After losing four straight games, the Penguins were looking for something to spark them to a victory. They got that in the form of a 6-foot-3, 195-pound Russian.
, who missed the last seven games with a shoulder strain, returned to the ice and his presence was felt immediately. He assisted on three Pittsburgh goals, including the game-tying goal with 0.4 seconds left in regulation, had a plus-3 rating and logged 26:37 minutes of ice time in Pittsburgh’s 6-5 overtime victory over the Boston Bruins at Mellon Arena.
“I’m a little bit tired,” said Malkin, who recorded his 200th career assist on his first helper of the game – a beautiful dish pass to Jay McKee. “It was my first game. The shoulder is OK. It’s not sore and not a problem. It was a great win and it’s good for me. I feel great now.”
But more importantly for Malkin, the Penguins snapped their four-game losing streak and got back on the winning side of the tracks.
“We lost the last four games,” Malkin said. “It’s a big moment for me and the team. I thank my teammates. They supported me and helped me on the ice and bench and during the game tonight.”
Malkin, who skated on a line with Sidney Crosby
and Ruslan Fedotenko, didn’t miss a beat from the two weeks that he missed game action. He played with energy, skated hard and created a lot of chances.
“The speed with which he can attack up ice allows other people to get open,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “It drives defensemen back. In the offensive zone when he’s holding onto the puck and moving his feet with a combination of him and Sidney, it’s a tough combo to handle. They certainly put them back on their heels at times in the game.”
“We get the message when we’re together and we have to create things,” Crosby said of playing with Malkin. “It’s hard for them to key on one of us if we’re playing together. We’re both natural centermen and I’m sure it’s an adjustment for him to play wing, but he did a great job tonight.”
Malkin saved his heroics for the game’s final seconds. With their goaltender pulled and the Penguins staring at a fifth consecutive loss, Malkin carried the puck up ice on a three-on-two with Crosby and Bill Guerin.
Even though two seconds remained on the clock, Malkin passed on a shot and coolly made a cross-ice pass to Guerin, who was in the high slot. Guerin’s shot ripped into the back of the net with 0.4 showing on the clock to force overtime.
“I didn’t shoot because we had a three-on-two and I saw Billy open,” Malkin explained. “I passed it to him in just enough time.”
“The bench was yelling shoot to Geno,” Bylsma said. “He made the pass and I was just looking for the (goal) light to make sure it was a good one. It was.”
And it wouldn’t have happened without the stellar performance of Malkin.
“He brings a lot of energy,” said Guerin said. “He’s a pretty energetic guy and doesn’t show that side to a lot of people but just the way he plays picks the guys up.”
A MILESTONE NIGHT
It was a night of milestone moments for several Penguins during Pittsburgh’s dramatic 6-5 overtime victory over Boston.
- Evgeni Malkin
recorded his 200th career assist
- Pascal Dupuis
tallied his 100th career goal with an overtime tally
- Ben Lovejoy
posted his first career NHL point (assist)
- Jay McKee scored his first goal as a Penguin
- Mark Letestu played in his first NHL game
Malkin notched his 200th assist with a nice flip pass to spring McKee in on net. McKee, not typically known for his offensive touch, made a nice move to his backhand before lifting the puck over a sprawling Tim Thomas for his first goal as a Penguin.
“It’s probably the nicest I’ve scored,” McKee said. “I haven’t scored a whole lot. I had one in overtime of the playoffs that was memorable but I didn’t score it like that.”
Lovejoy posted his first career NHL point with an assist on Dupuis’ first goal of the game. Lovejoy threw a puck on net and Dupuis was able to slide the rebound over the goal line.
“I was just trying to get the puck to the net,” Lovejoy said. “I got a lane and it bounced right to Dupuis. He was fortunate enough to put it in. I’m happy it happened late in the period. I didn’t want to go back out on the ice all jacked up. I needed some time to recover from that. I was pretty excited.”
But it was Dupuis’ second goal of the game that was the most dramatic milestone. In overtime, the Bruins Thomas played the puck behind his net and left it for defenseman Dennis Wideman. However, Jordan Staal
got to the puck first, stealing it from Thomas and feeding Dupuis on the doorstep. Dupuis made a quick forehand-backhand move and gave Pittsburgh the victory.
“I don’t know what happened behind the net,” Dupuis said. “I ended up with the puck in the slot and basically snapped it in. Staalsy stripped the goalie of the puck and saw me there. He slid it to me.”
And it’s not a bad way to hit a milestone.
“For Pascal to get his 100th goal in overtime for the win was great,” Bylsma said.
“The 100th goal of my career in overtime, the game-winner,” Dupuis said. “I’ll take it.”