Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box of the Pens' 3-2 shootout loss to the Oilers.
1. EVGENI MALKIN > THE WORLD
There aren’t enough superlatives in the English language to describe Evgeni Malkin and his play tonight, particularly his first goal. His line was so tremendous in the first period that a few of us in the press box joked the coaches should just leave them out for the rest of the game. And even though they didn’t get on the scoresheet in those first 20 minutes, you knew it was only a matter of time with how dominant they were. And sure enough, 48 seconds into the second Malkin scored what was absolutely the goal of the year so far for the Pens. It started with an incredible defensive play, where he picked the pocket of defenseman Oskar Klefbom and stole the puck. Malkin then carried into the defensive zone, where he pulled a spin-o-rama and sniped a backhander bar down past goalie Anders Nilsson. Many of the Pens players and coaches used the term “highlight-reel” to describe it, but that might be understating it. That goal was just part of Malkin’s brilliance all night. He was everywhere – hitting three posts and finishing with 11 shots (1 shy of tying his career-high) – as he put the team on his back and carried them out of the hole they dug themselves in the opening period when they surrendered a 2-0 lead, and got them a point in the standings.
2. NOT THE FULL STORY
Malkin scored his second goal just six seconds into their second man-advantage of the night to give the Pens a season-long six-game streak of scoring a power-play goal. After a lot of mixing and matching during their early-season struggles – where they went 2-for-31 in the first 9 games – Mike Johnston has left the first unit of Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang together for a while now and they look like they’re comfortable with each other. They’ve been doing a phenomenal job of getting pucks and bodies to the net as quickly as possible. However, Malkin told me after the game that despite getting a goal, they weren’t really pleased with their effort tonight as they had eight total minutes of PP time – including 56 seconds on a 5-on-3 – and weren’t able to convert for another.
3. MISSED CHANCES
Even though the Pens were down 2-0 after the first period, I thought they got to their game – especially during the second half – and really got to their game in the middle frame, led by the play of Malkin. From there, they continued to dominate. The problem, for a second straight game, is that they didn’t bury their chances. “We’re missing on too many,” Johnston said after the game. Too many of their shots went high or wide. They have to bear down and at least put those on net and try to create rebounds and scrambles. That was especially noticeable in the 5-on-3 and the overtime period, as the Pens had a few Grade-A chances that they just didn’t put past Nilsson and came back to haunt them.