NHL playoffs remain a guessing game

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:56 AM ET

No lead is safe in these playoffs.

Friday night it was the Philadelphia Flyers who came storming back from a 3-0 deficit to force OT in a pivotal 4-3 loss in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against the Buffalo Sabres at the Wells Fargo Center.

Yes, we have seen this before. A lot in the last week actually. The Sharks came back from being down 4-0 to the Kings for a 6-5 OT win in Game 5. The Caps were behind 3-0 and scored a 4-3 OT victory in Game 4.

Then, there was the Boston Bruins erasing two-goal Montreal lead for a 5-4 OT win in Game 4 at the Bell Centre Thursday and making a third period comeback. The trend developing here: Teams shouldn’t play carefully.

“The tendency is to sit back when you’re leading,” said former Oilers’ coach Craig MacTavish on TSN. “You spend a lot of time in your own end and bad things happen when you spend time in your own end.”

Former Carolina defenceman Aaron Ward noted the Flyers came back because they pulled a struggling Brian Boucher and replacing him with Michael Leighton, who hadn’t played an NHL game since Dec. 30th.

“When your goalie doesn’t come to play your team can feel it,” said Ward on TSN. “It’s easy to hide a deficiency in the lineup when the goalie is on his game but it doesn’t work the other way.”

AROUND THE BOARDS

The Ducks got RW Bobby Ryan back from his two-game suspension Friday vs. the Preds and what a return. He scored an incredible goal after a bad turnover by Nashville’s David Legwand. Ryan made two huge moves and beat Pekka Rinne with a backhander to give the Ducks a 2-1 lead only 40 seconds into the third. It will be replayed everywhere ... So if the Preds needed anymore evidence they have to keep RFA D Shea Weber they may have gotten it when he scored through a crowd at 19:24 of the third to send this game to OT ... The Predators scored their first OT win in team history when Jerred Smithson scored at 1:57. Nashville can advance to the second round for the first time in franchise history with a victory in Game 6.

OFF THE GLASS

What’s next for the Flyers in Game 6? Boucher got pulled, Leighton gave up the OT winner to Ennis and Sergei Bobrovksy hasn’t dressed since he gave up three goals on seven shots in Game 2. Coach Peter Laviolette has a huge decision to make with the season on the line ... The Penguins can send the Lightning packing with a victory Saturday in Pittsburgh. Many are wondering how a team riddled with injuries is beating a Tampa team picked by many to be the favorites. “It’s just been unreal,” CBC color analyst Greg Millen told Snapshots. “They’re so well coached, they all work the same and they all compete extremely hard. Everybody thought the skill would take over. That’s not the case right now.” There is only one player in the playoffs with a four-game point streak: Pittsburgh fourth-liner Aaron Asham. Not sure anybody has Asham in their hockey pools ... Former Senators G Ray Emery is writing quite a comeback story. He joined the Ducks late in the season on a tryout after recovering from hip surgery and has emerged as the No. 1.

THIS N’ THAT

Buffalo G Ryan Miller has made 154 saves on 165 shots in the series against the Flyers, including two shutouts ... The Bruins are the only team in the playoffs without a power play goal. They haven’t taken advantage of any of the 12 opportunities they’ve had. The Penguins aren’t much better, they’re just 1-for-18 along with N.Y. Rangers. The Phoenix Coyotes, who had six goals in four games vs. Detroit, were tied with the Anaheim Ducks Friday for the most PPG’s in the playoffs. A lot of good it did Phoenix ... Pekka Rinne, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy with Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo and Boston’s Tim Thomas, was pulled in the club’s loss to the Ducks in Game 4 after allowing six goals. Well, Rinne looked pretty good in the second period in Game 5 when he absolutely robbed Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan alone in front of the net.

THE LAST WORD

There was no surprise in the NHL’s decision to give Boston D Andrew Ference the maximum fine of $2,500 for his one-fingered salute to the good people of Montreal Thursday. “This was an act by a hockey player who should know better than this,” said former Tampa coach Steve Ludzik on TSN’s Off The Record ... Keep an eye on the Caps: With a 3-1 stranglehold, they can close out the Rangers Saturday at home in Game 5. Washington does not want to let New York back in. The Caps allowed the Habs to come back from a 3-1 deficit last spring and Washington doesn’t want repeat history ... Philly C Daniel Briere has 91 points in 91 playoff games. That’s consistency.


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