Malkin scores twice in Game 1 win over Flyers
The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin celebrates his first period goal with teammate Kris Letang last night.
The Penguins' Ryan Malone celebrates Evgeni Malkin's goal against the Flyers at the Mellon Arena last night.
The Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury makes a save on Flyers R.J. Umberger in the first period tonight in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final series at Mellon Arena.
The Penguins' Jarkko Ruutu checks the Flyers' Mike Richards along the board in the second period last night.
The Penguins' Sidney Crosby wraps a puck around the net against the Flyers at the Mellon Arena last night.
The Penguins' Ryan Malone jumps over the Flyers' Braydon Coburn at the Mellon Arena last night.
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The greatness, they expect.
Evgeni Malkin's teammates have gotten used to seeing him score critical goals, make breathtaking moves to get past opponents and throw high-impact checks.
But this, they didn't see coming.
And neither, it seemed, did Philadelphia goalie Martin Biron, as Malkin hammered a slap shot past him from between the hash marks on a shorthanded breakaway in the Penguins' 4-2 victory against the Flyers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final last night at Mellon Arena.
The Penguins, 6-0 at home in these playoffs, have a 1-0 lead in the series, which resumes at 7:38 p.m. tomorrow at Mellon Arena.
Malkin's performance went a long way toward giving them that advantage, as he scored two goals and set up another to take over the playoff scoring lead with 17 points in 10 games.
None of the other 16, though, made the kind of lasting impression his second goal of the game did.
Malkin, caught behind the play after absorbing a hard hit from Philadelphia center Mike Richards, was unchecked at the Flyers' blue line when he pulled in a long lead pass from Sergei Gonchar.
Even though Malkin was flat-footed when the puck arrived, he was able to move in unchallenged on Biron and, perhaps cognizant of how he had botched a penalty shot in Game 4 of the second round, opted to forgo finesse is favor of raw power.
"At the last second, I just decided to shoot that puck as hard as I can," Malkin said through interpreter George Birman. "I didn't think about it, where to shoot, and to make any moves. Just shoot it as hard as I can."
Happily for Malkin -- and perhaps for Biron -- the puck hit nothing until it reached the back of the net at 4:50 of the second period, giving the Penguins their ultimate margin of victory.
While the Penguins got strong efforts from their best players, the Flyers had to deal with the absence of perhaps their top player, defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who will miss the series because of a blood clot.
"I'm sure it's tough to lose their best [defensemen]," Penguins left winger Ryan Malone said. "But we're obviously not going to feel sorry for them. I'm sure they're not feeling sorry for themselves."
The game, not surprisingly, had a physical edge, and the Penguins were credited with 36 hits, the Flyers 33. What might not have been expected was that arguably the best check of the game was thrown by Malkin, who leveled Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn with about seven minutes left in the second.
"They gave us some good hits, and we gave them some pretty good hits, too," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "Probably one of the best hits was Malkin on Coburn."
Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney described it as "a great open-ice hit," and it proved to be the exclamation point on an excellent all-around performance by Malkin.
"You think you've seen enough," Malone said. "But he keeps bringing some more."
Malkin picked up his first point of the evening when he helped to set up right winger Petr Sykora for the game's first goal at 6:19 of the opening period, but Philadelphia countered quickly with a pair by Mike Richards.
He tied the score at 8:30, when his wraparound attempt from the right post hit goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in the crease and skidded over the goal line, then put Philadelphia in front at 12:50, pulling the puck out of a goalmouth scramble and flipping it past Fleury from the right side.
"Their two goals were typical Flyer goals," Whitney said. "Throw it in front, and all of a sudden, it's in the net."
Therrien wasn't happy with his team's early defensive work -- "We have to be much better around the net, the battles," he said -- but it improved as the night progressed. And after Sidney Crosby, cutting in front of the Flyers' net, used the heel of his stick to deflect a Marian Hossa pass from the left corner behind Biron at 14:11, the Penguins never trailed again.
Malkin got the winner from the right dot with 6.5 seconds left in the first, then expanded the Penguins' comfort zone with the close-range slap shot early in the second.
His personal linescore for the evening: Two goals, one assist, a roughing minor, four shots and five hits. Not bad numbers for 19 minutes of work.
"When your best players are going out and leading the way," Malone said, "what else can you ask for?"
First Published May 10, 2008 12:00 am