NHLers working overtime -- and liking it

Vancouver Canucks left wing Alexandre Burrows celebrates his second period goal against the...

Vancouver Canucks left wing Alexandre Burrows celebrates his second period goal against the Nashville Predators during Game 2 of their NHL Western Conference semifinal hockey playoff in Vancouver, British Columbia April 30, 2011. (REUTERS/Andy Clark)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

NASHVILLE -- Of course, Alex Burrows pretended he was in Game 7 when playing hockey as a child.

Yes, the Vancouver Canucks forward imagined himself scoring the winning goal in overtime.

Still, you have to think actually living the dream, scoring the winner to knock off the Chicago Blackhawks to end the first round, was even a better feeling then he imagined it would be.

"Well, most of my Game 7s as a kid were the Stanley Cup final, never a Game 7 in the first round," Burrows said with a grin. "But I've had a lot of practice, played a lot of outdoor games or in the basement, thinking about scoring in Game 7 and throwing your gloves in the air and celebrating.

"It's nice to be able to do it."

If it seems these days almost every night a NHLer is reliving his youth by scoring a playoff overtime goal, that's because it's practically true.

Heading into Stanley Cup playoff action Tuesday night, 18 games had gone into overtime. That's just 10 off the league record of 28, set during the 1993 playoffs.

The recent pace is staggering.

Since April 19, at least one game has gone into overtime every night, except on April 28 -- when the opener of the Nashville Predators-Canucks series, which kicked off the second round, was the lone game.

Of the 34 games played starting April 19, 16 went beyond the 60-minute mark.

(Incredibly, there were only two overtime games during the first six nights of playoff action -- 23 games.)

"It's fun to be a part of," said Nashville's Jerred Smithson, who scored the winner in Game 5 of his team's first-round series with the Anaheim Ducks. "It's hard to explain, but there's no other place in the world I'd rather be than battling in that situation.

"It feels good to get out there and block a big shot, save a goal and it obviously feels good to score that goal."

Smithson, the 32-year-old third/fourth liner, had his moment in the sun when his second NHL playoff goal in his 25th post-season game was the difference-maker.

"It's still tough to put into words how it feels," Smithson said. "Every time I talk about it or think about it, it brings a smile to my face. It was such a relief.

"You don't want to get too emotional about it, because it's only one game, but it's such a great feeling. Every kid growing up thinks about it and talks about it, the celebrations -- it's something I thought about -- and it's nice to have finally felt it.

"Without a doubt, it feels even better than you thought it would. After the game, you get to think about it and it makes you want to get on the ice and do it again."

Of course, nobody wants to talk about what it's like to be on the losing end of an overtime game.

Or even the knots in the stomach it creates at the time.

"It's a great story as a fan," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "For the coach in me, it's pretty tough."

But there is a secret: Relish the moment.

"You want to rise to the challenge when it's a big game or the game's on the line," said Burrows, who also scored the OT winner to knock out the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the 2009 playoffs. "When I was younger and we'd get to OT, I'd be nervous, didn't want to be the goat or make a mistake."

Now he looks at it totally differently.

"I want to go out, play well and get the one shot on net."

How else can you expect to live the dream of scoring the winner in Game 7 to win the Cup?

"That would be the ultimate," Burrows said. "I'm sure I'd be ready for it."

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


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