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Cullen: Ennis, Smithson OT heroes

Scott Cullen
4/23/2011 1:41:02 AM
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Overtime was needed for both of Friday's games, and the Sabres and Predators won't complain about the results.

PHILADELPHIA-BUFFALO
Sabres rookie Tyler Ennis scored a pair of goals, including the OT winner and played 18:27, a total that he surpassed once in the last three months.  With Buffalo losing Jason Pominville to what appeared to be a laceration on his leg, Ennis will be counted on even more going forward.

After the Sabres built up a 3-0 lead on some questionable -- okay, awful -- goals against Flyers goaltender Brian Boucher, the tide turned once the Flyers turned to Michael Leighton in net.

It's not as though Leighton had to be terrific, as the Flyers climbed back into the game outshooting the Sabres 15-5 in the second period, but the momentum turned in favour of Philadelphia after the goaltending change. 

Leighton, who led the Flyers to the Stanley Cup final last year, played in one regular season game for Philadelphia this season as he recovered from back surgery and then was stuck in the American Hockey League. 

To his credit, Leighton played well in the AHL, posting a .926 save percentage in 30 games; is it possible that he would be Philadelphia's starter in Game Six?

My love affair with Marc-Andre Gragnani continues, as he scored a goal, giving him five points in five games in the series.  It's nice to get contributions from unusual sources during a playoff run, but Gragnani isn't just contributing, he's the Sabres' leading scorer.

Buffalo's regular-season leading scorer, Thomas Vanek, played just 13:47 in regulation, tied Drew Stafford for the Sabres' lead with five shots on goal and scored once.

Flyers defenceman Andrej Meszaros contributed a goal and an assist, while leading all skaters with 28:40 of ice time.

Philadelphia didn't have a lot of faith in those at the bottom of the lineup, as minor-league havoc-wreaker Zac Rinaldo played a grand total of 1:56 and defenceman Danny Syvret saw the ice for just 2:59.

Philadelphia, missing Jeff Carter and Chris Pronger, now heads to Buffalo hoping to avoid elimination in Game Six.  To have some chance, they'll need to guess right on which goaltender will give them a fighting chance against Ryan Miller, who stopped 36 of 39 Flyers shots Friday.
 
ANAHEIM-NASHVILLE
Checking forward Jerred Smithson, who has 35 goals in 474 career regular season games and one in 24 previous postseason contests, scored the OT winner for the Predators; an unlikely hero.

It might seem equally unlikely that Jordin Tootoo would be the offensive creator responsible for setting up the winning goal, but it should be noted that Tootoo finished the regular season on a bit of a roll, with seven points in the last seven games - a different dimension to his game, to be sure.

The overtime heroics were made possible by a tying goal from Predators defenceman Shea Weber on a snapshot from the point through a screen to tie the game with 35.3 seconds left in regulation time, a fitting result in some ways because the Predators outshot the Ducks 19-9 in the third period and overtime.

Losing wasted a couple of big efforts for the Ducks.  Jason Blake scored a pair of goals, rather efficient production in his 12:05 of ice time.

Also, Ducks winger Bobby Ryan scored the goal of the playoffs, twice beating Predators centre David Legwand, who had lost his stick, before finishing with a backhand deke on Pekka Rinne.  It will be on highlight reels for years to come but, ultimately, isn't so rewarding when it comes in a losing effort.

Predators winger Joel Ward scored his third goal of the series, shortly after Ryan's performance, and played 20:48 Friday, a total he surpassed twice all season.

For the first time in franchise history, the Predators won a Game Five and now return home looking to eliminate the Ducks from the postseason.  It won't be easy but, as Jimmy Dugan opined in A League of Their Own, the hard is what makes it great. 

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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