The Penguins entered the second period of their eventual 3-2 shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers down by two goals. They had their chances through the first 20 minutes but couldn’t find the back of the net. They needed something to get it going in the second. They needed a spark.
Just 48 seconds into the second period, Evgeni Malkin gave his team a lightning bolt when he picked the pocket of Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom at center ice. Galloping to the goal as only Malkin can do, Oilers defenseman Mark Fayne was the only thing standing between him and Oilers goaltender Anders Nilsson.
What Malkin did next was not human.
“I knew what I was going to do,” Malkin said. “I tried it a couple of times in practice. Why not today?”
The 29-year-old superstar put a spin-o-rama move on Fayne, followed by a hard backhand shot to send the puck over the left shoulder of Nilsson – crossbar down.
“It’s one of those things where you don’t expect anything,” Chris Kunitz said. “Then he does a spin-o-rama and it goes bar down. You’ve seen him do it a handful of times in his career but the rest of us just wish and dream that we could do those types of things.”
“That’s one of those highlight-reel goals you’re going to see for the next couple of days,” Head coach Mike Johnston said. “It was just a great play and high-end skill to be able to beat a defenseman like that.”
But Malkin’s dominance was far from over.
Just 2:41 later, defenseman Kris Letang found Malkin at the half wall on the power play. Malkin wound up, pumped-faked a shot and ripped the puck past Nilsson for the game-tying goal. It was the Penguins’ sixth power-play goal in six games.
Malkin finished with a season-high 11 shots – one short of tying his career-high – in the shootout loss against the Oilers, with seven fired in the second period alone.
“I tried to use my shot tonight," Malkin said. "Maybe sometimes I pass it (too much), use my shot instead. But I try to do my best."
The Russian-born center’s high level play as of late is nothing new. In fact, it’s nothing more than Malkin being a man of his word.
Malkin spoke up after an ugly 4-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Nov. 14, saying the team needed to “stop, look in the mirror and start working.”
Perhaps it was Malkin who took his words the hardest.
Since that night in New Jersey, Malkin has seven goals and ten points in the six games since and is currently riding a three-game point streak featuring four goals and one helper.
“You saw his battle and his compete last night (against Columbus),” Johnston said. “He’s been in the groove lately. He’s really been playing on top of his game.”