Yes, they hold a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series against the Carolina Hurricanes. And yes, Thursday night's 7-4 victory -- highlighted by a dominant three-goal performance from Evgeni Malkin
-- had all the feel of a knockout blow to a Hurricane team that had battled so hard, and so evenly, through the first five periods of this series before being run over in Thursday's third period.
Not so fast, though, caution the Penguins.
"The way I see it, they are a really hard team to play against," Pittsburgh forward Bill Guerin said Thursday night. "They just keep coming and coming and coming. They have a lot of character. They work hard and they believe in their system."
Plus, both the New Jersey Devils and the Boston Bruins thought they had the better of Carolina at some point in their series against the "Cardiac 'Canes." Both those teams -- higher seeds than Carolina by the way -- are looking at summers full of regret while Carolina plays in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Penguins have no plans of falling into the same trap.
"Carolina is a tough building to play in and they are a tough team to play," said Pittsburgh forward Maxime Talbot, who had a goal in Game 2. "They just keep coming. You saw it tonight in the first and second period.
"They keep battling. We had the lead and they would come back. It gets a little frustrating, but it showed a little bit what type of team we are, too; because we battled back and got the best of them tonight."
Carolina erased three one-goal deficits to forge a 4-4 tie with 2:35 elapsed in the third period, in case it was forgotten in the hoopla surrounding Malkin's star-studded performance.
The Penguins know that means Game 2 could have turned out differently if a puck or two had bounced differently.
"We've got our work cut out for us," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma admitted among the euphoria that surrounded the Game 2 win.
Despite winning, Pittsburgh was deficient in some areas.
The Penguins still had some trouble with Carolina's ultra-aggressive forecheck and they were sloppy with the puck at times -- Kris Letang
's turnover leading to the goal by Dennis Seidenberg that gave Carolina its first lead at 3-2 was a perfect example.
Plus, their defensive-zone coverage was shoddy at times. On the goal by Jussi Jokinen that made it 2-2 in the first, Pittsburgh saw two players chase Carolina's Rod Brind'Amour behind the net, which meant Jokinen had free reign to bang home the rebound of a one-timer by Scott Walker.
So there will be areas of their game to address when they convene for Friday's optional skate at Mellon Arena. But perhaps the most important thing the Penguins need to remember are the words Guerin was preaching no more than 10 minutes after Thursday's victory.
"You have to give them credit because they do just keep coming," he said, adding he expects Carolina goalie Cam Ward to bring his best in Game 3. "They know where their strengths are and they play to them.
"We can be better and we will have to be better."
Author: Shawn P. Roarke | NHL.com Managing Editor