A day after Pens center Evgeni Malkin said that he believes his team “will make the playoffs,” he stepped on the ice with a dominant performance in Pittsburgh’s 5-4 win against the Vancouver Canucks Saturday afternoon at CONSOL Energy Center.
Malkin tallied his 10th career hat trick, scoring two in the third period, for the Pens in another comeback win.
“He took some initiative. His actions spoke,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “He brought his game to another level. I thought his intensity level was high. He was a difference maker for us, that’s for sure.”
For the second straight game the Pens found themselves trailing an opponent 2-0 following a lackluster first period. This time it was against the Canucks.
The Pens needed a spark. Enter: Malkin.
The comeback began with a power-play goal in the second period on a 5-on-3 opportunity. Malkin teed up a one-timer from the far circle that NASA couldn’t track. It was Malkin’s 21st of the season and first of the game.
A Bo Horvat goal in the third period gave Vancouver a 3-1 lead with 14 minutes left in the game.
Instead of deflating, Malkin charged ahead – with a little help from the other side. Malkin responded just 76 seconds later to make it a one-goal game again at 3-2.
Malkin charged the net with the puck and ended up below the goal line. Malkin’s centering pass went off the stick of Canucks defenseman Linden Vey’s stick and into the net. Basically, Vey shot the puck into his own net.
“It’s lucky. It’s a lucky day for me,” Malkin said. “It was a surprise that the defenseman scored. It’s a help to me, but a lucky day.”
There was nothing lucky about his third goal of the day. The Pens caught Vancouver in a line change and Malkin got the puck with speed coming down the far side. He snapped a perfect shot into the net glove side on goalie Ryan Miller.
Malkin, always an emotional player, screamed followed the goal as the hat rained down from the sky.
Newly acquired forward Carl Hagelin has been playing on a line with Malkin since being acquired from Anaheim on Jan. 15. And he’s had an up close look at how important Malkin is to the Pens.
“It’s like having a front-row seat to see one of the best players in the league do what he can do best,” Hagelin said. “He’s making a lot of great plays. He’s not a selfish player, but he still scores three goals. It’s pretty amazing.”
After the game, Malkin wanted to talk about the success of his team and teammates rather than himself. Hats off to him.
“It’s not everyday, but it always feels good,” Malkin said. “It was a team win. It’s a very good day for me. I have to thank my linemates. They did a great job for me.”