It was only a preseason game, but Evgeni Malkin's performance Wednesday night may indicate a huge season awaits the Penguins' star center.
In his first game since tearing his right ACL in February, Malkin paved the way to a 3-2 win over Detroit in the exhibition opener at Consol Energy Center. Showing bursts of speed that have been evident during training camp, Malkin scored a beautiful goal and set up another in 20 minutes, 51 seconds of ice time.
"He was at a dominant level," coach Dan Bylsma said.
Malkin forced four turnovers during an inspired first period.
"Even though it was just an exhibition game," he said, "it was good."
Chris Kunitz and Matt Niskanen also scored for the Penguins. Marc-Andre Fleury played the first two periods and stopped 15 of 16 shots. Fleury was solid but more interested in talking about Malkin after the game.
"He was awesome," he said. "It was like he was never gone."
First-round pick Joe Morrow set up a goal and made a number of impressive plays. Before the game, he said he wouldn't back down against the mighty Red Wings, and the 18-year-old did not look out of place.
"I can't tell you how long I have waited for this moment," he said. "I didn't really feel nervous. It was great to be out there."
Even the game's No. 1 star was impressed.
"Great defenseman," Malkin said. "Great skater."
The Penguins return to Consol Energy Center on Thursday to host the Chicago Blackhawks.
Notes: A moment of silence was held before the game to recognize hockey's numerous tragedies this summer. ... Goalie Brent Johnson likely will start tonight.
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