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Penguins insider: Malkin found confidence in Game 3

| Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 10:27 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin plays against the Blue Jackets on April 19, 2014, at Consol Energy Arena. Malkin has three assists in the series.

COLUMBUS, Ohio

Evgeni Malkin found something late in Game 3.

“Confidence maybe,” Malkin said after the Penguins' 4-3 victory staked them to a 2-1 lead in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Malkin, the playoff MVP five years ago, has yet to score a goal in this series — or since a clinching win over Ottawa in Round 2 last postseason. That is a span of seven postseason contests, and it is tied for the most games he has gone without a goal in the playoffs.

Droughts are not foreign to Malkin's playoff history. He has gone at least four consecutive games without a goal in six of seven prior postseasons.

He does have three assists against Columbus, including one on winger Jussi Jokinen's winning goal in Game 3 on Monday night. That assist earned Malkin a 100th playoff point.

He was much more interested in the third period as a whole, though.

“I liked my line,” Malkin said, referring to the Penguins' No. 2 unit that consists of him, Jokinen and winger James Neal. “We moved the puck. Neal had a couple of chances. Same with Jussi. We need to just play the same.”

The No. 2 line combined for 19 shot attempts in Game 3, or 26 percent of the Penguins' total (73). For the series, which resumes with Game 4 on Wednesday night at Nationwide Arena, the Penguins' second line has accounted for 56 of the Penguins' 216 attempted shots (25.9 percent).

So Game 3 was not much different statistically. However, it felt different, Jokinen said.

“The last 30 minutes, we were really good,” Jokinen said, noting his linemates were not pleased with their combined performance in a Game 2 home loss.

“(Neal and Malkin) were hard on the forecheck. They didn't give (Blue Jackets passers) any time. They applied pressure and forced some bad plays, and I got a turnover.

“They know I'm there as the (supporting forward), so they could take some chances. That's when we're at our best — when they can be aggressive, get some turnovers and they can go right to the net.”

Malkin and Neal have yet to score a goal. Neither has the top-line center/sniper combo of captain Sidney Crosby and winger Chris Kunitz.

Malkin's line, though, is about more than just the points it can produce, third-line winger Tanner Glass said.

“That's a big line, and it can be a physical line,” Glass said. “They don't necessarily dole out the punishment, but they can play in the tough areas against a physical team like the one we're playing.”

The Blue Jackets' physicality — they have 164 hits — has proven problematic for maintaining puck possession, Malkin said.

“It's tough, but it's starting to get good,” Malkin said. “I like my game now.

“Of course, we need to score. Maybe everybody else worries. I don't worry. Soon it (will) come, I know it.”

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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