It was Martin Biron, but it could have been a brick wall or a steel plate.
Either way, the puck was going past – or through – it.
Biron is just lucky his body – or any part of it – wasn't in the way of Evgeni Malkin’s point-blank slapper 4:50 into the second period to give the Penguins a 4-2 lead.
With the Flyers on the power play, Malkin had a shorthanded breakaway, but failed to convert. He was laid out by Mike Richards when he tried to stuff the puck past Biron on a second attempt. Somewhat dazed, Malkin collected himself and skated toward the blue line.
By that time, though, the Flyers had rushed the puck up the ice. Marian Hossa forced a turnover and Sergei Gonchar fired the puck up the ice to Malkin, who was still behind the play at the blue line. He took the pass, skated in on a breakaway, cranked a shot from inside the hash marks and blistered the puck past Biron.
|Evgeni Malkin celebrates his shorthanded goal against Martin Biron. |
“It was really a last-second decision,” Malkin said through translator George Birman. “All my penalty shots weren’t that great all the time, pretty much. So in the last second, I just decided to shoot that puck as hard as I could. I didn’t think about it, where to shoot, and to make any moves, just shot it as hard as I could.”
Although it didn’t resemble many conventional breakaway goals, Malkin found success with the blast.
“Hey, it worked. If I had that shot, I'd do the same thing, I think,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “With that amount of time and I think at the end of the shift like that, you know, he was pretty tired. Probably coming from the blue line in, having to come back and come back on that breakaway, so, whatever works.”
Penguins coach Michel Therrien only cared about the end result which was a Penguins goal.
“We were killing a penalty as well, but the most important thing was that he scored,” he said. “He could have scored just the same shift before. They were close, him and Hossa. But it was nice to get that break and be able to score that goal.”
Therrien was impressed how Malkin bounced back from the big hit delivered by Richards.
“Yeah, you know what, he’s fearless. Our good players, you know, they play hard. They’re not going to back down,” he said. “Him, Hossa, Crosby, you know those type of players they play hard. When the game is getting physical, they’re capable to upgrade their game as well.”
Malkin’s two goals and assist against the Flyers in Game 1 put him in the NHL playoff scoring lead with 17 points (8+9) in 10 games. Crosby is tied for second with 15 (3+12), but leads in assists.
The emergence of the two young superstars, as well as the other talented Penguins, has allowed Pittsburgh’s attack to become more diverse and dangerous, rather than just focused on Crosby.
“I don't think I put the pressure on myself to do that because I knew the group we had. So as a team I don't think we thought it was up to one guy [to lead the way,” Crosby said. “We knew that we had to make sure that we improved and gained experience and had the right attitude if we wanted to learn quickly.
“We’re still learning a lot. We have to keep going. But, we definitely have a great group.”