The Pittsburgh Penguins lit the lamp 6-times, with 3 goals coming in just 48-seconds of the 3rd, to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-2 on Thursday night. Evgeni Malkin picked up his 1st career hat trick and Ty Conklin won his 6th straight game with the Penguins to advance his record to 6-0 on the season. The win advances to the Penguins record to 22-16-2, an amazing 14-5-0 since Thanksgiving when they beat the Ottawa Senators in overtime and ignited a turnaround to their season.
In the 1st period, the Maple Leafs outskated and outshot the Penguins 11-4 but finished the period up just 1-0. It could have easily been 2-0, or more, but Erik Christensen managed to make an outstanding play to prevent the puck from completely crossing the goal line early in the period. After the puck trickled behind Conklin, Christensen swept it out as it was crossing the goal line. The call went upstairs and the video replay showed that the puck got about 7/8 of the way across the goal line before Christensen cleared it out. Since the puck did not fully cross the line, the play was appropriately ruled a no-goal by the on-ice offical and the subsequent video review. Midway through the period, however, the Leafs got the puck past Ty Conklin on a goal by Jason Blake from the side of the net to make it 1-0. Mats Sundin and Alex Steen were credited with the assists. Pittsburgh, looking like it had a little Winter Classic hangover, was 0-for-1 on the power play, and successfully killed off 2 power plays as Kennedy (slashing) and Sykora (hooking) sat.
In the 2nd, the Penguins came alive and tied it up early on a goal by Erik Christensen at 1:24. Christensen, who played his best game of the season, put the goal in on a beautiful wrap-around that beat Leafs’ tender Scott Clemmensen on the glove side. Petr Sykora and Jarkko Ruutu picked up the assists. Shortly after the goal, Darcy Tucker tried to goad Christensen into a scuffle, but Christensen smartly skated away. Answering the call at 9:33 was Jarkko Ruutu who schooled the more experienced fighter Tucker in one of the best fights I have seen in a long time. Ruutu landed repeated blows to Tucker’s head, resulting in a gash above Tucker’s eye. Less than 5-minutes later, while Tucker and Ruutu still sat, Evgeni Malkin scored his first goal of the night by chipping in the rebound on an incredible spinning backhand shot by Sidney Crosby. Working the puck along the boards, Colby Armstrong picked up the other assist by getting the puck to Sidney Crosby in the middle of the ice. Crosby quickly spun to his backhand to evade a Leafs’ defenseman and powered the puck in on Clemmensen, where Malkin chipped in the rebound. The Penguins outshot the Leafs 11-9 in the 2nd, and were 0-for-1 on the power play and perfect in killing off a late penalty to Darryl Sydor (high sticking).
In the 3rd, the Penguins exploded for 3-quick even strength goals and then added a 4th on the power play late in the period. The first goal came on a tremendous play by rookie Tyler Kennedy. After Kennedy made a play to keep the puck in the offensive zone, Jordan Staal used his long reach to spoil another clearing attempt by the Leafs as he tapped the puck back to Kennedy. Kennedy let off a slapshot that Clemmensen saved, but picked up a big juicy rebound and then maneuvered away from a Leafs’ defender before throwing the puck into the net on the backhand as he was falling down at 3:00. Then, just 37 seconds later, Sidney Crosby took a pass from Kris Letang and took off up ice with Evgeni Malkin. Malkin drove the net as 3 Leafs players closed in on Crosby. Crosby made a nice backhand pass through the Leafs players and onto the stick of Malkin who lifted it over Clemmensen for his 2nd of the night, making it 4-1. Then, just 11 seconds later, the Penguins widened the margin to 4-goals as Petr Sykora took advantage of a mis-play by the Leaf’s defensemen backing up in their own zone to make it 5-1. Jarkko Ruutu and Brooks Orpik were credited with the assists. At 12:53, the Leafs got one back on the power play off from the stick of Pavel Kubina as Sergei Gonchar sat for hooking. The assists went Tomas Kaberle and Mats Sundin. At 16:38, the Leafs picked up a double-minor high sticking call by Andrew Wozniewski on Adam Hall that put them short-handed for the remainder of the tilt. That was all the Penguins needed to get Evgeni Malkin his 1st career hat trick as he scored at 15:28 on a beautiful passing play between himself, Sidney Crosby, Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney. Working from behind the net, Crosby passed the puck to Malkin, who deflected the puck with his stick between his legs out to Gonchar on the point. Gonchar passed the puck to Whitney on the sideboards, who then threw the puck cross-ice back to Malkin who let the one-timer go from his knee to beat the goaltender and complete the hat trick, winning the game 6-2. Despite the lopsided scoring in the 3rd, the Leafs outshot the Penguins 15-9.
- VIDEO: Game Highlights
- VIDEO: Post-Game Press Conference w/Coach Therrien
- VIDEO: Post-Game Locker Room
- PHOTOS: In-Game Photos
- AUDIO: Mike Lange Highlights
- AUDIO: Post-Game Rink Rat Report
- AUDIO: Post-Game Hotline
- NHL OFFICIAL: Game Rosters
- NHL OFFICIAL: Game Summary
- NHL OFFICIAL: Boxscore
- NHL OFFICIAL: Play-by-Play
The Penguins ended up scoring 6-goals on 24-shots, and Ty Conklin let in just 2-goals on 35-shots to get the game’s 2nd star. Malkin got the hat trick and the game’s 1st star. Sidney Crosby, Sergei Gonchar and Jarkko Ruutu each picked up 2-assists, with Ruutu getting the game’s 3rd star. Colby Armstrong (1A) picked up his 7th point in 5-games. Petr Sykora (1G, 1A) got back on the scorecard, as did Erik Christensen (1G), Jordan Staal (1A), Kris Letang (1A), Orpik (1A) and Whitney (1A). Erik Christensen gets the unsung hero of the night for his inspired play, both offensively and defensively.
The Penguins host the Florida Panthers at Mellon Arena at 3:00PM on Saturday. Please note that the game time has been moved up 4 hours from the original schedule.