Malkin's a Natural
Sunday, 01.15.2012 / 4:58 PM ET / Features
By Sam Kasan
TAMPA, Fla. -- While the Penguins were in the midst of their six-game losing streak, the team said they needed to respond better when they are scored on. On Sunday afternoon in Tampa, center Evgeni Malkin heeded that call and delivered for the Pens en route to their 6-3 win over the Lightning.
The Russian superstar answered the Bolts by scoring two goals in 1:49 minutes to reclaim the lead. He added an empty-netter with 55 seconds remaining for his eighth career hat trick.
“It was a huge response from our team after we let them back in,” Neal said. “That’s the way we want our team to respond. ‘Geno’ is a leader on this team and a huge part of it. Great job by him.”
“Seeing Geno get two big goals was definitely huge for us,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said.
Malkin tied a career high with five points in the game. The five-point effort now gives him 51 (21G-30A) on the season, jumping him over Tampa’s Steven Stamkos (50) into second place in the NHL scoring race – one point behind Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin (52).
“I don’t think about points,” Malkin said. “We played a great game and got two points. Guys are playing great. We want to keep it going.”
Right after the Pens allowed Purcell’s goal to tie the game at 3-3, the line of Chris Kunitz-Malkin-Neal came out flying to try and tilt the contest back in Pittsburgh’s favor.
The trio had a 3-on-2 odd-man rush, but Malkin’s shot went off a Lightning player's stick and deflected wide.
Malkin wouldn’t be denied on his next try. With the puck in the corner, Malkin skated toward the net around a Bolts player and lifted a backhander over the shoulder of goalie Mathieu Garon to give Pittsburgh a 4-3 lead.
Malkin struck again a minute later on a breakaway. He deked to his backhand and was tripped up. Falling to the ice, Malkin swept the puck over the goal line to put the Pens up 5-3. He added the empty-netter to seal the game with less than a minute left to make it a 6-3 final.