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Malkin hat trick paces Penguins

Tuesday, 01.15.2008 / 8:56 AM / Game-Day Skate

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Evgeni Malkin netted his second hat trick, this month, last night.
Some random thoughts before my wife steals my latest copy of Men’s Fitness:

Just Two Much – The dynamic duo of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby kept the New York Rangers locked in the Atlantic Division basement Monday night.

Eleven days after recording his first professional hat trick, Malkin tortured the Rangers early in the game with a pair of goals and then added an empty-net tally as the Penguins extended their winning streak at Mellon Arena to six games. Malkin notched his first NHL hat trick on Jan. 3 in a 6-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Sidney Crosby – the February cover boy for Men’s Fitness – had two assists in the victory to tie Tampa Bay’s Vincent Lecavalier for the NHL lead with 63 points.

”It's very easy to play with someone like Crosby,” Malkin said through an interpreter after the victory. “He's the best player in the world, and he was making such great passes, so I just have to get myself open and he will get me the puck.”

Not lost in the shuffle was the play of Ty Conklin, who made a career high 43 saves to improve to 10-0-1 with the surging Penguins. The Blueshirts outshot Pittsburgh 17-2 in the second period, but failed to get one past Conklin after his team beat Henrik Lundqvist three times in the first 20 minutes.

”It's been the same story. It's like a broken record (with Conklin),” Crosby said. “He's been so consistent and made some key saves, some big ones when we needed him to, and gave us a chance to chip away.''

Pittsburgh certainly chipped away in the first period, as Malkin found the back of the net twice before seven minutes had passed. Sergei Gonchar made it 3-0 on a power-play goal late in the first period, leaving New York dazed and confused heading into the first intermission.

Jagr

“They're too young, too quick,” Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr said, sounding like Rocky Balboa during his first fight with Clubber Lang. “We gave them too much space tonight. We've got to play them differently.”

The good news? The Rangers get a chance to redeem themselves Wednesday night when they host the Buffalo Sabres. The bad news? They could enter Wednesday’s game four points behind the New York Islanders, should the latter beat the Montreal Canadiens at the Nassau Coliseum Tuesday.

The only certainty between now and then is this: Rangers coach Tom Renney will spend Tuesday morning and afternoon asking more from his club – one that gave the Penguins too much open ice to work with on Monday night.

"We gave everybody too much space," Renney said. "We backed off; we didn't hold the blue line. Our back pressure was there, but it didn't help out with the loose pucks and picking people up."

Don’t Come Any Closer! – The Carolina Hurricanes have struggled on the ice in recent weeks. Now they’re struggling off the ice, too.

Coach Peter Laviolette’s team has been hit hard by a flu virus that has worked its way through the dressing room. It certainly has played a role in a slide that has seen the Hurricanes drop six of their last eight games. Their Southeast Division lead has been trimmed to just two points over the Atlanta Thrashers.

"This is not your typical sniffles," Laviolette said on Monday. "These guys are tough guys who can play through just about anything, and they are down and out."

Wallin

The virus will force defenseman Niclas Wallin to stay home on Tuesday, rather than travel with the team to Toronto, where the Hurricanes will face the Maple Leafs. Ray Whitney, Trevor Letowski, Glen Wesley and Wade Brookbank, who all missed Saturday’s 5-4 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, could return to the lineup Tuesday.

"I've never seen anything like this happen on a team," Wesley said.

I haven’t seen so many people become ill since the release of Gigli.

Contact Brian Compton at: bcompton@nhl.com



Quote of the Day

Philadelphia is where I started my NHL career and this is where I want to be so I am really happy. This definitely gives me a lot of confidence by the Flyers showing that they have confidence in me. I know they want to see me get better as a player and this is the place to do it.

— Zac Rinaldo to the Flyers website on signing a two-year contract extension with Philadelphia