Malkin saves the day with 3 goals in final period
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin charges the net to score his second goal of the third period against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Malkin had three goals and two assists as the Penguins won 6-3.
Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier controls the puck ahead of right wing Richard Park in the first period Sunday in Tampa, Fla. The Penguins won, 6-3.
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TAMPA, Fla. -- It was not quite five minutes, but it carried the potential to be devastating for the Penguins.
Imagine them flying home to Pittsburgh from a sunny Florida day, having to brace against the cold and scrape ice from their vehicles while strapped with the effects of a fall-from-ahead defeat and visions of a recent losing streak threatening to repeat itself.
"We just relaxed for five minutes," center Evgeni Malkin said of a three-goal burst by the Tampa Bay Lightning early in the third period that tied their matinee Sunday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Malkin made it all better, getting a natural hat trick in the final 13 minutes of regulation to give the Penguins a 6-3 win and help them keep a six-game skid in the rearview mirror.
They went 2-0 in the Sunshine State, including a 4-1 win Friday at Florida that broke their losing streak.
Malkin also had two assists against the Lightning as the Penguins built a 3-0 lead. His five-point day pumped him up to 51 points, second only to the 52 of Vancouver's Henrik Sedin pending Sunday's late games.
Penguins winger James Neal had two power-play goals for a league-leading 12, or half of his 24 goals.
"Definitely a lot of positives that came from this trip," said center Richard Park, who had the Penguins' other goal. "To get two wins as a result is encouraging."
The Penguins have 50 points in 44 games and moved up a spot to eighth place, just above the playoff cutoff, in the Eastern Conference. Washington beat Carolina to also reach 50 points but has more victories.
Tampa Bay, which lost its seventh consecutive game, seemed to snooze through the first two periods, or maybe it was the Penguins who were just that sharp. They had a 32-13 shot advantage through two periods en route to a 44-20 edge overall -- the 10th consecutive game they have outshot their opponent.
Neal got his first goal at 2:43 of the first period on a sharp-angle shot from along the extended goal line that trickled between the pads of Tampa Bay goaltender Mathieu Garon to make it 1-0.
Park used Lightning defenseman Matt Gilroy as a screen to score from the high slot after he wrangled the puck from Tom Pyatt.
That was it for the scoring until Neal struck again just 34 seconds into the third period to make it 3-0 and, seemingly, put the game out of reach. Tampa Bay wasn't buying that.
"It's emotionally draining, yes, but we fight it and always fight to come back and give ourselves a chance," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said.
When Gilroy one-timed a pass from Steven Stamkos at 2:00 of the third, it seemed as if that might only serve to spoil a shutout bid for Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
When former Penguins winger Ryan Malone tipped in a goal on Tampa Bay's first power play, making it 3-2 at 4:53 of the third, things got a little tense.
And when Teddy Purcell shoved in a loose puck from just above the crease to tie it, 3-3, at 6:50 of the third, the Penguins easily could have been left stunned.
"We gave up the one, then the power-play goal is two and then they get the scramble in front and you're looking up and having two really good periods of hockey evaporate on you," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
Fleury went from working on a potential shutout to staring at a possible defeat.
"That was a rough start to the third," said Fleury, who finished with 17 saves. "Too many goals-against on our side."
The Lightning was energized. For a matter of seconds, anyway.
"We don't want our fans to see us quitting. We don't want our fans to pay the tickets for nothing," Boucher said. "I thought when it was 3-3 the barn was going berserk and our players were confident."
Malkin, the Penguins' only All-Star, muted them.
He restored the Penguins' lead, 4-3, just 48 seconds after Purcell's goal when he carried the puck out from the corner and threw it past Garon.
"For me, on that fourth goal, it's not over -- you've got 10 minutes left, and that's plenty of time," Boucher said.
Just 1:49 later, though, Malkin made it 5-3 by scoring as he was sent sprawling after Tampa Bay got caught on a line change.
The capper was an empty-net goal with 56.5 seconds left.
"It's a huge response from our team after we let them back in," Neal said. "It's the way we want our team to respond any time we go down. [Malkin] is a leader on this team and a huge part of it. Great job by him."
First Published January 16, 2012 12:00 am