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THN.com Playoff Blog: Support players come up big; and Avery agitates again

Owen Nolan notched his first goal of this post-season at the right time for Calgary on Sunday. (Photo by Mike Ridewood/Getty Images)

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Owen Nolan notched his first goal of this post-season at the right time for Calgary on Sunday. (Photo by Mike Ridewood/Getty Images)

The three best players in the Calgary Flames amazing comeback victory were not named Iginla, Phaneuf and Kiprusoff.

They were called Sarich, Joseph and Nolan.

After falling behind 3-0 at 3:33 of the first period, the Flames replaced Kiprusoff with Joseph. Shortly afterwards, Sarich delivered a crushing blow to San Jose captain Patrick Marleau – the shot that was heard around the rink, if you will. The big hit seemed to energize the shell-shocked Flames.

Then, in the dying moments of the game, Nolan scored the game-winner on a well-placed shot that handcuffed San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov. And suddenly, the underdog Flames have a 2-1 lead in the series.

Should we be surprised? Perhaps. Then again, the Sharks have a reputation for failing to deliver. Unquestionably the most alarming thing for the Sharks is the sudden disappearance of Joe Thornton. He was a ghost in Game 3, barely visible when the teams were playing 5-on-5.

Unless Big Joe kicks it into gear, the Sharks could be in trouble.

BLACK AND GOLDEN

There were probably many times this season when fans of the Boston Bruins wished they had center Brad Boyes back and defenseman Dennis Wideman still played for the Blues. But, with the game on the line and the Bruins doing their best to avoid an 11th straight loss to Montreal this season, Wideman made a brilliant pass to Marc Savard for the overtime winner.

Boston deserved this win. So did Bruins goalie Tim Thomas. The unorthodox stopper battled hard, just as he did in the first two games, and was finally rewarded with a victory.

Can the Bruins win the series? Uh, no. But they won’t go down without a fight.

SUPER-DUPER PEST

So much for home ice advantage. All the games in the Rangers-Devils subway series have gone to the visitors. On this night, aside from the Devils finally registering a win, the big news was Rangers pest Sean Avery getting in the face – literally – of Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.

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With the Rangers holding a two-man advantage, Avery stood faced toward Brodeur and waved his stick in the Devils’ goalie’s eyes. Didn’t touch him, mind you, but he was certainly a distraction.

Did Avery cross a line? Some think he did. It is one thing to screen a goalie, but to wave your stick in his face, doesn’t that constitute unsportsmanlike conduct?

If not, it should.   

THN.com's Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.

Mike Brophy, the co-author of the book Walking with Legends, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor on THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and his column, Double OT, appears Wednesday.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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