Tuesday May 8th, 2012

1. Marc Staal, Rangers. Staal had just two goals and five points on the season after his debut was delayed by long-term concussion issues, but after pounding home the winner in New York's I-can't-believe-that-just-happened 3-2 overtime win on Monday night, he's already matched those totals in the playoffs. The goal -- a laser from the blue liner that took full advantage of an Artem Anisimov screen -- is likely to go down as one of the greatest in Rangers lore, but it was the amazing defensive work in the third when he broke up a 3-on-1 twice on the same play that kept New York within striking distance and set the table for the remarkable comeback.

2. Mike Smith, Coyotes. There's nothing left to be said about Smith, who --surprise! -- was again the difference as the Coyotes dispatched another favored opponent in convincing fashion. He's the engine that makes Phoenix go, stopping virtually everything that gets through the team's forest of sticks and legs and other parts. The Predators finally got through to him late in the third, snapping a shutout streak of 162:36, but by that point their dismissal was inevitable. And hey, how sweet was that last-second bomb for the empty net? As a fan, you have to love that confidence.

3. Brad Richards, Rangers. If it's not quite "Matteau! Matteau!" territory, the goal that Richards scored to tie Game 5 with just 6.6 seconds left comes awfully close. "I was just hacking and whacking," he said after his rebound attempt sailed over Braden Holtby and under the arm of defenseman John Carlson, who dove into the crease to backup his flailing netminder. "I had no idea how much time was left on the clock." If the Rangers live up to their potential, that marker will likely go down as the most important of their playoff run.

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