Carkner, Niemi lead Thursday's three stars
Matt Carkner, Ottawa Senators: Everyone knows what to expect out of Carkner. He's the ultimate foot soldier, good for a couple hits, a couple blocks and a solid physical presence in his own zone. But, after scoring just twice in 82 games this season, even his own mom wouldn't have picked him to deliver a season-saving goal in triple overtime. Carkner's point blast at 47:06 of OT appeared to bounce off a Penguins' defender before slipping past Marc-Andre Fleury, sealing a 4-3 win for the Sens and scripting a happy ending to the longest game in franchise history.
Antti Niemi, Chicago Blackhawks: It's not often that the 'Hawks are outshot in a game (it happened just 14 times during the regular season), but Niemi was up to the challenge, turning aside all 33 Nashville shots for his second shutout of the series. He was especially sharp late in the first, making three big saves to help kill a two-man disadvantage while the Hawks clung to a 1-0 lead, but he made his biggest stop in the second, getting his toe in front of a Steve Sullivan breakaway bid to preserve Chicago's momentum.
Patrick Sharp, Chicago Blackhawks: Joel Quenneville made it clear after an embarrassing Game 3 loss that the 'Hawks needed more from their best players, including Sharp, a 25-goal scorer who had been blanked so far in the series. He responded to the challenge with a two-goal effort, powering Chicago to a 3-0 over the Nashville Predators that evened their first-round series at 2-2. Sharp scored ugly early, banging home a rebound on the power play to get the 'Hawks on the board at 10:57 of the first, then clinched the win with a nifty wrister late in the second.
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