April 17, 2010

Here are the Three Stars from Friday's playoff action, which included five nip-and-tuck games.

1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh

There are nights, to be sure, when I come away from watching the Capitals believing that Alexander Ovechkin is the best player in the world. And then there are nights, like tonight, when Crosby slaps me back to reality with the sort of three-zone effort that Ovechkin, for all his wondrous talent, just can't match. Crosby knotted the game midway through the first, and preserved the tie when he scooped an Anton Volchenkov bid out of the crease just as it was about to cross the line. He was 13 of 19 on the draw, led the team with five shots and chipped in three hits. But it was his assist on Kris Letang's game-winner that illustrated what a study in willpower this was. With Jason Spezza climbing into his sweater, Crosby played a one-man cycle, carrying the puck back-and-forth behind the Ottawa net four times before breaking free and setting up Letang from his knees. If that wasn't the best single shift of the season, I'd sure like to see one better.

2. J.P. Dumont, Nashville

His first of two goals on the night wasn't exactly one for the grandkids -- a soft, floating backhand from distance that somehow slipped under the arm of Chicago's Antti Niemi -- but his second epitomized the value of going hard to the net when he jammed home a rebound of a David Legwand shot. It also stood up as the game-winner, giving the Predators their first-ever playoff road win and a surprising 1-0 series lead over the favored Blackhawks.

3. Devin Setoguchi, San Jose

The Sharks wriggled off the hook, for now anyway, when Setoguchi's deflection slipped through the pads of Colorado's Craig Anderson and gave San Jose a 6-5 win in OT and a life-saving 1-1 tie in the Western quarters. Setoguchi also tallied earlier in the evening to tie the game at 3, one of five times in which the Sharks rallied from behind against the Avalanche.

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