nudge. As White scrambled to get back, Carolina's Ray Whitney fired one off the boards behind Brodeur. Stahl then got behind three Devils: defenseman Paul Martin, forward Jay Pandolfo and White and converted the carom off the boards into a nearly empty net from an undefended slot. Any of the three Devils could have paid better attention to Stahl on the play and possibly prevented the key goal.

3. The Blues are making life too easy for Luongo. Granted he had to make 30 saves in Game 2, but St. Louis didn't get enough traffic in front of him to block his sightlines. Yes, he made a superb pad save on Andy McDonald in the third period, and then stopped T.J. Oshie's rebound try shortly after, but too many times, the Blues' forwards hung around the perimeter and didn't try to disrupt him in any useful way. Brad Boyes' power-play goal, late in the second period of Game One on Wednesday now stands as the Blues' only goal of their two-game visit to GM Place. And Luongo's comments about how well his teammates allowed him to see pucks in that game certainly applied to St. Louis' efforts in Game Two. Instead of game films, perhaps Blues' coach Andy Murray should let his team read the post-game quotes so they'll take the hint.

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