May 23, 2009
No. 1 star, Patrick Sharp(notes), Chicago Blackhawks:
With any realistic hope of rebounding in the best-of-seven Western Conference final resting on the Blackhawks' ability to score in overtime on Friday, Patrick Sharp took it upon himself to save Chicago's season. He flooded the weak side to bang home the Game 3 winner 1:52 into sudden victory on a night the hosts let a 3-0 lead slip away in the blink of an eye. In addition to scoring his first career playoff overtime goal, Sharp had the game's first as well – a power-play goal 8:45 into the opening period.
No. 2 star, Cristobal Huet(notes), Chicago Blackhawks:
What a time to get first his work in the crease since April 11. Huet was summoned to step into Game 3 at the outset of the third period for starter Nikolai Khabibulin(notes), who surrendered three quick goals at the end of the second to turn a 3-0 Chicago lead into a tie game. Huet didn't face a lot of shots – just six in the third period and none in the almost-two minutes of OT – but any one of them would have essentially ended Chicago's season if a puck slipped past Huet.
No. 3 star, Brad Stuart(notes), Detroit Red Wings:
After Niklas Kronwall(notes) was ejected just past the midway point of the first period, Detroit was looking for extra minutes from its defense, and Stuart stepped up to provide the most in terms of quantity and quality. Stuart was the only Red Wing defender to finish on the plus side of the plus-minus, and he logged a game-high 28:39 of ice time.
Major penalty: Just when his team needed him most, starting goalie Nikolai Khabibulin came up with what is being termed a lower-body injury. How convenient, considering he helped blow a 3-0 lead at home in the span of just 4:23 late in the second period. Khabibulin not only couldn't play in the third, but surrendered the back-up's seat to rookie Corey Crawford(notes), basically only with the team to provide a practice goalie.
Minor penalty: We'll give mucho credit to the Red Wings rallying from three goals down to make Friday night's game a game. But look at this crazy stat – Detroit is 0-93 all-time in playoff games in which it trailed by as many as three goals. You'd think the Wings could pull off the improbable comeback just once with that many tries, wouldn't you?
Conn Smythe Watch: (The Top 10) 1. Johan Franzen(notes), Red Wings; 2. Sidney Crosby(notes), Penguins; 3. Henrik Zetterberg(notes), Red Wings; 4. Evgeni Malkin(notes), Penguins; 5. Chris Osgood(notes), Red Wings; 6. Cam Ward(notes), Hurricanes; 7. Marc-Andre Fleury(notes), Penguins; 8. Jonathan Toews(notes), Blackhawks; 9. Eric Staal(notes), Hurricanes; 10. Patrick Sharp, Blackhawks.