RALEIGH — Shutting down Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin is no easy task, but it will need to be done if the Hurricanes are to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Malkin’s top-shelf, no-look backhander capped his hat trick in Thursday’s 7-4 win at Mellon Arena.
Malkin has 4 goals, and 2 assists against the Hurricanes in two games this series. Crosby has one goal and two assists in that period. Two of Malkin’s goals broke the Hurricanes’ backs in the third period.
“We scored four goals, and if you score four goals in the playoffs, that should be enough to win,” said Hurricanes forward Ray Whitney. “Last night, our defense was the difference in that.”
Whitney said it wasn’t a matter of effort.
“We’re talking about two of the best three players in the world,” said Whitney. “That’s never going to be easy. And you can’t have one guy defend them by himself. The opportunities they got were all avoidable, and there were mistakes not by made one, but two or three different players.”
The Hurricanes have to be better with the puck in the neutral zone, said defenseman Tim Gleason.
“I think it’s time and space, really,” said Gleason. “It has a lot to do with those two guys. … They’re doing their job. We have to shut them down. We have to take pride in doing that personally. I know all six of us back there just have to play more simpler, be more consistent, and play to our strengths.”
It’s not just the defenseman. A big part of the Hurricanes surge in the second half of the season came after coach Paul Maurice held the forwards accountable with the puck. He didn’t allow them to just rely on the defensemen.
Maurice said the defensive pairings will be crucial, hinting at some possible shuffling, though he wasn’t specific.