Friday's Three Stars
1. Claude Giroux, Flyers -- In my 17 years of covering this league, this was the best playoff performance I've personally seen by a forward. When you start mentioning the names Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, you know it was a pantheon performance, and it sure was for the Flyers' center Friday in Game 2 at Pittsburgh Friday night.
It's tempting to just want to label this game as one of those wacky nights (according to the statkeepers at NBC and TSN, this was the first game in NHL history where exactly 13 goals were scored in a game on a Friday the 13th). But let there be no doubt: it was pure sublime skill that accounted for the Flyers' two-point-conversion night on the banks of the Allegheny. Giroux posted six points in the 8-5 win (three goals, three assists). He had 10 shots on goal. While it was fashionable for some pundits to want to bash the Pens' defense and goaltending (and, yeah, Marc-Andre Fleury was terrible on Jaromir Jagr's tie-breaking goal that made it 6-5 in the third), they are missing the boat on this: Giroux gave one of the greatest performances in NHL playoff history Friday. Only Gretzky, Lemieux and Patrik Sundstrom can say they've scored more points in a playoff game.
2. Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings -- A hat trick in a 4-2 playoff win?
Normally, that would get the No. 1 star here, in a saint's whisper.
See above as to why Brown has to settle for No. 2, but let that take nothing away from another night for the ages. Two of the three Kings' captain's goals came short-handed, and he became the 12th player in NHL history to do that -- with John Madden doing it most recently, for New Jersey in 2006.
Brown is one of the most hated players in the league, mostly for his hitting and agitating prowess. But he is a hockey player too, a guy who puts pucks in nets when his team really needs it. Other teams hate him, but teammates love him. That's why he wears the C on his left shoulder.
Note: When Friday Three Stars went to press, Brown had the hat trick on the scorer's sheet, but one of his goals probably will be given to Jarret Stoll. Doesn't matter -- he still deserves this spot.
3. Sean Couturier, Flyers -- The Flyers rookie completes the three-star hat trick crew for this night.
Couturier's biggest goal of the three, both for him and his team, came just before the horn in the second period. A 4-4 game entering the third period of a playoff game is much better than a 4-3 deficit.
The eighth overall pick for the Flyers in last year's draft, "Coots" had only the third hat trick by a rookie in team history. (And by the way, can we officially label the Columbus Blue Jackets' trade of their first-round pick -- which turned out to be Couturier -- and Jakub Voracek for Jeff Carter as one of the worst in NHL history? I think so).
Couturier, Giroux and Voracek are going to be good for a long time to come in Philly.
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