Penguins beat Hurricanes to win conference opener, 3-2
Philippe Boucher celebrates his winning goal against the Hurricanes in the third period of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final last night at Mellon Arena.
The Hurricanes' Eric Staal is tripped by his brother Jordan Staal in the third period last night.
The Penguins' Miroslav Satan celebrates after scoring the first goal against the Hurricanes in their first Eastern Conference final game at Mellon Arena last night.
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Dan Bylsma hasn't made many significant mistakes during his three months as coach of the Penguins.
There's at least one part of his philosophy, though, that Bylsma might be re-thinking.
This whole notion that dressing seven defensemen is less than ideal has taken some serious hits lately, none bigger than when Philippe Boucher scored the winning goal in the Penguins' 3-2 victory against Carolina in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final last night at Mellon Arena.
That's the same Philippe Boucher who would have spent the evening in street clothes if Bylsma had opted to use the standard complement of six.
"He proved that seven defensemen is an all right thing, I guess," Bylsma said. "In a perfect world, six is a situation I prefer more, but rarely are we in a perfect world."
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury wasn't perfect, either. Just close enough that the Penguins were able to survive giving the Hurricanes more quality scoring chances than they would have liked, including one for Eric Staal from the left side of the crease with about 27 seconds left in regulation.
"[Fleury] kept us in there," Boucher said.
And made certain the Penguins will take a 1-0 lead into Game 2 at 7:38 p.m. Thursday at Mellon Arena. The series will then shift to Raleigh, N.C., for Game 3 Saturday.
The Hurricanes played most of Game 1 without winger Tuomo Ruutu, who got an unspecified leg injury in the first period. Hurricanes winger Erik Cole, meanwhile, was hurt by a knee-on-knee hit from Matt Cooke of the Penguins at 7:52 of the third.
Carolina coach Paul Maurice said the status of both should be more in focus today, and clearly was unhappy with Cooke's hit, although he did not publicly call for the league to investigate it.
Cooke, meanwhile, characterized the sequence this way: "He was cutting across the middle. I turned sideways to hit him, and he turned the other way. I almost fell over, too."
It was, coincidentally enough, a knee-on-knee hit -- the one Washington winger Alex Ovechkin put on Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar in Game 4 in the second round -- that led to Boucher being in uniform last night.
Gonchar ended up playing for the second game in a row despite an injured right knee, but Bylsma went with seven defensemen as insurance, in case Gonchar was unable to handle a regular workload.
Turned out that Gonchar logged 21 minutes, 42 seconds of ice time, and Boucher was around to get a power-play goal when the Penguins desperately needed one.
They were up, 2-1, when he sneaked a shot between the legs of Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward from the top of the left circle at 11:33 of the third for his first goal in 22 playoff appearances, a streak dating to April 12, 2004.
Boucher didn't even recall that goal, saying only that his most recent one had come "a bunch of years ago."
It no doubt seemed worth the wait, however, especially because Boucher didn't know he'd be involved in Game 1 until shortly before it began.
"It was a last-minute decision," he said. "You never know what to expect. I try to stay ready and make the most of it, and I did tonight."
It didn't happen by accident, though. Even when he was out of the lineup for extended stretches, Boucher prepared so that he would be ready to step in as soon as needed.
"Maybe if you had a younger guy in his position, he'd slack off or lose focus," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "But he's come every day and worked really hard. He's made sure he was ready when he got an opportunity."
Boucher wasn't the only one to capitalize on that kind of chance.
Miroslav Satan, who got back in the lineup recently because Petr Sykora was struggling, scored his first NHL goal since March 1 when he beat Ward on a breakaway at 9:17 of the opening period.
"I'm trying to use the time on the ice as well as I can," Satan said.
Evgeni Malkin made it 2-0 84 seconds later, and that lead held up until Chad LaRose scored for Carolina at 13:04 of the third. Boucher's goal turned into the winner when Carolina's Joe Corvo scored on a power play at 18:34.
Boucher finished with a team-low 8:28 of ice time, but that was all he needed to earn a goal and assist.
"He didn't get a lot of minutes," Bylsma said. "But when he did, he cashed in."