Penguins forward James Neal
notched his second career hat trick while Evgeni Malkin
(2G-3A) and Sidney Crosby
(4A) chipped in to lift Pittsburgh to an 8-4 victory against Winnipeg at CONSOL Energy Center Tuesday night.
The Pens extended their unbeaten streak to 13 games (12-0-1) and pulled within one point of the New York Rangers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
The offensive explosion was sparked by Neal’s big day, which resulted in hats littering the ice. More on Neal’s hat trick here
FOLLOW THE LEADER
Center Evgeni Malkin
added to his NHL-leading point total by tying a single-game career high with a five point effort (2G-3A) – his fourth five-point game of the season.
Malkin now has 43 goals and 93 points on the season – nine more than second place scorer Steven Stamkos and Claude Giroux (both tied with 84 points). Malkin also hit the 90-point mark for the third time in his career.
CONSOL Energy Center also showered Malkin with chants of “MVP! MVP!” after each of his goals. While he’d love to win an NHL MVP trophy, that isn’t his focus.
“It’s fine. I don’t think about that,” he said of winning the MVP. “I want to win the Stanley Cup this year. I think we have a great chance and we need to focus to win.”
Malkin’s first goal, a booming slap shot on the power play, was also his 200th career score.
Malkin now has a five-game point streak (5G-7A) and has goals in four straight games. He now has 43 points (20G-23A) over his last 23 home games.
Malkin’s parents are in Pittsburgh and attended the game. The crowd gave them a loud ovation when they appeared on the Big Screen.
“I’m happy they came back to Pittsburgh,” Malkin said. “I haven’t seen them in a long time. They’re here just to support me and stay here the rest of the season and maybe if I’m lucky again we’ll win.”
TK BREAKS THROUGHTyler Kennedy
hadn’t scored a goal since Jan. 13 at Florida – a span of 17 games heading into the showdown with the Jets. Kennedy broke that drought and in a big way with two big goals for the Pens.
The 25-year-old winger scored the game’s opening goal just 2:04 minutes into the opening period. He collected a pass in the slot from Sidney Crosby
and ripped a shot under the arm of goalie Ondrej Pavelec.
Kennedy notched his second tally in the second period. He was set up in front of the net and took a centering feed from Crosby, who was behind the net. Kennedy slam dunked the puck to give him the sixth two-goal game of his career.
“I know where he’s going to be,” Crosby said. “He likes to be in the slot and fire the puck. That’s where I’m looking. He knows how to score goals. He goes to those areas and I just got to get it to him there and let him shoot.”
SID HITS THE GROUND RUNNING
Since returning to the lineup four games ago, Crosby has been collecting assists like they’re a scarce resource.
Crosby has totaled nine assists in his four games back. He added four of those against the Jets, three of which were primary assists. He set up Kennedy on both of his goals, and set the table for Malkin to slap home a score in the second period.
“You always work hard and prepare, get ready to come back,” Crosby said. “There are still areas where I need to get sharper, but with everyone playing it makes it easier for anyone coming back."
Crosby now has two goals and 19 assists for 21 points in just 12 games this season – a 1.75 points-per-game average.
The Penguins have won eight straight home games, the NHL’s longest active home winning streak, and a season-high for the Penguins.
The Penguins have now gone 13 straight games without a regulation loss (12-0-1). In their last 30 games, they hold the NHL’s best record at 24-4-2 dating back to January 13.
Pittsburgh won the four-game series against the Winnipeg Jets, 3-1. Pittsburgh has gone 14-2 in its last 16 meetings against the Jets.
Pittsburgh has won 11 straight home games against Winnipeg, following tonight’s win. The Jets are 0-9-2 during that stretch.
With the eight goals scored in tonight’s game, Pittsburgh has scored four or more goals in eight of its last 12 overall games against the Jets.
Pittsburgh’s top line of Evgeni Malkin
, James Neal
, and Chris Kunitz
have a combined 86 points in 23 home games together since Dec. 13th after combining for 10 points tonight (Malkin, 2G-3A; Neal, 3G-1A, Kunitz, 1A).
The last time Pittsburgh scored with an extra-attacker prior to Evgeni Malkin
’s goal tonight was January 31, 2012 versus Toronto when Malkin tallied. Pascal Dupuis
set a career high with his 21st goal of the season and extended his point streak to seven games (6G-3A).Tyler Kennedy
scored his second goal (8) of the game, marking his first multi-goal game of the season. He last reached this feat on Feb. 23, 2011 against San Jose (2G). Kennedy has collected six points over his past four games (2G-4A). Jordan Staal
’s assist gives him 15 points in his last 14 home games (7G-8A). Steve Sullivan
recorded an assist on Pascal Dupuis
’ goal. He has 18 points (6G-12A) over the past 24 games. Matt Cooke
assisted on both of Kennedy’s goals to give him 18 points (9G-9A) over his previous 24 games.
Author: Sam Kasan