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Aftermath: Penguins 6, Thrashers 2

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
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Bylsma | Crosby | Kunitz | Gonchar | Malkin
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The two hottest teams in the National Hockey League collided at Mellon Arena Tuesday night. Pittsburgh hadn’t lost in regulation in its previous 10 games (8-0-2) while Atlanta was riding a franchise-record six-game winning streak. One of those streaks was about to be sidetracked.

When the dust settled, the Penguins walked away with an impressive 6-2 victory while the Thrashers’ winning streak was derailed. Evgeni Malkin completely took over the game, tying a career-high with five points, and Pittsburgh’s power play netted three scores as the team cruised to the win.

Atlanta walked right into the Penguins’ ruse. The Thrashers played their typical up-tempo game and Pittsburgh countered with its own version. With the Penguins’ talent advantage (Atlanta played without Ilya Kovalchuk, Kari Lehtonen and Ron Hainsey), Pittsburgh was in complete control from start to finish.
(AP) - NHL scoring-leader Evgeni Malkin tied a career-high with five points to surpass 100 for the second consecutive season and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Atlanta Thrashers 6-2 Tuesday night.

Malkin, who missed practice Monday due to illness, had two goals and three assists to give him 102 points this season. He extended his lead in the scoring race over teammate Sidney Crosby to 10 points.

Sergei Gonchar had a goal and three assists and Kris Letang and Crosby had two assists each for Pittsburgh in a game matching the two hottest teams in the Eastern Conference.
Pos. Team GP Record Pts
4. Philadelphia 69 37-22-10 84
5. Pittsburgh 72 38-26-8 84
6. NY Rangers 71 37-26-8 82
7. Montreal 70 36-25-9 81
8. Carolina 71 36-28-7 79
9. Florida 70 34-26-10 78
10. Buffalo 70 34-28-8 76

Team Notables:
Buffalo: Lost at Ottawa, 4-2
Carolina: Off-day: Hosts New Jersey, Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Florida: Lost vs. Washington, 3-0
Montreal: Lost to NY Rangers, 4-3 in a shootout
NY Rangers: Won at Montreal, 4-3 in a shootout
Philadelphia: Lost at Detroit, 3-2

Evgeni Malkin celebrates after scoring his first goal against Atlanta and his 100th point of the season (photo by Getty)
What Worked Well: Power Play
The Penguins power play is rounding into a serious threat. Pittsburgh scored three power-play goals to help build an insurmountable lead. The power play also enabled the Penguins to maintain their momentum and crushed Atlanta’s spirits. Pittsburgh has five man-advantage scores in the past two games.

What Could Have Gone Better: 6-Point Game
Evgeni Malkin had a glorious chance to set a new single-game career high in points when he was awarded a penalty shot. Malkin had five points (2G-3A) at that juncture to tie a career high. His penalty shot, however, sailed just wide on the blocker side. 
Evgeni Malkin missed practice Monday and has been playing with an illness for the past few days. But it was the Thrashers’ who were feeling sick after Malkin snapped their winning streak with a career-high (tied) five-point performance. Malkin scored two goals and chipped in three assists to power the Penguins to a victory. He finished the game with three shots (one being on a penalty shot) and played over 20 minutes of ice time. Malkin’s performance helped him clip the 100-point mark for the second straight year (currently at 102) and inspired a cacophony of “Geno” and “MVP” chants from the Mellon Arena faithful.
Atlanta struck early with a goal 34 seconds into the first period. Bryan Little got a shot on net and the rebound bounced around in front of Marc-Andre Fleury. Little took another shot that deflected into the net. Atlanta 1, Pittsburgh 0.

Pittsburgh tied the game with a power-play score halfway through the opening period. The Penguins generated a number of chances during a five-on-three advantage. The first penalty just expired as Sergei Gonchar unleashed a slap shot into the goal behind former Penguin Johan Hedberg. Pittsburgh 1, Atlanta 1.

The Penguins buried a late man-advantage score with 26 seconds left in the first period. Evegeni Malkin had the puck in the Thrashers near corner. He made a centering pass to Sidney Crosby in slot. Crosby one-timed a shot and Hedberg kicked out a rebound. Chris Kunitz was there to push the puck over the goal line. Pittsburgh 2, Atlanta 1.

Jordan Staal netted his 20th goal of the year to up the Penguins’ lead. He initiated the play with great stick handling in the Thrashers zone. After dishing the puck he set up in the high slot. Tyler Kennedy fed him the puck from the goal line and Staal buried his one-timer far side on Hedberg. Pittsburgh 3, Atlanta 1.

