The Pittsburgh Penguins were victorious in Game 1 over the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-2. Coming off their intense semifinals win over the Washington Capitals, it was an adjustment for the defending Eastern Conference champions.
"We played really well in the first period," said Evgeni Malkin(notes) after the game. "And then we let go a little bit and gave up the momentum. When the score was 2-1 we had to win the game. We got it together, scored on a power play and won this game."
Oleg Mezheritsky of Sovetsky Sport, passed along his postgame interviews with the Penguins' Ruslan Fedotenko(notes), Sergei Gonchar(notes) and Malkin, which are translated here. As you'll see, the Penguins learned a lot about the Hurricanes after a tough first battle.
First up, Fedotenko:
Q. Ruslan, what kind of problems did Carolina create for you?
FEDOTENKO: The Hurricanes have their forwards playing really well. You can say that one of them always thinks defense. Therefore, Carolina does not allow us any odd man rushes. Our counterattacks are not really working. I also want to mention the Hurricanes' character. They do not give up. For example, towards the end of the first period we pushed their backs against the wall, but they withstood [the pressure] and even started creating scoring opportunities.
And their second goal was like a present from you.
After a great end of the first period it appeared that the game against Carolina will be trouble-free. Maybe we just relaxed a little bit, started holding on to the puck too long, tried to play too [cute]. The Hurricanes took the momentum away [from us].
What can you say about the way goalies played tonight?
Both of them played really well. Fleury definitely saved us, especially in the last minutes [of the game]. We were ready for the fact that Ward would play [great]. We need to shoot more and create more pressure around him.
If you were to compare with Washington, do Carolina defensemen look better?
The [Carolina] defensemen are not very big, but they skate really well and pass the puck quickly. That's why they are very difficult to catch in their own zone. You get to one of them, and he has already passed the puck.
Now, here's Evgeni Malkin on the finals and comparisons to the Capitals series:
Q. There is a notion that Carolina weaker than your previous opponents - Philadelphia and Washington.
MALKIN: There are no weak teams here. Their goalie plays really well. And even though Carolina does not have superstars, their squad is very even both in attack and defense. It is especially difficult against the Hurricanes. They have one on one coverage and don't give up a lot of chances.
What is the main difference between Carolina and Washington?
This is an entirely different team. [Carolina] also have a good goalie, but I think that the defense is better. They play very tight. The Capitals cannot say that. But [the Capitals] have better forwards. It turns out that Carolina is Washington in reverse.
Tell us about the chaos in the final two minutes of the game?
It was a difficult situation. We got a penalty and then Fleury got his stick knocked out [of his hands]. Eric Staal(notes) did that and deliberately pushed it away. I think there was an obvious penalty there. But our guys played gutsy and got the win.
He just said ‘We have to win this game.' That's it.
Finally, Sergei Gonchar's thoughts on Game 1:
Q. How are you feeling comparing to Game 7 against Washington?
GONCHAR: I feel a lot better. It's good that we don't play every day. There is time to recover. So, we're a bit lucky with the calendar.
Carolina pushed Pittsburgh in the very end of the game.
We had to kill a penalty, and the Hurricanes had six attackers. Carolina is an experienced team, and they managed to score a goal. But there is no difference for us how to win: 3-1 or 3-2.
Was the win important for Jordan Staal?
Every player has the goal [to win]. But I can imagine how good Jordan feels beating his brother.
Did your role on the ice change after the [knee] injury?
I play less now. The coach remembers what happened to me after the collision with Ovechkin. But now I play more on power play. Therefore, you're right, my game has changed.
There were some plays in the first period where you had to put a lot on your knees. How did you not re-injure it?
A brace on my knee helped a lot. If it hadn't been for it I would have aggravated my injury. There was an episode when I had a knee on knee collision with a Carolina player. The injury could have come back.
Do you think the Hurricanes play against you like that on purpose? To take you out [of the game]?
This is playoffs. Let's be honest, in the Stanley Cup a lot can be done for a win. Knowing of my injury, they will try to play more physical against me. But it is normal. I don't expect anything difference in the playoffs.