Predictably, the two star centers had huge games, and Evgeni Malkin was at the top of the list with two goals and two assists.
"Geno was flying," Sidney Crosby said. "He just dominated the whole [game]. He had the puck the entire game, drew two or three penalties, at least. He was on fire."
Crosby was no slouch himself, scoring the Pens opening goal off a Malkin pass, and then adding two assists on the PP later in the game.
Malkin attributed his turnaround to Crosby."I feel better every game," Malkin said. "I didn't play good after the Olympics, and Sid, he helped me a lot because he understands my problem with the loss and he supports me and helps me. After we talk, I feel so much better and I've just started to play better."
Malkin only had one goal and eight total points in the first ten games back from the Olympics, but has 6 points (including 4 goals) in the last two games alone.
That's good news for the Penguins and bad news for opponents. Today Tampa, a team that Malkin has roasted in the past, paid the price.
A few more thoughts in the game:
- Speaking of breaking through, Neal's OT game winner was his first goal in the last eight games. The last time he scored was outdoors in the Pens big loss in Chiacgo, three weeks ago.
- Crosby dominated on faceoffs, winning 67% of his 27 faceoffs on the night, helping the Pens to win 60% on the night.
- Jeff Zatkoff picked up his first career point in the NHL, when he simply made a short pass to Malkin, who skated the length of the ice, feathered a beautiful cross-ice pass to Crosby who wired in the goal. It'll be a nice story to tell his grandkids one day- how his first NHL point involved 71 and 87, maybe with exaggerating the input Zatkoff had on the play over the years.
- Tyler Johnson is having a fine rookie season for Tampa, but he got a lesson in never make a weak pass up the middle on a breakout. Johnson attempted that and Jussi Jokinen picked off the poor pass. Jokinen found Malkin right in front of the net and Geno lifted a beautiful backhander past Anders Lindback.
- The fake shot to pass that Steven Stamkos fed Valterri Filppula for a goal showed a growing aspect in Stamkos's game. Stamkos has 20 goals and 32 points in 26 games this season due to missing time with a broken leg. Next year though he could start challenging Sid at the top of the league.
- Malkin's up to 6th in the league in points at press time, and conceivably could un up second or third in points if he continues to produce like he has been this week. Not a bad season for a guy who missed 11 games earlier in the season and had to deal with the distraction first and disappointment later of the Sochi Olympics.