Malkin scores three goals, Penguins beat Canucks, 5-4
January 23, 2016 9:17 PM
Penguins Bryan Rust is stopped by Vancouver goalie Ryan Miller in the first period at the Consol Energy Center.
Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury makes a toe save on Canucks' Bo Horvat in the second period at the Consol Energy Center.
By Dave Molinari/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan likes to talk about how resilient his team has become.
What goes unsaid is that he surely wishes it didn’t have to be.
Not this often, anyway.
The Penguins 5-4 victory against Vancouver Saturday at Consol Energy Center marked the second time in three days they spotted a visitor a 2-0 lead in the first period, then rallied to salvage two points.
Pulling off such comebacks is great for morale, but it’s a low-percentage approach to earning a playoff berth.
“This wasn’t how we would draw it up,” Sullivan said. “I didn’t like anything about the first period.”
Perhaps, in part, because that was the only one in which Penguins center Evgeni Malkin failed to score.
He ended up putting three pucks past Canucks goalie Ryan Miller — the second because Vancouver’s Linden Vey inadvertently deflected it there — to record his 10th career hat trick and first since Feb. 25, 2012.
“[Malkin] had a pretty special game,” linemate Phil Kessel said.
He probably had to, because Canucks right winger Jannik Hansen was equally brilliant. At least.
Hannik completed his hat trick with 16.8 seconds left in regulation, slicing a 5-3 Penguins lead in half and turning what had seemed to be an insurance goal by Sidney Crosby at 18:37 of the third into the game-winner.
Until Hansen scored his third, Bryan Rust figured to be credited with the game-winner, as he had broken a 3-3 tie 13 minutes into the third when his harmless-looking shot from the left point skidded along the ice, through traffic and past Miller.
“Puck luck,” Rust said.
The victory raised the Penguins’ record to 23-17-7 and hoisted them into at least a temporary tie with Boston and New Jersey for seventh place in the Eastern Conference, pending the outcome of games Saturday night.
The Penguins played without first-line left winger Chris Kunitz, a late scratch because of an apparent back or neck injury. His place in the lineup was taken by Beau Bennett, who returned to lineup after missing 17 games because of a shoulder injury.
Derrick Pouliot replaced Ian Cole on defense and played 11 minutes, 58 seconds.
While some of the Penguins personnel changed, their lackluster early game play did not. For much of the opening 20 minutes, the Penguins performed as if they believed it was Saturday’s game, not Sunday’s, that had been postponed because of a snowstorm.
Never mind that Vancouver was at the end of a six-game road trip, and the 12:38 p.m. start came at a time when the Canucks body clocks, which are set for the Pacific zone, told them they should be making breakfast, not playing hockey.
Hansen gave them a 1-0 lead 27 seconds into the game and made it 2-0 at 16:35, as the Penguins seemed only nominally interested.
“We didn’t give them enough respect,” defenseman Olli Maatta said. “It’s never going to be easy.”
And it never was, although Malkin sparked the Penguins rally with a five-on-three goal at 3:54 of the second.
Bo Horvat briefly disrupted their surge six minutes into the third, restoring Vancouver’s two-goal edge, but the Penguins responded with two more goals by Malkin and single ones by Rust and Crosby in a span of 11 minutes, 21 seconds.
The victory the Penguins earned was satisfying. The way they had to get it, not so much.
“We can’t give ourselves a two-goal deficit in the first period to make us go,” Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said.
“It’s great that we got two points, but we have to find ways to have a lead, play the right way.”
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.
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