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Malkin guides Pens in win over Blackhawks

| Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011

Sidney Crosby can take his time returning from his bout with concussion-symptoms, so long as Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury keep playing like this.

Malkin continued his torrid pace and Fleury held off Chicago's late charge as the Penguins, despite playing without Crosby and with a depleted blue line, produced one of their finest efforts of the season in a 3-2 victory over the high-flying Chicago Blackhawks.

Chicago peppered Fleury with 19 shots in the final period but he slammed the door in the final moments, even when the Blackhawks enjoyed a power play during the final 1:29 of regulation.

"It got pretty crazy," Fleury said.

Malkin's current streak has been pretty crazy, too.

Malkin earned three assists, the first of which came on a spectacular feed to set up left wing Chris Kunitz's goal, and is tied for the league lead with 39 points.

"He's demanding the puck right now," Kunitz said of Malkin. "He wants to make plays. He's a dominating player when he wants the puck."

The Penguins led, 3-0, through two periods on goals from Kunitz, right wing James Neal and right wing Tyler Kennedy.

However, Chicago scored two early goals in the third period and were on the verge of tying the contest throughout the final 15 minutes.

"(The win) doesn't feel as good as it should," said Kunitz, who acknowledged that Chicago clearly played better during the final period. "We got great goaltending. That was huge."

With Chicago already enjoying a huge territorial advantage, Neal, whose 19 goals place him one off the league lead, was called for his third penalty. He wasn't thrilled with the first two calls, but he clearly was guilty of hooking with 1:29 left.

"I can't get my stick up in that situation," he said. "It (stunk) having to watch the rest of that game from the penalty box."

Fleury, however, made a couple of big stops, and quality penalty killing from center Jordan Staal, left wing Matt Cooke, right wing Pascal Dupuis, defenseman Brooks Orpik and defenseman Deryk Engelland helped preserve the victory.

"Flower was great tonight," said defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who returned for his first game since breaking his wrist Nov. 3 and set up Kennedy's game-winning goal. "He was there for us every time we made a mistake."

One crucial mistake might cost Engelland a game or two.

He left his feet while hitting Chicago center Marcus Kruger with 11:05 remaining in the opening period. Engelland's right forearm appeared to make direct contact with Kruger's head, which could be a violation of Rule 48, which prohibits players from directing the impact of a hit toward an opponent's head.

The Penguins are already without defensemen Kris Letang (concussion), Zbynek Michalek (concussion) and Paul Martin (undisclosed).

Coach Dan Bylsma is unsure if Engelland will be suspended.

"I don't have an expectation," Bylsma said. "It was a hard hit. Like every situation, I'm sure they'll look at it. It was a full body check by Deryk."

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said of Engelland's hit: "Tough hit. High hit in a tough area."

Kruger did not return to the game.

The Penguins return to action Friday in Winnipeg.

Note: The Penguins' outdoor practice at SouthSide Works scheduled for this morning, which was to be open to the public, has been shifted to Consol Energy Center because of warm temperatures in the forecast.

Scoring summary

First period

Penguins, 1-0 (10:02): C Evgeni Malkin fired a perfect lead pass to LW Chris Kunitz, who raced behind the Chicago defense and beat G Ray Emery with a shot between the legs.

Second period

Penguins, 2-0 (2:45): Malkin sent a lead pass to RW James Neal, which ignited a two-on-one with Neal and Kunitz. Neal skated down the right wing and fired a wrist shot off the far post and in.

Penguins, 3-0 (16:34): D Ben Lovejoy circled around the net and fired a pass through the crease to RW Tyler Kennedy, who scored into an empty net.

Third period

Blackhawks, 3-1 (0:49): C Jonathan Toews tapped a pass from LW Viktor Stalberg off G Marc-Andre Fleury's pads and in while on a two-on-one.

Blackhawks, 3-2 (6:12): Stalberg completed a tic-tac-toe passing sequence that saw RW Marian Hossa and C Patrick Kane each make passes that fooled the Penguins.

Additional Information:

Magnificent ...

Mario Lemieux takes to the Consol Center ice

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