Five things we learned Tuesday

April, 21, 2010

1. A couple of days after we noted that Jeff Carter was pitching a goose egg this spring, the big forward broke through with a two-goal, one-assist effort in Game 4 on Tuesday night to propel his Philadelphia Flyers to a commanding 3-1 series lead with a 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. Both his goals came on the power play. The news wasn't all good, though, as Carter and Simon Gagne both left the game early after blocking shots. It's unknown whether they will be ready for Game 5 on Thursday in New Jersey.

The Flyers have physically dominated the Devils in this series, even though the Devils entered the postseason with the second seed and looked to have a huge advantage in goal. Yet Philadelphia netminder Brian Boucher has faced down critics and outplayed Hall of Fame-bound netminder Martin Brodeur. The Devils are poised to lose in the first round of the playoffs for the third straight year. They have won just one playoff series when trailing 3-1; that came in 2000 when they rallied to beat Philly and went on to win the Stanley Cup. Although regular-season meetings rarely have anything to do with how a team fares in the postseason, the Flyers have owned the Devils this season, now winning eight of 10 meetings since October.

2. As of Wednesday morning, three teams had yet to score a power-play goal in the playoffs, but two of those teams led their respective series. Nashville beat heavily favored Chicago 4-1 on Tuesday night to open up a 2-1 series lead but is 0-for-12 with the man advantage. Washington is 0-for-14 in its series against Montreal but also leads 2-1 in the series heading into Wednesday's Game 4. The Capitals boasted the league's most dominant power play during the regular season but have not scored a power-play goal in their past five games dating back to the regular season (0-for-21). The third oh-fer team is the Buffalo Sabres, and they are having trouble scoring goals of any kind against the pesky Boston Bruins, whom they trail 2-1 heading into Game 4 on Wednesday.

3. So, is there really such a thing as the Marian Hossa jinx? If there is, it appears to be rearing its ugly head earlier this postseason than the previous two, when Hossa lost in back-to-back Stanley Cup finals with Pittsburgh and Detroit, respectively. Midway through the first round, Hossa and his Chicago Blackhawks are coming up dry offensively and trail Nashville 2-1. The Hawks have scored just four goals in the series, but during the regular season, they ranked third in the league in goals scored.

Hossa has yet to score and has just one assist. Same for captain Jonathan Toews. What must be even more frustrating to the Blackhawks is they trail a Nashville team that has been without its top goal scorer, Patric Hornqvist (upper-body injury), for the past two games.

4. Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard was justly praised for his work in net Tuesday, turning aside all 29 shots he faced in the Red Wings' 3-0 win over the Coyotes. But Detroit's penalty-killing unit also has been a key ingredient in getting the team back on even footing with hardworking Phoenix. The Wings gave up three power-play markers in Game 1 but have shut it down since. They've killed 13 straight penalties, including all six opportunities in Game 4. With the Wings holding a 1-0 lead in the third period Tuesday, they killed off back-to-back minors, including a brief time when the Coyotes had a five-on-three.

5. And finally, a little retribution for a good guy. San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle notched the first goal of Tuesday's game, a 2-1 overtime win that evened their series with Colorado at 2. Boyle, of course, famously ended Game 3 by snapping an attempted clearing shot past his own goalie, Evgeni Nabokov, early in overtime. It didn't take Boyle long to start down the road to redemption, as his power-play goal was 1:12 into Game 4. Still, he told reporters after the game that the own-goal nightmare won't be over until the Sharks win the series.

Apart from a 6-5 win in Game 2, the high-octane Sharks have struggled offensively. In the three other games, the Sharks have come up with just three goals. The Avs were without Milan Hejduk for Game 4 after he collided with teammate Paul Stastny in Game 3.

Scott Burnside

ESPN Senior Writer



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