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Cullen: Kings in charge; Devils snatch OT win

Scott Cullen
5/4/2012 1:32:08 AM
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Ilya Kovalchuk and Alex Pietrangelo returned to their respective teams for Game Three, with different results.

Scott Cullen looks at the Devils' OT win and the Kings taking a commanding lead over the Blues.

KOVALCHUK IGNITES DEVILS
Alexei Ponikarovsky picked a good time to score his first goal of the playoffs, netting the winner in overtime as the New Jersey Devils edged the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3, taking a 2-1 series lead.

Ponikarovsky was sprung loose on the counter attack which led to his goal by a pass from Ilya Kovalchuk (in combination with a horrible Flyers line change).

Kovalchuk, who missed Game Two with a herniated disk in his back, was much more effective after a game off, putting up a goal and two assists to lead the Devils' attack. He now has nine points in nine playoff games.

Patrik Elias and Marek Zidlicky each contributed two points for the Devils.

Playoff assassin Danny Briere had two more points for the Flyers, including the tying goal midway through the third period, and now has 12 points in nine playoff games.

Rookie C Sean Couturier suffered a cut on his leg and left the game in the first period. If the gash is serious, that would be a big loss to the Flyers' lineup, since Couturier has been handling tough checking assignments throughout the postseason. With Couturier out, it's no surprise that two of the three Flyers forwards that played more than 26 minutes were centres Briere and Claude Giroux; the other was RW Wayne Simmonds.

The leader in ice time for the entire game was Devils D Bryce Salvador, who logged 31:43, and he matched up most often against Claude Giroux (www.timeonice.com), the Flyers' ace centre who was held off the scoresheet for the second straight game.

Though the win gives the Devils the lead in the series, they might want to exercise more discipline going forward, as the Flyers have 16 power plays compared to Devils' nine power plays through three games. Yes, New Jersey has killed 14 of the 16 man advantages, but that's a risky game to play.

BLUES ON THE BRINK
The St. Louis Blues are on the brink of elimination after the Los Angeles Kings took a 3-0 stranglehold on the series with a 4-2 win in L.A. Thursday.

Kings D Drew Doughty, who had two points in the first seven games of this year's playoffs, had a goal and two assists to lead the Kings' attack. Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards each added a pair of points for the Kings.

D Matt Greene, who had 15 points in 82 regular season games, recorded a point for the third straight game.

For a team in a desperate situation, the Blues didn't come out with the kind of urgency that might have been expected, managing only four shots in first period and a total of 20 in the game.

RW Chris Stewart, who has been a healthy scratch for the Blues, scored both St. Louis goals.

D Alex Pietrangelo returned to the St. Louis lineup, after missing Game Two with a lower body injury, and led all Blues with 26:34 of ice time.

Though neither team was creating a ton of chances, the Blues were undone by a mediocre performance in goal by Brian Elliott, who allowed four goals on 22 shots, not one of which would have been considered beyond his grasp.

As great as Elliott has been this year, he's now allowed nine goals in the last two games, his highest two-game total all year. Prior to Game Two, Elliott had allowed four goals in three of 43 appearances this season, and now he's done it in back-to-back games. With Jaroslav Halak on the shelf, the Blues simply couldn't afford to have a subpar game from Elliott, but that's what happened, leaving the Blues with a mountain to climb if they are going to make a highly unlikely comeback.

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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