Angry Geno Malkin makes Lightning pay
The 18,596 fans at Consol Energy Center were fixated on the Evgeni Malkin Show on Saturday at Consol Energy Center during the Penguins' 8-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Malkin wanted Tampa Bay goaltender Dwayne Roloson to fixate on only one thing.
"I wanted him to see my face," Malkin said.
Roloson punched a fallen Malkin at the 8:23 mark of the second period. Malkin punched back, and while the league's leading scorer sat in the penalty box, the seething center decided to take his frustrations out on the Tampa Bay goaltender.
Did he ever. He took control of a game that resulted in his ninth career hat trick.
Malkin started his scoring barrage -- he has produced eight goals in his past seven periods against Tampa Bay -- by beating Roloson with a bad-angle one-timer. After scoring the goal, Malkin took a stride toward Roloson and stared him down, making sure the goaltender saw his face.
"Of course I was mad," Malkin said. "I don't know why he punched me in the face."
Malkin, who missed the playoff series against Tampa Bay last season because of a torn ACL, also had something to say following the goal.
"He was actually telling me where it (the shot) went," Roloson said. "Him and I always have a little battle anyway."
No one is winning battles against Malkin this season.
He leads the NHL with 77 points, four better than Tampa Bay star Steven Stamkos, who had pulled even with Malkin earlier this week. Stamkos was scoreless yesterday.
If the bad-angle goal was a message to Roloson, the goal Malkin scored 5:50 into the third period was a message to the entire league: Make Malkin mad, and he will make you pay.
In one of the great goals of his career, Malkin split two separate pairs of Tampa Bay players before beating Roloson with a forehand deke.
"I'm honestly out of words to describe him or to describe that goal," Penguins center Joe Vitale said. "He's doing things other people wouldn't even try to do."
Malkin's performance against Tampa Bay might have been personal. After a hat trick in Tampa in January, Tampa Bay captain Vincent Lecavalier accused him of dirty tactics because he dodged a body check in the third period of that game.
Malkin responded with a two-goal performance against the Lightning two weeks ago and four more points yesterday.
That Roloson chose to hit Malkin in the face after the center had made contact with the goaltender only intensified Malkin's desire to put on a show.
"It wasn't my fault," Malkin said. "The defenseman cross-checked me in the back. Made me mad."
After Malkin let Roloson know where he had beaten the goaltender after the first goal, Roloson apparently said something back.
"I didn't listen," Malkin said. "The fans were so much louder."
By the midway mark of the third period, when Malkin had recorded this third goal of the game, the crowd was making even more noise. "MVP" chants, along with hats, filled the Consol Energy Center air.
Two of the other stars on this day spoke in admiration for Malkin. Center Jordan Staal produced two goals and an assist. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 34 of 35 shots, including breakaways by Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.
Fleury suggested that a physical assault on Malkin is the only way to stop him.
Staal isn't sure if anyone can stop Malkin, who will lead the Penguins into battle this afternoon against Columbus.
"He can take a game over in one shift," Staal said. "He's definitely fun to watch."