It took almost half a season, but the Pittsburgh Penguins
showed what they're truly capable of.
After falling behind 3-0 Wednesday night to one of the worst teams in the League, the Pens rallied for three goals in the third period before Evgeni Malkin
tallied his second goal of the night with 15.5 seconds left in overtime in a thrilling 4-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning
at Mellon Arena.
"You could see the fire was in his eyes," Pens coach Michel Therrien
said of Malkin, who now has 24 goals this season. "He was ready to do everything he could in his power to try to win this hockey game. He was a true leader tonight on the ice."
The defending Eastern Conference champions entered the game three points out of a playoff spot and were in danger of losing their fourth in a row until Malkin -- who leads the NHL in points -- turned it up a notch. Pittsburgh finally found a way to get to Lightning goalie Mike McKenna
, who made his first NHL start.
''I'm mad because we're losing,'' Malkin said after being asked what got him going.
Pittsburgh, 5-11-1 in its previous 17 games, failed to solve McKenna in the first two periods. Martin St. Louis
and Vincent Lecavalier
each had a goal and an assist for the Lightning, while former Penguins forward Ryan Malone
chipped in with his 16th goal of the season.
''They were playing very well, they gave us nothing, it was hard to play out there,'' Pens forward Petr Sykora
said. ''Geno got us going and we had a chance to come back. I felt we got so much life on Geno's first goal.''
That came 2:25 into the third -- a period that saw the Penguins outshoot the Lightning 17-5. Mark Eaton
made it 3-2 at 14:06 before Malkin set up Sykora for the game-tying, power-play goal at 16:31. The Pens were awarded a man advantage after Gary Roberts
received a roughing penalty on Matt Cooke
''We're jostling all the way up the ice and obviously he's famous for diving and never really playing with any honor,'' Roberts said. ''But, yeah ... I've got to be smarter than that. There's no excuse, up 3-2, it's a bad penalty for me.''
McKenna was disappointed his team failed to hold on to a three-goal lead with just 20 minutes to play.
''We were up 3-0 on a team going into the third period and then we didn't play well. I let in too many goals,'' said McKenna, who made 31 saves. ''It's not good enough.''
On the game winner, Jordan Staal
briefly controlled the puck along the goal line, somehow regained it after pulling it away from two Tampa Bay defenders and passed in front to Malkin, who scored on a wrist shot before being pulled to his knees.
Malkin celebrated by throwing his body against the glass, and his teammates piled on top of him to celebrate what the Pens hope to be the turning point in their season.
"It's big," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby
said. "We showed a lot of character in the third. It was frustrating the first couple of periods. We had a lot of power plays and some pretty good chances. We kept pushing and got some bounces there in the third.
"You always look back at seasons and turning points," Crosby said. "Hopefully this is one for us. It's a great character builder for everyone. Everyone was a part of it. We just need to build off this one."
Sabres 5, Maple Leafs 0 | VIDEO
After going 3-3 on a six-game road trip, Buffalo returned home and gave its fans a laugher.
had a natural hat trick, while Ryan Miller
was asked to make only 16 saves for his second consecutive shutout as the Sabres crushed Toronto. Vanek, who now has 32 goals, added an assist during his fifth career three-goal game and first this season.
''We had good energy tonight, a lot of guys are happy to be home,'' Miller said. ''The boys looked really sharp. They should be proud of managing the game for 60 minutes.''
The Leafs, meanwhile, were still showing the effects of Tuesday night's 4-3 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers
-- a game in which they blew a 3-1 lead in the third period. Twenty-four hours later, they were outshot 32-16 and handed the Sabres nine power plays.
''This wasn't one of our better efforts to say the least,'' Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. ''We weren't ready tonight.''
Miller, who stopped 28 shots in a 2-0 win at Phoenix on Saturday, registered his fifth shutout of the season. He hasn't allowed a goal in a span of 126:52, dating back to a 5-2 loss at Calgary on Jan. 28. The toughest save he was asked to make on Wednesday came early in the third period, when he got his blocker up to stop Nikolai Kulemin
's shot from the right circle.
