Case in point when it comes to skill, determination and heart trumping heart and determination...Canes can't slow Malkin
BY LUKE DECOCK - Staff Writer
Published: Fri, May. 22, 2009 05:48AM PITTSBURGH --
So far in these playoffs, the Carolina Hurricanes unmasked the winningest goalie in the history of the NHL, picking apart Martin Brodeur. They found a way around a seemingly insurmountable 6-foot-9 barricade in Zdeno Chara, the best defenseman in the NHL in this season.
Good teams find a way, as Paul Maurice would say, but there may not be any way to stop Evgeni Malkin. No one has been able to match their hustle, yet the Hurricanes may finally have run into a player -- and a team -- whose raw talent could trump their heart.
Malkin had a hat trick and four points Thursday as the Pittsburgh Penguins pounded the Hurricanes 7-4, taking a 2-0 lead in the series and sending the Hurricanes back to North Carolina staggered.
"He stepped up tonight," Penguins forward Sidney Crosby said. "Every time he was out there, he was making something happen, and it wasn't always the same way, whether it was on the rush or going to the net."
Malkin's second goal was a back-breaker, a stuff at the post that turned out to be the game-winner after Patrick Eaves had tied the score 4-4 early in the third period.
His third was a thing of beauty and all but unstoppable, a no-look backhand over Cam Ward's left shoulder while moving away from the net. Dennis Seidenberg, who stood between Malkin and the net, stuck out a foot to try and block it. The puck never came close.
"He's a good goalie, but I tried to shoot every shift and tried to score," Malkin said. "Tonight, I was a little bit lucky. It's good."
The Hurricanes talked before the game about doing a better job on Malkin and Crosby, cozying up to them rather than letting them make plays. Their performance in that regard was far from inspiring. If anything, they gave them more space, at least all the space they needed.
"It's all about our game," Seidenberg said. "If we don't give them any time and space, we're fine. In the first game, they didn't get too many chances. Tonight, we gave them too many openings to create stuff."
The odd thing was that his game had the feel of the big games the Hurricanes have won this season. They showed the kind of resiliency that allowed them to bounce back from their two previous Game 1 defeats with Game 2 victories.
The Penguins scored twice early in the first period. Both times, the Hurricanes answered quickly and even took the lead going into the second period. When Chris Kunitz scored his first goal of the playoffs with 7.3 seconds left in the second to put the Penguins back into the lead, Eaves responded with his first goal of the playoffs early in the third.
They showed the willingness to go to the net and knack for timely goals that beat Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils. They flashed the speed and skill that allowed them to maneuver around Chara and the Boston Bruins.
These were circumstances that have played into Carolina's favor this postseason. Malkin and the Penguins present a completely different kind of challenge. They do what the Hurricanes do. They just do it better.
"It went back and forth, back and forth, and we usually come out with a win," Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason said.
"I obviously wasn't pleased tonight. We didn't shut them down, and that's my responsibility."
Malkin now has six points in two games after a goal and assist on Monday in Pittsburgh's 3-2 win in Game 1.
Those are impressive statistics.
Here's another one: Teams that fall behind 2-0 on the road have won only 22 times, out of 229 in that situation. Those are pretty steep odds.
Saturday, back on home ice, the Hurricanes will have their crowd behind them and a chance to get the matchups they think will allow them to better handle Malkin and Co. It may not be enough.
The Hurricanes took care of Brodeur. They took care of Chara. Malkin presents their toughest task yet. firstname.lastname@example.org
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