It was a performance that made you glad to sit inside and watch hockey on a scorching-hot May evening in the Bay State. It was a showing that had some of his teammates and his owner comparing him to the greats of the game (with even a Wayne Gretzky mention).
Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin was a one-man wrecking crew in helping his Penguins overcome a second-period deficit and roll past Carolina, 7-4, last night in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals at Mellon Arena. The Penguins now lead the series, 2-0, heading to Raleigh for Game 3 and 4.
Malkin capped the hat trick with a play Pens head coach Dan Bylsma said is simply called “The Geno.” Here it is:
Inexplicably, the ‘Canes did a worse job checking Malkin and Sidney Crosby (one goal, one assist) than they did in Game 1. Part of it is the obvious greatness of Pittsburgh’s pair of stars, but it’s true too that when put under physical pressure and faced with players that are relentless about going to the net and cycling, the Carolina defenseman are just not as strong as they played in the series with Boston.
It also doesn’t help the ‘Canes’ cause that stars Eric Staal and Cam Ward played a pair of pedestrian games at The Igloo. One could argue that Carolina’s fourth line, which got a goal from Patrick Eaves, was better than its first trio for much of Game 2. That line, however, might be shorthanded, as Ryan Bayda was assessed a match penalty toward the end of the contest. His name not being Lucic or Carcillo, Bayda is probably in the clear.
But if the ‘Canes don’t get better play from their best players and figure out a way to slow the Pens’ megastars, it won’t matter who’s in the Carolina lineup — this series will be over before you can really compare Malkin to Gretzky, Mario Lemieux or Gordie Howe.