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Evgeni Malkin is back with a vengeance

For the first time since his 2006 Calder Trophy-winning campaign, Evgeni Malkin has scored three goals in his first three games of the season.

NHL: OCT 17 Penguins at Canadiens
Evgeni Malkin celebrates a goal against the Canadiens in Montreal on October 17.
Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Looking for a way to forget Monday’s blown third-period two-goal lead, and those six penalty minutes from Jeff Petry?

Let’s focus on a silver lining: this is one of the most productive season starts of Evgeni Malkin’s career.

In fact, this is the first time since the 2006-07 campaign— from which Malkin emerged with the Calder Trophy— during which he has scored three goals in his first three games of the season.

One during a power-play against the Coyotes...

...and two even-strength bombs against the Canadiens.

Malkin might be off to such a hot start because he was finally able to enjoy a fully healthy offseason. He might be scoring because he feels like he has something to prove.

Or is he scoring because, after seasons of searching, the Penguins have finally found wingers who click with both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin?

With everyone healthy and Rickard Rakell signed for the foreseeable future, for the first time in a long while, the top two lines are not battling over who should get to skate with Bryan Rust.

That’s paying big dividends for Malkin.

Rust has always played well with Malkin. But because the Penguins tend to prioritize the potency of their first line, he has spent more time alongside Sidney Crosby. Natural Stat Trick reports Rust and Crosby spent 1,209 minutes together at 5v5 over the past three seasons, while Rust skated 904 with Malkin.

But with Rakell flanking Crosby’s right, Rust could potentially bring his tenacity to the second line on a more permanent basis. His puck retrieval abilities, which led to both of the Penguins’ goals against the Canadiens, showed why that could be a good match for Malkin.

Monday’s 2-0 loss to the Canadiens was most certainly the Penguins’ roughest game of the young season. Most of the team struggled. But the chemistry between Rust and Malkin showed how, when the team is healthy, splitting the ever-reliable Rust and Guentzel between the first and second lines can complete the backbone of a formidable top six.