Erat, Smith highlight Friday's Three Stars
1. Martin Erat, Nashville -- His team came up with the short straw, but Erat's most aggressive effort of the postseason powered Nashville's utter domination of Phoenix during the second half of Game 1. The team's top point-getter during the regular season, Erat was under considerable pressure to deliver in this series after posting just two assists during the first round. He responded in grand fashion, sending the game into extra time with his power play marker at 15:18 of the third. Erat prefaced that with five shots on the night and a strong physical presence that helped keep the Coyotes penned in their own zone during the third and fourth frames.
2. Mike Smith, Phoenix -- It's customary to offer one of the stars to the author of the overtime game-winner, but until the decisive moment Ray Whitney was a non-factor. Smith, on the other hand, offered up another in a string of calamity-preventing performances for Phoenix. He stopped 39 of 42 on the night, a stat made all the more impressive by the quality of shots he faced. The Hawks may have challenged Smith with more artistic bids, but Nashville's persistent presence down low forced him to prove that he could stand up to the type of gritty, greasy attacks that will become more prevalent as the playoffs progress. Watching him ace that test has to leave Nashville wondering what to do next.
3. Patric Hornqvist, Nashville -- Another player off the losing side? If you watched the contest, you understand why. Like Erat, Hornqvist was under the gun after a nondescript showing against the Red Wings. Tonight, he reminded everyone that he can be as miserable to play against as countryman Tomas Holmstrom. Hornqvist led both teams with eight shots on net, almost all of them coming from within a couple of feet of Smith's crease, where he took up residence for the night. He finished with a pair of primary assists and set himself up for a big series.
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