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Playoffs are Briere's time to shine

by Brian Compton /
There are certain players who simply step up their game at this time of year. Danny Briere is at -- or at least near the very top -- of that list.

Danny Briere
Right Wing - PHI
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 10
SOG: 18 | +/-: -2
Just moments after having an overtime goal waved off, Briere scored the 46th goal of his postseason career to lift the Philadelphia Flyers to a 4-3 victory against the New Jersey Devils in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series at Wells Fargo Center.

Briere -- who scored twice Sunday afternoon -- now has 106 points in 104 playoff games. He is tied with Claude Giroux for the playoff lead with seven goals, and ranks second behind Giroux in the playoff scoring race with 10 points.

His overtime tally was his 14th goal on his last 18 playoff games. He now has 36 goals and 69 points in 64 postseason contests with Philadelphia.

"Is it pressure? It's fun," he said. "I grew up watching playoff hockey when I was a kid and I always dreamed that one day I'd have the chance to play in those big games. When I have the opportunity, like I have right now this year, like I've had the past few years in the playoffs, you try to make the best of it, try to enjoy it as much as possible. It's not really pressure; it's actually a fun time, an exciting time."

A long time coming -- Not since 1997 had the Phoenix Coyotes won back-to-back playoff games on home ice. Until now.

With Sunday's 5-3 win against the Nashville Predators, the Coyotes have grabbed a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series and moved within 10 victories of a Stanley Cup championship.

Mike Smith
Goalie - PHX
RECORD: 6-2-0
GAA: 2.03 | SVP: 0.943
America West Arena was the Coyotes' home the last time they won two in a row in the desert at this time of year, when they beat the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in Games 3 and 4.

"Every thinks the other team should win the next game because they are supposed to win," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "Well, our guys don't understand that. Why can't we win again? That was the mindset in the room today."

Remarkably, Sunday also marked the first time in eight games that the Coyotes outshot their opponent. But they've still managed to win games, mainly because of the stellar goaltending provided by Mike Smith. Phoenix's goaltender made 30 more saves Sunday and won for the 11th time in his last 13 games.

Phoenix's top line of Ray Whitney, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata has combined for nine points (four goals, five assists) in its first two games against Nashville. The trio totaled only five points in the entire opening-round series against Chicago (six games).

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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