Darren Eliot
Sunday May 10th, 2009

The Carolina Hurricanes have won three in a row and in so doing, have the top-seeded Boston Bruins on the brink of elimination. It's the first time all season long that the Bruins have lost three straight games, so the frustration that marred their Game 4 effort is understandable. The Hurricanes have outscored the Bruins 10-3 in winning the last three games after losing 4-1 in the opener.

Still, winning that fourth straight won't be easy since Game 5 is Sunday night in Boston.You have to expect the Bruins to put their best effort forward. It will be up to Cam Ward in goal to rise to the occasion as he has so far in these playoffs. Both Ward and Eric Staal up front are furthering their reputations as big-time clutch performers, delivering as they did in 2006 when the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup. That was the 'Canes' last appearance in the postseason -- the only time Ward and Staal were on the playoff stage, with Ward garnering the Conn Smythe Trophy and Staal leading everyone in playoff scoring.

In the other Eastern Conference semifinal, the Pittsburgh Penguins also won their third straight game in the series -- their second in overtime -- securing victory for the first time on the road. It all adds up to a 3-2 series lead over the Washington Capitals as the series shifts back to Pittsburgh.

The difference in this one was that Jordan Staal, along with linemates Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke, contributed offensively. Staal and Cooke both scored -- the first of this year's playoffs for both -- and all three delivered much-needed forechecking pressure. In a game that was brutally physical, the Pens need that trio to step forward and it did. Up until this point, while stars on both sides were getting theirs, the Capitals' third line of David Steckel-Boyd Gordon-Matt Bradley had outperformed the Staal combination.

Out west, the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings return home with a chance to move ahead 3-2 in their series with the Anaheim Ducks. Of course, the road Ducks have the same opportunity, but they'll have to perform much better than they did in losing Game 4 on home ice -- more like they did in the Western Conference final two years ago on their way to capturing the Stanley Cup, when the Ducks won in dramatic fashion in Detroit in Game 5.

Maybe the spark will come from defenseman James Wisniewski returning to the lineup after missing just one game since suffering a bruised lung from a slap shot to the ribs. Certainly, goaltender Jonas Hiller has to return to form after yielding five goals on 23 shots. He wasn't sharp, but neither were the guys in front of him.

On the Red Wings' side, the long anticipated move of putting Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on the same line worked, sort of. It wasn't Datsyuk who got untracked after the switch; it was Marian Hossa scoring his first goals of the series playing with Johan Franzen -- who also scored twice -- and Valtteri Fillpula. That trio dominated the game, creating scoring chances each and every shift. The Wings will start with the lines the way they ended Game 4, looking for the same results.

Finally, the Chicago Blackhawks have a 3-2 series advantage over the Vancouver Canucks. Similar to the Penguins getting a big game from their third line, the Blackhawks got two goals from Dustin Byfuglien and another from David Bolland. And don't let the line designation fool you. Along with Troy Brouwer, coach Joel Quenneville counts on this unit to score. Byfuglien and Bolland both scored on the power play, revealing how much trust Coach Q has in his Killer B's.

The offense of the Blackhawks' third line certainly stood out, but so did the team's overall discipline, affording the Canucks just two power-play chances. That adds up to three Vancouver power plays over the past two games, both come-from-behind wins for the Blackhawks. Add the fact that Captain Jonathan Toews continues to play ineffectively -- certainly slowed by injury -- and the Killer B's production came at just the right time.

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