Malkin, Fleury shine in rout
Jay McKee (74), Alex Goligoski (3) and Sidney Crosby (87) celebrate with Evgeni Malkin after Malkin's third goal.
Billy Guerin waves to the crowd after his four-point night in the Penguins' 8-2 victory.
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Remember that slump Evgeni Malkin was in?
The one that had dragged on for a couple of weeks, when Malkin often seemed to have more bad penalties than good shifts?
Well, Malkin reduced it to nothing more than a sour memory last night by scoring three goals in the Penguins' 8-2 victory against the Ottawa Senators against Mellon Arena.
It was his fourth career hat trick, but earned him recognition only as the second star of the game.
Which was perfectly reasonable, since the only job tougher than tending goal for the Senators was trying to whittle down the list of worthy candidates for star-of-the-game consideration.
The No. 1 choice was Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
And while it's unusual for a goalie to be named as the outstanding performer in a game his team wins by six goals, it's equally rare for that goalie to have to make 45 saves, as Fleury did.
Fact is, the Penguins gave up more shots (39) in the first two periods than they had in the entirety of their 37 previous games this season.
If not for some stellar work by goalie Fleury, particularly in the latter stages of the opening period, when the score was tied, 1-1, the tone -- and possibly the outcome -- could have been decidedly different.
Vladislav Tretiak, one of the greatest goalies in hockey history and head of the Russian hockey federation, watched the game from the press box, and saw Fleury turn in a performance worthy of, well, Tretiak.
Fleury, brilliant as he was, hardly was the only Penguins player to have a memorable game, however. Consider:
• Bill Guerin scored two goals and set up two others.
• Chris Kunitz scored one goal and assisted on three.
• Sidney Crosby had three assists.
• Sergei Gonchar had a goal and two assists.
Kunitz and Guerin tied a Penguins record by recording four points in a period. Both did it in the second, when the Penguins ran off five unanswered goals.
Kunitz's feat -- the first time he has had a four-point period -- wasn't enough earn him a star, however, because Guerin got No. 3.
The avalanche of statistics was so overwhelming that at least one pretty significant number largely was overlooked: The Penguins' power play scored on 3 of 8 chances, just the second time this season it has produced more than two such goals in a game.
"We probably had upward of 14 or 15 scoring opportunities on our power play," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
Ottawa played most of the game without its captain, Daniel Alfredsson, who was sandwiched by Craig Adams and Gonchar late in the opening period and left with an apparent left shoulder injury. His arm was in a sling after the game, and he said he expects to be out for a few weeks.
The first period ended in a 1-1 tie, even though the Senators launched 24 shots at Fleury. That's one shy of the most by a visiting team at Mellon Arena, set by Vancouver, Jan. 7, 1989.
"We had four or five unbelievable chances in the first period and didn't score on them," Senators coach Cory Clouston said. "Fleury was outstanding."
Malkin put the Penguins in front during a power play at 4:37 when he took a cross-ice feed from Crosby and beat Ottawa goalie Pascal Leclaire from near the left dot for his 11th.
Ottawa's Anton Volchenkov scored on a slap shot from the high slot at 13:05, and that sparked a surge by the Senators, who pinned the Penguins in their zone repeatedly over the next several minutes.
Fleury denied the Senators, though, and Guerin knocked in his own rebound from the front edge of the crease at 1:03 of the second to make it 2-1. The Penguins never looked back after that, and Ruslan Fedotenko made it 3-1 by converting a Jordan Staal pass at 7:35.
Fleury denied Peter Regin from the right hash at 10:23, and that proved to be Ottawa's final chance to get back into the game because Kunitz tipped in a Guerin pass at 11:25, Guerin rapped in a Crosby set-up on a three-on-one break at 13:57 and Malkin beat Leclaire from the bottom of the right circle at 18:27.
Clouston replaced Leclaire with Brian Elliott for the final period, and the Penguins greeted him with a goal by Gonchar at 1:43 to go up by six and Malkin steered in a Crosby pass at 6:33 to complete his hat trick.
Chris Kelly's goal at 18:09 did nothing but a little superficial damage to Fleury's personal statistics. It certainly didn't prevent the Penguins taking a 26-11-1 record into their Christmas break.
"Everybody wants to win their last game before a break," Guerin said. "It was a nice win for us to get."
First Published December 24, 2009 12:00 am