|Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin notched his first career hat trick in Thursday's 6-2 win over Toronto.
Two nights after winning the NHL’s first outdoor game played in the United States, the Penguins looked right at home inside Mellon Arena, shrugging off an early Toronto goal on the way to a 6-2 victory over the Maple Leafs on Thursday.
Sidney Crosby, the star of the “shootout in the snow,” played second fiddle to the Penguins’ other young gun, Evgeni Malkin, who had his first three-goal game in the NHL. Malkin’s second goal came in the middle of a three-goal blitz in 48 seconds early in the third period that broke open a 2-1 game as the Penguins won their fifth in a row.
''The team winning is the best feeling,'' said Malkin, last season's Rookie of the Year. ''The team is winning games. We're playing better and better every game.''
The Penguins showed no after effects from their physically demanding 2-1 AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic outdoor victory Tuesday in Buffalo. The players talked during a long practice Wednesday of not getting caught up in the emotion and the aura of the showcase game.
''The ice was different (in Buffalo), the game was a little different,'' forward Jarkko Ruutu said. ''It was fun and entertaining, but I was sort of tired at the end of it and I'm sure guys were, too.''
Ty Conklin made 33 saves for his sixth win in as many starts since being recalled from the minors. Conklin excelled in the first period, allowing only Jason Blake’s goal at 10:34 while his team was being outshot 11-4 ( 700K ).
The Penguins regrouped in the second period. Eric Christensen tied it on a wraparound at 1:24 ( 700K ), and Malkin got his first at 14:22 when he took Crosby’s pass from the high slot and beat Scott Clemmensen from down low ( 700K ).
''Momentum is a funny thing and they capitalized on it,'' Clemmensen said. ''They got us back on our heels and before we could take a breath, they knocked three quick ones in on us.''
Rookie Tyler Kennedy started the Penguins' flurry by scoring three minutes into the final period, making it 3-1 after Jordan Staal gained control of the puck along the boards ( 700K ). Malkin got his second of the night 37 seconds later ( 700K ) and, after the Penguins won the ensuing faceoff, Petr Sykora scored 11 seconds after that ( 700K ), causing Toronto coach Paul Maurice to call a quick timeout.
''An outburst like that shouldn't happen,'' defenseman Hal Gill said. ''We should get fired up after they score a goal and go back at it, but that didn't happen. We were controlling the tempo but then we slacked off and they got comfortable and they got the momentum.''
Pavel Kubina scored for the Leafs at 12:53 ( 700K ), and it looked as though Malkin might miss getting the hat trick when he whiffed from the side of the net during a power play late in the third. But at 15:28, he got his third of the night and 18th of the season — then celebrated by waving his arms, yelling and skating with a flourish behind the net ( 700K ).
''He's been close a few times and he really loves to score goals and it's great to see him that happy and finally get that,'' Crosby said. ''To be able to get one, then another one, that puts a lot of pressure on a team.''
Added defenseman Brooks Orpik: ''Once he gets one, he wants to get two and thereafter, too. He really looked good.''
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report.