Henrique, Lundqvist highlight Thursday's Three Stars
This may be his first go-round in the NHL playoffs, but Henrique has been a postseason stud going back to his OHL MVP days with the Windsor Spitfires (and no disrespect to Taylor Hall, but Henrique really should have been the MVP of the 2009 Memorial Cup as well). He's just one of those guys who seems to have that extra gear for when the spotlight is brightest.
Henrique was brilliant from the start, opening the scoring on a slick redirect just 1:29 into the contest, then applying pressure at both ends of the ice. If not for the clincher, his finest moment might have been the short-handed breakaway that began with a terrific defensive read and ended with him drawing a penalty to negate a threatening Florida power play early in the third.
That sequence is likely to be forgotten after he picked off that loose puck 2:37 into double OT and whipped it past a partially screened Jose Theodore to end Game 7 and send the Devils on to meet the Flyers. But that's exactly the sort of moment to watch for in Round 2 from Henrique, a player who was built for Devils hockey.
After having his share of ups and downs, Lundqvist saved his best for the finale of the seven-game set, particularly during the last six minutes of the game when a frantic Senators push turned the Rangers' zone into a shooting gallery. Grimly protecting a 2-1 lead, Lundqvist made too many saves to mention, but a pair of close-range glove stops on Milan Michalek, and another on Kyle Turris, were all that spared the Rangers from joining fellow top seed Vancouver on the sidelines.
Anyone watching as the Panthers scored two third-period power-play goals to send Game 7 to overtime could tell this wasn't Brodeur in his unflinching prime. Still, much like the Edmonton Hall of Famer, he gave his teammates all the stops they needed. He made 15 saves in the third period -- almost as many as he faced in all of Game 6 -- then cast aside 12 more in the first overtime session as the Panthers vainly tried putting on the blitz.
In the end, Brodeur made 43 stops on the night...just enough to stymie Florida's Cup dreams and send the Devils to the second round for the first time since 2007.