Malkin stays hot as Penguins rip Jets 8-5
PITTSBURGH – Evgeni Malkin added to his NHL-leading point total, scoring a goal and dishing out four assists as the Pittsburgh Penguins rolled past the Winnipeg Jets 8-5 on Saturday.
Kris Letang scored twice and had an assist for the Penguins. Richard Park notched his 100th career NHL goal, and Jordan Staal scored in his first game after missing more than a month with a left knee injury.
James Neal, Chris Kunitz and Dustin Jeffery also scored for the Penguins, who erased an early 2-0 deficit and won their fifth straight home game.
Tim Stapleton, Dustin Byfuglien and Bryan Little all had a goal and an assist for the Jets, but Winnipeg couldn't keep up when the Penguins got going. Ondrej Pavelec stopped just 31 of 39 shots and fell to 1-9 against Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury wasn't much sharper, stopping 20 of 25 shots, but he had the luxury of playing behind an offense that dazzled at times.
The Jets, coming off a remarkable 3-2 shootout win over Washington on Thursday in which they scored twice in the final 3 minutes of regulation to force overtime, appeared ready to post their second major road win in three days after racing to a 2-0 lead barely 8 minutes in.
Yet there is a reason the Jets — formerly the Atlanta Thrashers — haven't won in Pittsburgh since 2006. Burmistrov's 10th goal of the season seemed to wake up the Penguins, who responded behind the brilliant play of Malkin.
The Russian played in his 400th regular-season game, and he appears to be getting better with age. In the midst of the finest stretch of his career, Malkin displayed all of his talents.
He set up Neal's 29th goal by flipping a faceoff back to Neal at the top of the circle to tie the game at 2. Early in the second, he fed Kunitz — with a secondary assist from Fleury — to put Pittsburgh in front. He jumpstarted a 2-on-1 break midway through the second period that ended with Letang scoring his sixth of the season.
Malkin wasn't done, netting his 30th of the season on a breakaway late in the second period by deking his way past a sprawled Pavelec.
The Jets, 26th in the NHL in scoring, tried valiantly to keep pace. Winnipeg drew within 5-4 early in the third period when Byfuglien beat Fleury with a wrist shot, but Park pushed Pittsburgh back in front by two when he deflected Brooks Orpik's shot from the point by Pavelec.
The forward, a 14-year veteran, raised his arms in triumph after reaching the 100-goal plateau.
Park's goal was a pleasant surprise, but the Penguins hope Staal's return would help take some pressure off the line of Malkin, Neal and Kunitz.
Staal, who hadn't played since Jan. 6, assisted on Jeffrey's goal. He scored his first since Dec. 29 in the third period after Dupuis stripped a Winnipeg player and fed Staal in the slot.
It was a good sign for a team optimistic Crosby will return before the postseason, though it's unlikely he'll get the chance to play with longtime linemate and good friend Kunitz whenever Crosby gets back on the ice.
Since Crosby returned to the injured list due to the recurrence of concussion-like symptoms, Kunitz has teamed with Malkin and Neal to form the most potent line in the league.
The trio has scored 40 of the team's last 79 goals, dating to Dec. 10, including three on Saturday while combining for 11 points.
NOTES: The Penguins will host Tampa Bay on Sunday night. The Jets will host the New York Islanders on Tuesday. ... Fleury's assist was the 10th of his career. ... The Penguins have won 10 straight at home over the Jets franchise. ... Randy Jones, Eric Fehr and Mark Flood were scratched by Winnipeg. Ben Lovejoy and Tyler Kennedy sat out for Pittsburgh.