Evgeni Malkin takes responsibility, vows improvement after Penguins loss
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Whenever the Pittsburgh Penguins have found themselves in a tough spot in the playoffs in recent years, Evgeni Malkin has been a voice of motivation in the locker room.
It was no different after they lost 3-1 Friday night to drop the first two games of a first-round series against the New York Islanders.
“It’s not positive right now after a loss, but we have a great team,” Malkin said. “I believe in this group. I believe we can change. Take one game, and we see what’s going on next.”
The difference this time, though, is Malkin had a hand in the goal against that put his team in a third-period hole.
With the score tied 1-1 with about 12 minutes left, Matt Cullen won a defensive-zone faceoff and Patric Hornqvist made a cross-rink pass to Malkin to start up ice.
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The pass was in Malkin’s skates, and he couldn’t control it. Devon Toews stopped the puck at the red line and passed ahead to Mathew Barzal, who pushed it up to Jordan Eberle. Coming off the left wing, Eberle maneuvered around sliding defenseman Justin Schultz and wired a backhand shot inside the far post.
“It was between my skates and stick,” Malkin said. “I’m like surprised and a little bit scared. What can I do? I tried to use my skates. Puck jumped off my skates. They played a quick up off the boards and scored.
“It’s my mistake. I know that. I can play better. I’m trying. It’s not like I don’t want the puck. I’m trying to play my best. Sometimes it’s bad luck. I hope at home we have better ice and I can use my stick and we play better.”
Malkin also took an offensive-zone penalty in the first period.
It put the Islanders on the power play for the first of six times in the game.
“I don’t want to (talk) about the referee tonight,” Malkin said. “A couple of penalties I don’t like, but we forget that. Sometimes it’s happening. It’s a physical game. Don’t worry about what went on about the referee, about the New York Islanders team. We need to focus on our game.”
Malkin identified two areas where he thinks he and the Penguins need to improve in Game 3 on Sunday afternoon.
First, they need to better negotiate the neutral zone.
“We lose puck and they jump quick,” Malkin said. “We should probably play simple. We try to pass across so much.”
Second, they need less art work and more hard work in the offensive zone.
“Maybe from blue line, shoot to the net and two guys look for rebounds,” Malkin said. “It’s not a fun game. It’s not a pretty game right now. We understand it’s playoffs. Against the Islanders, they play simple. We need to start to play simple too. We see it’s not easy, but well come back, for sure.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .