Ward lauds potent Penguins' offense

| Tuesday, May 26, 2009

RALEIGH, N.C. — Finally, someone said it.

Unfortunately for the Carolina Hurricanes, the words came from their most important player, goalie Cam Ward, who hasn't said much else during the Eastern Conference final.

The tone of his post-practice words Monday matched the atmosphere in the Hurricanes' dressing room — subdued.

The Hurricanes will face elimination at 7:30 tonight in Game 4 at RBC Center.

"You can say all you want about how you are going to shut them down but at the end of the day they are going to get chances just because they are that good," Ward said.

Maybe the Hurricanes don't want to give the Penguins more confidence than they already have and that's why no one other than Ward would praise the Penguins.

Maybe the 'Canes really do believe they aren't playing their best — as they've emphasized since Game 2 — and that their best would be enough to beat the Penguins.

Maybe Carolina truly thinks that despite six goals from Evgeni Malkin and two goals from Sidney Crosby, that the duo isn't that impressive.

"Well they're good players," Hurricanes center Eric Staal said. "They've got the goals and the points to prove it in the playoffs, but as a group and as a team we have to do a better job of shutting them down and making life difficult on them. I think we kind of made it easy on them, kind of made it an easy series, an easy couple of games for those guys."

Recording a hat trick like Malkin did in Game 2 is no easy task. Lifting that beauty of a backhand past Carolina defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and placing the puck in the tiny space of the net that Ward couldn't block isn't a maneuver that many players can attempt, let alone convert.

Ward hasn't been able to stop Crosby and Malkin as the Hurricanes' last line of defense. He has faced 111 shots, including many quality chances, through three games. Ward gave the Penguins much more credit than his teammates have. He seemed to be in good spirits yesterday despite a few rough outings, and acknowledged Crosby and Malkin are practically unstoppable right now.

"You can see clearly that they've taken their game to another level," Ward said. "They (present) a very tough challenge for our team.

"They've got two possible MVPs of the league on their team, and on an innocent play they can make you pay."

When Carolina coach Paul Maurice was asked if the Hurricanes are making Crosby and Malkin look better than they actually are, Maurice answered carefully yet bluntly.

"We would say more than actually," he said.

In another breath, though, Maurice joked, "If I'm the goaltender on that team, I would like that puck as far away from me at the other end of the ice as possible."

That's Ward's wish, too.

Ward knows it isn't luck that allowed the Penguins to outscore the Hurricanes, 16-8, and set themselves up to sweep this series.

He's watched from the crease for three games as Crosby and Malkin have made magic on the ice and made his goal their domain.

Ward — who was spectacular in the first two series — seems to understand that the Hurricanes don't have much more up their sleeves.

"It is one tough challenge against the Penguins," Ward said. "They've got such an offensive punch that it's very tough to keep the chances down."

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