enthusiastically pumped his arms with a wide-grinned smile as hats showered down from the Mellon Arena faithful around the Russian superstar.
Malkin recorded his first career hat trick and added an assist for his first career four-point playoff game to lift the Penguins to a 7-4 victory and 2-0 series lead over the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals.
“I feel awesome. We won and are (up) 2-0,” he said. “Everybody played awesome. I feel great. It’s just one game. I try to play every game hard and smart. (Head) coach (Dan Bylsma) helped me because we talked before the game. I’m trying to get better every game.”
“When Geno makes plays like that it makes everybody look good,” Bylsma said. “He was great (in Game 2), great around the net. He went to the net hard and he’s tough to handle in those situations. He went to the net and made a couple of outstanding plays.”
In the first two periods of play, Malkin netted a goal and an assist. But following a scrum with Carolina’s Chad LaRose in which both players received matching roughing penalties, Malkin stepped out of the penalty box with a renewed focus and vigor.
Malkin was a force every time he stepped on the ice and broke through in the third period. With the game tied at 4-4, Malkin tallied two goals as the Penguins pulled away from the Hurricanes for the win.
“It was just amazing,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
said. “He’s shown it all year long and that was a great performance. I’m glad he’s on my team. I’m like a fan out there. It’s fun to watch him play.”
Malkin scored his first two goals in close on net. But his most impressive play came on his third tally. There was a faceoff in the far circle of the Hurricanes zone and the Penguins sent in a play called “The Geno.” Malkin pushed the puck forward and jumped around a Hurricane to collect the puck. He then skated around the net, spun around and drifted into the lower part of the near circle before lifting a perfectly placed backhand over the shoulder of Carolina goalie Cam Ward.
“I won the faceoff and skated behind the net,” Malkin said. “I shot my backhand and was maybe lucky.”
“That was a faceoff play that’s called “The Geno” for a reason,” Bylsma said. “He pushed through and got it himself. After that it was just all him. He takes it to the net, spins on his backhand. There’s not a lot of room where he put it. There aren’t many players in the world that can make a play like that.”
Malkin's heroics were welcomed by his teammates.
“He stepped up; every time he was out there he was making something happen, whether it was off the rush or going to the net,” Sidney Crosby
said. “His third goal was an amazing display of skill to get the puck up there on the top shelf. When he’s playing like that it’s hard not to follow.”
“He was a notch above; he was unbelievable,” defenseman Mark Eaton said. “He put us on his back and took the game over. That third goal he scored was a world class goal.”
But for Malkin, it’s all about doing his part to help the team win.
“It’s my job,” Malkin said. “I try to win every game. Every goal is good. I tried to shoot every shift and try to score. Tonight it was maybe a little bit lucky.”