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Penguins hold on, get early jump on 'Canes @NHLdotcom

Shawn P. Roarke | Managing Editor

PITTSBURGH -- While all the focus was on Pittsburgh's stars entering the Eastern Conference Final, it was some unsung heroes that delivered a 3-2 victory against Carolina in Game 1, Monday night at Mellon Arena.

Defenseman Philippe Boucher, inserted into the lineup when Sergei Gonchar was injured in the last round, had a goal and an assist, while forward Miroslav Satan, exiled to the minors for a portion of this season, scored his first postseason goal in more than two years to pace the Penguins.

"It means a lot and it builds a lot of confidence for everyone that those guys were able to chip in," Crosby said. "The guys see that and realize everybody is going and everybody is contributing and that is the only way you can win consistently in the playoffs."

"That's huge, we need that every game."

But the Penguins' stars weren't completely silent.

Evgeni Malkin scored Pittsburgh's second goal, just 84 seconds after Satan had given the Penguins a 1-0 lead at the 9:17 mark of the first, and Crosby set up Boucher's game-winning goal.

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, didn't have to make many saves, but several of his 23 stops were of the highlight-reel variety. A second-period leg-pad save against Jussi Jokinen and a late save on Eric Staal from the doorstep were among the denied chances that will have the Hurricanes shaking their heads long into the night.

"He was big for us," Crosby said. "We didn't get the start we wanted. They got some quality chances early on. Usually when you are at home, you're not talking about weathering the storm, but he did that for us tonight."

With four minutes left in the first period, Carolina was holding an 11-8 advantage in shots, but trailed the game 2-0. 

"We had two breakdowns in the first period and they resulted in two goals, which was tough, but I thought our game was there and we created a lot of offense and Fleury made some huge saves, especially in the first period," Carolina's Eric Staal said.

Carolina finally solved Fleury in the second period as Chad LaRose used Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang as a screen to fire the first puck past Fleury, on Carolina's 18th shot, at the 13:04 mark of the second period.

Joe Corvo added a power-play goal with 1:26 remaining in the contest, using a slap shot and an Eric Staal screen to beat Fleury, who had lost his goal stick seconds earlier.

Staal had a chance late in the game to send it into overtime, but his one-timer off a cross-slot pass from Jussi Jokinen ended up skittering across the crease and coming to rest under Fleury's leg.

"I'd rather forget about that one," Staal said. "I knew it was coming, but sometimes when you're back there, you can't see the puck that well. I wanted to stop it, but it came so quick that it went off my stick before I had a chance to corral it. Unfortunately it didn't bounce into the net; it could have, but Fleury was there."

In the end, Fleury was there one more time than Ward, Carolina's top performer, who finished with 28 saves. And, that proved to be the difference in Game 1, sending Carolina to its third-straight series-opening defeat this postseason.

"Both goaltenders played really well tonight," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "Their guy made some big saves and our guy made some big stops. The game ends up 3-2, but there are a couple of chances where both teams think, 'Oh, we could have another one there.'

"Our guy was very good. He made a couple of key saves for us at different times in the game when Carolina was carrying the play or had good chances. This is the time of the year you need that from your goaltender and Marc-Andre certainly gave us that tonight."

Carolina will try to win Game 2, a feat it managed in its first two series this spring, when the Eastern Conference Final resumes here Thursday evening. 

Pittsburgh really turned up the pressure late in the second period while on the power play, but goalie Cam Ward had all the answers, especially on three splendid chances set up by Sidney Crosby in the first half of the advantage. Crosby set up Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin and Letang again following a faceoff win.

Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke was a buzz saw virtually every time he stepped on the ice. His most tangible contribution came on the penalty kill when he set up Miroslav Satan's goal after Satan's penalty expired, but Cooke hit everything that moved, blocked a couple of shots and had a great scoring chance in the second period.

Tuomo Ruutu was injured in the first period and played just two minutes and 40 seconds in the game, relegating Carolina to just three lines for much of the game. Patrick Eaves and Ryan Bayda, the two forwards on the fourth line, saw precious little time after Rod Brind'Amour was moved up to center the third line in place of Ruutu.

Pittsburgh had 21 shots in the first two periods, but Sidney Crosby didn't have any of them. It is the first time in 14 postseason games this year that Crosby did not register a shot entering the third period. Crosby, did, however, register a shot during a third-period power play.

Pittsburgh's Philippe Boucher, inserted into the lineup as a seventh defensemen to protect Sergei Gonchar as he plays his way back into shape after a knee injury, had a goal and an assist in the game. It is his first goal and second assist in just five postseason appearances.

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