Saturday wasn’t just a great day for hockey – it was an absolutely fantastic night for Evgeni Malkin
The Russian superstar scored his seventh career hat trick and added two assists to give him the fourth five-point night of his career in the Penguins’ 8-3 win over Buffalo.
“A great day today,” Malkin smiled after the game. “On my first shot I scored. On my second shot I scored again. It was a lucky day for me and I’m glad.”
Malkin’s dominant effort gives him a team-leading 36 points on the season – which moved him into a tie for fifth place among the NHL scoring leaders.
A great day today. On my first shot I scored. On my second shot I scored again. It was a lucky day for me and I’m glad. - Evgeni Malkin
He’s played in just 26 games, two less than Claude Giroux and four less than Steven Stamkos, Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul – the three players ahead of him.
But Malkin said winning a second Art Ross trophy – which is very much within reach – isn’t his focus right now. It’s trying to regain top form after undergoing surgery back in February to repair torn ligaments in his knee, something that he still doesn’t feel he’s quite reached yet – even with a performance like tonight’s.
“No, I’m not thinking about my points. I’m trying to find my game,” he said. “I lost a pretty long time with my knee, you know. I started a little bit slow and now I feel a little bit better. I’m just trying to find my level and continue to play better every game.”
With the way Malkin had been playing as of late, a night like tonight was certainly overdue.
The dynamic and gifted center had truly been taking over games all over the ice, shooting pucks from everywhere and anywhere and had been getting points to show for it – just never more than two in a game.
“It might be a surprise he hasn’t gotten more, but I think in some of the games that he’s played – especially recently – he’s gotten nine shots (in games) and his scoring chances are in double digits,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “When you get scoring chances in double digits, you’re doing a lot of things well. Tonight, he obviously got the goals and assists.”
Forward Chris Kunitz
said Thursday the rest of the Penguins needed to follow along and pick up their game like Malkin has, and that was certainly the case Saturday.
Fourteen different players got on the scoresheet for Pittsburgh, including all six defensemen and four of the recent callups from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. In addition, six Penguins aside from Malkin had multiple point efforts.
And after a stretch where the Penguins had dropped four of their last five games, a resounding victory like this was much needed – and well-deserved.
“We did a great job tonight,” Malkin said. “I think we deserved this win.”