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|Just three months ago, the Penguins were left for dead by many prognosticators. Sitting in the 10th hole in the Eastern Conference standings, Pittsburgh was judged to be lucky to even make the playoffs, let alone put together any type of significant run. But that was three months ago. |
The Penguins’ magical turnaround – which started with an 18-3-4 finish to the regular season and victories in the opening two rounds of the postseason, will continue as the team completed a four-game sweep of Carolina in the conference final to advance to their second consecutive Stanley Cup Final.
At the start of the year, the hot media topic was that the 1984 Edmonton Oilers were the last team to lose in the Stanley Cup Final and made it back the following season. Just add that to the list of odds that the Penguins have overcome this season – along with a European season-opener, extended injuries to significant players, a mid-season slump and a coaching change.
While the team is enjoying its current success, the Penguins are not satisfied yet. Pittsburgh still has a sour taste in its mouth following the loss to the Detroit Red Wings in last season’s Final. For the Penguins, there is a lot of unfinished business still to handle.
That ’84 Oilers team won the Stanley Cup in their return appearance. The Penguins want to do the same. And now they are four wins away from accomplishing that feat.
|WHAT HAPPENED |
|(AP) -Sidney Crosby saved his most daring move for after the game: He spurned hockey superstition and hoisted the Prince of Wales Trophy. |
If he keeps playing like this, it might not be the only prize the Pittsburgh Penguins' young captain raises.
The Penguins are headed back to the Stanley Cup finals, clinching a return trip with a 4-1 rout of the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night that finished off a sweep in the Eastern Conference finals. Pittsburgh lost to Detroit last year in a six-game final series.
|SHOT OF THE NIGHT |
Captain Sidney Crosby and alternate captains Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar pose with the Prince of Wales Trophy (photo by Getty)
|What Worked Well: Penalty Kill |
The unsung heroes of the game were Rob Scuderi, Hal Gill, Sergei Gonchar, Brooks Orpik, Jordan Staal, Craig Adams, Matt Cooke and Maxime Talbot. The Penguins penalty kill unit held the Hurricanes scoreless in four opportunities, including a big third-period kill.
What Could Have Gone Better: First Goal
The Penguins knew the Hurricanes would open the game strong with their season on the line. Pittsburgh wanted to counter and possibly take an early lead to really put Carolina behind the eight-ball. But the Hurricanes scored the opening goal just 1:36 into the game. However, the Penguins absorbed the blow and were able to take control of the game with four unanswered goals.
|Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was spectacular in the game, turning aside 30 of 31 shots to eliminate Carolina and push the Penguins to their second consecutive Stanley Cup Final. He was particularly great in the final minutes of the second period and the last period. Carolina, possibly sensing their season hanging in the balance, relentlessly attacked the Penguins net. The Pittsburgh netminder stood his ground and kept the puck out of the goal. |
|SCORING SYNOPSIS |
|Carolina tallied the game’s opening goal less than two minutes after the puck dropped. Eric Staal stuffed a wraparound into the Pittsburgh net for his first goal of the series at 1:36 of the first frame. Carolina 1, Pittsburgh 0. |
Pittsburgh tied the game eight minutes into the first period. Philippe Boucher took a shot-pass from the right point to the opposite side of the cage. That’s where Ruslan Fedotenko re-directed the puck across the goal line. Pittsburgh 1, Carolina 1.
The Penguins took the lead with 1:29 left in the first period. Miroslav Satan freed up a puck high in the Penguins zone. Maxime Talbot collected the puck and raced up ice. He threw a shot from the high slot that hit the stick of Anton Babchuk and floated into the air. Goalie Cam Ward tried to catch the puck with his glove but missed, and the puck fluttered into the netting. Pittsburgh 2, Carolina 1.
The Penguins added to their lead with a goal in the second period. Bill Guerin stepped out of the penalty box, chipped the puck out of the Pittsburgh zone to Sidney Crosby and then jumped up on the play to create a two-on-one for the Penguins. Crosby skated down the near side and sent a cross-ice pass that Guerin tapped into the goal. Pittsburgh 3, Carolina 1.
The Penguins sealed their second consecutive Stanley Cup Final berth with an empty-net goal from Craig Adams with 1:10 to play. Crosby carried the puck into the Carolina zone and selflessly passed to Adams, who converted the goal. Pittsburgh 4, Carolina 1.
|INTRIGUING NOTABLES |
|Pittsburgh dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen for the seventh consecutive postseason game. Hurricanes forward Tuomo Ruutu, who missed Game 2 but returned in Game 3, did not play in the contest. |
In a reversal from last year, captain Sidney Crosby and his teammates allowed themselves to touch the Prince of Wales Trophy after sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes. Last season they didn’t touch the trophy, nor did they wear the championship hats and shirts. This time the team celebrated heartily in the locker room. Crosby reasoned that not touching the trophy last year didn’t help in their Cup quest. So they allowed themselves to enjoy it this time around.
|GAME NOTES |
|> Pittsburgh won its Eastern Conference Final series against Carolina in a 4-0 sweep to advance to its second straight Stanley Cup Final, |
> The Penguins became the first team since the 1984 Edmonton Oilers to lose in the Stanley Cup Final and make it back the following year.
> The Penguins are 6-3 on the road in this postseason.
> Head coach Dan Bylsma has a career postseason record of 12-5.
> Pittsburgh scored 20 goals against Carolina in the four-game sweep. That’s the most goals scored by the Penguins in a four-game series in their playoff history.
> Scoring Summary:
CAR, E.Staal (10), 1:36 1st period: Hurricanes 1, Penguins 0
PIT, R.Fedotenko (6), 8:21 1st period: Penguins 1, Hurricanes 1
PIT, M.Talbot (4), 18:31 1st period: Penguins 2, Hurricanes 1
PIT, B.Guerin (7), 12:10 2nd period: Penguins 3, Hurricanes 1
PIT, C.Adams (3), 18:50 3rd period: Penguins 4, Hurricanes 1
> Sidney Crosby recorded two assists and has a league-leading (tied) 28 postseason points (14G-14A). Crosby has 22 points (12G-10A) in his last 12 games and has a point in 15 of 17 playoff games.
> Evgeni Malkin, the NHL’s Art Ross champion, was held scoreless but still has a league-leading (tied) 28 points in the postseason (12G-16A). Malkin has 16 points (7G-9A) and six multi-point games in his last seven contests.
> Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves in the victory, including 26 in the last two periods.
> Bill Guerin scored his second goal in as many games. He has scored a goal in four of his last six games.
> Ruslan Fedotenko scored his second goal in the last two games.
> Maxime Talbot scored his second goal in his last three contests.
> Craig Adams scored a goal for the second straight game.
|THREE STARS ||QUOTE OF THE NIGHT |
| || |
|1. B.Guerin, PIT |
2. M.Fleury, PIT
3. S.Crosby, PIT
|“It’s been a lot of fun. We just want to keep going, keep playing well. |
We’re in the Final now but we’re not at our ultimate goal. I’ve
enjoyed the whole process of getting to this point.”
- Bill Guerin