Pittsburgh 3 Carolina 2
PITTSBURGH — Philippe Boucher and Miroslav Satan were missing when the Pittsburgh Penguins made the late-season surge that carried them from 10th place in the Eastern Conference to a third consecutive trip to the playoffs.
In the opener of the conference finals, Boucher and Satan proved to be as important in beating the Carolina Hurricanes as Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.
Satan and Boucher scored their first goals of the playoffs and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury prevented Carolina from getting its offence going, leading the Penguins to a 3-2 victory over the Hurricanes on Monday night.
Game 2 will be Thursday night following the first of as many as three two-day breaks in the drawn-out series.
Malkin and Boucher each had a goal and an assist on a night Crosby, the leading scorer in the playoffs with 22 points, was limited to an assist. Satan and Malkin scored less than 90 seconds apart midway through the first period to make it 2-0 for the Penguins, who are trying to win back-to-back conference championships for the first time since 1991-92.
The Penguins got major contributions from Satan, who fell into such disfavour in March that he was sent to the minors, and Boucher, a defenceman who sat out 30 games during the second half of the season following foot surgery.
“We like to believe we’re deep — whoever we dress, we’ve got some good players that are not playing right now and everybody can come in and help out. It’s good that we both did it,” said Boucher, who played four of the Penguins’ first 13 playoff games.
Boucher, in uniform only because Sergei Gonchar’s sore right knee led coach Dan Bylsma to dress seven defencemen, scored what proved to be the decisive goal on a power play at 11:33 of the third, a shot from the left circle that trickled across the goal line.
“He’s been ready, he stayed ready and worked hard,” Bylsma said. “He didn’t get a lot of minutes (8 1/2), but when he did he cashed in.”
Boucher’s goal was his first in the playoffs since April 12, 2004, and proved significant when Joe Corvo scored on a power play with 1:26 remaining for Carolina, which has dropped Game 1 in each of its three playoff series. Eric Staal missed a chance from in close that would have tied it during the final minute.
“It looked like Staal had the whole net, but that’s indicative of the way Fleury played all night,” defenceman Brooks Orpik said.
Fleury didn’t make as many tough saves as Carolina’s Cam Ward, who turned aside 28 shots, but he kept the Hurricanes from getting any offensive flow going in a game when many of their best scoring chances came in the opening and closing minutes. Fleury made 23 saves.
“Fleury came up with some timely saves early to settle them down and give them the opportunity to get going, and once they get going they’re a very quick team,” Ward said.