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As usual, Roberts raises his game for the playoffs

by Brian Compton / NHL.com

Gary Roberts scored two goals last night to help Pittsburgh beat Ottawa 4-0 and take a one game lead. Watch Gary Roberts score
A few thoughts while we ponder just how many overtime games will be played this postseason:

The Ultimate Warrior – It took Pittsburgh Penguins forward Gary Roberts more than three months to recover from a broken leg suffered Dec. 29.

Wednesday night, he lifted his team to a win in its first game of the 2008 postseason.
    
Roberts scored a little more than a minute after the opening faceoff and again with just more than a minute left in regulation as the Penguins took a 1-0 series lead on the Ottawa Senators with a 4-0 victory at Mellon Arena.
    
The Sens were probably hoping that Roberts would be unable to play in this series. The veteran winger – who has more than 20 years of NHL experience – didn't return to action until Sunday's 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Fourteen of his 32 career playoff goals have come against Ottawa.
    
"He's a warrior," Pens coach Michel Therrien said of Roberts. "He's the type of guy that makes a name for himself to be a warrior in the playoffs. He only played one game before tonight in the last three months. The way that he played tonight … it's got to be good for his confidence. I'm glad the way he was able to perform."
    
Sidney Crosby agreed. While No. 87 is the captain, Crosby didn't have any problem admitting that he looks up to his seasoned teammate.
    
"He does it year after year," Crosby said. "I don't think we're surprised. I think it's great to see, but we're not surprised. That's the type of player he is, type of person he is. He's a warrior. He's been doing it for a long time. When you've got a guy leading like that, it's just up to us to follow."
    
"Joe's a scorer. He's a great player and he knows his way around the rink as good as anybody. Sometimes you get the fortunate bounce, but you know where to go to get the fortunate bounces." - Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville
Joe CoolJoe Sakic did it again Wednesday night for the Colorado Avalanche.

The future Hall-of-Famer scored an NHL-record eighth overtime goal in the postseason when his backhander at 11:11 of the extra session gave the Avs a 3-2 win and a 1-0 series lead against the Minnesota Wild.
    
"Joe came up with another big one," Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville said. "Joe's a scorer. He's a great player and he knows his way around the rink as good as anybody. Sometimes you get the fortunate bounce, but you know where to go to get the fortunate bounces."
    
The goal also took away Minnesota's home-ice advantage. After Friday night's Game 2, three of the next five games of the best-of-seven series will be played at the Pepsi Center.
"It's always big to win the first one," Colorado center Peter Forsberg said. "The fourth one is the most important, but it's one out of the way. We're very happy with this win. Joe's always been there, and he scores big goals. Overtime seems to be his specialty."

The Rangers defeated the Devils 4-1 yesterday to take a one game lead in their playoff series.
Rangers Take Round 1 – In what many expect to be a marathon of a series, the New York Rangers used three assists from Scott Gomez and 26 saves from Henrik Lundqvist to win Game 1 of their best-of-seven series with the New Jersey Devils in a 4-1 decision at the Prudential Center.

"It's nice to get a win in the first game. It gives us some confidence," Lundqvist said. "Even though it was a 4-1 win, it was tight."
    
Indeed it was, until an unusual gaffe by Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. The future Hall-of-Famer failed to cover a loose puck in the crease, which led to a shorthanded goal by Ryan Callahan at 7:23 of the third period. The tally broke a 1-1 tie.

''I didn't know he was around," said Brodeur, who stopped 24 of 27 shots. "You have to freeze that. It's not the way I play. I like to keep the play moving. I made a mistake, and I cost us.''

Callahan was just as surprised as the rest of us.

"I was trying to get there as quick as possible," Callahan said. "A lot of times, he makes the good play. … It's not too often he's going to mishandle it. I was just lucky enough to be there when he did."

While the Rangers and Devils faced each other eight times during the regular season, Wednesday night must have been at least a little awkward for Gomez, who had 21 goals and 44 assists in 97 playoff games for New Jersey before signing with the Blueshirts last July. But Gomez insisted that there was no extra incentive.
    
"It's the playoffs. It doesn't matter who you play," he said. "It could have been any team. As you get older, the years go by faster.

"I've got a lot of friends over there, but the way you're raised over there, it doesn't matter who's in the way. There were no extra emotions."

Not So Fast – For anyone who was under the impression that the San Jose Sharks were going to coast in their opening-round series against the Calgary Flames, think again.

Stephane Yelle scored twice, and Miikka Kiprusoff showed flashes of his brilliant postseason in 2004 with a 37-save effort as the Flames took Game 1 with a 3-2 victory at HP Pavilion.
    
Flames center Stephane Yelle celebrates with teammates David Moss and Craig Conroy, after Yelle's first period goal against the Sharks last night.
The loss was San Jose's third straight in regulation, dating back to the final two games of the regular season. They were 18-0-2 prior to this recent funk.

The teams will go right back at it tonight at the Shark Tank. Suddenly, San Jose finds itself in a must-win situation. The Sharks certainly don't want to head to what will be a rocking Pengrowth Saddledome down two games.
    
''We earned this game,'' Flames forward Craig Conroy said. ''We have a lot of players here who have done well in this building -- guys who were here in the 2004 playoffs. We came in here, the building was alive, and we took the building out of it early. We know it will be harder (tonight), but now they have more pressure on them.''
    
Yelle certainly quieted the crowd when he scored his first of two goals just 2:47 into the game. It was his first tally since Jan. 22.
    
''It's a long grind, and you need bounces, you need luck,'' Yelle said. ''Those are keys to get far in the playoffs.''
    
The most surprising stat of the night, you ask? Wednesday night's win was Mike Keenan's first postseason victory since 1996.
    
That's more unbelievable than Sanjaya Malakar's run on American Idol last year.

Contact Brian Compton at: bcompton@nhl.com.



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