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Joel Ward has played a grand total of three full NHL seasons, in which he has never topped 17 goals or 35 points. In fact, his highest point-per-game average was 0.44 in 2008-09. So far in these playoffs, Ward has seven goals and 12 points in just 11 games. We'll call that a breakout performance. p.intro .firstletter { font-size : 200%; font-weight : bold; float : left; color : #c00; }p.intro .firstletter { font-size : 200%; font-weight : bold; float : left; color : #c00; p.intro .firstletter 1  Joel Ward, Nashville Predators: Ward tallied two goals in the first six minutes of the third period, the go-ahead goal and the needed insurance goal, to edge the Canucks and send the series back to Nashville for game six. Ward also assisted on David Legwand's first-period goal. 2  David Legwand, Nashville Predators: Ward scored Nashville's final two goals Saturday and Legwand scored the first two, opening the scoring with a shortie just under four minutes into the game and then tying the game 51 seconds into the second period. 3  Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks' sparkplug continued his great series. Despite missing a shift after taking a puck to his face, Kesler finished with two goals for the second time in three games to push his point streak to four. In those four games, Kesler has five goals and nine points. Play of the Night Mason Raymond makes a beautiful move before making a beautiful pass to Kesler for a tip-in: Save of the Night Pekka Rinne does a lot of extra work on this one, but he certainly makes it look spectacular: Photo by Getty Images
Blake Benzel | News/Features | Sunday, 08 May 2011 00:08 | Print | PDF
Detroit 4, San Jose 3 (Sharks lead series 3-2) The Red Wings aren’t about to roll over and die. They proved that well enough during a third-period comeback Sunday that saw the Wings score three unanswered goals to send their second-round series back to Motown. Logan Couture scored 54 seconds into the third period to give the Sharks a 3-1 advantage, but the Wings weren’t going to have any of it. Goals by Jonathan Ericsson and Dan Cleary less than two minutes apart evened the score at 3, and Tomas Holmstrom gave them the edge by doing what he’s done his entire career. Holmstrom tipped in a Nicklas Lidstrom slap shot from the point to give the Wings their first and only lead of the game at 13:52. Joey Howard made 39 saves for the Red Wings, and Pavel Datsyuk assisted on three of Detroit’s four goals. Niklas Kronwall scored the Red Wings' first goal. Devin Setoguchi and Joe Pavelski staked the Sharks to a 2-0 lead, while Antti Niemi stopped 18 shots in defeat. Game 6: at Detroit, Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET, (Versus, TSN, RIS, CSN-CA, FSN-D) Photo by Getty Images
Blake Benzel | News/Latest Headlines | Monday, 09 May 2011 00:06 | Print | PDF
In order to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, it's all but mandatory that you play for the Stanley Cup-winning team. There have been some exceptions (five, to be exact) and Pavel Datsyuk could become the sixth if Detroit doesn't win it all. OK, it's really early – but is anyone having a better playoffs? p.intro .firstletter { font-size : 200%; font-weight : bold; float : left; color : #c00; }p.intro .firstletter { font-size : 200%; font-weight : bold; float : left; color : #c00; p.intro .firstletter 1  Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings: With three assists, Datsyuk led Detroit's 4-3 comeback win in San Jose. He drew in the defense to set up Niklas Kronwall's second period-goal before assisting on Jonathan Ericsson's goal and Tomas Holmstrom's game winner, upping his assist total for the playoffs to 10. 2  Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings: Howard didn't steal the game for Detroit on Sunday, but he did keep them in it and gave them enough time to get back into the game. He made 15 of his 39 saves in the first period. 3  Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings: Kronwall opened the scoring for Detroit in the first and got the primary assist on Dan Cleary's second goal of the postseason in the third period, and led all Red Wings in ice time with 24:52. Play of the Night Ryane Clowe is solidifying his reputation as a tremendous playmaker with this gorgeous pass, feeding Joe Pavelski on the doorstep: Hit of the Night This is Niklas Kronwall being Niklas Kronwall: Save of the Night Antti Niemi makes this gorgeous glove save to keep the game scoreless in the first: Photo by Getty Images
Blake Benzel | News/Features | Monday, 09 May 2011 14:43 | Print | PDF
You can't help but feel a little bad for Predators fans. Their team came out in the first round, played a masterful series against a tough Anaheim Ducks team and got their first series win in franchise history – only to run into a Vancouver Canucks juggernaut. Despite all of Nashville's best efforts in their six-game series, Vancouver was just too much for the Preds to handle this season. p.intro .firstletter { font-size : 200%; font-weight : bold; float : left; color : #c00; }p.intro .firstletter { font-size : 200%; font-weight : bold; float : left; color : #c00; p.intro .firstletter 1  Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks: Kesler assisted on both Vancouver goals and also getting into the heads of the Predators with his physical play in Game 6. Immediately after Kesler's goaltender interference penalty, the Cancuks scored twice in less than two minutes – their only two goals of the game in the 2-1 win. 2  Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks: Bobby Lou was solid in net once again, helping the Canucks with 23 saves and his second series win of these playoffs. Luongo didn't need to make a ton of saves, but he made timely ones and got the job done. 3  David Legwand, Nashville Predators: Legwand continued to be one of the sparkplugs in the Predators' lineup, scoring Nashville's lone goal, his sixth of the playoffs. Play of the Night Ryan Kesler sets up Mason Raymond with this beautiful play around the net: Save of the Night It wasn't made by Luongo, but rather defenseman Dan Hamhuis. This blocked shot prevented Shea Weber's bomb from getting to the net: Photo by Getty Images
