Penguins open up with Game 1 victory
They have the blueprint, and an early series lead.
With goals Monday from veterans Miroslav Satan and Philippe Boucher, a tally from star center Evgeni Malkin and big-moment saves from goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins downed the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-2, at Mellon Arena to open the Eastern Conference final.
They lead this best-of-seven series, 1-0, and Game 2 is Thursday.
"Good teams do this — different guys stepping up at different times," Penguins center Jordan Staal said. "It's nice when you get contributions from everybody, and you need that in the playoffs.
"These one-goal games are what it's going to be like. You expect that. You expect it to be interesting every night."
The Penguins are 4-3 in games decided by a goal in the postseason.
The latest victory was secured late in regulation. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's diving stop on a tap-in opportunity by Carolina center Eric Staal with 28.7 seconds remaining — one of 23 saves by Fleury, many of them sparkling — wrapped this nail-biting affair.
"It hit my knob and my stick fell," Fleury said of the cinching save. "After that, he pushed it away from me. It might have been a penalty, but they didn't call it. I fell on my bum."
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik raved after the contest about Fleury's six second-period saves.
"We got dominated there, and if wasn't for 'Flower' it would have been a tied game or we'd have been down by a goal," Orpik said. "We cheated a little bit in our own zone and turned pucks over.
"A lot of that had to do with (the Hurricanes), too. They bounced back after a tough first period."
The Penguins scored twice in a span of one minute and 24 seconds to take a two-goal lead in the opening period.
Satan stepped out of the penalty box — he committed a holding foul at 7:07 — and into a breakaway, which he capped with a backhand shot behind Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward at 9:17. It was Satan's first goal since March 1 and his first playoff tally since April 20, 2007 (with the New York Islanders).
"At the blue line I didn't know what I was going to do, but when I got to between the circles, I knew," Satan said, adding he has faced a similar scoring chance "only one or two times" in his long career.
Ward took the goal hard.
"He really made me look stupid," he said.
Stupid — in a good way — is one way to describe the backhand shot Malkin lifted past Ward at 10:41 to cap a give-and-go with Boucher. Malkin fed Boucher from the neutral zone. Boucher, a veteran puck-moving defenseman, carried and dished, and Malkin scored one of those goals that probably seem sure shots for a regular-season scoring champ and MVP finalist.
The Hurricanes pulled within a goal at 13:04 of the second period, and forward Chad LaRose's third playoff tally was nearly followed by a fourth at 15:13. However, Hurricanes winger Erik Cole was penalized at 15:13 for interference because he pushed Penguins defenseman Hal Gill into Fleury, and LaRose's tying tally was waved off.
The Penguins failed to score on the ensuing power-play chance, but Boucher's first playoff goal on a third-period advantage restored their two-goal cushion at 11:33.
After going four games without a power-play goal, the Penguins have scored one in seven straight contests with a 30.3 percent efficiency rate (10 for 33) over that span.
A power-play goal by Carolina defenseman Joe Corvo with 1:26 remaining in regulation pulled his club within a tying tally, but Fleury's sprawling save to deny the Hurricanes' Staal late moved the Penguins within three wins of a return to the Stanley Cup final.
Center and captain Sidney Crosby — an assist in Game 1 to claim the playoff points lead with 22 — described Fleury as "huge" for his club.
He also lauded contributions from Boucher and Satan — afterthoughts when the playoffs opened — and Malkin, whose 21 playoff points are one fewer than his total in 20 games last postseason.
"It builds a lot of confidence for everybody, the guys who are able to chip in," Crosby said. "The guys see that and realize everyone's going, everyone's contributing. That's the only way you can win consistently in the playoffs. That's huge. You need that every game."