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Neal's OT goal, Malkin's 4 points power Penguins

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- Evgeni Malkin had a dominant performance Saturday in a game involving some of the NHL's marquee players, and the Pittsburgh Penguins superstar credited his captain with an off-ice assist for his recent improved play.

Malkin had four points and James Neal scored an overtime goal to lead the Penguins to a 4-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Consol Energy Center.

Neal one-timed a pass from Malkin into the upper-left corner of the Tampa Bay net while on a power play 1:27 into overtime for his third overtime goal of the season, which tied a Penguins record.

Malkin said he has been more satisfied with his game in the past week, which he attributed to conversations with Sidney Crosby.

"I feel better every game," Malkin said. "I didn't play good after the Olympics, and Sid, he helped me a lot because he understands my problem with the loss and he supports me and helps me. After we talk, I feel so much better and I've just started to play better."

Tampa Bay rookie forward Ondrej Palat scored his 19th goal of the season after skating through the Pittsburgh defense to tie the game 3-3 with 1:22 remaining in regulation, less than two minutes after Malkin gave the Penguins a one-goal lead.

"You need to get points. It's extremely frustrating how that game ended up," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "I thought our guys battled hard. When you look up at that clock and we're down a goal with two minutes to go and we're staring at zero points in the face and we pull one out. You have to be pretty happy with how things went."

Pittsburgh's Jussi Jokinen forced a turnover by Lightning forward Tyler Johnson in the Tampa Bay zone late in the third period. Malkin collected the puck and roofed a backhand shot past goalie Anders Lindback for his 23rd goal of the season with 3:17 remaining.

The Penguins trailed midway through the third after Steven Stamkos scored his 20th goal of the season at 8:17. Radko Gudas carried the puck into Pittsburgh's zone before sending a pass to Alex Killorn, who fired a shot at goalie Jeff Zatkoff before attempting to collect his own rebound. Stamkos raced to the puck and chipped it under Zatkoff's left pad.

The Lightning earned five of a possible six points on their three-game road trip.

"Obviously, you want to win every game, but we'll take the points right now," Stamkos said. "Obviously, we can learn from a couple mistakes. They scored three out of the four on the power play and one where we make an uncharacteristic mistake and they score. So that gave them their opportunities and with a team like that with that offensive firepower, they're going to make you pay."

Malkin answered to tie the game 2-2. After Lindback steered an attempt from Matt Niskanen wide, Malkin wristed a shot from a sharp angle into the Lightning net with 8:53 remaining in regulation.

With neither team generating much offense through the early portion of the second period, Pittsburgh utilized a combination of Crosby and Malkin to score the first goal.

Malkin drove down the left boards and around Lightning defenseman Matthew Carle before turning to find Crosby on near the left edge of the right circle. Crosby one-timed a slap shot past Lindback for his team-leading 34th goal of the season at 5:29 to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead.

"[Malkin] was flying," Crosby said. "He just dominated the whole night. He had the puck the entire game, drew two or three penalties, at least. He was on fire."

Crosby leads the NHL with 94 points, 18 more than Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf.

The Penguins controlled the first 15 minutes of the second period until forward Marcel Goc was called for interference. The Lightning had two shots through most of the period but used the power play to get their offense moving.

Seconds after Zatkoff stopped a Stamkos slap shot, he faked on a second shot, freezing Pittsburgh's penalty-killers, before passing the puck to Valtteri Filppula in the middle of the zone. Filppula one-timed a shot past Zatkoff with 3:16 remaining to tie it 1-1.

Filppula's 24th goal of the season gave him a career high, surpassing his 2011-12 total of 23 with the Detroit Red Wings.

Palat's late goal salvaged a point for the Lightning, keeping them one point ahead of the Montreal Canadiens for second place in the Atlantic Division; the Canadiens beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 on Saturday night. Tampa Bay is seven points ahead of the Washington Capitals, the best of the non-playoff teams in the Eastern Conference.

The Penguins are six points behind the Boston Bruins for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston beat the Phoenix Coyotes 4-2 on Saturday night.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma has stressed playing a more defensive game in preparation for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and was pleased by the Penguins limiting Tampa Bay to 24 shots.

"Scoring chances are something we look at," Bylsma said. "I think the number is going to be under the 12 we want to get a game and against a dangerous power play, a power play that shoots a lot of pucks, this is a team that shoots a lot of pucks, I thought playing a 0-0 game, a 1-1 game even getting down in the third, we were playing a patient game."

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