PITTSBURGH - The Carolina Hurricanes probably expected Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby to make a difference. What they couldn't have anticipated was being beaten in such a big game by Miroslav Satan and Philippe Boucher.
Satan and Boucher scored their first goals of the playoffs and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury prevented Carolina from getting its offence going, leading the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 3-2 victory over the Hurricanes in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Monday night.
Game 2 will be Thursday night following the first of as many as three two-day breaks in the drawn-out series.
Malkin and Boucher each had a goal and an assist on a night Crosby, the leading scorer in the playoffs with 22 points, was limited to an assist. Satan and Malkin scored less than 90 seconds apart midway through the first period for the Penguins, who are trying to win back-to-back conference championships for the first time since 1991-92.
The Penguins got major contributions from Satan, who fell into such disfavour in March that he was sent to the minors, and Boucher, a defenceman who sat out most of the second half of the season following foot surgery.
"We like to believe we're deep - whoever we dress, we've got some good players that are not playing right now and everybody can come in and help out. It's good that we both did it," said Boucher, who sat out nine of the Penguins' first 13 playoff games.
Boucher scored what proved to be the decisive goal on a power play at 11:33 of the third, a shot from the left circle that trickled across the goal-line.
Boucher's goal was his first in the playoffs since April 12, 2004, and proved significant when Joe Corvo scored on a power play with 1:26 remaining for Carolina, which has dropped Game 1 in each of its three playoff series. Eric Staal missed a chance from in close that would have tied it in the final minute.
Fleury didn't make as many tough saves as Carolina's Cam Ward, who turned aside 28 shots, but he kept the Hurricanes from getting any offensive flow going in a game when many of their best scoring chances came in the opening and closing minutes. Fleury made 23 saves.
"Fleury came up with some timely saves early to settle them down and give them the opportunity to get going, and once they get going they're a very quick team," Ward said.
The Hurricanes were better than they were in losing Game 1 to New Jersey and Boston, each time 4-1, but played from behind after Satan came out of the penalty box and scored at 9:17 on a breakaway created by Matt Cooke's pass.
"It's a move I've probably used for 25 years," said the 34-year-old Satan, who shifted from his forehand to his backhand before tucking a shot inside the near post.
Malkin made it 2-0 at 10:41 on another backhander, to Ward's stick side, after Boucher found him with a pass to the slot.
"I thought our game was there, and Fleury made some huge saves in the first period," said Staal, who is competing against Pittsburgh's Jordan Staal in the first brother vs. brother matchup in the conference finals in 35 years. "We've just got to be better, tighten up and not have breakdowns early. We've got to really grind 'em out in Game 2."
While the Hurricanes didn't have the opening-game letdown that some teams experience after a series as challenging and emotionally draining as their seven-game second round against top-seeded Boston, they again lacked goals. That's been an ongoing problem for a team that found multiple ways to pull out games in the first two rounds but averaged only 2.36 goals per game - far less than Pittsburgh's 3.46 average.
The Hurricanes didn't score until Chad LaRose's goal off Erik Cole's drop pass at 13:04 of the second, and then got only one shot in the first 10 minutes of the third.
Notes: Penguins D Sergei Gonchar played more than 21 minutes although he has had little practice time since a hit by Washington's Alex Ovechkin injured his knee in Game 4 of the second round. ... Pittsburgh scored on the power play for the eighth consecutive game. ... The Penguins are the first team since the 1996 Detroit Red Wings to return to the conference final the season after losing in the Stanley Cup finals.