NHL

Cullen: Overtime the order of the day

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Scott Cullen
4/13/2012 1:25:55 AM
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The Rangers looked like a top seed, the Bruins needed OT to beat Braden Holtby and Martin Havlat and Martin Hanzal were OT heroes.

Scott Cullen looks at four more Game Ones in the NHL playoffs.

AS GOOD AS ADVERTISED
Even though the Ottawa Senators had moments when they carried the play and created chances, outshooting the New York Rangers 32-31, the Rangers weren't seriously threatened, building a 4-0 lead before the Senators scored a couple of goals in the second half of the third period to make the score respectable.

Not surprisingly, Henrik Lundqvist was a rock in goal for the Rangers, stopping 30 of 32 shots for the win. If the Senators are going to pull off the upset, they're going to need G Craig Anderson to at least match Lundqvist because that is the position that stands out as the clearest advantage for the Rangers.

Consider, if the Senators had a goaltender with Lundqvist's .930 save percentage in place of Anderson (and his .914 SV%), then Ottawa would have allowed 134 goals against on the 1917 shots that Anderson faced, compared to the 165 goals that Anderson actually allowed. So that's a 31-goal difference and the Rangers finished the year with a plus-39 goal differential as Ottawa finished at plus-9, a 30-goal difference. So, yes, the rest of the roster is relatively even, but the Rangers hold the goaltending edge.

Senators rookie D Jared Cowen took a minus-3 in his first NHL playoff game. Daniel Alfredsson and Kyle Turris were both minus-3 before factoring into third period goals, so then each ended at minus-2 for Ottawa.

Anton Stralman led the Rangers with a plus-3 rating. The first time since Boxing Day that he finished better than plus-1 in a game.

Rangers C Brad Richards had six shots on goal, tying his season-high, a total that he reached three times in 2011-2012.

HAVLAT THE OT HERO
Martin Havlat ended the first double-overtime game of this year's playoffs with his second goal of the game, giving San Jose a valuable road win to start the series against St. Louis.

Havlat, who missed more than half the season with a hamstring injury, had 28 points in his last 26 playoff games before this postseason, so his immediate postseason production is a welcome upgrade on what the Sharks received from Dany Heatley last year (3 G, 6 A, 18 GP)

St. Louis played their typically stifling defence, limiting the Sharks to 31 shots in more than 83 minutes (the Blues allowed a league-low 26.7 shots per game this season).

Patrik Berglund notched both goals for the Blues, while D Kevin Shattenkirk led all players with 11 shots on goal. Through two NHL seasons, Shattenkirk's previous high for shots in a game was eight and that was the only time that he's had more than five shots on goal in a game, so Game One was a shooting outburst.

GOALS AT A PREMIUM
Boston dominated the territorial play, outshooting Washington 26-7 through the first two periods, but Capitals G Braden Holtby stopped 29 shots to force the scoreless game to overtime.

Unfortunately, for Holtby and the Caps, the Bruins' first shot in OT was on the mark, a slapper from checking C Chris Kelly off the far post and in, giving Boston the 1-0 win in Game One.

Kelly was sent in the clear down the left side by linemates Brian Rolston and Benoit Pouliot, a surprisingly effective duo down the stretch that combined to score 29 points in 38 games since the beginning of March. Getting that third-line offence has the chance to be an advantage for the Bruins and it worked in their favour again in the Game One win.

After their early dominance, the Bruins lost momentum and, after 26 shots through two, hadn't recorded a shot on goal midway through the third, but Tim Thomas was up to the task when the puck finally made it to Boston's end, turning aside all 17 shots he faced for the shutout.

Capitals LW Alexander Ovechkin led all players with seven hits, but played a modest 17:34, registering just one shot on goal. Considering the Capitals couldn't get on the scoreboard, that ice time seems low for their leading scorer, even if he played a career-low 19:48 per game this season after averaging at least 21 minutes per game in each of his first six seasons.

HANZAL A FORCE FOR PHOENIX
Martin Hanzal scored the game-winning goal in overtime for the Coyotes, giving them a 3-2 win in front of the White Out in Glendale. Hanzal established position in front of the Chicago net, overpowering Blackhawks D Nick Leddy, and tipped in a point shot from Adrian Aucoin to end the third overtime game of the night. Hanzal made his presence felt throughout the game, leading the Coyotes with six shots on goal and eight hits.

It's no surprise that the Coyotes will need Mike Smith to play well if they are going to take down the Blackhawks and Smith stopped 43 of 45 shots in the series opener.

Blackhawks D Brent Seabrook scored the tying goal with 14.2 seconds left. Seabrook has been a terrific playoff performer -- over the last three playoffs, he's tied (with Kris Letang) for eighth among defencemen with 24 total points -- and led the Blackhawks in Game One with seven shots on goal and 31:10 of ice time.

In his first game in seven weeks, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews registered a goal and an assist and was plus-2, playing 21:27 in the first three periods.

LW Taylor Pyatt scored the Coyotes' first goal. He also scored a pair of goals in the regular season finale so, not unlike Hanzal surprisingly getting on the board, this is sudden production from a player that had managed one goal in 28 games prior to the last game of the regular season.

Coyotes RW Radim Vrbata suffered an upper body injury early in the first period on a hit by Blackhawks rookie winger Andrew Shaw. Vrbata's absence could be significant for the Coyotes, as he led the team with 35 goals during the regular season. With Vrbata out, Mikkel Boedker moved up the depth chart to play with Martin Hanzal and Ray Whitney.

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.

Martin Havlat (Photo: Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)
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