Monday April 27th, 2009

1. Eric Staal, Hurricanes: Big-time players are defined by their efforts in big-time games. With Carolina's season on the line, Staal proved his mettle, scoring two goals and setting up a third to send the 'Canes back to New Jersey for Game 7. He drew two defenders behind the net to free up Ray Whitney for the opening goal, then cashed in on a pair of opportunities three minutes apart to break a tight game open in the second.

2. Ray Whitney, Hurricanes: He had struggled his last three games, going pointless and putting up a glaring minus-four rating. But Whitney redeemed himself in this must-win contest, burying a chip shot past Martin Brodeur for the decisive marker and providing the primary assist on all three Carolina goals that followed.

3. Tom Poti, Capitals: The lusty chants of the MSG faithful notwithstanding, Poti does not suck. Sure, he frustrated the hometown fans with his inconsistency when he was a Ranger, but he's simplified his game since joining the Caps, focusing on his defensive responsibilities. He took care of his own end Sunday afternoon, but also showed some offensive flash with a goal and three assists to lead Washington to a convincing 5-3 victory.

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