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Cullen: Habs slip, Blackhawks rally, Sharks pull away

Scott Cullen
4/22/2011 9:02:14 AM
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The Habs let the Bruins off the hook, Duncan Keith is a beast and the Sharks finally assert control in their series with the Kings.

BOSTON-MONTREAL
For a game that had the feel of must-win for the Bruins, the Canadiens dominated early, outshooting Boston 29-12 when they took a 3-1 lead eight minutes into the second period but, following a timeout, momentum swung in Boston's direction, as they outshot Montreal 23-9 the rest of the way and outscored them 4-1.

Former Hab Michael Ryder turned out to be the difference maker for the Bruins, scoring a pair of goals, including the game-winner, adding an assist and a plus-2 rating, despite playing a modest 13:58. 

His linemate, centre Chris Kelly, also had a tremendous game, tallying three points and a plus-2 rating in just 12:12 of ice time.  Kelly had one three-point game all season, a hat trick in early December.  Ryder's only three-point game of the regular season also occurred in the first week of December.

For much of the game, Boston's best skater was once again Patrice Bergeron, who had a goal and an assist while recording seven shots on goal.  Bergeron had 19:46 of ice time, two-and-a-half minutes more than any other game in this series.

It finally seems that Bergeron is getting some of the ice that had been earmarked for the top line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton.  The Bruins' top line was shut down again, managing a total of five shots between them and losing the head-to-head battle with Montreal's top unit of Mike Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn, with Hal Gill and P.K. Subban getting the most matchup time as a defence pairing.

Playing 22:04, a total he bettered only four times all season, Cammalleri had three points and their line accumulated a dozen shots on Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas

Early series heroes Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta were both minus-3 for the Habs, coming up second-best in their matchup against Kelly, Ryder and Rich Peverley.

Boston defenceman Tomas Kaberle played just 15:01 (after 16:08 in Game Three).  Only once all season, prior to Game Three, did Kaberle play under 17 minutes in a game.

The series now goes back to Boston, tied 2-2, with the home team still winless in the series.  Midway through Game Four, it sure looked like Montreal was going to leave the Bruins in a big hole, but now the series has been re-set to a best-of-three.

CHICAGO-VANCOUVER
Duncan Keith has been a man possessed in the last two games that the Blackhawks have played without defenceman Brent Seabrook and Game Five's virtuoso performance was as good as any in the postseason. 

Keith scored two goals and two assists, netting a career-high four points and controlling play like few others in the league are capable.  He also tied a career-high, originally set last January at Vancouver, with eight shots on goal. 

It has been a down season for the reigning Norris Trophy winner, but if he can keep playing like he has in the last two games, with a fire that seems borne out of anger and frustration regarding the injury to frequent defence partner Brent Seabrook, then the Blackhawks will have a chance to make a miraculous comeback, after being down three games to none in the series.

What also makes Chicago dangerous is that they are gradually getting contributions from their big guns, players that they need to score.  Thursday night, it was Marian Hossa, with his first two goals of the series, getting on the board.

By racing to an early lead and then coasting the rest of the way, the Blackhawks were also afforded the opportuntiy to rest several forwards.  Patrick Kane (16:10), Hossa (14:02) and Patrick Sharp (14:15) all played less than they would typically.

With the outcome settled early, the Canucks also rested the Sedins, as Henrik (16:14) and Daniel (15:56) played fewer minutes.  In the last two games, the twins have but one point and a minus-8 rating between them, so the Canucks had better hope they are feeling refreshed for Game Six.

Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo was pulled after the Blackhawks took a 4-0 lead, but it's not like he was allowing a bunch of suspect goals.  Perhaps the first goal, by Hossa, could have been stopped, but he was allowed to skate right to the middle of the slot before unleashing a wrist shot. 

The Blackhawks are, once again, getting traffic in front of Luongo and if he can't see Keith's hammer from the point or it's getting deflected on the way in, it's difficult for any goaltender to stop the puck.  Canucks coach Alain Vigneault immediately insisted, after the game, that Luongo would start Game Six at Chicago. 

A series that was well in hand for the Canucks is now in doubt and they need a road win if they are going to avoid taking this series to the limit.  After being outscored 12-2 in the last two games, it's hard to grasp that Vancouver still has the lead in the series and just needs one win in the next two games to advance.

SAN JOSE-LOS ANGELES
The Sharks are starting to assert their power on the Kings, scoring goals in bunches Thursday on the way to a 6-3 win.

Power forward Ryane Clowe scored two goals for the second straight game to lead San Jose, while Logan Couture, Kyle Wellwood and Ian White all picked up a couple of points as well.

In a losing effort, Brad Richardson may have been the Kings' most dangerous forward, which probably says something about their talent level.  Richardson scored, for the second straight game, and led the Kings with five shots on net in 14:37 of ice time. 

On a night in which he allowed six goals on 27 shots, Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick was actually stellar early, making several spectacular stops.  In the end, it's not as if the goals were all his fault, the Kings' team defence let him down and the Sharks capitalized when the puck was around the Los Angeles net. 

The Sharks have faced a tougher test than they probably should have in this series, needing a pair of overtime wins to help them gain a 3-1 series lead, but it looks like they're now in good position, heading home, to finish off the Kings.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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