Tonight was a great example of why having two dynamic superstars in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin makes you threat to be in every game as the Pittsburgh Penguins (15-8-0, 30 pts) defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning (9-12-1, 19 pts), 4-3 on Monday night at the Consol Energy Center, thanks to the efforts of Malkin and Crosby.
Trailing 2-1 in the third period after a lackluster second period, the Penguins play was dull until Malkin and Crosby took over the game in the third.
Malkin scored a spectacular goal at 5:38 of the third period cutting through two defenders to tie the game at 2-2, and a 1:51 later, Crosby put the Penguins up 3-2 with another dazzling goal as Crosby carried the puck through the neutral zone, gained the Lightning zone and pulled up hitting a trailing Kris Letang down the right side and Letang carrying the puck around the net fed Crosby in front for a beautiful one-timer goal as Pittsburgh took a 3-2 lead.
Crosby whose overall game was unbelievable in the game, had a goal and an assist, giving him a league high 36 points.
As good as Crosby was tonight, Malkin’s highlight reel goal was huge for the Penguins and led to a surge from the team.
“That was great goal, big goal for us at the time, nice to have him back,” Crosby said of Malkin’s goal. “It didn’t look like any way he could get through those two guys and he found a way.”
Bylsma also marveled about Malkin’s goal.
“It’s a great unbelievable powerful move right through two defenseman going to the net,” Bylsma said. “More of a power goal than it is a finesse goal. “Powered his way there and got us a big goal.” Definitely a surge for our team,” Bylsma said.
Chris Kunitz (12) and James Neal (14) also scored in the win. Kunitz 12 goal of the season at 4:13 of the first period moved him into third in NHL in points with 28 as his career season continues.
Malkin returning after missing the last four games, posted a stat line of 1 goal, 1 assist, +1, and 5 shots on goal in 20:57 of ice time as Malkin saw big minutes. In the faceoff circle, Malkin was a team-best 58.3%, winning 7 of 12 draws.
Malkin played aggressive and wasn’t hesitant one bit.
“To see him come out and play that way and confident, not real surprised,” Bylsma said based on how Malkin looked in practice on Sunday and how he skated this morning.
For the Lightning, Steven Stamkos (17) scored twice and Tom Pyatt (5) also scored in the loss.
Marc Andre Fleury made 25 saves, earning his 11th win of the season. Fleury is 7-1 in his last eight regular season starts vs Tampa Bay. Fleury said Penguins were better tonight at clearing rebounds. “Guys in front on rebounds, we were around to get pucks,” Fleury said.
There were some shaky moments, though, for the Penguins defensively, especially in the second period, but defensemen Brooks Orpik felt the Penguins had a better focus.
“I just thought we had a better focus on our d-zone tonight,” Orpik said.
Tidbits: Head coach Dan Bylsma hinted at Beau Bennett being recalled this week. “He’s obviously not on our roster right now, {but} by noon tomorrow he could be.”…….Bylsma had high praise for the play of Mark Eaton and Matt Niskanen together. “I thought Mark Eaton and Matt Niskanen played a real strong game,” Bylsma said……The Penguins went 0 for 3 on the power play……A frustrated Lightning coach Guy Boucher on Malkin’s goal: “We gave Malkin the puck at our blue line and might as well just put the gun to our heads”