''We let one slip away last night,'' Leafs forward Matt Stajan
said. ''We had a chance to redeem ourselves. We were flat all game.''
Indeed they were. Toronto mustered just five shots in the opening period, and fell behind quickly on Tim Connolly
's 10th goal of the season at 2:23. Drew Stafford
made it 2-0 with 7:08 left in the first before Vanek added a goal in the second and two more in the third.
''We knew we were maybe physically not in top shape, but I thought we skated well,'' said Vanek, who upped his team-leading total to 32 goals. ''We played smart and got the early lead, and that really helped us.''
Meanwhile, rookie goalie Justin Pogge
received little help once again. He was recalled by the Leafs earlier in the day from the American Hockey League. His two NHL appearances this season have come in perhaps the Leafs' worst two games of the season.
''I'm not enjoying it too much,'' he said. ''We just couldn't get anything going.''
Red Wings 5, Coyotes 4 | VIDEO
A hooking penalty on Joel Perrault
with 46 seconds left cost Phoenix dearly. Playing in his 1,300th career game, Nicklas Lidstrom
quickly made the Coyotes pay as he broke a 4-4 tie just seven seconds later to lift Detroit to a dramatic victory at Joe Louis Arena. Marian Hossa
scored twice for the second straight game.
''It was a penalty, I wasn't debating that,'' Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky
said. ''But there were three hooks on our guys before that.''
Lidstrom beat Ilya Bryzgalov
with a shot from the point that deflected off the stick of Coyotes defenseman Ken Klee
. While it wasn't the prettiest victory of their season, the Wings will take two points any way they can get them in this heated Western Conference race.
''It's not the way we want to win but we're still able to win games,'' Lidstrom said. ''We're still working at details in our game that could be better.''
Wednesday marked the first game for Henrik Zetterberg
since the Wings' star signed a 12-year extension with the club. His 18th goal of the season at 11:29 of the second period gave Detroit broke a 2-2 tie. He had missed the previous three games due to lower-back spasms.
put the Wings up by a pair 5:43 into the third on a power-play tally, but Phoenix rallied to tie the game on goals from Perrault at 7:06 and Joakim Lindstrom
with 5:04 remaining. Chris Osgood
stopped 23 of 27 shots in the victory.
''I have to get myself where I want to be the next two months,'' Osgood said. ''I'm getting some horrible bounces right now. You work your way through it.''
Wild 3, Ducks 0 | VIDEO
Minnesota picked up two important points -- and more important for the Wild, Anaheim didn't gain any.
stopped all 34 shots he faced for his sixth shutout of the season, and Andrew Brunette
, Mikko Koivu
and Pierre-Marc Bouchard
each had a goal and an assist as the Wild blanked the Ducks at Xcel Energy Center.
Anaheim is in fifth place with 57 points, but the win allowed Minnesota to move into a sixth-place tie with Dallas with 55 points. Four other teams have 53 points or more.
''We can't be satisfied, because the standings probably will be completely different tomorrow night,'' Backstrom said.
The Wild scored a goal in each period. Brunette broke a scoreless tie at 4:21 of the first, as he beat Jonas Hiller
on the power play for his 13th goal of the season. Koivu, who picked up his career-high 35th assist on the tally, made it 2-0 at 4:20 of the second off a feed from Antti Miettinen
''I think we're getting better every night, and that's the way it should be,'' Backstrom said.
Bouchard rounded out the scoring with an empty-net goal at 19:14 of the third period. Anaheim peppered Backstrom with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes but failed to find the back of the net.
"We can't be satisfied, because the standings probably will be completely different tomorrow night." -- Niklas Backstrom
''Our execution was really, I would say, off,'' coach Randy Carlyle
said. ''We just couldn't seem to do anything with the puck, and we got frustrated. I didn't think we really got involved in the game until the third period. ... We can't afford a performance like we had tonight, in this situation.''
A situation that now has the Wild just two points behind Carlyle's Ducks.
''It's only going to get tighter, and these two points were too important for us to pass up,'' Carlyle said. ''It's just disturbing from the standpoint of how little we were into the game.''
Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.