Penguins' Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin show signs of heating up
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — Heading into Tuesday's game against the Rangers, Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin had combined for eight points this season.
However, the duo nearly doubled their scoring output by combining for seven points — including teaming up on the winning goal in overtime — in the Penguins' 5-4 victory.
“It's great for them. They are such a big part of our team,” said coach Mike Sullivan, whose team visits the Florida Panthers on Friday. “It's important that they produce offensively to help us win.”
Kessel scored his first even-strength goal of the season on a wicked snap shot that beat the Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist in the game's opening minute.
Sidney Crosby said he is hopeful Kessel is on the verge of a scoring binge.
“Any player, especially a guy who can score like Phil, when you get one, usually the floodgates open,” Crosby said.
“So I'm sure he'll continue to shoot, and hopefully, they keep going in for him.”
Sullivan saw several positives from the Kessel-Malkin combination as they combined some of the ideas the coaching staff provided along with their natural skills.
“I thought in the Rangers game, they had a number of shifts where they had sustained zone time because they were stopping on pucks and doing the little things that help,” Sullivan said. “The last game is an indication of how talented they are.”
On the overtime goal, Kessel applied defensive pressure to cause a turnover near the Rangers net, then passed to Malkin.
“Both (Kessel) and Geno have been around the net a lot, and both had big games for us,” Crosby said. “You always get a little boost when you have a game like that.”
Steve Evans is a freelance writer.