Blake Benzel | News/Features | Tuesday, 10 May 2011 10:31 | Print | PDF
Three games ago, Detroit was left for dead. They were down three games to zero against a San Jose Sharks team that seemed to be dominating and getting all the bounces. Three games later, it seems like there might not be anything San Jose can do to prevent the second comeback from a 3-0 series deficit in two years. p.intro .firstletter { font-size : 200%; font-weight : bold; float : left; color : #c00; }p.intro .firstletter { font-size : 200%; font-weight : bold; float : left; color : #c00; p.intro .firstletter 1  Valtteri Filppula, Detroit Red Wings: Filppula tallied a goal and an assist to help the Wings rally from a 1-0 deficit, making Detroit the first team in history to force Game 7 by winning consecutive games after trailing in the third period in each. 2  Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks: The Sharks weren't able to close Detroit out for a third straight game, but it wasn't for a lack of trying by Niemi. He stopped 42 shots in San Jose's loss, including 18 in the first period and 14 in the second. 3  Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings: Zetterberg scored Detroit's first goal to start the Wings' comeback in the third period. Despite missing Detroit's series against Phoenix, Hank now has seven points in these playoffs, all in his last five games. Play of the Night Pavel Datsyuk finds Valtteri Filppula on the back door on this beautiful passing play to put the Red Wings ahead by one: Save of the Night Niemi pulls out all the stops with this rolling save to preserve San Jose's one-goal lead: Photo by Getty Images
Blake Benzel | News/Features | Wednesday, 11 May 2011 10:44 | Print | PDF
In a series such as the seven-game slugfest that was San Jose-Detroit, you have to feel bad for the losing team. The Red Wings battled back after losing three straight but couldn't get it done on Thursday night, when Antti Niemi showed once again that he's at his best when his team needs him the most. p.intro .firstletter { font-size : 200%; font-weight : bold; float : left; color : #c00; }p.intro .firstletter { font-size : 200%; font-weight : bold; float : left; color : #c00; p.intro .firstletter 1  Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks: It's fitting that a goaltender comes away with first-star honors in the deciding game of the series, given how important each goalie was to his team in the first six games. Niemi stopped 38 shots, including 16 in a second period dominated by Detroit, to lead the Sharks to their second straight Conference Finals appearance. 2  Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks: Couture tallied his sixth goal of the playoffs in the first period to keep his goal streak alive at four games. Since 1999, the only other rookie to have a goal-scoring streak of at least four games is Nicklas Backstrom for the 2008 Washington Capitals. Not bad company to keep. 3  Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings: Datsyuk was the Wings' best player again, scoring a goal and firing off a game-high eight shots. His goal gave Datsyuk four for the playoffs, and 15 points in 11 games. Play of the Night Datsyuk releases this sick backhand goal to cut the Sharks' lead to one late in the game: Save of the Night Jimmy Howard manages to take a Dany Heatley shot, save it with his blocker, then snag the puck, all in one movement. Pretty impressive: Photo by Getty Images
Blake Benzel | News/Features | Friday, 13 May 2011 08:46 | Print | PDF
In the wake of tragedy Friday night, it was easy to forget that there was a hockey game to play on Saturday. The Lightning didn't forget: They came out flying against the Boston Bruins to the tune of a 5-2 victory. p.intro .firstletter { font-size : 200%; font-weight : bold; float : left; color : #c00; }p.intro .firstletter { font-size : 200%; font-weight : bold; float : left; color : #c00; p.intro .firstletter 1  Dwayne Roloson, Tampa Bay Lightning: Roli made 31 saves, including 11 in the first period and 12 in the third, to lead the Lightning to their eighth straight playoff win. He rarely had to be acrobatic on Saturday, which was a testament to how "on" he actually was. 2  Tyler Seguin, Boston Bruins: In the absence of Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins needed Tyler Seguin to step up his game – and he did, with a goal and an assist, an even-0 rating and three shots on goal in just 9:38 of ice time. Seguin may have room to earn more trust from Claude Julien, but Saturday's performance may have helped. 3  Brett Clark, Tampa Bay Lightning: Clark tallied a goal and an assist, his first two points of the playoffs, to lead an impressive scoring charge that saw the Bolts rally off three straight goals in the first period, and two unanswered goals in the third. Play of the Night Seguin makes a move that leaves Mike Lundin lying on the ice (and Maple Leaf fans dreaming): Hit of the Night Everyone loves a good hip check. I'm guessing, though, that Steven Stamkos likes a good hip check a bit less after this one by Johnny Boychuk: Remembering Derek Boogaard I'm still at a loss for words, as the hockey world lost one of its truly great people on Friday. In the absence of words, however, here is a short look at one of the most feared fighters ever to play the game and one of the nicest people you'll ever meet: Photo by Getty Images
