Final: Pens Beat Canes 8-3, Neal Reels In Hat-Trick


April 27, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Simon Despres (47) and center Brandon Sutter (right center) and left wing Brenden Morrow (10) congratulate left wing Matt Cooke (second from left) after Cooke scored a goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 8-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

If there was any indication that the Pittsburgh Penguins were ready for their cup run — it was Saturday.

Romping the Carolina Hurricanes 8-3 in their season finale, forward James Neal registered a hat-trick in his first game back since being injured and the Pens spoiled the return of Jordan Staal.

Playing the game with a newly-acquired tinted visor, it is unclear as to whether or not the new gear jumpstarted Neal’s offense Saturday.

In fact, the 12 games he played in before going down with a concussion on April 5th, Neal registered a mere three points (1G, 2A).

Visor-help or not — Pens fans are elated to see number 18 back out there.

Collecting an assist as well — Neal totaled four points on the night.

Pittsburgh also got to pencil defenseman Paul Martin’s name into the starting lineup.

Shelved since March 28th with a broken bone in his hand, Martin got right back into the fold.

Logging 23:31 minutes of ice-time and recording a pair of helpers, Martin finished just three seconds short of defenseman Kris Letang’s 23:34 minutes, who also had a couple assists.

Forward’s Jussi Jokinen and Brandon Sutter got to play their ex-mates and didn’t disappoint.

Jokinen buried two goals and Sutter tallied a helper, showing their ex-team just how well they’re holding up post-Canes life.

Interestingly enough, Jokinen finished with 11 points (7G, 4A) in 10 games for Pittsburgh, which matched the total he already had in 33 games with Carolina this season — amazing.

He wasn’t the only newcomer to have revived his season with Pittsburgh.

Forward Brenden Morrow really started scoring consistently down the stretch.

Recording a goal and an assist Saturday, Morrow — like Jokinen — potted more points in 15 games with Pittsburgh (14) than in the 29 contests he had with the Dallas Stars (11).

Critics would probably look at Jokinen and Morrow’s numbers and site Pittsburgh’s offensive talent as the catalyst for their successful second-halfs.

However, Jokinen and Morrow played the majority of their games without superstars Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.  Not to mention the handful of other talent that was sidelined.

Speaking of Malkin, let’s not forget his outstanding Saturday evening.

Getting Pittsburgh on the board with their first goal of the game, he would later add two helpers to finish the season strong for the Pens.

Since hurting his shoulder in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs March 9th, Malkin’s had trouble unloading full-force into his shots.

Scoring three goals in his past five games, Malkin is showing us he’s slowly regaining full-health and looks ready for the postseason.

Matt Cooke recorded a goal and an assist, giving him a point in each of his last four games.

Forwards Jarome Iginla and Chris Kunitz both finished with two assists.  While forward Pascal Dupuis finished with a helper as well.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 27 of 30 shots, which is good considering he didn’t receive much sleep the night before due to the birth of his daughter.

Fleury finished the season with a record of 23-8-0 in 33 games.  His goal against average compiled to a 2.39 and his save percentage finished at .916.

All Pittsburgh has got left to accomplish is to take care of business in the playoffs.

And with captain Sidney Crosby’s return on the horizon, you can bet the Ottawa Senators are going to play their butts off Sunday.