Pens center Evgeni Malkin knows his team is counting on him to produce in the postseason. He is counting on himself to do the same.
Malkin has gone pointless in 12 of his last 22 playoff games, including zero points in the first two games of the Pens’ First Round Stanley Cup playoff series against the New York Rangers.
“I feel pretty good, but I can play better,” Malkin said. “I need more confidence. Shoot the puck more, play with the puck, work hard and the goals and points will come.”
Malkin, 28, admitted to being only “85-, 90-percent” health-wise. He missed eight of the Pens’ final 14 games with a lower-body injury. Even though he wasn’t fully healthy, Malkin gutted it out in the final four games of the regular season to help his team earn a postseason berth.
“Physically, I’m good,” Malkin said. “My body is ready to play against good defensemen. The Rangers are a tough team, but I feel I’m ready.”
Despite not appearing on the scoresheet, Malkin made a critical play in Pittsburgh’s 4-3 win in Game 2 at Madison Square Garden Saturday night. With Pittsburgh leading 3-2 in the third period and on a power play, the Rangers took a shot that eluded goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. The puck was sliding toward the goal line when Malkin dove and swatted the puck away. Moments later Chris Kuntiz scored the eventual game-winning power-play tally.
“I saw the puck close to the net,” Malkin said. “I saw it coming in. I did my best to save it. I’m glad I got it. If not maybe it’s a goal. I don’t know.”
It certainly looked like it would have been a goal, which would have tied the game at 3-3 and caused a seismic momentum shift.
But Malkin was there to save the day. And thanks to his effort the Pens were able to even the series at 1-1.
“I think we played good in the first game. It was 2-1 (loss),” Malkin said. “One goal on the power play and one goal on the first shift. We played well the whole game. Maybe we had more luck in the second game.”
Malkin has said all season long, even when the Pens were struggling, that he believed in his team. And his confidence is still high as Pittsburgh gets set to host Game 3 Monday night.
“We came back home with the series tied,” Malkin said. “I said it before, I believe in this group. I believe in my team. I like what we’re doing right now. We’re a tight team and locker room.”