Malkin rallies Penguins to shootout win vs. Canadiens
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You couldn't blame the Penguins if they were tired of talking about Evgeni Malkin.
Of having to grasp for superlatives to describe what they are seeing him do virtually every game.
Of trying to explain how a guy can respond to challenges so often, and so brilliantly.
Doesn't seem to be an issue with them, though.
It certainly wasn't after their 5-4 shootout victory Friday night against Montreal at Consol Energy Center, when Malkin put the game into overtime by scoring with less than three minutes left in regulation, then was the only player on either team to score during the shootout.
"You never get tired of it," forward Dustin Jeffrey said. "Because every night, it's something different."
Malkin has at least one goal in five consecutive games, his longest streak since Feb. 9-17, 2008, and is looking almost like he could score at will. Or, perhaps, can simply will himself to score when the situation demands it.
"We were losing and I wanted to win this game," he said. "I didn't play great the first two periods. I just wanted to play better in the third."
Good plan. It worked.
Malkin's late-game surge, however, wasn't the only reason the Penguins ran their winning streak to five and raised their record to 26-17-4, good for sole possession of sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
It would be tough to overlook the contribution of Jeffrey, who got his first two goals in 19 games and added an assist for his first three-point game in the NHL.
"It's been coming," he said. "I don't want to say 'frustrating,' but it's one of those things where, when you keep getting chances, you just want the first one to go in, because, hopefully, they'll come in bunches after that."
Although Jeffrey had an excellent game and Malkin again produced in a high-pressure situation, for much of the night, the Penguins looked very much like a team playing its fifth game in eight days.
Just 24 hours earlier, the Penguins clearly had outplayed the New York Rangers on the road, but struggled for much of the first two periods to keep up with Montreal, which is 1-3-2 in its past six and seems destined to watch the playoffs on TV this spring.
"Tonight wasn't a perfect game for us," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "We were not executing at the level we wanted to at numerous times tonight."
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made his 20th consecutive appearance, a personal record, but after allowing just one goal in four of his previous five starts, he gave up two in the first six minutes.
Lars Eller put Montreal up, 1-0, 34 seconds into the game, when he knocked in the rebound of a P.K. Subban shot that had ricocheted off Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland in front of the net.
"When you're getting bounces like that, those were the ones that were killing us during our [six-game] losing streak," Jeffrey said.
After Kris Letang countered for the Penguins at 4:02, Erik Cole put Montreal back on top at 5:41, rapping in the rebound of an Andrei Kostitsyn shot.
"They got a lucky break on the first one, and the second one went right to the guy's stick," Fleury said.
Kostitsyn made it 3-1 with a power-play goal -- Montreal's first in 29 man-advantages against the Penguins -- 69 seconds into the middle period, when he beat Fleury from above the left hash.
Jeffrey got that one back for the Penguins during the Canadiens' next chance with the extra man, however, as he steered a Zbynek Michalek shot past Peter Budaj at 5:32 for his first goal since March 5. Max Pacioretty restored the Canadiens' two-goal cushion at 10:34, but his shot was the last one that would elude Fleury.
Jeffrey made it 3-2 at 3:32 of the third, when he beat Budaj with a wrist shot from near the top of the right circle, and the Penguins continued to press until 17:17, when Malkin hammered a shot past Budaj from near the top of the same circle for his 25th goal this season.
Malkin's heroics overshadowed some quality work by Fleury, who stopped all seven shots he faced in the final period and three more in the shootout.
"Fleury did an actually pretty good job of closing the door in the third," Pacioretty said. "He gave them a chance."
And Malkin made the most of it. Which is something the Penguins weren't doing just 10 days or so ago.
"This is a game where a week and a half ago, two weeks ago, it might have gotten away from us," Bylsma said. "We'd be looking at a loss and moving on from here. But we found a way to win."
First Published January 21, 2012 12:00 am