Penguins blow past Hurricanes
Malkin's hat trick fuels 2-0 series lead
PITTSBURGH - The Carolina Hurricanes talked before the Eastern Conference finals began about the importance of slowing down Sidney Crosby. Maybe they forget about the Pittsburgh Penguins' other star, Evgeni Malkin.
Malkin put Pittsburgh ahead for good by scoring twice in the third period of his first three-goal playoff performance, and the Penguins beat the Hurricanes, 7-4, last night to open a 2-0 series lead.
Crosby scored a record-tying sixth goal to start a playoff game, yet was upstaged by NHL regular-season scoring leader Malkin during an exceptional effort that also gave Malkin the playoff scoring lead, 25 points to 24, over Crosby. Malkin has four of Pittsburgh's 10 goals in the series.
"It was a great game for me," Malkin said.
Carolina had won five straight Game 2s, including the first two rounds this spring after losing Game 1 each time, but couldn't match Pittsburgh's run-and-gun offense despite rallying to tie three times. The Hurricanes will host Game 3 tomorrow night.
Malkin, seemingly motivated by Carolina's attempts to be more physical with him than usual during the second period, ended a succession of strong shifts by scoring to make it 5-4 with 8:50 gone in the third.
"He played a determined game," teammate Bill Guerin said of Malkin. "He's got that size and skill."
Malkin, relying on his speed and offensive creativity to set up scoring chances on almost every shift in the final period, made it 6-4 less than four minutes later with an unassisted goal. He picked up the puck in the corner, carried it behind the net, and used a spin move to put a backhander past goalie Cam Ward from a bad angle for his 10th of the playoffs.
"It was a great shot," Carolina defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "I don't know who saves that. He's a great player, and great players, eventually they break out. Today was his day, it seemed like."
Malkin didn't exactly call his shot, but Guerin and Max Talbot said Malkin told his teammates what he was trying to do on his last goal.
"We have set plays on faceoffs and he told me before the draw what he was going to do - and he did it," Talbot said.
As dozens of hats littered the ice, Malkin's father, Vladimir, repeatedly kissed his mother, Natalia - the parents are visiting from Russia - as Penguins fans cheered them almost as loudly as they did the Malkins' son.
"It was good to do that for my parents," Malkin said. "I was very happy I could do that for them."
Ward had won his last five Game 2s, allowing an average of only 1.18 goals per game, but couldn't handle the repeated flurries by the Penguins, who have scored 29 goals in their last six games. Tyler Kennedy scored later in the third for Pittsburgh, and Talbot and Chris Kunitz added goals, with Kunitz getting his first in 24 games, dating to the regular season.
The Penguins, trying to become the first team since the 1984 Edmonton Oilers to lose in the Stanley Cup finals one season and win the Cup the next, won the first two games at home for the fourth time in six playoff rounds, dating to last season.
"This isn't going to be a four-game series, I'll tell you that," Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason said.