Everything Evgeni Malkin has touched against the Tampa Bay Lightning this year has turned golden. After Sunday night's two goal performance, Geno now has five goals and two assists in three games versus Tampa. They simply don't look like they have any idea how to stop the big Russian and he's been able to produce practically at will. No different in this game as Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang carved up the Lightning shift after shift and skated to a 4-2 win.
Tampa would take the lead with two quick goals by Steve Downie, but after that they barely seemed to challenge Brent Johnson, who did enough to earn the win. When the Pens finally woke and started grinding down TB, they generated a ton of zone time, possession, shots and looks at the net. It was only a matter of time before Mathieu Garon cracked, and he did time and time again. Another game, another win for Pittsburgh.
Some more thoughts on the game:
- A second 3 point night in as many games for Kris Letang. When he returned from his concussion on Jan 19, he put together four points in three games, an encouraging return to the lineup. Then, maybe the adrenaline wore off as he settled back into the routine of the NHL regular season as 'Tang went scoreless (and was a -5) in his next six games. Still, 6 points in this weekend's two matinee games is a nice bounce back for the blueliner.
- Remember when I talked about rubber to the net? The Pens final stat line: 41 shots on goal, with 77 attempts (36 being blocked or missing the net). Tampa, for their efforts, could only must 23 SOG and 40 total attempts. Pure domination in that regard.
- Every Pens player, save Cal O'Reilly and Richard Park recorded a shot on goal.
- Quietly, Evgeni Malkin is improving on faceoffs. 4 straight games of 50%+ winning draws, including tonight's 60% showing (12 out of 20). Malkin's been a monster once the puck drops, but a knock on him has been his work in the circle. But like every other aspect of his game, he's especially dialed in right now.
- What a game for Matt Niskanen, who continues to play well. And don't look now but he skated more time out there than either Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin. The Pens will need their high priced blueliners to sort out their issues for the playoffs, but it's a nice relief to have a defenseman playing as well as Niskanen is to eat some of the minutes and lighten the burden for Letang and Brooks Orpik.
- Though he was on ice for both goals against, isn't it nice you can just plug Jordan Staal back into the lineup and get 20 minutes, a good night of faceoffs, 4 shots on a goal and a takeaway? Definitely good to see Big Gronk back on the ice.
Two weekend matinee games at home versus two teams outside of the playoff bubble should equal two wins. And the Pens made no mistakes piling up the goals and taking 4 needed points out of them.