Life is full of uncertainties. Among the things you can count on, however, are death, taxes and the Penguins going beyond regulation to post a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers. The Penguins improved to 3-0 against Florida in 2009-10 with their third-consecutive 3-2 defeat of the Panthers on Saturday night.
While the outcome matched the previous two contests between the teams, it was a new hero who stepped up to the plate for the Penguins. Evgeni Malkin
’s ninth goal of the season on a power play 37 seconds into overtime proved to be the winning score.
“Three games against Florida and three overtime winners,” Malkin said. “Florida is a good team. They play us tough. It was a good game.”
Prior to his goal Malkin had gone a season-high five consecutive games without scoring, but he picked a perfect time on this evening to bail out a power play which had been 0-for-5 up to that point.
“I think you saw us squeezing our sticks a little bit more on the power play, and sometimes you need a goal to release that,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We were pretty happy to see that slap shot go in.”
Nobody was happier than Malkin, who predicted earlier in the day that Saturday was going to be the game he saw his name return to the goal column. Malkin said the key for him was not letting his goal-scoring draught get in his head.
“I know how tough it is to not score for five or six games,” Malkin said. “I stayed focused and didn’t get nervous.”
Ever the team player, Malkin paid credit to everyone who set the play in motion, including Jordan Staal
, whose strong drive to the net forced Jordan Leopold to tackle him to the ice, setting the stage for Malkin’s dramatics.
“Staalsy made a good play to draw the penalty in overtime,” Malkin said. “We knew we needed to score because it would mean a win. … We did not score for three periods five-on-four but we did score in the overtime.”
It didn’t take Malkin and the Penguins long to get that win.
Crosby won the ensuing faceoff back to the point and Malkin and Sergei Gonchar exchanged passes before Malkin settled in at the right point and, as a left-handed shot, opened up for a return pass from Gonchar. When that pass came, Malkin unleashed a howitzer which jumped off his stick and over the glove of Tomas Vokoun for the winning tally just seven seconds into the Leopold minor penalty.
“Sid made a good play on the faceoff to win it,” Malkin said. “I passed to Gonch and got open. He gave me a good pass and I fired a good shot.”
That Malkin ended his draught came as no surprise to his head coach, especially after the rate Malkin was throwing shots Carey Price’s way in a 3-2 victory over the Canadiens on Thursday night.
“(On Thursday) Geno gets eight shots in a game and doesn’t get a goal,” Bylsma said. “Tonight, he gets a big goal for us and a game-winner in overtime, so hopefully it’s a springboard for him.”
Crosby, who made the entire play happen by winning the draw, believes Malkin had been playing well despite pucks not finding the back of the net.
“He is playing good hockey,” Crosby said. “The puck hasn’t been going in as much but tonight he had some great chances and set up some great chances. It was really nice to see him get that chance and bury it.”
Malkin’s goal gave him his ninth multiple-point effort of the season and allowed the Penguins to put a stop to a stretch which saw them go 14 consecutive power plays without converting. He was more worried with helping end that streak and giving the Penguins two more valuable points in the standings than his own personal statistics.
“We stayed focused,” Malkin said. “We knew if we would score in overtime that would mean two points, which is good for the team.”
Along with his goal, Malkin came up big earlier in the contest with a spectacular setup to allow linemate Ruslan Fedotenko to register his first tally in 13 contests.
Mike Rupp dumped the puck behind the Florida defense and then followed hard, taking out two Panthers with a thunderous check. Malkin swooped in for support and picked up the loose puck Rupp created. Within seconds Malkin laid the puck perfectly onto the stick of Fedotenko, who directed the shot past Vokoun for the Penguins’ first lead of the season against Florida in regulation at 2-1.
“It was a great play by the whole line,” Fedotenko said. “Rupper made a great play to take the body. One hit took two guys out of the play.
“Geno came up with the puck and I just went to the net and ended up on the backdoor. It was a great pass from Geno and I just finished it up.”