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Penguins vs Canucks Recap: Malkin's hat-trick fuels Pittsburgh comeback

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The Pittsburgh Penguins start the game horribly, but roar back in the third period, courtesy of Evgeni Malkin's 10th career hat trick and some solid play in net from Marc-Andre Fleury. See the GIF's and read some analysis of the game here!

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Goals

A bad start by the Pens, Conor Sheary got bumped up to the first line at the last minute due to Chris Kunitz not being able to go, and Sheary/ Sidney Crosby had some miscommunication on a dump-in that resulted in a clean exit for Jannik Hansen . Hansen carried plenty of speed and zoomed right by Olli Maatta who seemed in slow motion. Nice finish too with the shot past Marc-Andre Fleury just 27 seconds into the game.

Things wouldn't get better for the sleep-walking Pens. A terrible power play and a lot of puck-watching leads to a short-handed goal by Hansen.

In a myriad of penalties on Vancouver, the Pens got a 5-on-3 PP. It would only take 4 seconds for Evgeni Malkin to fire a puck by Ryan Miller . Nice jump by Sid to make sure he wouldn't have been in the path of the puck.

In the third period Horvat would use Letang as a screen and whipped a hellacious wrist shot by Fleury. That's like a goal you can get on the NHL video games with a star player from that far out. 3-1 and not looking good.

(no GIF because the Canucks apparently lost heart with making them considering what would come...)

Then it was time for the Evgeni Malkin show. Geno got some good luck when Linden Vey knocked a puck into his own net, but you can't get that goal if you don't throw the puck to the front of the net with the goalie out of sorts. Sometimes good things can happen, and this time they did. 3-2 Canucks.

Malkin would tie the game, because why not, he's Evgeni Malkin and he's sensational. Great shot by a great player who was clearly feeling it.

The Penguins realized someone other than Malkin was allowed to score, Bryan Rust took a fairly harmless looking weak shot from the outside, but there was enough traffic in front to disturb Miller, who never picked the flight of the puck up and it ended up "having eyes" and sneaking right in the net. The Pens take a 4-3 lead with exactly 7 minutes left on an afternoon where they didn't look like they belonged.

Crosby bats a puck out of the air to Hagelin, who's kind enough to return the puck to the captain for an empty netter. 5-3 Pens.

The Canucks score some joke goal in garbage time. Nice day by Hansen, by far the best skater in the game early to get his hat-trick.

Some Thoughts

  • After that early mistake, Sheary was dropped from the Crosby line in order for Matt Cullen - the same guy who finished last game on the top line. Not sure why they didn't go back to that instead of inserting Sheary (a guy expected to be a healthy scratch).
  • Welcome back to the NHL, Derrick Pouliot. First shift Bo Horvat walks him and gets a scoring chance. Not sure if nerves or just one of those things that happens to NHL defenseman, but ironic to see it happen so early after all the sunny reports of his improved defensive play.
  • Welcome back from the IR, Beau Bennett. The oft-injured winger played his first game since hurting his shoulder on December 14th. Bennett's most noteworthy moment of the game was leaving the bench after throwing a shoulder check. Thankfully he was able return...For now.
  • The Pens split up the successful Brian Dumoulin / Ben Lovejoy pairing on paper, but the 2 still overlapped a bunch of shifts, including at the end of the game with the team nursing a lead. Ian Cole was a healthy scratch to make room for Pouliot. Lovejoy was Pouliot's partner down the stretch last season, and both played relatively well.
  • Great 2-on-1 save by Fleury in the third to keep the score 2-1. Unfortunately this happened when the Pens were on the power play. Fleury made a bunch of solid stops with the Pens behind in this game, classic case of the goalie holding a team in the game when they were playing poorly, and then the team finally waking up and climbing out of the hole they dug themselves
  • The Canucks took penalties all night (5 to 1 differential) but all were pretty obvious calls. Kept expecting the obligatory even-up calls but they never came. The Canucks did get 1 PP late, but considering the parade to the box they were taking in the second period it's surprising the refs didn't find a way to send more Penguins off.
  • The second line of Carl Hagelin - Malkin - Phil Kessel seemed to generate the most offensive chances, and not just because of all the Malkin goals. Crosby put a beauty of a cross-crease pass on Patric Hornqvist but he couldn't get the puck by Miller, otherwise the top-line was pretty quiet, perhaps to be expected with the make-shift LW situation there.
  • Tom Kuhnhackl earned his first NHL point with an assist on Rust's goal. Kuhnhackl has played 7 NHL games now, and really for the life of me I couldn't tell you with only the eye-test if he's good or bad. A very low-key type of player that doesn't stand-out in many ways.
  • Pens score 3 times in 5:44 to turn the tide of the game. Not a great start, but it's a results driven lead. For all the games where they gave away points early in the season, nice to see them steal a couple back today.

If you're happy and you know it, hop up and down.