Wednesday's Three Stars: Malkin rises to the occasion

No. 1 star, Evgeni Malkin(notes), Pittsburgh Penguins:
After hearing all the criticism and need to step up in Game 3, Malkin responded big time with his best game of this playoff season just when the Penguins needed it most. Malkin was a force all night long with his offensive creativity, his physical dominance and his ability to get and keep the Capitals on their heels. Malkin scored a power-play goal to give Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead late in the third period. He led both teams with his nine shots on goal and he logged 29:38 of ice time, the most of any non-goalie on either team, a near unheard of distinction for a forward.

No. 2 star, Sergei Samsonov(notes), Carolina Hurricanes:
The creative Russian forward scored his first goal of the postseason at 17:58 of the second period to give the hosts a lead, but he really made the play on the game-winning in overtime by showing patience with the puck and tossing it in an area where teammate Jussi Jokinen(notes) could score the game-ender.

No. 3 star, Kris Letang(notes), Pittsburgh Penguins:
The young offensive-minded defenseman picked a fine time to score his first career playoff goal. Letang let go with a shot from the point following a Sidney Crosby(notes) faceoff win, and the puck deflected off a Capitals' defenseman and past Washington goalie Simeon Varlamov(notes) 11:23 into overtime. Letang also assisted on Pittsburgh's first of two goals during regulation.

Major penalty: When you have a team down you never want to let off the pedal, and the Capitals did that to a large degree on Wednesday night. They can whine all they want about a disparity in power plays – seven for the Pens and just two for the Caps – but the truth is Washington didn't play hard enough to earn more opportunities. The Capitals also retreated too much all night, allowing Evgeni Malkin all the ice he wanted. Pittsburgh ran up a 42-23 edge in shots as a result. And keep this in mind. The Caps and Penguins have met in the playoffs twice before – in 1992 and '96. On both previous occasions Washington won the first two games only to have Pittsburgh rally back to win each series.

Minor penalty: The Bruins stole a page from the Capitals and turned in a rather lethargic effort on the road. They now find themselves down 2-1 in games and face a pivotal Game 4 on Friday night. Boston was outshot 41-23 and turned the puck over too much for coach Claude Julien's liking.

Conn Smythe Watch: (The Top 10) 1. Jonas Hiller(notes), Ducks; 2. Alexander Ovechkin(notes), Capitals; 3. Ryan Getzlaf(notes), Ducks; 4. Sidney Crosby, Penguins; 5. Roberto Luongo(notes), Canucks; 6. Cam Ward(notes), Hurricanes; 7. Simeon Varlamov, Capitals; 8. Tim Thomas(notes), Bruins; 9. Alexander Semin(notes), Capitals; 10. Chris Osgood(notes), Red Wings.

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