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Cullen: Unlikely Heroes for Tampa Bay and San Jose

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Scott Cullen
4/30/2011 8:17:13 AM
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Playoff heroics continue to come from unexpected places.  Friday night, it was Steve Downie continuing his hot streak for Tampa Bay, and seldom-used Benn Ferriero getting the overtime winner in San Jose.

WASHINGTON-TAMPA BAY
The Lightning attack was once again paced by Steve Downie, yes Steve Downie, who had a goal and an assist and a plus-2 rating, giving him a total of eight points and a plus-7 in the last four games.

Downie's tremendous production is even more impressive when considering how little he's actually playing.  In Game One against Washington, it was just 11:46, so now Tampa Bay's leading playoff scorer is averaging a mere 10:28 of ice time per game.

Not only is Downie giving the Lightning complementary scoring, but so too is Sean Bergenheim, who scored the game's first goal.  Bergenheim now has four goals and an assist during a five-game point streak.

It wasn't all muckers and grinders for the Lightning.  The winning goal came off the stick of Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier also chipped in a pair of assists.

The Lightning also lost a couple of players to injuries and will require further evaluation.  Left winger Simon Gagne left early in the game after hitting his head on the ice and defenceman Pavel Kubina left after getting his head banged against the glass behind the Tampa Bay net.  Both have played significant roles, so if they are to miss time, it will affect the Lightning lineup.

Just as importantly, on the other side, Washington's John Carlson is considered day-to-day with a lower body injury.  Carlson was limited to 14:39 Friday night because of the injury, but entering the series, he was one second per game behind team leader Scott Hannan, who had averaged 25:11 per game.

Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth starred in Round One, posting a .946 save percentage, but was not as sharp (or lucky -- there was a lot of goal-mouth scramble action on Tampa Bay's goals) in this game. 

Alexander Ovechkin was limited to two shots in 22:38 of ice time, while Nicklas Backstrom did record five shots.  While holding Backstrom off the scoresheet seems to be getting easier by the game (he has one assist in six playoff games this season), credit should go to veteran defencemen Eric Brewer and Mattias Ohlund, who matched up against Ovechkin and Backstrom the most at even strength.

It wasn't the prettiest game, but it was just what the Lightning needed to start the series off right and steal home-ice advantage.

SAN JOSE-DETROIT
Seated comfortably in the press box (or in the AHL; he had played one NHL game since February 5 before Friday night), Benn Ferriero scored at 7:03 of overtime to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead in the series.

Ferriero played just 5:33 for the entire game -- only Ben Eager played less among the 36 skaters involved -- but emerged as the difference-maker in Game One.

Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard stood tall in goal for Detroit, stopping 44 of 46 Sharks shots and both San Jose goals were of the unusual variety. 

Ferriero's winner deflected off defenceman Brad Stuart's stick on the way to the net while Joe Pavelski spoiled Howard's shutout bid midway through the third period, showing excellent hand-eye coordination to bat a rebound out of mid-air to tie the game.

Only once this season did Howard register more than 44 saves in a game; he stopped 45 Rangers shots in an early February win.

Detroit's Johan Franzen had no shots on goal in 15:32 of ice time.

In Henrik Zetterberg's first game of the postseason, he played 19:36 and was plus-1.

San Jose's Patrick Marleau logged 26:51 to lead all forwards, a total he surpassed twice all season, yet managed just one shot on goal and was minus-1.

The win moved the Sharks to 4-0 in overtime in this year's playoffs.  Considering they've won five games total, they're pulling quite the highwire act, one that's not likely to continue. 

Even if the 1993 Montreal Canadiens (winners of 10 overtime games on their way to the Cup) disagree, probability does not side with winning game after game in sudden-death overtime.  Those Habs were the exception that proves the rule.

In any case, the Sharks rallied for a much-needed opening win and nearly outshot the Wings by a 2:1 margin, finishing 46-25 for the game.

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.

Steve Downie (Photo: Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
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