RALEIGH, N.C. — Maybe the toughest part of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ recent dominance has been making it look so easy.
Wins in the Eastern Conference finals are coming as quickly as their goals. Twice in Game 3 they scored a pair of goals seconds apart. That quick-strike ability has produced a flurry of victories that has put Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Co. on the verge of sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes and returning to the Stanley Cup finals for the second straight year.
The East’s defending champions have no interest in allowing the Hurricanes to crawl back into this lopsided series. Instead, they’re looking to move on, well, quickly.
“We know the series is 3-0. We know this (Carolina) team’s not going to quit — that’s their trademark,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Sunday. “They’ve proven that, even in the games that have ended up with lots of goals on the board . . . While we have a lead, we know we need to get one more win to get this thing done with. Right now is better than waiting.”
With the best-of-seven series set to resume Tuesday night, it seems as though the Penguins will soon be making travel plans for Detroit or Chicago with the Stanley Cup on the line.
Pittsburgh has trailed for fewer than 14 minutes through three games. The Penguins’ underrated defence has turned Carolina’s top scoring threats into nonfactors. In those rare instances when shots got through, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has been steady in allowing 2.7 goals per game.
But nothing has helped them take command of the series quite like the continued emergence of the one-two punch of young, world-class players.
Crosby, who had a goal and an assist in Game 3, has scored twice and registered five points in three games. Pittsburgh has combine for 13 goals in two games. Even more impressively, Malkin followed his first career playoff hat trick in Game 2 by nearly doing it again, finishing with two goals and an assist in the third game. He has six goals and nine points in the series.
“Regardless of the matchup, Malkin’s found a way to score against every line,” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said.
And with very little time ticking off the clock.
The Penguins have succeeded in effortless fashion at times during their current four-game winning streak. The Hurricanes have struggled to keep up even as Bylsma insisted after Saturday night’s 6-2 rout that “it doesn’t feel easy.”