Behind Malkin, Penguins rally past Canucks
Evgeni Malkin said Saturday was his lucky day.
It might be more accurate to say his teammates were the lucky ones. Lucky to have No. 71 on their side.
After the Penguins fell behind by two goals in the first period for the second consecutive game, Malkin scored twice in the third period to cap his 10th career hat trick and set the stage for Bryan Rust's go-ahead goal with seven minutes left, leading the team to a 5-4 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
“It always feels good,” Malkin said. “It's obviously a team win. It's a very good day for me. I'm thanking my linemates. They did a great job today. Unbelievable feeling.”
With the win, the Penguins are unbeaten in regulation in their past seven home games (5-0-2). They moved into a tie for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“(Malkin) took some initiative,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “I thought his actions spoke. He brought his game to another level. I thought his intensity level was high. He was a difference maker.”
Before Malkin's heroics, the Penguins looked destined to suffer a sleepy, snowy matinee loss.
On the first shift of the game, Jannik Hansen gathered a puck in his own end, flew up the right wing past a pack of Penguins who looked like they were standing still and rifled a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury inside the far post.
Later in the period, Hansen scored on a short-handed two-on-one break with Derek Dorsett.
In between, a relatively anonymous Canucks lineup regularly torched the Penguins defense.
“I didn't like anything about the first period,” Sullivan said. “I just didn't think we played the right way. We didn't stop and start. We didn't finish checks. We didn't stay on the right side of puck battles. We didn't win the puck battles. Our faceoff percentage was poor. I didn't like anything about the first period.”
Malkin made the score 2-1 with a rocket one-timer on a five-on-three power play in the second period, but Bo Horvat restored a two-goal edge for the Canucks with a wrister to the top corner from the high slot early in the third.
That's when Malkin took over.
His second goal of the game is where luck came in. He skated through the defense and buzzed past the left post before releasing a centering pass that Canucks center Linden Vey accidentally tapped into his own net at 7:16.
The tying goal was more dramatic. After the Canucks had a hard time clearing their zone, Malkin took a drop pass from Phil Kessel at the left point, skated to the faceoff dot and wired a shot past goalie Ryan Miller to make it 3-3 at 10:22.
“He can do so many amazing things with the puck,” Rust said. “Playing on his team, just kind of watching from the bench, you're like, ‘Wow. That's something that's just fantastic.' ”
Less than three minutes later, Rust gave the Penguins the lead for good. He took a turn-around wrister from the left point that sailed past center Eric Fehr and Vancouver defenseman Alexander Edler, who were tied up in front of the net, and eluded Miller with seven minutes to go to make it 4-3.
Sidney Crosby scored into an empty net with 1:23 to go, and Hansen completed his hat trick with 16.8 seconds remaining, and the result for the Penguins was a 5-4 victory that was equal parts sloppy and inspiring.
“I said to the guys after the game that this wasn't how we would draw it up,” Sullivan said, “but I commend them for elevating their game and finding a way to get two points.”