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Stanley Cup Playoffs: Night 11

I figured I'd get a jump start on this since the Penguins stormed back this afternoon to beat the Flyers.

I'll also plead the 5th to the charge of not watching the entire game, including most of the Pittsburgh comeback. Look, I try to fit as much hockey watching as I can into my weekend when work doesn't interfere.

But include a crucial Mavs-Spurs playoff game and Red Sox-Yankees game? That's where priorities come into play, my friends.

Still, I soaked up enough of the game, including the third period where the Pens took the lead for good and protected it until Sidney Crosby put it away.

G6: Penguins 5, Flyers 3 (PIT wins 4-2)

The way this one started, it was damn near a foregone conclusion that both teams would be making that cross state trip to the city with the Allegheny and Monogehilia converge to form the Ohio.

River, that is.

Instead, the Pens had a plan of their own to send the Flyers up that other well known tributary. And without any means of propulsion to boot.

Rewinding, the Flyers took less than 7:30 of game time to open up a 3-0 lead with goals from Mike Knuble, Joffrey Lupul, and Danny Briere. The first two came in the last 2:12 of the first period and the last coming 4:06 into the second.

15 seconds after that goal, Daniel Carcillo obliged Max Talbot's invitation to fight. And even though Carcillo probably won the fight, the Pens used that altercation as a wake up call and dominated from there on out, scoring just 14 seconds after the fight to cut the lead to 3-1.

Mark Eaton scored less than two minutes later to cut it to a one goal deficit, and then Sidney Crosby took advantage of a bungled glove save by Marty Biron and batted the puck out of mid air into the net to tie the game.

And it didn't take them long to take the lead. 2:19 in and a Sergei Gonchar blast went through Biron's five-hole and into the net. The Flyers had a few golden chances to tie the game in the third, but were either denied by Marc-Andre Fleury or the post.

And with 28 seconds left, Crosby put the orange clad Philly fans out their misery.

So for the second straight playoff season, it's the Pens who sent their cross state rivals packing. Which wasn't really a surprise.

Pittsburgh simply has more scoring depth than Philadelphia. It's something that can be overcome, to be sure. But you've got to have a better defense and better goaltending. Unfortunately for Philly, they also lost those battles to Pittsburgh when it really counted.

Hence, they're going home and the Pens are moving on.

G5: Hawks 5, Flames 1

For the third straight game, the Hawks got on the board first.

But unlike the previous two, they didn't allow Calgary to stem the tide by tying things up almost immediately thereafter.

No, after Brent Seabrook opened the scoring with his first of the playoffs, they added another from Patrick Sharp just 90 seconds later.

And then 19 seconds later, Kris Versteeg took advantage of some putrid defending and slightly better netminding by Miikka Kiprusoff to make it 3-0 and give the Blackhawks the record for the fastest three goals in Stanley Cup Playoff history (1:49).

And another thing, Calgary didn't get their first shot until after these events took place.

Yep, they were out of this one pretty much from the get go.

Even when Dustin Boyd gave them a little life by scoring early in the second to cut the deficit to 3-1, It took 3:29 for Andrew Ladd to restore that three goal lead. Cam Barker added another for good measure.

Calgary did have a sliver of a chance to get back in it when Troy Brouwer and Derek Boland took penalties 31 seconds apart to give the Flames a lengthy 5-on-3 advantage. But Chicago's penalty killers used a combination of blocked shots and clears to kill off both penalties, and the rest of the game went off without a hitch.

So if you were thinking that Calgary's wins in Game 3 and 4 would create a tidal wave of momentum blowing into the Windy City, well...let's just say I'm not really a big believer in game to game momentum in hockey series.

And because of that belief, it would not shock me if the Flames go back home, spank the Hawks, and set us all up for a Game 7, the likes of which haven't been seen in Chitown since 1995.

G5: Sharks 3, Ducks 2 in OT (ANA leads 3-2)

The fact this one even got to OT is a testament to how Jonas Hiller played in this series. Which makes the goal he gave up to Patrick Marleau in OT all that more of a shame.

Still, I think San Jose earned this one by virtue of their play in the first 40 minutes. Going back to what I mentioned at the top, the Sharks put so much pressure on the Ducks that they could easily been up 3-0 or 4-0 if not for the netminding of the aforementioned native of Switzerland. Of particular note:

  • On the Sharks' first power play of the game, the Ducks defense completely forgot about Christian Ehrhoff pinching down from his point position, Ryane Clowe found him, and Hiller slid across and forced Ehrhoff to chip it over to Joe Pavelski and the pass never made it through.
  • Joe Thornton, who did score on a rebound to make it 1-0 in the first, could have bagged one earlier in the period had he been thinking shoot first instead of pass first. He came down the right wing and was given a shooting lane, but tried to pass it across and the play was broken up.

    I noticed it on Twitter and my good friend and former SBN Blogger, Jerry Wilson, noticed the same thing, too.

    @Gravypan Try watching it live! It was even worse.


  • And then in the second, Hiller came up with a glorious stop on a short handed breakaway by Milan Michalek. Later in the frame, he denied Torrey Mitchell on a rebound.

But he couldn't stop Devin Setoguchi's nifty shot late in the period thanks to a little on ice chess match between the two. Setoguchi took the puck around the net, turned around so he could be on his forehand. Problem is, Hiller had everything covered down low, so Setoguchi deked a up high to force Hiller to come off his left post a bit.

He didn't come off it much, but it was enough for Setoguchi to rip a wrister just off the ice and between Hiller's left pad and his glove to give San Jose a 2-0 lead going into the third.

The lead didn't last long, however. In the first minute of the third, Ehrhoff head manned a pass intended for Mike Grier, but the veteran grinder fell down through the neutral zone. Scott Niedermayer retrieved the puck, chipped it off the boards for Andrew Ebbett, who skated into the Sharks' zone, stopped, and backhanded a pass over to Ryan Carter who scored his first goal of the playoffs one what has to be considered a soft goal by Evgeni Nabokov.

A few minutes later, Niedermayer picked the puck up in his own zone, motored through the Sharks' defense before backhanding a pass over to a streaking Corey Perry, who roofed one over Nabakov to tie the score.

And considering how this series has gone for San Jose, I don't think anyone who was watching the game would have been shocked if the Ducks had potted another one in the frame and gone on to win. When you're facing elimination and you work so hard to get a 2-0 lead only to quickly surrender it, it can be deflating to say the least.

But give credit to San Jose. They held things together, didn't allow the third goal, got it to OT, and their captain used some grit to literally jam home the game winning goal.

So now a little bit of pressure gets shifted to Anaheim. They still have two cracks left at closing this series out. But you don't want to allow this to get back to a Game 7 in San Jose.

Which means I expect the Ducks to bring the heat early. And I'm looking at you, Evgeni Nabokov, to hold your team in it.

You certainly didn't do it in Game 4, and your play was responsible, in part, for your team blowing a 2-0 lead last night.

Do what you did in Dallas in Game 6 last year, and you'll give your team a very good shot. Do what you've done at many points in this series, and you'll be flying back to Northern California to hit the links.