Thomas, Stamkos, Ovechkin comprise Saturday's Three Stars
1. Tim Thomas, Bruins: Thomas made 44 saves, while teammates Michael Ryder and Zdeno Chara made one each. If the Bruins ever need an emergency goalie, Ryder's sliding-glove save on Tomas Plekanec in the first period was Exhibit A-Z in the case for him.
So, yes, Thomas got some fortunate help in Boston's 2-1 double-overtime victory over Montreal in Saturday's Game 5. He was still the best player for the winning team. Thomas' sliding, stack-the-pads save on Brian Gionta in the second OT was the semi-miracle his flagging teammates seemed to need to get back into it. While the Bruins actually outshot Montreal in the overtimes (19-15), the Habs seemed to carry the play territorially and have the better chances. None was better than Gionta's one-timer on a 2-on-1 break, but Thomas read the play perfectly. The buoyed Bruins finally got a second wind after that, with Nathan Horton ending it at 9:03.
Thomas is at his best when challenging the shooter, and that's what he did all night against the Habs. Carey Price (49 saves) wasn't half-bad at the other end either, but the degree of difficulty on the stops didn't quite match up to Thomas' assignments. That's why he's a Vezina finalist and prohibitive favorite to win it for the second time in three years.
2. Steven Stamkos, Lightning: The elephant in the room entering Game 5 of was the giant goose egg in Stamkos' goal count. No goals, one assist through four games was his anemic showing; but that all changed Saturday on enemy ice. Stamkos scored twice and assisted on another in the Lightning's shockingly easy win over Pittsburgh.
Stamkos had only scored once in his previous 10 games, primarily because he stopped going to the net and fighting for pucks. On Saturday though, Stamkos turned on his GPS and found the tough areas around the net in which a large area of playoff goals are scored.
The Lightning can only hope this wasn't just a one-shot deal, that Stamkos won't be sated by one good game and comes out even hungrier in another desperation game for Tampa Bay -- Game 6 on Monday night.
3. Alex Ovechkin, Capitals: Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist isn't reduced to flailing around the crease very often, but Ovechkin on a breakaway will make that happen even to a King.
It was a truly clutch performance in a close-out game from Ovechkin, something that was lacking last season in the first round of the playoffs. His backhand, top-shelf goal on Lundqvist -- after breaking in alone around the right end -- signaled to the Rangers that he and the Capitals wouldn't be satisfied with just a one-goal lead in a big game.
It was a flashy goal, but Ovechkin has helped make his team better by putting aside some of the flash for just good, old 100-watt playoff efficiency. He's sacrificed some of his freelancing offensive ways for the more button-down style that coach Bruce Boudreau determined was needed if Washington was to be a better playoff team. What a coincidence -- the Caps are in the second round now, and Ovechkin is still getting his points (six this postseason).
Honorable Mention: How can one totally ignore the brilliance of Kings goalie Jonathan Quick ... and his 51 saves in L.A.'s season-saving victory against San Jose?