Dazzling show by Pens duo

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:42 PM ET

RALEIGH -- Decked out in his familiar black shirt, normally stone-faced Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, standing in a private box in the RBC Center, managed to crack a rare grin late in the third period last night.

He had plenty of reason to.

Watching Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby weave their magic again must remind him of the glory days of the franchise, when The Magnificent One was teaming up with Jaromir Jagr to lead the Pens to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992.

Right now, Malkin and Crosby are playing as if they are on their own mission, one that hopefully for them will bring Pittsburgh its third Stanley Cup championship.

The Penguins' dynamic duo has combined for 14 points in the first three games of this Eastern Conference final, including nine by Malkin, the biggest reason why the Penguins are just one win away from a return visit to the Stanley Cup final.

With Malkin leading the charge with a pair of goals and an assist last night, the Penguins took a commanding 3-0 lead in this best-of-seven series with a 6-2 victory over the 'Canes.

Malkin really has been on a tear of late, registering six consecutive multi-point games in the 2009 post-season.

A year ago, Malkin and Crosby stood on the ice at the Mellon Arena as the Detroit Red Wings skated around with the Cup. At that time, it was Detroit's terrific twosome of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk that proved to be the key to bringing another title to Hockeytown.

Last night, with Red Wings officials Steve Yzerman, Mark Howe and Pat Verbeek in attendance to scout the series, they saw another Dynamic Duo -- Malkin and Crosby -- put on yet another dazzling show, a common theme the past three games.

Malkin's assist on Ruslan Fedotenko's third-goal was especially a work of art, a no-look, between-the-legs feed which Fedotenko converted past Cam Ward to put Pittsburgh up 4-2.

Asked how he knew Fedotenko was there, Malkin replied: "We speak Russian. He yelled "free, free," in Russian."

Malkin and Crosby easily have been the stories here. Plain and simple. They have dominated, much like Lemieux and Jagr did almost two decades ago. Whatever other storylines you are looking for in this series, it always reverts back to them.

In Pittsburgh, Malkin and Crosby already are cult heroes. Black T-shirts have been printed featuring their images with the words "Pittsburgh's two-headed monster."

Hard to believe that, just one series ago, Malkin was being criticized after the Pens' first two games against the Washington Capitals -- both losses -- for not producing.

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"I didn't play that well the first two games in Washington," Malkin said. "I talked to my linemates. Thanks to them, things are better."

Malkin now has reeled off six consecutive multi-point games in these 2009 playoffs.

The Penguins took command in this one when Crosby and Malkin scored goals in the final minute of the first period, snapping a 1-1 tie and allowing the visitors to go to the dressing room for the first intermission with a 3-1 lead.

"Those were big," Crosby said. "It allowed us to quickly get the lead."

Malkin, for the record, has seven points in the past two games, including five goals.

The Penguins can finish off the 'Canes on Tuesday night in Game 4 in Raleigh. Only two teams in NHL history -- the 1942 Maple Leafs and 1975 New York Islanders -- have rebounded from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series.

With Malkin and Crosby playing at this level, it's doubtful the Hurricanes will join that elite company.

MIKE.ZEISBERGER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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