Finally, after hearing how motivated and energized Evgeni Malkin
is heading into this season, Penguins fans got to see it for themselves. And the Russian star did not disappoint in Pittsburgh’s 3-2 victory over Detroit at CONSOL Energy Center.
Playing in front of Pittsburgh fans for the first time since injuring his knee in early February, Malkin was flying all over the ice, causing turnovers, stick handling through a labyrinth of defenders, setting up plays and creating scoring chances.
When the night finished, he collected one goal, one assist, two points, a plus-2 rating and thousands of cheers from the crowd.
“He was at a dominant level,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “His skating looked good. He was strong, powerful on the puck. To get fans out of their seats in an exhibition game three or four times playing the right way, driving to the net, good with the puck, hunting the puck, it was a pretty good first game back from injury.”
“It’s just an exhibition game, but it’s a pretty good feeling,” Malkin said. “We played pretty good. It was a good test. We played against Detroit. They’re a great team. I liked how we played.”
Malkin set up the first goal of the game with a marvelous pass. He possessed the puck along the near halfwall and whipped a hard, backhand-saucer pass across the heart of the ice and past a few Red Wing sticks and right on the tape of Chris Kunitz
, who finished the play by beating goaltender Jimmy Howard under the arm.
Malkin scored his first goal in vintage fashion. He took a pass entering the Detroit zone, using his body to protect the puck from defender Garnet Exelby, and his speed to get around the blueliner. Malkin flipped the puck from his backhand to his forehand, confusing Howard, who cheated to his right expecting a pass. Malkin then snapped the puck into the vacated portion of the netting.
“He was playing awesome,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
said. “It’s like he hasn’t missed a beat. It was fun for us.”
Malkin spent the summer rehabbing from torn ligaments in his right knee. And thanks to his hard work and dedication during the offseason, he entered training camp “ready to go.”
“I’m stronger every game. Every game I feel better,” he said. “My knee is pretty strong now. I hope my knee keeps feeling better.”