The Penguins executed a perfect play to net their fourth goal of the game. Evgeni Malkin won the faceoff and the Penguins kicked the puck back to Gonchar at the near point. Gonchar took a slap shot on net. Hedberg made the save and the rebound rested above the crease between Malkin’s skates. Malkin alertly kicked the puck to his stick and then threw a backhander into the net. Pittsburgh 4, Atlanta 1.

Malkin struck gold again 43 seconds later with another power-play score, the third of the night for Pittsburgh. Malkin buried a one-timer from the far faceoff dot. Pittsburgh 5, Atlanta 1.

Atlanta’s Eric Boulton scored a goal to cut into Pittsburgh’s lead. Former Penguin Chris Thornburn made a centering pass to Boulton, who’s shot ricocheted off a few bodies before bouncing into the net. Pittsburgh 5, Atlanta 2.

Mark Eaton took some shots on the Thrashers to protect his goalie. He received a two-minute roughing penalty. The Penguins killed the penalty and Mark Eaton jumped into the play with Gonchar, creating possibly the first-ever two-on-one opportunity with two attacking defensemen. Gonchar made a beautiful cross-ice feed to Eaton for the tap-in score. Pittsburgh 6, Atlanta 2.
The Penguins and Thrashers both walked that fine line of playing physical during the game. Both teams hit hard and made their presence felt. Emotions boiled over near the end of the game when Eric Godard and Boris Valabik squared off while the remaining players got in each other’s faces. Godard landed a vicious round-house shot that knocked the 6-foot-7, 240-pound Valabik to one knee. Down goes Fraser!
> Pittsburgh improved its record to 38-26-8 on the year, with a 20-11-3 mark at Mellon Arena, and hasn’t lost in regulation in its last 11 games (9-0-2). Pittsburgh is 11-2-1 in its past 14 home games.

> Pittsburgh is 11-1-3 since Dan Bylsma was named interim head coach.

> Scoring Summary:
ATL, B.Little (30), 0:34 1st period: Thrashers 1, Penguins 0
PIT, S.Gonchar PP (6), 9:03 1st period: Penguins 1, Thrashers 1
PIT, C.Kunitz PP (22), 19:34 1st period: Penguins 2, Thrashers 1
PIT, J.Staal (20), 2:47 2nd period: Penguins 3, Thrashers 1
PIT, E.Malkin (31), 12:25 2nd period: Penguins 4, Thrashers 1
PIT, E.Malkin PP (32), 13:08 2nd period: Penguins 5, Thrashers 1
ATL, E.Boulton (3), 13:53 2nd period: Penguins 5, Thrashers 2
PIT, M.Eaton (3), 7:47 3rd period: Penguins 6, Thrashers 2

> Evgeni Malkin tied a career high with five points on two goals and three assists against Atlanta (5A vs. Toronto, Jan. 20, 2007) to increase his NHL lead in points to 102 (32G-70A). Malkin’s 70 assists are a league-best and a new single-season career high.

> Malkin has tallied 30-plus goals in three straight seasons and has broken the 100-point barrier for the second consecutive season.

> Sidney Crosby tallied two assists against the Thrashers. He is second in the league in scoring with 92 points (27G-65A) and his 65 assists are second most in the league behind teammate Malkin’s 70. Crosby has an 11-game scoring streak, tallying 20 points (6G-14A) over that span.

> Marc-Andre Fleury made 18 saves to record his 105th career victory for Pittsburgh, moving past Ken Wregget for second place on the franchise’s all-time wins list. Fleury hasn’t lost a game in regulation since Feb. 22, going 8-0-2 in that stretch.

> Sergei Gonchar recorded a season-high four-point game with a power-play goal and three assists. That’s the most points he’s netted in a game since Dec. 13, 2006 against Philadelphia (2+3=5).

> Chris Kunitz scored a goal against Atlanta. He has points in 10 of his last 12 games for 14 points (7G-7A). 

> Jordan Staal notched a goal against the Thrashers. He has collected nine points in his last 10 games (5G-4A).

> Mellon Arena sold out for the 101st straight game with a standing room only attendance of 17,088. Pittsburgh is 64-28-9 in during that span.
1. E.Malkin, PIT
2. S.Gonchar, PIT
3. S.Crosby, PIT
"It'm happy because we win and we played great. The team
played great and (didn't) stop. I'm happy."
- Evgeni Malkin


Author: Sam Kasan

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