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Malkin's line leads Penguins to Hockeyville win

by Kristen Nelson

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- There are roughly 4,000 seats in the Cambria County War Memorial Arena. But when Sergei Plotnikov scored 14 seconds into the Pittsburgh Penguins' preseason game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, the building sounded as loud as a packed NHL arena.

The line of center Evgeni Malkin between Plotnikov and Patric Hornqvist set the tempo for the Penguins, combining for two of Pittsburgh's goals in its 4-2 victory against Tampa Bay in the preseason game that was the centerpiece of being named Kraft Hockeyville USA.

"I like what I see," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "Certainly Hornqvist and [Malkin], we thought they had some chemistry before, but Sergei Plotnikov, I know people have talked about him. He's fit in better and better every night that I see him."

The trio formed the top line for the Penguins, who did not dress center Sidney Crosby or right wing Phil Kessel. Tuesday's game was the second of three in three days for the Penguins.

Malkin's line more than picked up the slack.

After the opening faceoff, Malkin dumped the puck into the Lightning's zone, where Plotnikov picked up a pass from Hornqvist and took a backhand shot that beat Lightning goalie Kristers Gudlevskis for a quick 1-0 lead.

Malkin brought the fans to their feet midway in the second period with a backhand goal of his own that broke a 2-2 tie.

"It was good. Every game we're getting better," Malkin said. "We worked hard and got a couple goals. I tried to talk a little bit more on the ice… I think we did a good job the whole game."

Johnston was impressed with how hard Plotnikov played on the puck down low.

"He's really hard to knock off the puck. He's strong," Johnston said. "[Malkin] is going to find open space, we know that, and once they start to get a feel for each other I think you'll start to see a few more open opportunities around the net."

Malkin, Plotnikov and Hornqvist embraced the Hockeyville spirit before the game by imitating the Hanson brothers from the movie "Slap Shot." Each wore taped glasses during warm-ups.

Before taking the ice, the three Penguins posed in the dressing room with Dave Hanson, Jeff Carlson and Steve Carlson, who played the trio of fictional brothers in the 1977 film.

"It's a good memory," Malkin said. "... I got a picture and had to show my parents. It's unbelievable."

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