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NHL PLAYOFFS

Evgeni Malkin's hat trick leads Pittsburgh over Carolina, 7-4

Malkin puts the Penguins ahead for good by scoring twice in the third period of his first three-goal playoff performance, as the Penguins take a two-game lead in the conference finals.

May 22, 2009|Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — The Carolina Hurricanes talked and 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, on Thursday night to open a 2-0 lead in the series.

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, 25-24, 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 Mario Lemieux era-like run-and-gun offense despite rallying to tie three times. The Hurricanes will play host to Game 3 on Saturday 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 period.

"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 a one-man 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."

As dozens of hats littered the ice after Malkin's last goal, his 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.

Ward had won his last five Game 2s, allowing an average of only 1.18 goals per game, but couldn't handle the flurries by the Penguins, who have scored 29 goals in six games.

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