Blake Benzel | News/Features | Saturday, 14 May 2011 23:55 | Print | PDF
Vancouver 3, San Jose 2 (Canucks lead series 1-0) History can change quickly. At least, that's what the NHL Playoff TV spot should say after this one. In just 79 seconds, Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals turned from one that Antti Niemi was in the process of stealing for the San Jose Sharks and into one that saw the Vancouver Canucks get the first victory in their third straight series in these playoffs. Kevin Bieksa scored on a seemingly harmless wrist shot from the right faceoff circle and Henrik Sedin made the Sharks pay for an untimely elbowing penalty by Dany Heatley, beating Niemi with a nifty backhand move to give the Canucks their first lead of the game – one they wouldn't relinquish. Despite the outburst by the Canucks, it was a game dominated by Niemi, who made 35 saves, including 24 in the first 40 minutes of the game. Were it not for his brilliant performance the Sharks could have been looking at a tie game or worse heading into the third period. Maxim Lapierre took advantage of a strong Vancouver forecheck for his first goal of the playoffs and Vancouver's first of the game. The Sharks, despite not having the same number of chances as Vancouver, were opportunistic in their scoring. Joe Thornton tallied his third goal of the postseason off of an ill-timed turnover by Roberto Luongo and Patrick Marleau tipping in a Dan Boyle shot from the point on the power play to give San Jose the lead heading into the third. Luongo got his ninth victory of the playoffs, and his eighth in which he has given up two goals or less with his 27-save performance. Game 2: at Vancouver, Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET (Versus, CBC, RDS)
Blake Benzel | News/Latest Headlines | Monday, 16 May 2011 00:20 | Print | PDF
Momentum can change in the blink of an eye – or in 79 seconds, as the Canucks showed on Sunday night. Vancouver took advantage of a couple small errors on the part of the San Jose Sharks to steal the lead from under their fingers. The Sharks gave away another third-period lead, squandering great games from Antti Niemi and Joe Thornton. p.intro .firstletter { font-size : 200%; font-weight : bold; float : left; color : #c00; }p.intro .firstletter { font-size : 200%; font-weight : bold; float : left; color : #c00; p.intro .firstletter 1  Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks: Henrik tallied an assist on Kevin Bieksa's game-tying goal, then added the game-winner just 79 seconds later to cap the Canucks' third-period comeback. The goal was just Henrik's second of the playoffs and he now has two goals and six points in his last four games. 2  Kevin Bieksa, Vancouver Canucks: Bieksa tied the game on his second goal of the playoffs, on what seemed to be a harmless little wrist shot from the right face off dot to start the Canucks' rally. The goal broke a five-game pointless streak for the defenseman. 3  Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks: Niemi made 35 stops and, despite the loss, was a game-changer for the Sharks. Of his 35 saves, 24 were made in the first 40 minutes of the game, including a series of spectacular pad saves late in the second to keep the Sharks on top. Play of the Night It may have only been Henrik's second of the playoffs, but it was a memorable second, at that: Save of the Night Niemi had to be good many times on Sunday night, but none more so than late in the second period: Hit of the Night There is nothing better than an open-ice hit. Allow Chris Higgins to demonstrate: Photo by Getty Images
Blake Benzel | News/Features | Monday, 16 May 2011 00:43 | Print | PDF
Tyler Seguin may have been the second pick in this season's Entry Draft, but he's proving now that he's Seguin to none. (See what I did there?) The 19-year-old rookie now has six points in two games – that's one point than Boston's leading scorer in the regular season, Milan Lucic. p.intro .firstletter { font-size : 200%; font-weight : bold; float : left; color : #c00; }p.intro .firstletter { font-size : 200%; font-weight : bold; float : left; color : #c00; p.intro .firstletter 1  Tyler Seguin, Boston Bruins: The question of the playoffs is quickly becoming, why weren't the Bruins playing Seguin earlier? His two goals sparked a five-goal outburst in the second by the Bruins, but he was the most dominant player for Boston the entire game. With his four-point effort on Tuesday, Seguin now has six points in two games during these playoffs. 2  Michael Ryder, Boston Bruins: Ryder scored two goals less than four minutes apart to help the Bruins build a 6-3 lead heading into the third period. His goals were flashy and his outlet pass to Seguin completely changed the momentum of the game early in the second period. 3  Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning: Lecavalier continued his tremendous playoffs with a four-point effort, tallying a power-play goal in the second period and assisting on three others, including Dominic Moore's in the third period to pull the Bolts within one. Play of the Night David Krejci starts and finishes this beautiful give-and-go by tapping the puck in from the doorstep: Save of the Night Tim Thomas stretches and makes this beautiful pad save to preserve Boston's two-goal lead: Photo by Getty Images
Blake Benzel | News/Features | Wednesday, 18 May 2011 10:17 | Print | PDF

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