Late flurry pays off; Penguins score 4 times in third
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The Penguins hit Carolina goalie Cam Ward with 18 pucks during the first two periods at Mellon Arena last night.
They missed Ward -- and the Hurricanes' net -- with what seemed like a few dozen more.
But even though their shooting percentage suffered terribly during those 40 minutes, their confidence never seemed to.
"We knew the puck was going to go in," center Jordan Staal said.
Maybe, but the Penguins probably didn't realize that it would happen as often as it did, however, as they scored four unanswered goals in the final period for a 4-1 victory against the Hurricanes. It was just the third time this season they have scored three in a period.
The victory allowed the Penguins (29-19-4) to hold onto second place in the Atlantic Division. They are one point behind first-place Philadelphia and one ahead of New Jersey, which they will visit tomorrow at 7:08 p.m.
Ryan Malone got the winner at 7:26 of the third. Barely. On several counts.
He backhanded a puck out of the air -- it was not immediately clear that his stick had not gone higher than the crossbar -- and got it a few millimeters across the goal line before Hurricanes defenseman Mike Commodore reached in and pulled it out.
Since he's been gone
Evgeni Malkin's numbers in the six games that Sidney Crosby has missed:
Shots on goal
"I just whacked it and started pushing everybody in[to the crease]," Malone said. "And prayed it went in."
The on-ice ruling was that Malone had not scored, but a video review confirmed that the puck had made it into the net and did not produce any compelling evidence that the goal had been scored with a high stick.
Carolina winger Erik Cole, whose neck was broken when he was knocked into the boards from behind by Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik two seasons ago, fought Orpik at 4:40 of the opening period. The bout was fairly even -- "I hit him at the beginning, thought I hit him pretty good, and he came right back at me and stung me pretty good," Orpik said -- and might provide some closure to their ongoing feud.
"He asked me to fight [earlier this season] in Carolina, right after I had about a three-minute shift," Orpik said. "I think he had just jumped on the ice, so there was no chance I was fighting there. He told me I owed him a fight, and I couldn't really disagree with him. It's good to get it out of the way."
The Penguins got another strong performance from goalie Ty Conklin, who stopped 27 of 28 shots and, in Malone's words, "made some big saves to keep us in range."
Perhaps more impressively, Conklin insisted he didn't doubt that his teammates would find a way to score, even as they were turning in those 40 futile minutes.
"I wasn't too worried about it, to be honest with you," he said.
Sergei Samsonov put Carolina up, 1-0, at 8:27, when he beat Conklin with a turning shot from the inner edge of the right circle. About the only thing the Penguins got out of those first 20 minutes was a verbal beating from coach Michel Therrien.
"The first period, we didn't play that well at all," forward Erik Christensen said. "And we got an earful."
Samsonov's goal was the only one by either team until Christensen triggered the Penguins' comeback by shaking off a wicked cross-check from Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason and beating Ward from the inner edge of the right circle 37 seconds into the third.
"[The cross-check] hurt, because he got me right where there was no padding," Christensen said. "But then, once you realize you might get a scoring opportunity and then when you finally score, the pain goes away."
Malone put the Penguins in front to stay with his power-play goal at 7:26, and Evgeni Malkin added an insurance goal by throwing a backhander past Ward from the inner edge of the right circle at 9:42 for his 28th.
"I just got out there on a change and I had lots of energy," Malkin said through an interpreter. "Petr Sykora gave a great pass, and I ended up between two defensemen."
After the Penguins killed off a hooking minor issued to Malkin at 9:50, Sykora put the game away with a man-advantage goal at 13:03, chipping in a backhander from the right side of the crease.
The Penguins got a strong game from the Maxime Talbot-Staal-Christensen line. The Malone-Malkin-Sykora line showed up late, but had a major impact when the outcome was being decided.
"The first two periods, our line didn't produce anything," Malkin said. "The third period, we just caught fire."
First Published February 3, 2008 12:00 am