Miroslav Satan and Philippe Boucher were not supposed to be here.
The Penguins assigned Satan to the AHL on March 4 to make salary cap room for Bill Guerin, whom the Penguins acquired at the trade deadline. With Petr Sykora in the lineup and Guerin and Chris Kunitz in the mix, Satan was the odd man out, and it was unlikely that the winger would play in a Penguins uniform ever again.
Boucher, who missed 25 games this season due to surgery on his left foot, also seemed like the odd man out on the blueline once Sergei Gonchar returned to the lineup in February.
But Satan and Boucher were the ones who provided the Pittsburgh Penguins with two thirds of the offense as they beat the Carolina Hurricanes in Game One by a score of 3-2, and took a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.
It was an amazing night at the Igloo, and goalies Cam Ward and Marc-Andre Fleury were spectacular as the game quickly turned into a goalie duel.
If this is what this series is going to look like, then it might be even better than the Capitals and Penguins in the second round, and that’s saying something.
Both goalies made spectacular highlight-reel stops throughout the night, and none of them were more important than the one Fleury made on Eric Staal with 30 seconds left in the game.
With the Penguins leading 3-2, Staal, who was left all alone in front of Fleury, tried to redirect a hard pass into the net. Instead, the puck caromed off of Fleury’s right pad and toward the goal, and Fleury ended up making a huge desperation save as he reached back with his stick to keep the puck out.
It was hardly the only desperation save he or Ward had to make, as the two teams exchanged chances throughout the game at a furious pace.
Shots on goal were 31 to 25 for the Pens, but at times it seemed like both teams had at least 20 shots per period.
Satan opened up the scoring with a breakaway goal halfway though the first period. The Pens had failed on two power plays already, and Fleury made a pair of great saves while they were killing a penalty to Satan to keep the game scoreless.
Then right after the penalty had expired, Cooke cleared the zone and Satan was waiting all alone. He took the puck, skated toward the net, decked Ward out, and lifted a backhand shot to give the Pens a 1-0 lead.
Evgeni Malkin scored his seventh goal of the playoffs only a minute and 24 seconds later. After skating the puck into the zone, Boucher found Malkin in the slot, and then the Pens’ MVP candidate beat Ward with a backhander of his own to make it 2-0.
They were down by two goals, but the Cardiac Canes did not let up.
They outshot the Penguins 12-9 in the first period, but were unable to beat Fleury until Chad Larose scored his third goal of the playoffs 13 minutes into the second to cut the Penguins’ lead in half.
The Pens’ defense stepped up in the third period as they allowed only seven shots on goal, and then Boucher added a necessary insurance marker on the power play to make it 3-1.
This was the kind of power play goal that the Penguins usually did not score for most of the regular season—a timely one.
Boucher took a feed from Sidney Crosby on the second wave of the power play and wristed a quick shot that slipped under the pad of Ward to make it 3-1.
Once again, the Canes answered.
This time, they took advantage of an elbowing penalty to Brooks Orpik and scored a questionable power play goal with a minute and 26 seconds to go.
That set the stage for a wild finish.
The Canes would knock on the door a couple times, but they never got closer than they did when Staal nearly tied the game. Both teams had to be thankful for their goalies’ efforts, but perhaps the Penguins should have been a bit more thankful to Fleury.
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