Sunday May 24th, 2009

1. Evgeni Malkin, Penguins: The big man has taken over this series. He scored twice in the first, including the eventual game winner with just 12 seconds left in the period, and now has six goals and nine points through the first three games. His hands have been soft as Egyptian cotton, but it's been his willingness to battle along the boards and drive to the net that has left Carolina's defenders grasping at the wind in his wake.

2. Sidney Crosby, Penguins: His efforts might have been overshadowed by the scoring exploits of No. 71, but Crosby was just as effective. He set up Malkin's first goal, then counted the second on a nifty backhand that set the 'Canes back on their heels. The rest of the way he set the tone defensively, helping gum up Carolina's offense with some dogged work in his own zone.

3. Cam Ward, Hurricanes: A pity vote? Ah, maybe a little. Ward again was lit up by the Penguins, allowing five goals on 40 shots. But brother, some of those 35 saves were humdingers, the kind that kept the score deceptively closer than it should have been. If the rest of his teammates were performing at his level, the 'Canes wouldn't have one foot in the grave.

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