Malkin Sizzles as Penguins Beat Flyers 4-3

Evgeni Malkin continued his torrid play and the Pittsburgh Penguins added some pad to their lead over the Atlantic Division on Sunday as they beat the Philadelphia Flyers for the first time this season by a score of 4-3.  The 3-point lead that the Penguins now have in the Atlantic Division is the largest any team has enjoyed in weeks, as the Devils, Flyers and Penguins have been in a pitched battle for division supremacy.  Malkin led his team to their 3rd consecutive win with another outstanding multi-point performance, playing a part in every Penguin goal scored and picking up 4-points (1G, 3A).  He now trails Alexander Ovechkin by just 3-points for the league lead (76) and is tied for 2nd with Daniel Alfredsson at 73 points.  Surprisingly, no Russian has ever won the NHL scoring title…..yet. 

It has been 3-weeks since Sidney Crosby was sidelined with a high ankle sprain, an injury that many thought would severely handicap the Penguins ability to make the playoffs.  Michel Therrien asked that his team step up in Crosby’s absence and try to play 0.500 hockey.  For Evgeni Malkin, that wasn’t good enough!  He stated that he wanted to lead this team in Crosby’s absence, and he has now left no doubts about his abilities as an elite player and team leader.  Malkin has put the team on his back and has driven the Penguins record to 6-2-2 since Crosby was sidelined.  Over that timeframe of 10-games, Malkin has picked up 21-points (8G, 13A).  He may be just getting started, however, as he has posted 5-consecutive multi-point games.  He has managed to score 15-points in those 5-games.  Malkin has figured in 62% of the Penguins goal scoring since Crosby was injured.  Because of his play, the Penguins are not playing 0.500 hockey…….they have garnered 14 of 20 possible points with Crosby out of the lineup, an amazing 70%.  Instead of hanging onto a playoff spot, they find themselves in 1st place in the Atlantic, 2nd in the Eastern Conference and tied for 4th in the league.  Malkin’s parents arrived from Russia this weekend for a 2-week stay to watch him play.  “Hopefully we’re going to win all these games and I’m going to play good,” Malkin said through an interpreter. “I’ve never had a stretch like this over here in NHL or back in the Russian league.”  Coach Therrien complimented Malkin on his play.  “He’s upgraded his game a big notch, so give him a lot of credit,” said Therrien. “He showed everyone that he is a great player. He is showing that he can be a great leader.”

In the 1st period, the Flyers got on the board first with a power play goal by R.J. Umberger at 6:34 while Maxime Talbot served a double-minor (slashing/roughing).  Jeff Carter and Randy Jones picked up the assist on the Flyers’ goal.  At 16:20, Petr Sykora tied it up on a wicked snap-shot that beat Martin Biron.  Evgeni Malkin and Ryan Malone were credited with the assists.  At 17:21, Steve Downie and Jarkko Ruutu tangled in a lengthy fight that ended when an exhausted Downie dropped his fists, turned and skated away.  The Penguins outshot the Flyers 8-7 in the first and failed to score at the end of the 1st on a man advantage opportunity that spilled over into the 2nd period. 

In the 2nd, the Penguins capitalized quickly on the carryover man-advantage from the 1st period.  Sergei Gonchar picked up his 9th goal of the season on a wrist shot, with assists by Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang.  The score remained 2-1 until late in the 2nd when Evgeni Malkin took a feed from Petr Sykora and roofed it over Biron for his 31st of the season at 18:43.  Ryan Malone picked up the other assist.  The Penguins outshot the Flyers 12-9 in the 2nd, and there were no penalties for either team. 

In the 3rd, the Flyers scored quickly as R.J. Umberger wristed one past Ty Conklin at 0:43 for his second of the night.  Steve Downie and James Vandermeer gathered the assists.  The Penguins regained the 2-point lead, however, when Kris Letang scored his 4th of the season at 12:14.  Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora were credieted with assists on the play.  The Flyers continued to press the Penguins and managed to get one more at 19:27 with their goalie pulled, but were never able to catch up.  Scott Hartnell picked up the goal from Mike Richards and Kimmo Timonen.  The Penguins were 0-for-1 on the power play and killed off 2 short-handed situations for the win.

Ty Conklin turned aside 12-shots in the 3rd as the Flyers outshot the Penguins 14-5.  The win improved Conklin’s record to 14-3-3 on the season.  Petr Sykora picked up 3-points (1G, 2A) for his 5th consecutive game with a point.  Ryan Malone picked up 2-assists and Kris Letang finished with 2-points (1G, 1A).    

The Pittsburgh Penguins close out their 4-game homestand as they host the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night, February 13th.  They will then travel to Carolina to take on the Hurricanes on Thursday night. 

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