RALEIGH, N.C. - Evgeni Malkin had two goals and an assist and the Pittsburgh Penguins pushed Carolina to the brink of elimination by routing the Hurricanes 6-2 on Saturday night.
Sidney Crosby added a goal and an assist for the Penguins, who lead the series 3-0. They scored twice in the final minute of the first period, then added two more goals in 40 seconds of the third to seal their fourth straight victory.
The defending Eastern Conference champions can sweep the best-of-seven series Tuesday night and make a return trip to the Stanley Cup finals.
Ruslan Fedotenko had a goal and an assist, Bill Guerin also scored, and Craig Adams was credited with a late goal after Carolina's Jussi Jokinen won a draw but sent the puck down the ice and into an empty net.
Matt Cullen and Sergei Samsonov scored for the Hurricanes, who haven't lost a playoff series since Detroit beat them in the 2002 Cup final. In their only other post-season appearance since, they won the Cup in 2006.
History isn't on the Hurricanes' side. Only twice has a team rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to win a series, and it hasn't happened since the New York Islanders did it against Pittsburgh in 1975.
That trend doesn't figure to be in much jeopardy, as long as the Penguins' young stars Malkin and Crosby keep playing like this.
They helped the Penguins pepper Cam Ward for a third straight game. The Carolina goalie turned aside 34 shots but was overwhelmed again by Pittsburgh.
The Penguins, who outshot the Hurricanes 73-53 in the first two games, held a 40-34 shots advantage. Marc-Andre Fleury made 32 saves for the Penguins.
Malkin and Crosby scored 30 seconds apart late in the first to turn a 1-1 tie into a two-goal Penguins lead. Crosby put Pittsburgh ahead to stay when he beat Joni Pitkanen to the net, took a pretty cross-ice pass from Guerin and tapped the puck past Ward with 42.2 seconds left.
Malkin made it 3-1 with 11.9 seconds remaining when he tracked the puck down in the low circle, skated up the goal-line and stuffed in the puck for his second goal.
That came after he erased the Hurricanes' early lead and made them pay for a fouled-up clearing attempt by Tim Gleason, using some nifty stickwork to skate in close on Ward and beat him with a wrist shot. The 22-year-old Russian's two goals brought chants of "MVP" from the few hundred Penguins fans who infiltrated the RBC Center.
The building was rocking early, with the desperate Hurricanes feeding off an amped-up crowd of Caniacs. Cullen cashed in on that early emotional burst, taking a pretty feed from Patrick Eaves and wristing it past Fleury's stick.
Notes: Pittsburgh D Sergei Gonchar had two assists. ... The Hurricanes have led for a total of 13 minutes, 45 seconds through three games. ... Carolina LW Ryan Bayda was in the lineup two nights after he received a match penalty for high-sticking near the end of Game 2. He was fined US$2,500, but his automatic one-game suspension was rescinded by the NHL. ... RW Tuomo Ruutu skated for the Hurricanes after leaving Game 1 early and missing Game 2 due to a lower body injury.