Evgeni Malkin had a hat trick and Ty Conklin stopped 43 shots to power the Pittsburgh Penguins past the New York Rangers on Monday night 4-1. With the win, the Penguins have caught the New Jersey Devils in the points race for the Atlantic Division lead. Malkin picked up his 2nd career hat trick on an empty net goal late in the third to put the game out of reach for the Rangers. His first hat trick came just 11 days ago against Toronto. Ty Conklin was outstanding in net as he made a career high 43 saves to continue his torrid play and extend his record to an impressive 10-0-1. Sidney Crosby picked up 2-assists to catch Vinny Lecavalier with 63-points in a tie for the league’s scoring lead.
The game started with a fight between Georges Laraque and Colton Orr just after the puck was dropped. Laraque managed to get Orr’s helmet off as he landed several punches, but lost his footing and went down along the boards to end the scrap a bit prematurely. After the fight, the 1st period belonged to the Penguins as they put up 3-goals, including 2 on the power play, despite being outshot 14-12. The first goal came at 3:31 on the power play as Ryan Malone created space along the wall and in front of the net for Evgeni Malkin to walk out and put the puck into the corner of the net over Henrik Lundqvist’s shoulder. Sidney Crosby and Sergei Gonchar were credited with the assists, but kudos go to Ryan Malone for the double pick to create room for Malkin to maneuver. Just 3-minutes later at even strength, Sidney Crosby took a pass from Rob Scuderi and used his impressive speed to split the Rangers’ defense and put the puck on net. Lundqvist made the stop, but gave up a small rebound that Evgeni Malkin buried into the back of the net with authority for his 2nd of the night. At 16:48, Sergei Gonchar scored his 8th of the season on a 5-on-3 power play blast from the blueline to make it 3-0. The Penguins were 2-for-4 on the man advantage and killed off their only shorthanded situation as Jarkko Ruutu sat for hooking.
In the 2nd, it was all Ty Conklin as he stopped a 17-shot domination by the Rangers to keep the score 3-0, whil ethe Penguins managed just 2-shots in the period. The Penguins were perfect on the penalty kill, however, going 3-for-3 on the kill while Letang sat for tripping, Staal for hooking and Malkin for holding.
In the 3rd, the Rangers finally found the back of the net at 9:16 on a power play goal by Jaromir Jagr. Scott Gomez and Paul Mara got the assists. But Ty Conklin shut the door on the other 12-shots mustered by the Rangers in the period and Evgeni Malkin completed the hat trick on an empty net goal at 19:36, his 23rd goal of the season.
The Penguins win improved their record to 26-16-3 and 55-points to tie the New Jersey Devils (26-15-3) for the Atlantic Division lead. Sidney Crosby’s 2-points (2A) increased his league lead in assists (43) and extended his points total to 63 to tie for the league lead in points. The Penguins are now 9-0-1 in their last 10 games and they have won 6 in a row at home. The win was just their 5th against a division rival, improving their Atlantic Division record to 5-10-1.
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The Pittsburgh Penguins will enjoy a few days off before hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday, January 18th.