Malkin and Fleury Shine in 6-3 Win Over Thrashers

The Pittsburgh Penguins returned from a 4-day layoff to beat the Atlanta Thrashers 6-3 as they were powered by the offensive prowess of Evgeni Malkin and the excellent netminding of Marc-Andre Fleury.  Malkin picked up 4-points (2G, 2A) to continue his dominating lead in the league scoring race, while Fleury made several highlight reel saves as he stopped 28-of-31 shots in his first action since November 15th.  Malkin’s 4-point night gives him 53-points (14G, 39A) in 31-games, or 1.71 points per game, putting him on pace for a 140-point season.  He is 7-points ahead of Sidney Crosby who is 2nd in the scoring race, and 10-points ahead of 3rd place Alexander Ovechkin.  Despite beating a team near the bottom of the league standings, the Penguins relished the much needed win after losing 4 of their last 5 games.  Although the win was decisive on the scoreboard, the Penguins were outshot 31-20 in the game and were a bit sloppy in their own end as they gave up 7 turnovers.  Marc-Andre Fleury was outstanding in net and showed no signs of the groin injury that has kept him out of the lineup for over a month. 

In the 1st period, the Penguins hopped out to a quick lead as they scored at 5:32.  Taking advantage of a Thrashers’ player who broke his stick on a shot, the Penguins moved the puck quickly out of their zone and up the ice.  Jordan Staal moved the puck to call-up Tim Wallace who found Matt Cooke streaking toward the blueline with a nice cross ice pass.  Cooke protected the puck as he skated into the Thrashers’ zone and let a quick snap shot that beat Ondrej Pavelec on the short side.  Then at 9:40, Evgeni Malkin embarrassed Todd White as he just walked right through him by the side of the goal to put the puck into the empty side of the net.  Petr Sykora assisted on Malkin’s 13th goal of the season to make it 2-0.  At 19:21, however, the Thrashers cut the lead in half as Marty Reasoner was credited with a goal that caromed recklessly off from sticks and bodies to beat Fleury.  Ilya Kovalchuk and Chris Thorburn were credited with the assists that made it 2-1 after one.  A scuffle in front of the net ensued after the goal as Brooks Orpik and Sidney Crosby roughed it up with Boris Valabik, who had fallen awkwardly onto Orpik’s leg during the play.  The 2-on-1 scuffle led to a pair of penalties to the Penguins to send them into the 2nd period shorthanded.  The Penguins were outshot 9-6 in the period and were 2-for-2 on the penalty kill.  Despite being outshot, Marc-Andre Fleury made a number of beautiful saves including a great glove save on Colby Armstrong to keep the Thrashers in check.

In the 2nd, the Penguins managed to kill off the carryover penalties to Orpik and Crosby before getting a man advantage of their own just 3-minutes into the period, thanks to a holding call on Joseph Crabb.  The Penguins needed just 31-seconds on the powerplay to score on a blast by Evgeni Malkin that appeared to deflect into the net off from Jordan Staal’s leg to make it 3-1.  The powerplay goal was originally given to Malkin, but then later changed to Staal with assists by Malkin and Crosby.  Then at 4:27, former Penguin Colby Armstrong got called for high sticking Evgeni Malkin.  Although it appeared that Malkin showed the referee that there was some blood, Armstrong was assessed a 2-minute minor.  With a little over 30-seconds left on the powerplay, Miroslav Satan found himself all alone in front of goaltender Pavelec and on the receiving end of a beautiful centering pass by Jeff Taffe.  Satan moved the puck to his backhand and easily beat the netminder to make it 4-1.  Ruslan Fedotenko picked up the other assist on the poweplay goal.  At 7:32, with Mark Eaton in the penalty box for hooking, the Thrashers again cut the lead in half as Bryan Little wristed a shot past Fleury to make it 4-2.  Todd White and Vyacheslav Kozlov made the assists on the powerplay goal.  However, just 32-seconds later, the Penguins stole it back on a blistering slapshot by Philippe Boucher to make it 5-2.  Evgeni Malkin picked up his league leading 39th assist on the play along with Petr Sykora.  The goal ended up chasing Pavelec out of the net in favor of former Penguin netminder Johan Hedberg.  The Penguins ended the period being outshot by the Thrashers 10-9, were 2-for-3 on the powerplay and 1-for-2 on the penalty kill.  Fleury was again fabulous in net and made a beautiful kick save and glove save on Eric Perrin with 7:07 left in the period.

Into the 3rd period, the Penguins had to hold off a surging Atlanta Thrashers team as they were outshot 12-5 in the final frame.  The Thrashers came within 2-goals of the Penguins after Miroslav Satan errantly passed the puck to Colby Armstrong loitering all alone in the Penguins zone at 14:55.  Armstrong picked his spot and beat his former teammate Fleury with a slapper to make it 5-3.  But that was the closest they would come as Fleury went on to shut things down despite seeing plenty of rubber in the period.  Late in the period, the Thrashers pulled Hedberg out for the extra attacker but were unable to get one by the Penguins.  With 27-seconds left on the clock, Rob Scuderi moved the puck to Sidney Crosby up the wall who had the chance to put the puck into the empty net, but dished off to Evgeni Malkin instead who easily skated it into the open goal mouth to make it 6-3.  Scuderi and Crosby picked up the assists on the final tally of the game.   

Evgeni Malkin picked up 4-points (2G, 2A), while Jordan Staal (1G, 1A), Sidney Crosby (2A) and Petr Sykora (2A) each had 2-points.  Matt Cooke (1G), Miroslav Satan (1G), Philippe Boucher (1G), Tim Wallace (1A), Ruslan Fedotenko (1A), Jeff Taffe (1A) and Rob Scuderi (1A) all contributed with a point.  Petr Sykora led the team with 4-shots on net, while Evgeni Malkin and AHL call-up Ryan Stone each had 3-shots.  Jordan Staal (13/22) led all Penguins with a 59% faceoff win percentage, but collectively the team was outplayed in the faceoff circle winning only 44% of the draws.  The Penguins out-hit the Thrashers 23-17.  Evgeni Malkin led all players with 24:23 of ice time and Rob Scuderi led all Defensemen with 24:00 in ice time.  The active Penguins defense blocked 15-shots on net. 

The Penguins return to Mellon Arena on Saturday night where they will take on the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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