Penguins' stars shine bright at NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa
OTTAWA — Fittingly, as the capper to a four-day stretch over which he constantly unveiled a personality worthy of attention, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin delivered a wicked one-liner about his own teammate after the NHL All-Star Game on Sunday.
Of course, defenseman Kris Letang was not a teammate of Malkin's at Scotiabank Place.
"Kris plays sometimes in (the) offensive zone, not defensive zone," Malkin said, referring to his set-up of Calgary Flames right winger Jarome Iginla's goal with Letang unsuccessfully defending on the sequence.
"(Letang) gives me a chance to score, you know — so I say thank you to him."
Malkin scored a goal to go with that assist for the All-Star team captained by Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, which defeated hometown favorite and Ottawa Senators right winger Daniel Alfredsson's squad, 12-9.
Each of the Penguins three All-Stars left Canada's capital city with something other than odd-looking game equipment (white gloves) and giveaways (ranging from scarves to seat cushions).
Letang and right winger James Neal both registered assists for Team Alfredsson, which included four members of the host Senators.
"It's really busy," Neal said of his first All-Star experience. "You're jumping around a lot."
He, Malkin and Letang joked around a lot after a game that featured one hit -- from Philadelphia Flyers winger Scott Hartnell, naturally.
Letang and Hartnell formed a Commonwealth Cold War connection by assisting on a goal by Vancouver Canucks center Henrik Sedin.
"Thank God I got a point," Neal said in reference to his assist of a marker by Buffalo Sabres right winger Jason Pominville. "Geno would have been all over me.
"He would have been anyway. That's OK. I take it from him every day anyway, so it's no big deal."
Said a grinning Neal on sharing a line for the second and third periods with Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos: "I skate with him a little bit in the summer, but we weren't clicking out there today."
Neal's 27 goals are tied for second in the NHL. Stamkos leads all players with 32 markers.
Letang, who logged 21 minutes and 35 seconds, coolly described his second All-Star Game as "a great time," and he smirked while returning verbal fire at Malkin, the NHL points leader with 58 and frontrunner for league MVP.
"I was trying to beat him on his defensive part of the game, which doesn't exist," Letang said. "We'll see what he says about that."
Before long, though, the Penguins' All-Stars appeared to return to regular-season serious mode, each mentioning the club's seven-game winning streak that is on the line Tuesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Consol Energy Center.
Those wins came without centers Sidney Crosby (concussion symptoms, neck) and Jordan Staal (knee), though Malkin, Neal and Letang have combined for 27 points in those contests.
"We wanted to prove something," Letang said of the seven wins that followed six straight losses. "We were out of the playoffs at one point. A lot of people questioned our team, the leadership in our dressing room. Now we're pretty solid and know where we're going.
"With the lineup we have, expectations are always high, and we don't see anything less than the Cup — even with the injuries."