Malkin's hat trick buries Buffalo, 8-3

Fleury records 200th victory, Depres gets first goal in game of milestones

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Evgeni Malkin did not score a milestone goal Saturday night, the way Simon Despres did.

And he didn't reach a major statistical plateau, the way Marc-Andre Fleury did.

Which might be the only things he didn't manage during the Penguins' 8-3 victory against Buffalo at Consol Energy Center.

Malkin scored three goals -- his seventh career hat trick -- and set up two others which, all things considered, really isn't a bad evening's work.

"My first shot, I scored," Malkin said. "Second shot, I score again. It's a lucky day for me."

Of course, it usually is for the Penguins when they face Sabres goalie Ryan Miller.

While there aren't many holes in his resume -- with the obvious exception of a Stanley Cup, of course -- there likely is at least one more thing Miller would like to accomplish before he retires.

Have a good game against the Penguins.

His latest attempt was an abject failure, as Miller stopped just 5 of 15 shots in 29 minutes, 43 seconds of work and was pulled from the game twice.

Even for a guy whose body of work against the Penguins has run the gamut from awful to abysmal -- he began the evening with a 4-9-3 record, 3.25 goals-against average and .886 save percentage in 17 career appearances against them -- it was a wretched outing.

"I don't even think that was anywhere close to good hockey on my part," Miller said.

That's one way to put it. If you want to put a wildly positive spin on it, anyway.

Miller's struggles dovetailed with quite a few individual accomplishments by the Penguins. Among them:

• Despres scored his first NHL goal.

• Fleury made 16 saves to earn his 200th NHL victory, making him the fourth-youngest goalie to do so.

• Forward Jason Williams got his first goal as a Penguin.

• Defenseman Brooks Orpik recorded his 100th NHL point, an assist on Malkin's first goal.

• Defenseman Carl Sneep, playing in his first NHL game, earned his first point in the league by assisting on Malkin's second goal.

• Pascal Dupuis got point No. 300 with an assist on a Deryk Engelland goal.

"We haven't handed that many pucks out after a game, ever," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.

Perhaps the only surprising thing is that none of those commemorative pucks ended up in the Buffalo net, because just about every other one associated with this game did.

Williams staked the Penguins to a 1-0 lead at 2:17 of the opening period, when he beat Miller with a slap shot from the blue line, and they controlled play for most of the time that followed.

"We did a great job," Malkin said. "You see how we started. We dominated in the offensive zone. I think we deserved this win."

They got it despite playing without center Jordan Staal and defenseman Paul Martin, neither of whom was deemed healthy enough to be in uniform. Their spots were taken by Williams and Sneep, who were recalled from the Penguins' minor league team in Wilkes-Barre.

Staal, who has missed three of the past four games, and Martin are on a list of injured players that includes Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek, among others.

Craig Adams might end up there, too, after leaving the game with an unspecified injury in the second period. Bylsma said he is considered day to day.

The Sabres hardly were at full-strength, either. The absentees list was headlined by Tyler Myers, Brad Boyes, Jochen Hecht and Ville Leino.

A case could be made that Miller and fellow goalie Jhonas Enroth were no-shows of a sort, too, although poor goaltending wasn't Buffalo's only shortcoming.

"We were bad in all areas," Sabres center Derek Roy said. "Power play. Penalty kill. Five-on-five. We were just bad."

The game effectively was over by the first intermission, as Williams, Despres and Malkin (two) had scored to give the Penguins a three-goal lead.

The Penguins rarely eased up the rest of the way, and Malkin seemed especially motivated, although he insisted that he wasn't focused on pumping up his personal statistics.

"I'm not thinking about points," he said. "I'm trying to find my game. ... I'm just finding my level and [trying to] continue to do better every game."

A worthy objective, to be sure. But considering how Malkin played Saturday night, perhaps not a realistic one.

Dave Molinari: or Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published December 18, 2011 5:00 AM


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