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Two-Headed Monster

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby have certainly made the most of their time together, combining for two power-play goals and eight points in a 6-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes at CONSOL Energy Center on Monday.

Malkin tied his single-game career-high in points when he factored into five of the Penguins’ six goals.

The red-hot forward scored twice and added three assists to give him eight points over his last three games.

“I’m happy to see the team win when I score,” Malkin said. “Every game I feel better and
 better and I keep playing my game.”

He’s been absolutely unstoppable in his first three games back in the lineup after missing four due to injury, exploding for five goals over his past three contests. He now has 13 on the season and 21 points in his last 16 contests.

“He was playing unbelievable,” Crosby said. “It’s really fun to see a teammate take over a game like that. When he’s playing like that, I think he pushes everyone to raise their level. I was just trying to keep up with him and make sure I was there to create things when he was open.”

Head coach Dan Bylsma noted the rarity of a player like Crosby making such a comment about a teammate, saying “The game was going to a different level for (Malkin). And to have Sidney Crosby even shake his head a little bit and say ‘Wow’ is a unique thing.”

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Malkin scored his first of the night with 35 seconds remaining in the first period to put the Penguins up 2-0. After Vernon Fiddler got thrown out of the faceoff dot, Crosby barreled forward off the draw past his replacement, Lauri Korpikoski, instead of winning the faceoff back.

He found a wide-open Malkin in the slot, who one-timed the puck past Coyotes goalie Jason LaBarbera for the score.

“When a guy comes in as the second guy, he’s usually pretty focused on winning,” Crosby said. “I expected (Korpikoski) to bear down a bit. That’s a play we use once in a while. So I heard (Geno) kind of call for it when they switched. We knew right away we were going to try it. It was nice to see it work.”

The two Pittsburgh dynamos paired up again in the second period, when the Penguins captain capitalized on a Phoenix turnover behind their own net and dished the puck to Malkin, who sent another scorcher past LaBarbera.

That assist by Crosby extended his career-high point streak to 21 games. He finished the evening with a goal and two assists.

The Penguins forwards reversed roles just 2:50 into the second in almost the exact same fashion, when Malkin picked up a loose puck in the corner and sent it to a beelining Crosby, who whipped it into the net.

The two have recorded a point together on six goals in the past three games. Pairing up with the Penguins captain has seemed to be the remedy for Malkin, who struggled to find his game before suffering the lower-body injury that kept him out of the lineup from Dec. 4 to Dec. 11.

While the deadly combination of Malkin and Crosby may be a fearful sight for opponents, it’s a gorgeous sight for the Penguins players.

“It’s just great to see them go out there,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said, who made 26 saves in the win. “Both of them have been playing great. They can do it all, they pass it, they shoot. So I think they are very dangerous on their game.”

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