Evgeni Malkin didn't score last night in Game 4 against the Carolina Hurricanes, as the Pittsburgh Penguins completed their sweep with a 4-1 victory. The last time he went scoreless was in Game 4 against the Washington Capitals in the conference semifinals; all he did after that was score 16 points in six games.
Malkin, Ruslan Fedotenko and Sergei Gonchar of the Eastern Conference champion Penguins spoke with my colleague Dmitry Manakhov of Sovetsky Sport in Raleigh after last night's game. As you'll see, they're more than complimentary of the effort from the Hurricanes in their brief series; and they are entering the Stanley Cup finals with a lot of confidence.
First up is Malkin:
Q. What can you say about your game tonight?
MALKIN: We played really calm tonight. We were in a great mood when we came out to play. We weren't nervous at all. It was an important game for us and we played to win. We now have a few days off [before the Cup finals start], and we have to start getting ready for the finals now.
Why did you take a few penalties tonight?
It is a difficult question. It is hockey and it is not without penalties. The first penalty I took was because I held on to [someone's] stick. It's just I lost my stick and panicked a little bit. And the second one, everyone was pushing and shoving, and I started pushing. And then I got the call; unfounded, in my opinion.
All the pushing now. Maybe you decided to become a tough guy?
Did you expect to fly past Carolina in four games?
I wouldn't say that it was easy. Carolina is a good team. It's just we converted when we had our chances, and our goalie played well. The score might be a little deceiving. But we gave it all every game. We did not anticipate winning the series in four games. But it's good that we did.
Do you feel any difference between last year's Pittsburgh and the current team? You will probably play Detroit in the finals now. Do you feel less scared now that you have the experience playing in the Cup final last year?
Yes, to be honest, it's not that scary. It will be the same Detroit, they have the same team. They added maybe one or two players. Our team is also a little different. But all the guys are burning with desire to win the Cup. It was visible in this series. The guys gave it all every shift they took. I think the final will be a little different [from last year]. I am hoping for the best. Of course there is no fear and we will play only to win.
You were criticized a lot during the last series because it took you some time to start scoring. It was quite the opposite against the Hurricanes. What was the difference?
It is difficult to say. But thank God I don't read American newspapers. Probably. I heard that I was criticized. Maybe I just lost my game a little bit. I came out in that series and tried to play a more defensive game. Then our line was changed and I started playing with Talbot and Fedotenko. We just sat down and talk a bit and started playing a little different. I gained confidence. My teammates helped me. I scored one goal and then it just started for me. Sometimes you can just lose your game, and it is difficult to find. I just managed to find it and started playing better and better. And it all just transformed to the next series. I am playing with a lot of passion and at my level.
Now, here's Ruslan Fedotenko discussing another trip to the finals:
Q. It will be your second Stanley Cup final. The first one was with the Lightning. What is the difference between the two for you?
FEDOTENKO: It's the same great feeling! I just think that this team is a little stronger. I will say that we now have a lot more experience, a few more veterans on the team who won the Cup and who went to the finals. I think we have a really good chance.
Talk about experience. Tonight neither Crosby nor Malkin scored, and your secondary scoring was great.
Yes, both of those guys played well and had their chances to score. But it just shows that our team is very deep. We have a lot of guys who can support and score. When two guys cannot score, there are others who will. That's why I think our team is really strong.
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Finally, Sergei Gonchar, who offered this take on Game 4: "The game was very tight and patchy, I think everyone saw it. Carolina tried really hard, because they did not want to lose [the series] in four games. They came out strong and tried really hard. They scored first. It was a little difficult for us at first."
Q. What was your main advantage?
GONCHAR: I think the fact that we managed to play our game: we imposed our style on them, didn't let them open up, didn't let them show their best qualities.
What are the main differences between this team and the one that lost to Detroit in the final last year?
Our style is a lot difference, as you can see. We play a more aggressive hockey. We have a lot more experience now, a lot more confidence. These are the two main differences in my opinion.
Will you be more confident this year playing, probably, against Detroit in the final again?
I think so. A lot of guys went through it last year, for many it was the first time. When you experience something for the first time you know what to expect and what to do once you get there again. I think it will be a little easier for the guys this time.
Will your leg heal before the finals?
I very much hope so. It is a lot better already. These days off between games are really helping me a lot giving me an opportunity to get better, get some therapy.
What's better: to wait until [Detroit and Chicago] play six or seven games and then play them? Or play them while you're still hot?
I really cannot answer this question. There are advantages and disadvantages in both scenarios. It shouldn't matter. You just have to go out and play your best.