With captain Sidney Crosby sidelined indefinitely, the Pens are hoping that center Evgeni Malkin will step up to help fill the void.
Malkin, indeed, led the charge for Pittsburgh against the Washington Capitals in the team's banner-raising season-opening 3-2 shootout win Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena.
"Coach gave me a lot of time today and I tried to show my best," Malkin said. "It was a good game, a good win."
Malkin scored his first goal of the season and chipped in an assist for a two-point night, and that's not including his shootout score to boot.
Malkin's goal play was the highlight of the evening. The underrated portion of the play was winger Patric Hornqvist, who finished his check with full force on Dmitry Orlov in the corner of the Capitals' zone. To his credit, Orlov completed a pass to T.J. Oshie at the blue line.
Oshie, however, attempted a blind backhand pass that was intercepted by Conor Sheary. The Pens forward flipped the puck ahead to Malkin, who was all alone against goaltender Braden Holtby.
"I was just trying to play above the puck," Sheary said. "It was a bouncing puck and it landed on my stick. When I turned up 'Geno' was wide open on a breakaway."
"I was the last guy behind the net and they turned it over," Malkin said. "I was surprised. I was alone at the net."
Malkin faked a shot. Holtby bit and dropped into the butterfly position. Malkin then tried to drag the puck around him. Holtby lunged out his leg just enough to force Malkin's shot to go off the post. But the puck then caromed off of Holtby's pad and trickled over the line.
"It was a little bit lucky, off the post and off his pants," Malkin said. "Sheary had the puck. I just stopped close to Holtby. Sheary passed it to me. It was a breakaway. A little bit lucky."
"Sometimes little inches don't go your way," Holtby told Wes Crosby of NHL.com. "That's basically the only place he could have possibly put it to score."
Malkin's momentum carried him behind the net, where he had a clear view of the goal and raised his arms in celebration.
"I'm glad I scored today. It gives me more confidence," Malkin said. "My confidence is coming back and I hope to play better every game."
Video: WSH@PIT: Malkin slips puck around Holtby for a lead