Evgeni Malkin's OT goal lifts Penguins to wild win
After Sunday night's game, the majority of the Penguins roster was headed out of town for a warm-weather vacation during the team's CBA-mandated, five-day week off.
Evgeni Malkin sent his teammates scattering south with smiles on their faces.
Malkin scored his second goal of the game with 2 minutes, 9 seconds left in overtime to lift the Penguins to a wild 6-5 victory over the Boston Bruins.
“I think we're on the right path,” defenseman Kris Letang said. “Character win, obviously. We could have easily gave up. We kept going.”
With the victory, the Penguins climbed back into a playoff position in the Eastern Conference. They've won two in a row.
It's a perilous position, of course. They're in eighth in the conference with 47 points, but they're also only two points out of last place in the bunched-up Metropolitan Division.
Still, despite several fits and starts over the past few weeks — a rousing victory followed by a demoralizing loss — the Penguins probably have cause for actual optimism this time.
They've been on their toes the last two games. They look more like the high-octane team that won the last two Stanley Cup championships than the downtrodden group that slogged its way through the first three months of a three-peat bid.
Letang said it's a matter of the defensemen and forwards playing as a five-man unit rather than one two-man group in one part of the ice and one three-man group in another.
“We're starting to play with some speed and some purpose out there,” Sidney Crosby said.
Malkin's overtime goal came on a two-on-one play down low with Phil Kessel. The Penguins got to overtime thanks to a Matt Murray save on a Brad Marchand penalty shot with 61 seconds to go.
Murray started the game on the bench after struggling to find his form in the last few weeks. He entered the game after Tristan Jarry gave up his fifth goal on 19 shots late in the second period.
Marchand got the penalty shot when he was slashed by Jamie Oleksiak on a breakaway. He used a long run-up before taking the puck at center ice.
“You've definitely got to come out a little further and try to match his speed almost,” Murray said. “If you get caught flat-footed, it's like a D-man. He can walk right around you if he's going full speed.
“He made a nice move. I thought he kind of had me on the glove side, so I opened up. He put it five-hole, and I was able to get, I think, my back leg on it.”
Murray stopped all six shots he faced.
“I think sometimes we forget how young he is,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “He's had some ups and downs in the first part of the season, but we have not lost faith in him.”
The game featured several wild swings in momentum.
The Penguins took a 3-1 lead in the first period on goals by Oleksiak, Kessel and Letang. The Bruins responded with four straight goals in the second to take a 5-3 lead. The Penguins answered with two late goals to forge a 5-5 tie.
Malkin converted a feed from Crosby in the left-wing corner on a power play with 3.6 seconds left in the second period. Riley Sheahan scored on a shot from the left wing less than three minutes into the third.
“It's hard when you're up two goals, and then you end up being down the way we were,” Sullivan said. “That's a big swing. Just our ability to stay in it and stay in the fight and respond the right way is a great indicator of our team leadership. This is certainly a game we can build on moving forward.”