Evgeni Malkin admits game suffered after Olympics

PENGUINS NOTEBOOK


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Evgeni Malkin had gone three games in a row with no points, and he admitted Saturday that his malaise dated to host Russia failing to medal at the Sochi Winter Games.

"I didn't play well after the Olympics," Malkin said.

He had a breakout game Saturday with two goals, two assists and an all-around dominant performance in the Penguins' 4-3 overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Consol Energy Center.

The key was a pep talk from fellow Penguins center Sidney Crosby.

"I talked with Sid a little bit," Malkin said. "He helped me a lot. He can understand my problem -- we lost -- and he supported me and helped me.

"After we talked, I felt so much better and I started to play better."

Perhaps it was paying it back, then, when Malkin's first point of the game came when he set up Crosby on a power play for the game's first goal.

Vokoun clock ticking

Time is running out on getting goaltender Tomas Vokoun into a Penguins game.

"Just a mere possibility at this point in time," coach Dan Bylsma said.

Vokoun has been out all season after having a procedure to dissolve a blood clot in training camp. He has been off of blood-thinners and working out or practicing for several weeks.

"Tomas has been progressing, is progressing in terms of his health," Bylsma said. "With a ramp-up in practice, number of shots he's taken, he has dealt with some general soreness. But he's not at the point where he's ready to play a game yet. Hopefully, possibly working back to that as we wind down" the season.

In addition, Bylsma said the team wants to stick with No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and rookie backup Jeff Zatkoff, who started against Tampa Bay.

"We're working toward Marc-Andre getting 65 games or so, and Jeff also carrying a lot more workload in this heavy month of March than he has earlier in the year when it was spaced out a little bit more," Bylsma said.

"There's not a three-goalie rotation."

Fleury is expected to start today against St. Louis in what would be his 56th game. Including today, the Penguins have 12 games left in the regular season.

Vokoun, 37, went 13-4 as Fleury's backup a season ago, then stepped in as the starter in the playoffs when Fleury struggled. Vokoun is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

First point

Zatkoff didn't just get a win against Tampa Bay to improve to 12-4-1; he also got his first NHL point when he got an assist on the opening goal of the game.

"I didn't have to do much," Zatkoff said.

The Penguins were on a power play when Malkin backtracked to the Penguins end to retrieve the puck. Zatkoff came out from the crease to get to the puck first, setting it up for Malkin so that he didn't have to break stride as he turned and went the length of the ice before setting up a one-timer by Crosby.

"I saw they were trying to go for a quick change, and [Malkin] was coming back with a lot of speed, so I just tried to get to it, cut it off so he didn't have to go all the way back," Zatkoff said. "He just turned up, went end-to-end and made a great pass to Sid. You put it in his wheelhouse like that, he's going to finish it.

"I'll take my name on a score sheet with [Malkin] and Sid."

Tip-ins

Forward Josh Archibald, a Hobey Baker finalist after ranking second in the NCAA with 29 goals for Nebraska-Omaha, signed an amateur tryout contract with Penguins affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. He was a sixth-round Penguins draft pick in 2011. ... Portland defenseman Derrick Pouliot and Edmonton goaltender Tristan Jarry were named first-team all-stars for their Western Hockey League conferences. Pouliot, a Penguins first-round draft pick in 2012, also is a nominee for the WHL defenseman of the year. Jarry, a Penguins second-round draft pick in 2013, is nominated for WHL goalie goaltender of the year. ... Penguins winger Jussi Jokinen had an assist to reach 50 points for the fourth time in in his career. ... Forward Craig Adams played in his 276th game in a row, tying him for the third-longest ironman streak in Penguins history.

Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.


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