OTTAWA – A big smile spread across Evgeni Malkin
’s face when asked how it felt to beat his teammates James Neal
and Kris Letang
in the 2012 NHL All-Star Game.
“Oh, yeah, it feels awesome,” Malkin said.
2012 Pittsburgh Penguins All-Stars
The Penguins center scored a gorgeous goal and added an assist as his Team Chara topped Team Alfredsson, 12-9, at Scotiabank Place on Sunday.
But while Malkin may now have bragging rights over his Penguins teammates, both Neal and Letang made sure they got their names in the point column.
“Thank God I got a point. Geno would have been all over me,” Neal joked, though he conceded he’ll still get plenty of grief from Malkin when they return to Pittsburgh – just not as much.
“That’s alright. I take it every day from him, so that’s no big deal,” Neal smiled.
The game marked Malkin’s fourth-straight All-Star selection, Letang’s second and Neal’s first. And all in all, they felt they represented the Penguins well and helped put on an enjoyable show for the fans throughout the weekend.
“It’s a great show and the fans loved this game, too,” Malkin said. “We scored lots of good goals tonight. It was a pretty high score, so there were a lot of pretty good goals.”
Malkin’s tally ranked right up in the spectacular category when he scored early in the first to give Team Chara a 2-0 lead.
On the play, he undressed a Team Alfredsson defender at the blue line and went around him. He passed to Jarome Iginla, got it right back and lifted a shot from a tough angle over Henrik Lundqvist.
“It was just a lucky goal because Jarome give me a pass back in my skates. I just stopped and made a quick shot,” Malkin explained. “I didn’t see where I was shooting, just top shelf. I don’t think anybody understood how the puck went in.”
Letang got his point when he assisted on Henrik Sedin’s goal that cut Team Chara’s lead to 3-2 over midway through the first.
Just over seven minutes into the second, Neal uncharacteristally opted not to shoot on a 2-on-1 rush and instead sent a pass through the crease to linemate Jason Pominville, who tapped it into the cage to trim Team Chara’s lead to 5-4.
Neal, who was added to the roster for the All-Star Game a day before the festivities began, couldn’t say enough about what it was like being around all the high-end talent that descended on Ottawa this weekend.
“It’s a lot of fun. It was an honor to be here and something that I couldn’t pass up,” he said. “Overall, it was a great weekend.”
Malkin rounded out the Penguins’ point gathering when he assisted on Iginla’s goal late in the third by sliding a pass through Letang.
He couldn’t resist teasing Letang a bit after the game, saying “Kris plays sometimes in the offensive zone, not the defensive zone and gives us a chance to score. I say thank you to him, too.”
“I was trying to beat him on his defensive part of the game, which doesn’t exist,” Letang playfully retorted.
Originally, Malkin was the only Penguin named to the initial All-Star Game roster a few weeks ago. So needless to say, he was glad to have his friends and teammates join him this weekend in Ottawa – and wishes at least one more could have been there, too.
“I think ‘Flower’ (Marc-Andre Fleury
) deserved to be here too,” Malkin said. “At first I was just going by myself, but after (we found out) Kris was going and James Neal
was going, it’s pretty good because both guys deserved to be here.”
And though they had a blast, they’re ready to turn their focus back on keeping the Penguins rolling.
“You have fun out there and then you turn around and get back to real life, you could say,” Neal said. “Get back to doing the right things that have been helping us to win.”