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Malkin gives Penguins more in Game 4

Pittsburgh center steps up to help take 3-1 series lead against Sharks

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

SAN JOSE -- Evgeni Malkin put it on himself after practice Sunday.

"I want more," he said.

Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan had a feeling Malkin would eventually deliver more in this Stanley Cup Final against the San Jose Sharks.

"Geno is going to be fine," Sullivan said, referring to Malkin by his nickname. "I know he's going to be a big part of the next few games here."

He was huge in Game 4 at SAP Center on Monday, when the Penguins needed their other massively talented center to put on a cape and carry them to a win, one that potentially puts them 60 minutes away from a Stanley Cup championship.

Malkin got his first points of the series on a power-play goal and an assist to help lift the Penguins to a 3-1 win. His goal, scored on the power play at 2:37 of the second period, was the game-winner.

Video: PIT@SJS, Gm4: Malkin tips in Kessel's shot for PPG

He did it all in only 14:30 of ice time, a low mark for him since his 12:56 of ice time in Game 4 against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference First Round, which also happened to be his only other truly dominant game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Malkin had four points that night against the Rangers to help the Penguins take a 3-1 lead in the series. His two points were enough to lift Pittsburgh to a 3-1 lead against the Sharks.

The Penguins can hoist the Stanley Cup with a win in Game 5 at Consol Energy Center on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

"I thought he was really good, not just because he got on the score sheet," Sullivan said. "Obviously that's great for him and great for us, but I thought his overall game was really good.

"I just thought he had one of his strongest games of the playoffs at an important time for us."

Malkin talked a lot about his game and what he needed after practice Sunday. He had gone three straight games without a point against the Sharks, this after predicting before the series that his best was yet to come.

He talked about needing the puck more. He talked about the Penguins needing to be harder on the power play, how he felt they were too soft and casual on their one opportunity in Game 3.

Malkin also said he felt "great" despite contributing nothing of tangible value to the Penguins' cause in the first three games.

Video: PIT@SJS, Gm4: Cole finishes rebound for early lead

But he looked great in Game 4, and his contributions made the difference in the Penguins win.

"He demands a lot of himself, so to see him come out like that in a big game when he kind of called himself out a bit, it's pretty impressive," Pittsburgh center Matt Cullen said. "That's what good players do."

Malkin had the secondary assist on defenseman Ian Cole's goal at 7:36 of the first period that gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead. A closer look at what Malkin did showed how big he was on the play.

He had the puck in front of the Sharks bench as they were changing. Sharks defenseman Roman Polak was defending him. Forwards Joel Ward and Chris Tierney were closing in, about to triple-team Malkin.

He didn't let them. Malkin feathered a perfect pass through Tierney's legs directly to right wing Phil Kessel, who was knifing down the middle of the ice with speed.

Kessel carried the puck in, curled into the right circle and fired the puck on Sharks goalie Martin Jones. The rebound came to Cole, who was alone in the left circle because Malkin's play under pressure allowed the Penguins to catch the Sharks in a change.

Cole scored his first goal in 105 games.

"He's one of the best players in the world, certainly one of the most talented, so when he takes it upon himself, when he says, 'Hey, I need to be better, I have a lot more to contribute, and I'm going to do it,' he does it," Cole said of Malkin. "You saw tonight how dominant he can be."

Video: Ian Cole talks to reporters following Game 4 win

Malkin then did something he hadn't done since Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, something he had done once since April 28.

He scored a goal.

Even bigger, he scored it on the power play to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead early in the second period. It was Pittsburgh's first power-play goal in five games and Malkin's first with the man-advantage since he got two in Game 4 against the Rangers.

To get it, Malkin did something unorthodox. He went to the net.

Typically a point man on the power play, Malkin went to the right post immediately after Sidney Crosby, their other top center, won the faceoff in the right circle and drifted up to the point.

"It's our power play, I stay on the boards and I go to forecheck if Sid loses it and if we win we try to switch it, but we did not switch and it worked," Malkin said. "Maybe the next game we'll play the same way. I don't know why I stayed, but it worked."

Kessel found Malkin with a terrific pass that went through the slot. He redirected it into the net.

"I was just trying to go backdoor and hopefully it hits him and goes in," Kessel said.

It did. But Malkin made a lot of other plays that didn't count on the score sheet in Game 4, plays that still told the story of his dominance in 22 shifts.

He had the puck more. He took it to the net more. He backchecked with authority. The Sharks had no answer for him.

Crosby was the best player on the ice in Games 1 and 2. The Penguins won each.

Malkin was the best player on the ice in Game 4. The Penguins won again.

If either takes the mantle as the best player in Game 5, the Penguins will likely win the Stanley Cup.

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