Canes must match Malkin, Crosby magic

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby has called his shots before.

Yes, Sid The Kid admitted yesterday that there have been times when he has predicted to his teammates what kind of magic he was about to weave out on the ice and then achieved it.

Maybe it came in a squirt tournament in the Maritimes. Or a November regular-season tilt against Nashville with his team up by a half dozen.

"But never in a 5-4 game in the playoffs," he grinned. "Never."

Not like the feat Evgeni Malkin pulled off in the third period of the Penguins 7-4 win over the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday, a magnificent mixture of swagger and talent that resulted in one of the most memorable moments in recent playoff history.

Maybe it wasn't, as teammate Bill Guerin pointed out, the equivilent of the legendary Babe Ruth pointing at the bleachers during an at-bat, then swatting a baseball exactly where he said he would.

But it was, according to the Pens "neat," "cool," whatever word you want to use. So much so, in fact, that it was still a hot topic in the Pittsburgh dressing room yesterday.

In case you haven't seen the dozens of replays of Malkin's wizardry, the play took place with the Penguins nursing a one-goal lead midway through the third period of Game 2 of this Eastern Conference final, which Pittsburgh leads 2-0.

It is called "The Geno Play," in honour of Malkin's nickname. It is something they have worked on in practice. And, as he lined up in the circle to the right of Canes goalie Cam Ward, it was a scenario Malkin informed his linemates was about to unfold.

As if on cue, Malkin won the faceoff from Matt Cullen, took the puck behind the net, came out in front, then wheeled around to scoop a backhand high past Ward.

"That's tough to top," Crosby admitted yesterday before boarding the team charter for Raleigh, where the Pens will meet the Canes in Game 3 tonight at the RBC Center.

"We practise that stuff. But to pull it off in a tight game like that? It speaks for itself."

When Malkin and Crosby augment their ridicilous God-given talents by playing with chips on their shoulders like this, they are almost impossible to stop.

So, how do you do it?

"I'd throw my stick like a toma-hawk (at Malkin)," Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury chuckled. "Injure him really good."

What is this? Slapshot? If that's the case, why doesn't Canes coach Paul Maurice just put bounties on the heads of Geno and The Kid?

We're kidding, of course. Either way, it doesn't make Maurice's job any easier.

"Clearly our ability to contain them at our end of the ice and find them on our end of the ice has been lacking the first two games," Maurice said yesterday. "Fortunately it's an area where we can make adjustments to during the course of (the series) and be better at.

"But, as they say, they get paid, too."

Paid handsomely. That's part of being a star. And through the first two games, Pittsburgh stars definitely have outclassed Carolina's.

Through the first two games, Malkin and Crosby have combined for five goals and countless dazzling plays.

Meanwhile, Ward has been beaten nine times, although he can hardly shoulder all the blame. It's unfortunate, though, that his rough outing Thursday came while Canadian Olympic general manager Steve Yzerman was in the press box eyeing candidates for the Vancouver Games next February.

Then there is the case of Canes sniper Eric Staal, who has not scored in five games, the past two while being checked by younger brother Jordan.

The Canes might get forward Tuomo Ruutu back tonight. Ruutu suffered a lower-body injury in Game 1 and missed Game 2.

What they need more, however, is their stars to start playing like stars.

Like Malkin and Crosby are doing right now.

MIKE.ZEISBERGER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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