Collier: Satan's goal just the first of the surprises

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Even with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the same uniform and often enough on the same ice at the same time, the Penguins like to offer short lectures on the importance of secondary scoring, or goals from sources not widely recognized as such.

But when you get the first goal of the Eastern Conference final from Miroslav Satan, that's not secondary scoring.

That's tertiary scoring.

There were plenty of serious hockey students who weren't sure what to make of Penguins-Hurricanes with a berth in the Stanley Cup final on the line, but there weren't any who envisioned Satan breaking in on playoff-proven Cam Ward and flipping a backhander over his shoulder as if it were an empty net at the morning skate.

"That hasn't happened to me too many times," Satan said after launching the Penguins toward a 3-2 victory in Game 1 last night. "It's fun."

Satan had just exited the penalty box near the midpoint of the first period when Matt Cooke took a Hal Gill pass and ejected the puck from the defensive end right onto his stick, and a couple of authentic goal-scorer's moves later, the Penguins had a 1-0 lead they'd expand to twice that 84 seconds later on a Malkin backhander.

"At the blue line, I didn't know what I was going to do," Satan said candidly. "There wasn't much time, but when I got between the two circles, I had an idea."

Ward had no idea what Satan might do, just as the Penguins organization had no idea what to do with him as his disappointing winter went into a deep freeze.

Banished to the Siberian shelf of Wilkes-Barre Scranton after 65 dreary games with the parent club for reasons that included the growing notion that he might never put a puck in a net again, Satan has been a plus-4 since returning during the Philadelphia Flyers hostilities. He had a couple of assists in last week's Game 7 throttling of Washington.

No part of Carolina's preparation for this intriguing series came in response to a question such as, "What do we do about Satan?" And still, the fact that Satan has five points in the past five playoff games is the very kind of thing that could tip this evenly matched series inalterably.

"You're the first person to say we're evenly matched," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said to the introduction of that very premise soon after yesterday's morning skate, "so thanks for that. We are expecting great speed in this series, and the key for us is not to get away from our structure. We don't want this to be turned into an even trade of chances."

Maurice further didn't want to be starting any third periods without the lead, as the Hurricanes are now 1-6 in this postseason when trailing after two, but that's where they found themselves last night even after Chad LaRose finally beat Marc-Andre Fleury at 13:04 of the second for Carolina's first goal of the series to make it 2-1.

But the tertiary scoring wasn't over.

The Penguins stretched the lead to a fully necessary 3-1 when Philippe Boucher jointed Satan with his inaugural playoff goal, this one on a power play drawn by the Hurricanes' Matt Cullen, who flipped the puck into the seats from the defensive zone to draw the always shabby delay of game indictment.

Boucher's wrister almost inexplicably leaked right through Ward, calling to mind Jordan Staal's words from earlier yesterday.

"You can rattle any goaltender," Staal said. "Ward's a great goaltender, but we are going to handle things the way we did in the last two series, by getting more shots and creating a lot of traffic in front of him."

The Penguins outshot a playoff opponent for the 10th consecutive time last night, rapping it at Ward 31 times while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all but two of 25 shots the Hurricanes managed, several in the final frantic minutes that carried the telltale aroma of imminent overtime.

If the Penguins are going to get goals from their fringe scorers, the Hurricanes are likely in more trouble than they'd expected.

It was even more ominous that Satan spoke like someone who could snipe again.

"Every player has stretches when they find their confidence," he said. "Sometimes you're out there and every second shot seems to go in, then you'll take 10 good shots and not score at all."

And then they send you to Wilkes-Barre and try to forget about you, only to bring you back when somebody else looks like he'll never get a goal again.

Satan celebrated behind Ward like he hadn't scored since the '90s.

"I just probably forgot myself," he said.

A month ago, so had everybody else.


Gene Collier can be reached at gcollier@post-gazette.com .


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