Thursday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins showed the Carolina Hurricanes exactly why they can be so difficult to matchup against for any team, even the best teams in the Eastern Conference. While Sidney Crosby continued his torrid scoring pace in these 2009 playoffs, it was Evgeni Malkin who took over Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, scoring his first playoff hat trick and helping the Penguins take a menacing 2-0 series lead.
In an excellent demonstration of everything that the great game of hockey has to offer, the Canes and Pens battled back and forth for most of the game, until Malkin broke free for two goals in the 3rd period to put the Penguins up for good. Crosby opened the scoring with a quick goal less than two minutes into the game, tying the record for game-opening goals in the playoffs. It was the 6th time this postseason that Crosby has given the Penguins the first lead of the game. Carolina was not to about to roll over and go quietly, though, as grinder Chad LaRose evened the score a little over a minute later. Malkin scored his first goal of the game a little later in the period, but the Hurricanes stormed back to take the lead with goals from Jussi Jokinen and Dennis Seidenberg less then 4 minutes apart.
The 2nd period was very tightly played, as both teams began putting a heavy emphasis on physical play. Not surprisingly, out of that physical play, spark plug and hustle player Max Talbot was able to score a rare goal to tie the game at 3-3. Crosby registered his 24th point of the playoffs as he and Malkin both recorded assists on the goal. The real backbreaker for the Canes came with 8 seconds left in the period when agitator Chris Kunitz scored his first playoff goal in over two years.
When Patrick Eaves scored 3 minutes into the 3rd period, it initially looked as if this game would end up going right down to the wire. However, near the halfway point of the period, Malkin took his game to a whole different level, netting his second goal of the game nearly 9 minutes in, putting the Pens ahead for good. While Carolina continued to play hard, a few minutes later, Malkin took the puck off a faceoff in the Carolina end, lugged it around the net, then swung into a tight spin and whipped a backhand shot off the inside of the far post that caught everyone, including Carolina goalie Cam Ward, offguard. After the game, Malkin’s teammates revealed that he had told them he was going to pull off that move, referred to by his coaches as “the Geno,” before he ever took the faceoff.
After Malkin’s theatrics, Marc-Andre Fleury made sure the Canes didn’t have any opportunities to regain momentum, although he wasn’t tested often. Ward was pulled early, with over two minutes left in the game, as Carolina looked for any way to get back into the game and the series. Tyler Kennedy put an end to that search when he scored an empty net goal.
Malkin’s hat trick and assist on Talbot’s goal nudged him into the lead in playoff scoring, giving him 25 points, enough to pass his teammate Crosby, whose two points gave him a total of 24 for the playoffs. Crosby also leads all playoff goal scorers with 13 goals.